Interview with Lindsay Joy on her "Anxiety Series"

I did this interview with incredible fibre artist Lindsay Joy for a side project many months back, and since I've been chatting to Lindsay quite a lot on Tumblr recently, and following her work more closely, I thought I would share it here.

Lindsay is currently undertaking her Master of Fine Art at the University of Manitoba in Canada, and describes her practice as "scrambling attempts to feel better", which I'm sure all artists can relate to at one point or another!

Thank you so much for doing this honest, insightful interview, Lindsay, and thank you for letting me share it here.





What prompted the Anxiety Series? On your website you write that you realised “the most helpful therapy was the act of sharing”. Was your hope that your Anxiety Series would offer comfort and a sense of empathy to others suffering with anxiety and social phobia?

I have always been an anxious person, but two years ago I started realizing how much it was affecting my life. I started seeing a psychologist during the summer before my fourth year of college.  One of her suggestions was to make contemplative art as a way to calm down. At first, I tried the usual stuff - journal entries, a painting, earnest assignments that were embarrassing to show anyone but her. I didn’t feel like they were helping; I was just making what I thought I was supposed to. Traditional “contemplative art” also suggests wacky new age stuff which, as a skeptic, I am completely uninterested in.  I picked up embroidery again after my grandmother passed away, which happened right about the time my anxiety was at its worst. We found some antique hoops in her apartment, and I was antsy, away from home, dealing with grief and needing something to do with my hands. I made a small piece called Matriarch, reteaching myself how to stitch after not doing it for a long time. Once school started up again and it came time to really develop my art practice in my final year, I decided to use embroidery to explore my struggle with anxiety.

When I first realized I had a problem with my anxiety, finding out that Social Anxiety Disorder is a real thing in the world (at least according to Wikipedia), I tried to tell a few people. It was a terrifying revelation, and for some reason sharing was helpful, because it meant it wasn’t my fault. THIS is what’s wrong with me, guys! THIS! I got some strange responses, though, probably because I didn’t tell the right people. I have a hard time negotiating personal relationships in that way. When I started making the anxiety pieces, it was like they were a surrogate for my own confession, and though I didn’t necessarily know the recipient and they didn’t know me, but I still got to tell someone how I felt. At first, I was actually surprised that other people could relate, especially people I knew.

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Is there something about the juxtaposition or conflict between the cutesy or twee aesthetic of embroidery and the darker elements of your subject matter that you find appealing?

I’ve always found that juxtaposition intriguing. It makes my work feel less of a teen-angst expression and more self-aware. It’s also the fight in my own head, knowing that my thoughts are ridiculous but not being able to stop them. Reframing them with cutesy imagery, stitching and colours might create a sort of trap, drawing the person in from afar to view my detailed handwork, maybe expecting a laugh, but confronting them with the subject matter.

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Why and when did you begin to embroider? What sparked your interest in embroidery?

I’ve always made things with my hands. My mother  knits, crochets, embroiders and quilts, to name a few. I was an only child, so she showed me a few things when I was bored growing up. I used it a few more times during my first and second year of art school, where I majored in fibre and tried a lot of techniques. I was drawn in by the way you could combine colour, texture and line, and the ease of image appropriation with the technique. With embroidery, it is easy to be direct. With a lot of other textile techniques, you are waiting for dyes or to thread your loom, and I can just start stitching something right away. I am impatient, although that’s probably an ironic statement. I love the history of hand stitching, which also has a history with mental health, often as a past-time in institutions. 

Has making the Anxiety Series been a way of reaching out to others in the community? Have you been contacted by other sufferers?

I haven’t really been contacted by severe sufferers, but more from people who could relate to some aspects of the work, not necessarily having full-blown anxiety.  

Was it difficult to put such an intimate and painful aspect of your personality on display? What was the public reaction to the Series?

It wasn’t difficult at first, because I began the series during school, and the fibre group was so small and intimate, that I didn’t feel afraid to do it. Once it started to reach a larger audience, I became a little nervous about it. During the graduating exhibition, I was too afraid to be near-enough to my grad piece for anyone to identify me as the maker. With the work, I sometimes have had better responses from strangers than people I was close to. I’ve received a lot of concerned, “But you shouldn’t feel that way,” comments from friends I had known for years, and bad advice for quick fixes. I incorporate some of that into my work, too. The hardest thing, now, is to explain when I meet new people who are interested in finding out what I do as an artist. I think they have some degree of skepticism, like, “How can you be anxious?  You are talking to me now!” or something. The funniest thing was a classmate called me up to ask about an assignment, right after she had seen me working on the phone piece. Halfway through the call, she said, “Oh no!  You hate talking on the phone!  I’m so sorry!” It’s a little weird having people know those things, sometimes.

