Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Big News! or What's with the Barbie Dolls?

I applied one last time for the Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant for emerging artists...and I got it!
The "Barbies"  are samples of how the project might look

Here's the project:


“Power consists to a large extent in deciding what stories are told”  Carolyn Heilbrun

Women have been telling their stories through needlework for generation upon generation.  Within the traditional forms of dress and decorative stitching there is often a secret, hidden language of the oppressed. In this project, I will make the public, private and secret stories of contemporary women manifest in computer assisted machine embroidered clothing.

We often think of embroidery as the delicate work of girls and women of the leisure class.  We think of samplers, delicately stitched hankies, linens for bed and table. We might also think of traditional designs on traditional ethnic costumes, identifying tribe and region. Embroidery seems to us a beautiful frippery.

 But embroidery has deep narrative and subversive roots. Histories, mythologies and secrets have been told in stitch. The Bayeux Tapestries documented the Battle of Hastings, 1066, from the political point of view of the victors, in over 200 feet of embroidery. Mary, Queen of Scots, and her court, prevented from displaying their education, developed a coded language of stitch to communicate. Hmong story cloth tells both traditional stories in stitch as well as the harrowing stories of escape and emigration to America. Sujani quilts from India traditionally convey a mother’s dream for the long life of her newborn, but also tell the stories of women: birth, death, abuse, and infanticide.  These are all political, the testimony of a largely silent, culturally oppressed group throughout history.

 I use the techniques of embroidery, both hand and machine aided, as drawing and painting tools, laden with history and expectations that can be exploited for startling new expressions.

I have been engaged with free-motion machine embroidery as drawing for several years and now want to expand that engagement through original design in computer aided machine embroidery.  I will develop complex alphabets and images that will facilitate recognition of the political underpinnings of embroidery, clothing and fashion.

As an artist, my overarching goal is to elevate “women’s” traditional crafts, and specifically the craft of embroidery, to fine art practice. I will use updated techniques of the historically oppressed to comment on the continuing oppression of women in my world, the first world, a shifting landscape, certainly, but still worthy of investigation.  The goal of my project is to tell women’s stories in clothing that can be described as artwear, walking sculpture, or performance art. To do this, I will learn to digitize original embroidery designs and use my computer assisted embroidery machine to create narrative content in textiles that I will then use to create original clothing. 

 The project that I plan to create is titled WEARING MY AGE.  It is a series of up to four costumes from hand dyed, variably distressed muslin, that will function as narrative uniforms demonstrating the public, private and secret language of women at distinct stages of life through the use of original text and image.  Each uniform will be comprised of a jacket (public language), a dress (private language) and a petticoat (secret language).  Each part of the uniforms will have text embroidered on the fabric, expressing the experience of women at various ages.

 The text for the clothing will be written based on interviews with a national group of female artists and creatives, collected using email and social media, about the stages and ages of being a woman. The answers will be edited and digitized into machine embroidery.  The digital software, Tru Embroidery, for MAC, will allow me to develop images and typefaces that I will be able to import into the Baby Lock embroidery machine.

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