Whenever we got the chance we bought up big at Spotlight (our handy craft mega-store) and sewed. We sewed clothes and quilts and knitted blankets. It seems like it was a frenzy now but it really wasn’t. It was slow and enjoyable and satisfying. I love seeing the beautiful quilt on my daughter’s bed to remind me of when we spent a weekend together piecing all the squares together. I’m not romanticising about lockdown or having teenagers trapped at home. Believe me, the mental health repercussions is something we could all do without. But it’s been widely reported that the act of slowing down and finding time to create has been beneficial to many people.
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying watching ‘Grayson’s Art Club’ on YouTube recently. A program that was derived from the notion of encouraging people to be creative during lockdown. He has a particular passion for textile art and promotes creativity for everyone with such beautiful enthusiasm. It’s programs like this that make me really miss being in the UK. Just watch ‘Sewing Bee’ and ‘Bake Off’ with the hilarious gentle humour and unpretentiousness. Then compare them to the Australian Masterchef with its insane and constant over dramatic music and snippet editing.
Here we go again.
It seems ironic that here in Melbourne we’ve been merrily getting back to normal speedy life in recent months. Whilst in the rest of the world people are tentatively navigating their way out of lockdown, we’ve been merrily ramping up to previous speed as if nothing ever happened. And now here we are, just about to go back into lockdown because of a highly predictable outbreak of Covid. Most of the population is unvaccinated. Some of those who were eligible for the vaccine just complacently didn’t bother (wtf). Yes, the uptake actually doubled yesterday.
As part of a new project I’ve been doing some research into textile artists. The idea that craft makes a difference to peoples lives is beautifully explained here by Sarah Corbett. The word ‘mindfulness’ is so massively overused that it’s almost difficult to explain what it actually means. I love how Sarah describes the simple act of slow repetitive hand movement to create something quite naturally demands that we slow down and engage in something outside ourselves.
Sewing has been part of my life since I was a child. My mum sewed clothes and allowed us to teach ourselves to sew using her nifty little Elna sewing machine. My textiles teacher at school was a fabulous teacher. She taught us textiles as an art form and (pre internet) introduced us to fantastic embroidery and appliqué artists.
Although art mediums shouldn’t be gendered, through history they have been. Many people wouldn’t even consider thread, sewing or textiles to be a traditional art form at all. An intrinsically ‘female’ activity is automatically less valued. Rosika Parker wrote The Subversive Stitch many years ago. It highlights the separation of textiles crafts and fine art. Artists such as Tracy Emin and Jenny Hart have shifted the idea of textiles as fine art considerably.
I came across a couple of textiles artists that just delighted me recently. Catherine Zacchino aka Junkerjane uses fabric scraps to make fantastic monster dolls. And Salley Mavor of Weefolk Studios combines textiles and illustration to create fantastic narrative pieces
Connection through textiles
What I personally appreciate about the act of sewing and textiles is the way it connects people, and females in particular. My first project in quilting was making a baby blanket for a friend. My 5 year old daughter drew some dinosaurs and I embroidered her drawing into squares on the quilt. 16 years later my friend still has that quilt.
I went on to create quilts for all my daughters, my mother and this red one for a wedding present. It’s been a joy to get back to quilting and during lockdown.
This though, is my favourite example of sewing connecting people. This delightful little doll was sewn for me by my sister when we were teenagers 30 years ago.
It’s one of the reasons I’m exploring the idea of creating sewing/embroidery kits. It’s just in the sketching faze but it makes perfect sense to me.