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Was the act of confession, together with what Joetta Maue calls the “quiet, meditative act” of embroidery, therapeutic?

It started out as the intention, although the anxiety is always there. A few people have assumed that since I’ve made the work, I’m anxiety-free, which is kind of weird. The work is definitely a temporary fix.  Thinking about what thread to use next and where to put the stitches sometimes helps when I’m thinking too much about useless things.  It keeps my mind occupied.

Say It With Flowers

"What a desolate place would be a world without a flower! It would be a face without a smile, a feast without a welcome. Are not flowers the stars of the earth, and are not our stars the flowers of heaven?" ~ AJ Balfour
A rainy Friday found Pip and I at the Garden Museum delving into the history of the flower trade. Whilst the flowers outside were getting a drenching, we learnt an awful lot of floral trivia, including that the Floral Industry in the UK is worth a whopping 1.65 billion, that roses are edible, that over four hundred flower girls were selling bunches in London in 1851 , and that, according to scientific research, flowers just make us feel good.

Flower Seller, Unknown Artist, Between 1800 and 1850
I've recently started stitching some flowers that feel bad; some melancholy flowers. This is a bit of a break from my big project, The Constellation Quilt, harking back to my project Milk Thistle (which I swear will get done one day!), which explores the link between flowers and sickness and recovery.




Possibly the flowers I'm stitching are suffering from depression; they certainly seem (literally) downcast, and slightly weepy! They are an illustration from Land of Play - Verses, Rhymes, Stories, first published in 1911 and written by Sarah Tawney Leffert. The melancholy flowers were sketched either by M.L. Kirk or Florence England Nosworthy (though I do hope by Florence, due to the floral connection of her first name!)



I'm growing very fond of turn-of-the-century illustrations of this style; they seem to really suit my laywoman's blackwork technique (not for long though; soon I'll be a pro at blackwork, as it's one of the first techniques I'll learn at the Royal School of Needlework!)

Floriculture, the exhibition at the Garden Museum, may have been all about the inspiration afforded by cut flowers, but a site specific installation which I came across recently celebrated both the vibrancy and the restorative properties of living flowers. Bloom was a public artwork comprised of twenty eight thousand potted flowers which filled the offices, basements, day rooms, wards and corridors of Massachusetts Mental Health Center from the 14th to the 17th November 2003. The building was scheduled to be knocked down the same year, and the artist, Anna Schuleit, was commissioned to create a public artwork memorialising the lives and experiences of those who had lived, worked, and been treated there over the building's lifetime; a memorial which was also open to the public.



Although the Center had been a place of healing and hope as well as sadness and despair, Schuleit was struck by the lack of colour and vibrancy in the worn old halls. She struck on flowers, a symbol of vitality, new beginnings and hope, to flood the building with. In a fantastic interview on the Colossal art website, Schuleit writes that "Bloom was a reflection on the healing symbolism of flowers given to the sick when they are bedridden and confined to hospital settings. As a visiting artist I had observed an astonishing absence of flowers in psychiatric settings. Here, patients receive few, if any, flowers during their stay. Bloom was created to address this absence, in the spirit of offering and transition.



This very much relates to my Milk Thistle project, and makes me wonder why it is that the mentally ill are rarely brought flowers, when surely an injection of cheerful nature into their environment could (almost always) only be positive. Certainly many of the former patients who visited Bloom during its four day installation were deeply moved by the artwork, with one writing "Today we flourish", and another visitor commenting "For all the patients who never received flowers, these flowers are for you. I don't know if I've ever encountered such a life-affirming and gorgeous artwork; part of me wishes I could've nipped across the pond in 2003 to witness it, but another part recognises that it was a deeply personal installation best experienced by those who had been a part of the building's story.

Flowers signify so many different things in our culture; healing, new beginnings, love, celebration, life itself. I will be undertaking a little research into the language of flowers to learn more about the symbolism of the "stars of the earth".

