Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Transformation and Interrogation

As I mentioned at the beginning of the Dungeness project here, my goal was to try and push my textile work in a more contemporary direction, partly by studying the principles of an MA textiles course.

I have been using the main principles stated here on the UCA website, which is my nearest university and is where my educational textile journey began with an Art Foundation course.

Of the key words, exploration,  interrogation, transformation and resolution, I found the hardest to understand was interrogation. It's a very strong word and I've have found it hard to relate it to my present project up to now.

However I can see how important it is to question yourself as you progress through the project, looking into the reasons why you are taking a particular direction.

For example:

Does it have a relevance to my intended outcome?

Am I clear what that outcome is to be?

Is my working practice directing me in an intuitive response to the initial research for the project?

Are the materials being used suitable and sensitive to the essence of the story I want to tell?

So, with these questions in mind I have looked more closely at my reasons for selecting the lady launchers as my focal point for this project. I am also trying to be aware of the feelings that emerge as I  progress through the making of this piece.

Response (first analysis)

My overriding feeling while working the first samples for the project was that this part of the history of the Dungeness peninsular has many layers.

I had the feeling that this was a story that needed to be recorded and celebrated as there are not that many places where women have performed this work.

While working the sample below, I felt that although the work these ladies have done has been recognised with awards, and I understand that some commemorative photos have been hung in the lifeboat station at Dungeness, their work is probably not known on a wider scale.

I thought it was very interesting to discover that about 5 of the women involved in the launching of the boats during the period I have been researching, had no children. This must have made it easier for them to do the job in an emergency.

 I also feel that this project is about women, in general, and how we achieve things against the odds, through determination, self belief and perseverance.

This sample has also made me aware of the difficulties experienced in our current living conditions, where women are expected to be mothers to small children, run a home, and work outside of it as well. This is often a struggle that involves much manoeuvring to avoid being caught up in a never ending battle to rise to the surface, and avoid drowning.   

This is not a new emotion for me, although I was a stay at home mum until my children went to school, I still had that feeling of drowning beneath the daily demands of a large family, which left very little time for personal creative growth.

The feeling was so well embedded that when I had the opportunity to apply to do my Foundation course at the UCA (formerly West Surrey College of Art and Design) in 1992, my submission piece was this.

The inspiration behind the piece was my husband's hands supporting me and preventing me from drowning in the soapsuds of the washing machine.

As I have 3 daughters and 1 daughter-in-law I am particularly aware of this modern dilemma and feel very grateful that I was never  put in this difficult position.

Interpretation of my first response

I feel the need now to work towards a textile piece that is not only layered and transparent but it has an element of entanglement as well.

With this in mind I have started to work with the idea of large scale fishing net over finer more decorative fragile lace structures.

tablecloth detail

more detail looking at different scales of the design

In the above image I'm looking at the structures of the stitching in this piece of an industrial plastic sack, I like the order of connecting stitches, they have a net like feel. A restraining element against the stretch of the plastic.

As regards to imagery I have stayed with the 'head scarfed woman' as I feel she embodies a period in history when women were first encouraged to work outside the home in the 50's. Having been seduced by the new 'domestic labour saving devices'.

I have worked the image in digital embroidery, in order to facilitate copying it more than once.

I have just started to layer and diffuse this image...

Here I've used the tablecloth found on Dungeness beach as I think it provides a link to the past and is a domestic symbol. 

The image below is a softer approach to the feeling of keeping 'all the balls in the ait', as there are moments of calm within the hectic lives that women lead, in their multiple roles.

The orange and blue of the lace structures represent the flotsam of string and rope on a beach that always seems to be blue or orange.

I've also looked at samples worked for other projects for inspiration.

As I progress through this project I will try to refer as often as necessary to the questions I have asked at the beginning of this post.


  1. I am enjoying your process here so much. The thought, the consideration, the reference to stated requirements from the MA course, the recognition of those. All these things are assisting in your achievements, your investigations and this is very evident in your creative pieces. I love the piece which illustrates the support from your husband. That is truly beautiful and very moving.
    In my world.......we had a fantastic trip and the wedding was so beautiful......

  2. I love the key words in the principles for the MA course: exploration, interrogation, transformation and resolution. I can see how you're working to them, and especially focusing on them here. I can also see how they apply to many in-depth exploratory works, including for written works, not only art work.

    The piece you did for your Foundation Course is fantastic. I, too, have often thought about the irony of being a woman in these post-feminist times when we have supposedly so much more choice and so many opportunities. But in effect, the availability of double income couples caused house prices to rise, and now most young women with families have no choice - not borne of chauvinistic attitudes but of financial imperatives.

    I really like the first image you've posted here - the bescarfed lady whose work was so necessary, and yet who has been almost lost in time, just another invisible woman.

    Great work, Sharon!