01 November 2007

Still with the birds - and beyond

Once you're aware of something (eg, dove-like birds) you see it everywhere. This bowl is from the 1870s, made by Royal Copenhagen.

I found it while looking to find work by Michele Walker on the web. A pioneer of art quilts, her "Complete Book of Quiltmaking" (1986) is out of print but highly regarded, and I've been inspired by another book of hers, "The Passionate Quilter" (1990). See her piece Assault and Battery (2003) here and this site has a photo of Makers Unknown, which was in her 2005 exhibition, Memory Sticks. The poles, wrapped in fabric reclaimed from clothing, are the height of a person; the "hair" is tied on by fabric representing the sweatbands still used by workers.
Now Michele has moved out of quilting per se into a wider textile-based art practice. Caught her Stitching for Survival on its last day - a theme is memory and identity, and it draws on her experience in Japan (mainly researching sashiko and the significance of the patterns) and uses aspects of clothing, drawing on her friendships with "ordinary, unimportant" women who remember sashiko as important in their way of life. One item in the exhibition was a well worn waistcoat made over 70 years ago as part of a wedding dowry; it's full of the hand and life of the maker.

Another piece is based on a cave, Sai no Kawara, visited by parents who had lost children - such caves are thought to represent places where the souls of dead babies and children reside. Outside the cave are hundreds of small statues of the guardian deity of children. Thinking about how to convey her experience, Michele says she started noticing babies' legs and feet sticking out from baby carriers - "the only clue to what was underneath". The piece No Cry consists of characterless, baby-like bundles of cloth, strapped to short poles, with character-full dangling legs and feet.

Looking for more links about Michele's work to add, I found this symposium on 9 November about Japanese craft traditions, and an associated exhibiton, "Craftsmen in the Jail of Beauty", at Gallery 47, 47 Great Russell Street (near the British Museum), 7-10 November.


Dale Anne Potter said...

Can't see where to email you....I posted the link to my Coloured Trash piece on my blog......it will take you to my website.
YES, I also wish Artnews had an archive of Featured Artists.
THANKS for stopping by!!!

Linda B. said...

It never fails to amaze me that the word craft has such different connotations when used in conjunction with work in England - homespun, domestic, of lower value than art and in Japan - "crafted" with skill and consumate care, highly valued and of high standard.

Where have we gone wrong?

Karen said...

I have so enjoyed reading your blog - but it is late - so I shall bookmark it and return.