Mothball Moments


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Mothball moments
Tumbleweed moments
Rolling on through the hours,
the years,
rolling on through 
the centuries.
This page is about the inertia of depression, when it can feel like the whole world is wintry and pressing down on you, yet passing you by. This is how the heroine of What To Look For In Winter feels, wedded to the cold-hearted Winter.
I wasn’t quite sure how to incorporate the imagery of the farmer into the last couple of pages of What To Look For In Winter; he didn’t quite fit in with my intended narrative. A tenuous link I can make is that the earth is rolled by the plough, just as the moments roll past the heroine of the fairytale.
As with the earlier “When I married Winter, the world was put on permafrost” page, I tore through the paper slightly with needle and thread, and patched up the reverse of my embroidered page with another embroidery, a fallen oak leaf which I imagine may be one of the fallen leaves of the illustration opposite the leaf, which features my very favourite animal (the fox, not the hounds!)
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Answers for the Art Trail


Kate Elisabeth Rolison - 'The Onion Cutters' Club'

I am really intrigued by Kate's literary inspired exhibition. Kate's exhibition (no. 61) will be in bay window of 61 Somers Road, she will also have some work on display the the group exhibit 'Celebrating the Significant'. As well as having artwork on the trail, she will also be doing a number of Art Trail reviews for the blog, so keep you eyes peeled and follow this space! 

Kate tells us about her exhibition this year, her Walthamstow perspective and gives insight into her artistic method:


1. Please tell us about the work you will be showing in the 2012 E17 Art Trail?
Last year in Somers Road I showed a mixture of deeply romantic and very cynical hand embroideries  and cross stitches. Some were on the subject of love and loss, and some on the pretensions of the art world (sorry if that ruffles anyone’s feathers!)
This year is, quite literally, a much sadder state of affairs; a number of embroideries grew out of a project on tears. The exhibition is entitled 'The Onion Cutters’ Club', and is inspired by a chapter in Gunter Grass’ novel 'The Tin Drum' (brilliant book by the way, check it out), in which characters meet in a dingy cellar nightclub to cut onions, cry, and share stories of sorrow. The story captivated me, and so I began collecting true stories of sadness and tears (though it’s not all doom and gloom – some are quite funny!)

 I stitched these stories, accompanied by illustrations, on to antique handkerchiefs which I stained with different shades of onion skin. Originally I planned on completing five or six of these, but my creative juices obviously wanted to get going on something different, and I only ended up with three!
Instead of the two remaining “Onion Cutters’ Club” handkerchiefs, I embarked on an entirely different project, that on the face of it, is charmingly (or sickeningly, depending on your tastes) twee. I began appropriating chintzily hand-embroidered and appliquéd home textiles, and embroidering them with rather unsettling messages. I derived this messages from my experiences of mental illness. But it’s not all doom and gloom there either; there’s plenty of tongue in cheek humour here, aiming to disarm the viewer and make them re-consider their preconceptions of people who suffer from mental ill health.
If I get ‘round to it in time, there will also be a couple of good ol’ (and slightly cheeky!) feminist phrases stitched up and on display too. I’m quite busy at the moment, as I’m also interning at Significant Seams, who are doing several events and exhibitions in the Art Trail, so fingers crossed I can get everything done in time!
2. Is this your first time in the Trail or are you an E17 Art Trail veteran?
Last year I exhibited a collection of embroideries “Literary Stitchery”, which was reviewed on this blog. I got lots of really positive feedback and met many other talented artists. It really got my creative juices flowing and kick-started my third and final year at art college – I would recommend exhibiting in the Art Trail to anyone, even if they don’t consider themselves as particularly “arty”. For one thing, it’s a wonderful way to get talking to your local community!

3. What are the challenges of getting everything ready for your Art Trail event?
As I mentioned above, juggling my internship at Significant Seams inWood Street Indoor Market, reviewing a bunch of exhibits in the Trail, looking for paid work AND trying to set up an Etsy shop for my embroideries will be quite a challenge! It’s definitely one I’m looking forward to though, and I do like being busy.

4. Do you remember the first artist that really influenced you? Does that artist’s influence still have an impact on your work?
Writing was my first love (my degree is in Performance Writing, which basically translates to writing about art/writing as art, and vice versa). It took me a while to grow as equally passionately obsessed about art, but I must say Grayson Perry has been a pretty consistent inspiration. I love the dense layers of detail and “busyness” of his work. My work is often pretty stripped back, apart from my recent artist’s book, “On Being Soft: A work in progress”, which was exhibited in the “Soft” textiles exhibition at The Mill. I also really admire Grayson’s nack for storytelling and capturing characters and dialogue. And of course, his studio is based in Walthamstow and his “Walthamstow Tapestry” is currently on display at the William Morris Gallery, which makes him a very apt inspiration!

