Textile Narratives; Stories Stitched in Thread.
Val Jackson & Jane Mckeating.
Most of my work uses garments & mementoes to tell stories relating to particular aspects of my identity fixed to the time & situation represented by the base the they are stitched on to. This double quilt sizes piece, originally made for the New International Quilt Exhibition at the Shipley Gallery in Gateshead, 2004, is scattered with objects, each telling its story of a childhood during that period. As well as clothed & accessories they include the house I lived in as a child, the car my father sweated to keep together & working until I was 8, the caravan my parents hired for a touring holiday in Scotland when I was 9, & a picture of me in my junior school uniform. A whole childhood, looking increasingly like ancient history, is here.
With Markmakers at the Brindley Arts Centre, Halton, 2008.
For this exhibition I produced an installation of textile & collage pieces examining my lifelong links with the Mersey estuary and themes surrounding loss & letting go. It was an immensely sad series of work because its central theme was the death of my husband some years previously & the gradual letting go of the moorings that held me to him for a long time after.
This group consists of four pieces made with tissue paper collage, with writing in ink & pencil to tell the stories,& two pieces in machine embroidered layered & distress ed fabrics. The pieces together read as a series of elements of my story, from left to right. The outer pieces are calm & reminiscent,becoming more emotional towards the centre so that the whole echoes passing through a storm then out into calmer waters.
These pieces tell stories about the Merchant Navy of the 1960’s with the kind of wry humour common to most of my work. They list all the ports his ship visited in the course of his last ses voyage before moving to a job ashore in 1969. The imagery is all connected to the sea & to the Brocklebank line for which he worked. The intent is to convey the verve & fun that had preceded more serious & then sadder times later.
Cabinet of Curiosities. Markmakers.
Warrington Museum & Gallery. 2014.
This exhibition was based on the Museum’s Anthropology Collection. Each member had to choose a piece & make some work influenced by it. My work was titled May All Your Dreams Come True. It was based on a pair of carved, wooden tribal statues which are thought to have been made to give to a witch doctor to help him cure a problem that the chief was suffering from. It is likely that the chief was not able to be father so his generative organs were carved very large to make it apparent what was to be cured. The carver has also provided the chief with a beautiful young wife to help him in his endeavours. My central piece of work provides the chief with the family of his dreams.
The work is made from images programmed digitally & stitched out on transparent fabric to give it a dreamy air of mystery. A range of different shades are provided by varying density of layered voiles as well as different colours.
From 2008 I was A member of Quilt Art, an international exhibition group which aims to use quilting methods & media in ways that push the bounds of the genre, moving it upwards from a craft to art.
Quilt Art at 25, 2010-2013
Rites of passage.
My work for this series of exhibitions was based on the various landmark event of maturing into an adult: the first job, the wedding, buying a car & buying a house.
The pieces are constructed from layered silk & embellished with free-machine embroidery. Each piece tells a number of stories that were part of these events for me. They take a wryly humorous view of life & feature for example a selection of catty comments overheard at weddings & discuss the problems encountered on finding a home for two very different sets of interests.
This piece features lots of characters from the wedding photographs including bridesmaid, groom, mother, mother-in-law,minister & some friends of the bride The embroidered characters are especially intricate on this piece.
MA Stage 3 Work & Final Exhibition
My work for the MA was based around the study of identity. I was particularly concerned with the identities permitted to women and the ways in which they are altered to take account of external circumstances. The subject or my final body of work was the interface between 2 alternative identities brought about by major events & their effects on the lives of women. At the time this work was done I was emptying my mother’s house, following her death. My mother was not a person who threw much away & my finds included a mass of saved clothes, some going back 70 years, and boxes of wartime letters as well as a journal documenting part of her time in the RAF where she was a wireless operator, using Morse code. One box of letters contained both sides or the correspondence between my my parents from before the time of their meeting in 1944 until their marriage just before Christmas in 1945.
These helped me to document my mother’s transition from a skilled operative doing an important job & travelling the country by train in way previously not available to young women & a housewife trapped alone in the service of a house at a time of great shortage difficulties. My work represents an exploration of these two positions in the lives of women & the arbitrary nature of its imposition.
I did this by producing 3 installations of varying work, each including contemporary clothing & some transparent fabrics, retailing different aspects of my mother’s life at that time & telling its story, often in her own words & handwriting.
The picture above shows a detail of one group. The writing is digitally generated in a machine stitch computer programme from extracts from her letters & journal & allows my mother to speak directly to the viewer in her own voice.
This group includes dresses & underwear made from genuine 1940’s patterns. One is an expensive, difficult pattern from Vogue for those who could afford a dressmaker. The other is made from a very badly planned pattern in a “How to Stitch Your Whole Family Wardrobe” books popular at the time. This dress was a nightmare because the carefully drawn pattern pieces I made from a grid turned out to be entirely wrong so that there was no way the back could possibly be able to fit onto the front. People must have been very adaptable in those days. The fabrics are digitally printed cottons & silk patterned with Lancaster bombers, uniforms & bombs. The fabrics used for the knickers are covered with very tiny bombs in attractive colours so that the material looks pretty from a distance but horrific close too.
The uniform in this group is a remake of a genuine wartime WRAF. The buttons & belt buckle are remakes of the originals & the badges are digitally generated versions made on a home embroidery machine. The fabric is the remain of a roll of genuine curtain material dating from the 1940’s, found when clearing my Grandmother’s house.
The fabrics used are digitally printed versions of an adaptation of the original fabric, produced on different scales, over-printed with extracts from my mother’s writing discussing the future with an often ill-founded optimism.