A few thoughts on my interview with Joetta Maue

Much of what Joetta wrote in my interview with her chimed with my own thoughts on the process and connotations of embroidery, and with many of the contexts I am exploring through this project.


For example she wrote about the therapeutic quality of sewing, both metaphorically, in that sewing on fabric is reminiscent of suturing flesh, and literally, in that the quiet, meditative, repetitive action of embroidering soothes. 



Joetta at work
 (Just because I like to be contrary, I have to note that this, at least at first glance, appears to jar with the feminist artist and embroiderer Kate Walker's view that "passitivity and obedience (...) are the very opposite of the qualities necessary to make a sustained effort in needlework". However, in the interview Joetta goes on to write that, rather than using what is "thought to be a very passive form of expression" to "keep idle hands busy and docile", she uses her "hands and the medium to celebrate the vulnerability and strength of the female experience".)

 A fellow blogging embroiderer and Londoner, Emma Parker, goes by the online alias of Stitch Therapy. The banner at the top of her blog states that "A stitch in time saves your mind".


I certainly found sewing both soothing and (thankfully) absorbing during my long recovery from an illness.



Emma's banner for her blog Stitch Therapy
 



Joetta also wrote that one of the things which first attracted her to embroidery was its history as a woman's craft. Joetta grew up around embroidery and craft, and, like me, grew used to seeing her grandmother sew from an early age.


As she began to incorporate embroidery into her practise, she relished its ties with the domestic and thus chose to embroider on vintage linens. Like me, she feels that previously owned linens "bring their own history of women's voices and hands as well as the history of the homes they have lived in".


However, as Joetta is a professional artist and sells her work, she feels uncomfortable sewing on "inherited fabrics", whereas I sew almost exclusively on linens passed down to me by my grandmother, thus adding another layer of historical and familial context to the Cure for Love project. Joetta, however, sews on acquired vintage linens, but in a subversive fashion, while simultaneously acknowledging "the roles of the home and intimacy within the identity of the modern female". 


Though my intention in the Cure for Love project is not specifically subversive, I have created subversive embroidery in the past and imagine I will do in the future (particularly considering that a friend and I are now discussing creating a feminist zine... but more on that at a later date).


Don't Be An Art School Arsehole, an example of my slightly more subversive embroidery

Joetta also had some interesting thoughts about how "being feminist" does not mean "that you cannot embrace and choose to be feminine". She argues that the point of feminism is not "to force women to feel like they must do it all and succeed at it all and judge themselves on if they are being "feminist" enough". This nagging doubt is one I can relate to, as, being an artist writing and making art about love, I sometimes worry that I come across as some soppy dippy moonstruck teenager (which admittedly I am, save the teenager part). My current body of work is not overtly feminist, other than reclaiming a trivialised and traditionally feminine craft for contemporary purposes.


Drink Me In, one of my contemporary embroidered love poems reclaiming women's craft

Another of the points Joetta made is that autobiographical, introspective art (such as Tracey Emin's) is no bad thing, as it is often this that is most raw and universal. For example, Joetta's own work is about the universal experiences of "experiences of love, loss, joy, doubt, etc". This universal quality is something I aim for with the honesty of The Cure for Love.

Lots of interesting food for thought in my interview with you, Joetta. Thanks again!

"Here Is My Heart" at the Pharmacy of Stories

Tonight I went along to the Here Is My Heart private view at the Pharmacy of Stories gallery in London Fields, Hackney. The Pharmacy of Stories describes itself as "a little storytelling Laboratory and gallery where we explore links between narrative and healing and how performance, installation and the art of making books can be combined."

Arriving at the gallery I had no idea what to expect of the evening but was very pleasantly surprised. As I arrived at the gallery a musician was playing a miniature keyboard and singing a song about Argentinian cows producing milk that is good for your heart! A "triage nurse" greeted me with a friendly "What's your emergency?" I told her that I had a heart to donate, and was immediately categorised as a high priority case. This meant that I could jump to the front of the queue for my "consultation".

The triage nurse then asked me to fill out a form on the condition of my heart;


and write a message in a bottle on my emotional state. Armed with bottle and form I approached the first curtain at the A&E, behind which was a "Flaminian accorn cardio therapist" (no, I have no idea what that means either... apparently the Via Flaminia was an ancient Roman road). The therapist asked me and the two other "patients" to do a number of exercises for her in order for her to assess our hearts' health. She asked us to copy her movements and tell her what we felt as we copied them. I felt excitable and anticipatory. Next, in an effort to "detox bottled up feelings" we began a collaborative dance and then threw our messages in bottles into a wishing well and made a wish.

After detoxing, I made my way to the X-Ray room.


Firstly, the radiologists asked me to drink some "heart contrast dye" (a shot!), as the previous x-ray of my heart was "cloudy" and they wanted to make sure that this time it showed up. They then ushered me into the X-Ray Centre and blindfolded me so that the radiation from the machine wouldn't blind me! Finally they encouraged me to press the "x-ray chalk" to the film and see how the x-ray of my heart turned out.


(I tried to write that my heart was "hopeful", but being blindfolded and attempting to write back-to-front conspired against me!)

(I promise it says "hopeful"!)

The radiologists compared the x-ray of my heart with my previous x-ray and concluded that my heart was "misplaced" (and possibly on the opposite side of my chest!)



The final stop on my trip to the A&E was to be to the "Marine Gastropod Molluscs" and "Cardio Memory Screenings" Departments. At this point, however, I met a "heart psychic", aka Tina, the night's organiser, donated my heart to the exhibition, and discussed a possible collaboration.


Tina the "heart psychic"

All in all, a very interesting, off-the-wall (but of course I'm used to that sort of thing, being a product of Dartington!)and relevant evening, and one which will, fingers crossed, bear fruit.

Stitch Therapy's My Heart Sings Like A Caged Bird, the piece which first introduced me to the Pharmacy of Stories and Here Is My Heart. Cheers Stitch Therapy!