5. The E17 Art trail has become bigger every year. Do you think it is because more artists are calling it home?
As house prices soar and the trendy East End pushes out further and further, “starving” artists are pushed to the, shall we say, slightly less fashionable East London boroughs, such as the wonderful Walthamstow.  This is resulting in a bit of a burgeoning, buzzing hive of creativity here in the ‘Stow, as I’ve learnt from becoming more deeply involved in the crafting community. It’s slightly under the radar (but maybe that’s a good thing), and very, very exciting. It’s a good place to be as a young artist in 2012.
6. What has E17 bestowed on you?
E17 has bestowed on me a love and tolerance of all cultures (and a very deep love for the food of those cultures!) It has also bestowed a chance to explore my creativity to the full and to reach out to the local community. Walthamstow often gets a bad press, but my experience of its community has been almost invariably positive, and incredibly inspiring.  But that’s just Awesomestow for you.




(Written by Hassan Vawda, co-reviewer of this year's E17 Art Trail)

Tumblin'

Happy New Year, everyone! I've started a Tumblr (hooray for more internet distractions) to tide me over until I start my next creative project.

Will try to get some photos of handmade gifts I made loved ones for Christmas up here at some point soon, though.

In the meantime, here are some photographs of me looking disturbing whilst trying to take some photos of my boyfriend's birthday present with my webcam. We're both massive West Wing nerds, so I stitched him up a quote from this scene, complete with appliqued muffins and bagel, with beads for cherries and sesame seeds.



Hope you've all had a lovely Christmas!

Bramble Snagged Heart



This is my penultimate collaboration with composer Joe Donohoe. This one, Bramble Snagged Heart, strikes a middle ground between Kiss the Book and The Alchemist; the text has some of the cynicism of the former combined with the earnest love poetry of the latter. With the sound of the piece, I was aiming for a recreation of the atmosphere of Walthamstow Village at night; therefore Joe used the sound of wind running through trees, traffic passing, and a church or clock bell. He also used the sound of cars beeping in traffic to highlight the phrases "terrified in headlights" and "roadkill on the motorway" We were also aiming for a "wintry" effect, which I think Joe has achieved through the guitar in the piece. He also created a "jarring" effect with the guitar which is played during the phrase "wolf bites down my neck", and then repeated for the line "I deep plum bruised".

I really enjoy the contrast of the three pieces; the first, with minimal music, used chord harps, the second, simulated tuned percussion, and this, the third, guitar.

Here's the text of Bramble Snagged Heart:

Bramble Snagged Heart

Love is no mythical creature my dearest darling, but just before I stumbled into you I would stumble into blind backstreet alleys for the piss-promise of male, malingering company, for the price of cheap white rum, baptised, doused in the stuff, yet all doe-eyes and fuzzy-kneed, fuzzy knees, knees a-trembling, brand spanking newborn and just mewling out for love, terrified-in-headlights. Roadkill. O don’t you know that is how love feels now? Awake from shrieking sunbleached streaky sleep and roadkill on the motorway is more, more than beautiful. Life is more than bearable.
So, sweetheart:
Invent me, mark out my borders with your fingertips, write me into the periodic table. Name me after yourself.
 All I ever used to want was his, oh hell, anyone’s wolf bites down my neck, inky keepsake emblems, and a spring in my step. Because I was brand-new, white and slippery as bathtubs and as yet unblemished... but... I bit off more than I could chew, I deep plum bruised. A bathtub heart covered in hairline cracks. So I prayed to no one in particular;

(Lord) give me a hundred denier heart
To keep the cold out
To keep lost souls out
And never let it ladder on no fences
(And when it’s held up to the light
Let it show no ladders)

Except...
You snagged on my thighs and tugged me to attention,
Snuck
Into my heart,
My opaque winter heart, suddenly
Unstoppered
It
And
To my surprise
What a gentleman you proved
I am no lady but
I only want a gentleman
And a gentleman
Is what I’ve found.

For the accompanying embroidery, I illustrated one of the opening lines of the piece, "Love is no mythical creature". I chose to illustrate this phrase with a narwhal, as in the Middle Ages narwhal tusks were believed to be unicorn horns. Unicorns are mythical creatures; narwhals, however, are not, and neither is love (despite what the cynical amongst us might have you believe).

This phrase is also a reference to Tao Lin's short story Love Is A Thing On Sale For More Money Than There Exists, which contains the following quote: "Though if love was an animal, Garret knew, it would probably be the Loch Ness Monster. If it didn’t exist, that didn’t matter. People made models of it, put it in the water, and took photos. The hoax of it was good enough. The idea of it. Though some people feared it, wished it would just go away, had their lives insured against being eaten alive by it."








I used French knots to create dense texture and the spotted pattern of the narwhal's back.

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!

Interview With Joetta Maue

I wrote this blog post on Joetta's practise back in late August, and now she has very thoughtfully and (hugely) thoroughly answered some questions on her work for me. Thank you so much Joetta! Your interview makes for an engrossing read.

Why and when did you begin embroidering?
I began embroidering about 5 years ago while in graduate school. I was working to finish a previous body of work that I had been doing for a long time and wanted to do one FINAL piece freeing me to move on.

At the time I was experimenting a lot with medium and being quite conceptual about my medium choice. This previous work was based on an experience of trauma and I liked that embroidery could be a metaphor for healing both in the literal suturing act of the stitch but also the quiet meditative act of the process. I assumed that this would be a one-off piece, I had never embroidered before, but I ended up totally loving the process and got addicted. From then on I kept making excuses to keep working in embroidery. My background is as a photographer and I have no formal training in embroidery at all.


Comforts, 2008, yarn; an example of Joetta's earlier textile art


Why do you work in embroidery rather than another medium? How do your photographic and textile practises fit together?
I love the history that embroidery brings to the table. It is often considered a female practice and my work is very much steeped in the female experience and the domestic space, so conceptually the medium brings a lot.

I am also attracted to the fact that it is essentially a "useless" craft; something done for purely decorative reasons(rather then a practice like quilting or knitting where you can make something utilitarian). The decorative nature of it places it in a category of leisure and pleasure that attracts me. To me being an artist is this; it is the privilege of being alone with your thoughts and then communicating them through your medium, leisure and pleasure. It also gives the embroidery the special place of being done simply for the joy of doing it.

Technically speaking I love how it is "hand made" and therefore the hand of the maker is so present in the work, i.e do they do neat careful stitches, or messy large stitches. I love how the hand made embraces the natural flaws that exist.

I utilise my photography as the inspiration and source for my image based work but when I was asked this once before this was my answer: I fell into embroidery as an artist. In graduate school I decided to make a piece with embroidered text, because I liked the idea of embroidery as a metaphor for healing.

Unexpectedly I fell in love with the process and medium; while trying to figure out the next direction for my studio practice and work I began to explore embroidery as a medium of expression.

The medium felt very natural to me as I grew up around fabric and crafts, through my mother and grandmother, and my work had always been made from an overtly feminine point of view.

As my new work began to grow and my love towards the process of embroidery deepened I began to enjoy the subversive quality of the medium, how what was expected from a hand made embroidered piece could be so easily manipulated and yet the viewer always comes to it with the same expectation. I began to utilise the expectation of embroidered works and domestically placed linens to further my concept of exploring the roles of the home and intimacy within the identity of the modern female.


This Is Bullshit, date unknown

I was particularly drawn to how traditionally embroidery was thought to be a very passive form of expression done simply for decorative purposes but through my hands I could use the medium to give a voice to women. Instead of subverting that voice by keeping idle hands busy and docile, I used my hands and the medium to celebrate the vulnerability and strength of the female experience.

As a photographer, I mostly spent my time thinking about what I wanted to capture, and then, since I work mostly through a form of documentation, having the patience and awareness to capture that moment as it arrived. My camera was always loaded and ready to still the moment of light and life that stopped my eye. Embroidery has completely transformed my studio practice. I now spend hours and hours in my studio slowly building my work upon a linen, surrounded by thread and piles of linens and fabrics, working in a very tactile way where as when I do photography my tactile senses are not as satisfied.

Even though photography is a very fast medium, taking only a 1/15 of a second to capture your image and less then 5 minutes to print it, and embroidery is a very slow and labor intensive practice, I do not find them as different as you may expect. They both require immense patience; in embroidery the patience is in the labour intensive practice and in photography it is the waiting for the light or the right expression. They both allow for a significant amount of quiet, contemplative time. As a photographer you spend hours in a dark quiet room all by yourself waiting for your paper or film to develop, going through the same simple repetitive steps to get your print, and in embroidery you repetitively make the stitch, working hour upon hour, lost in your thoughts and quiet as your work slowly builds.


I love that both mediums leave me so much time to meditate upon the images that I create. Though the mediums seem quite dissimilar in practice, they actually share quite a bit.

After They Left, 2008, C-print; an example of Joetta's photographic practise


Why do you work on such a large scale?
I have always liked working on a larger scale- I like how one can enter the work and physically relate to it more this way. I also enjoy how one can experience the work in a different way from far away and then up close.

What leads you to choose a particular word to embroider in your text pieces?
My emotional space. Initially my text works were diaristic statements; as a life-long diary keeper I just started to embroider my statements instead of write them. Then I went through a process of writing cathartic statements, things I felt like I needed to say out loud and make tangible. Now I am interested in honoring experiences and moments. But in general they are statements that come to me in my daily life and I catch them and put them into a work.
Be Strong, 2009, one of Joetta's text pieces
Do the fabrics you use to sew on have any sentimental value?
They are all found fabrics. I have worked with inherited fabrics but since I sell my work I do not feel comfortable doing this anymore. But to me the fabrics still have sentimental value in the sense that someonemade them, someone took the time to embroider lovingly onto them, or add tatting to their edges, and they lived a life in someone's home. I love the stories they tell; are they pristine and preserved, are they stained and used, are they rotting and disregarded, are they unfinished... All stories can relate to our relationships and homes and I try to make the linens make sense with the final work that is stitched onto them.


Why do you choose to embroider on found, vintage linens?
As I have said before, they bring their own history of women's voices and hands as well as the history of the homes they have lived in. I feel like I am giving voice to this.


Some feminists would be disparaging about celebrating the domestic role, whereas you say you wish to connect with a domestic lineage. Do you think the domestic is solely the prerogative of women, or do you think a man could produce work like this?
I do not think that a man and could produce work exactly like this but do think a man could produce work about the same subject from a different point of view. When I exhibit my work it is often the male viewer that is most moved and touched by my work. Historically speaking the domestic is the domain of the woman and therefore my relationship to it as an identity, place, and role is different then a man's.


I do not know that I am "celebrating" the domestic "role"; I am more investigating what occurs within the confines of the home and the relationships, moments, and emotions that are held here.I am interested in the complicated roles that contemporary women must play.

I do get frustrated at how the roles of being a homemaker and mother are looked at as not enough and not feminist. To me the idea of feminism was to give women the option of choice, giving them the opportunity to do whatever they wish. It was 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. I also do not think that being feminist means that you cannot embrace and choose to be feminine. I do think that in general men and woman are different and think that celebrating our differences and embracing all of our sexuality is a good thing. I am a very strong and independent woman but I also love nurturing my son and honouring my husband and do not in any way think that these things need to be mutually exclusive.

The domestic space is not a space for only women but it is the space of the family and intimacy; this is what my work is about.I simply embrace the history of that space and the fact that my point of view comes from being a woman.

Eight Months, 2011


 Why do you choose to focus on yourself and your family as the subject of your work? Some might argue that this is rather introspective!
I have always worked autobiographically and have always been drawn to other artists that do this. I once heard a writer talk about writing and they said that "you have to write about what you know". What I know is my life and my experience so this is what I make art about. I like art that has a raw honesty to it so the only things that I can be truly honest about is me.

With that said I do no think my work is so specific; what I actually makework about is universal experiences of love, loss, joy, doubt, etc... I think that often the more personal you let yourself become the more accessible the work becomes.
And I would never take being
introspective as a criticism. I think that many could benefit from being a little more of this.

In addition I think art in general is a somewhat narcissistic act no matter what you make. You are making something to express your point of view on something and communicate it. Being this is part of being an artist.

Have you considered combining text and image together more often?I have. This is something I have been wanting to do more of for a long time. But I work very intuitively and so far the work has for the most part stayed separate- though it is always exhibited together.Generally my image based work is about one side of intimacy and love and my text work is about the other so often they need to exist as separate works that have a conversation within the gallery. But I imagine more combining of these will come as I continue to make work.

Waking With You, 2010, a piece in which Joetta combined text and image

 



Interview by Olisa Corcoran (cocoaeyesthestitcher) Part Two

Here's part two of my interview by the lovely Olisa of the blog cocoaeyesthestitcher! Thanks Olisa!

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman, Part 2

Sparrow Heart

More from my interview with the talented young artist Kate Elisabeth Rolison.

We started discussing her current work stitching modern love poetry onto vintage fabrics as part of the poesie grenadine project and wrapped up with details of her other projects.


Drink me In


Can you describe the poesie grenadine blog? What inspired you to start it? How do you decide which poems to translate onto fabric?

Poesie Grenadine was born out of neccessity, as a means of documenting my Contextual Enquiry Project, the first project of the academic year, in which I translate love poetry I have written now and over the years into stitch. "Poesie Grenadine" roughly translates as "purple prose," the sort of writing which can often arise from adolescent attempts at love poetry!


I aim for a variety of tone in the poems I translate onto fabric; from pure "love" poems to the cynical, humorous, and nostalgic. The piece I am currently working on is based on a love letter to "The Stow."(Walthamstow, where Rolison grew up.)

The Beast & Me


Where do you get the vintage fabric that you stitch onto?
The doilies, handkerchiefs, and linens I stitch on were mostly handed down to me by my grandmother, who, in turn, had them handed down to her by my great grandmother.

Both my grandmothers sewed as I was growing up, so I like to think of it as a tradition which has been handed down to me. I get additional fabrics from The Shop on Cheshire Street, off Brick Lane; it's like Aladdin's Cave in there!

I Have A Smut in My Eye

Can you tell us the process that you use for selecting the images to accompany the text? Are these your drawings or do you get them from other sources?
I mostly use illustrations of the subject matter of the text; drawing them on to paper before transferring them on to fabric. Sources range from the internet to bird-spotting books!

Too Wit to Woo

What current artistic projects are you working on that are most exciting and energizing for you?
I'm currently working on two collaborations; one with my friend Joe Donohoe (http://cabinfeverband.tumblr.com/), and the other with artist and curator Tina Bueno, of the Pharmacy of Stories gallery in Hackney (http://www.pharmacyofstories.com/).


Kiss the Book


Joe and I are recording my poems and monologues on love, and he is then setting them to music to create soundscapes, such as the one in this post: /poesiegrenadine/2011/09/kiss-book.html.
It's wonderfully easy to work with Joe and exciting to be working in this additional medium.

Rolison at a Pharmacy of Stories exhibition
Tina and I hope to soon offer some creative workshops, possibly embroidering love poetry and making love potions, a prospect I am very excited about.

*****************



Rolison at work!

Interview by Olisa Corcoran (cocoaeyesthestitcher) Part One

Olisa Corcoran(cocoaeyesthestitcher on Blogger and cocoaeyes on Flickr) asked me to do a mini interview for her new series on young artists. I was only too happy to oblige! Here's Part One:

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman: A New Feature

Happy discoveries are made in the online stitching community!

Drink Me In

I stumbled across the work of a young British artist named Kate Elisabeth Rolison in the Phat Quarter group pool on flickr. I was immediately entranced with the stitching and energy of this piece and, like any curious stitcher, followed the links to her blog, poesie grenadine, where she documents her work embroidering modern love poetry onto vintage fabrics.

The work is beautiful and inventive. I just adore the way her drawing and stitching look like the caffeinated images one might concoct in a Viennese coffee den.

Dishwater Eyes

What follows is Part One of a mini-interview with Rolison. I was very curious about her life and her East London routes… especially how the two interact to create a talented young textile artist. How does a woman who is so comparatively young, living in the U.K. create pieces that so resonate with me?

I started the interview with finding out more about her geographic source, education and her artistic communities, both online and in “meat space.”

A portrait of the artist as a tortured artist

Part Two will focus on her current work with poesie grenadine and other projects.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Walthamstow (also known as "The Stow" or "E17"), a literal end-of-the-line town in North East London, on the end of London Underground's Victoria Line. It's an incredibly culturally diverse place, with everything from 99p and fried chicken shops to a gallery dedicated to the arts and crafts pioneer William Morris and swanky restaurants. It was also the scene of some of the recent London riots, and consequently has a bit of a reputation! My relationship with Walthamstow has changed over the years from “love-to-hate” to a true appreciation of its diversity and vibrancy, particularly since I've become aware of its thriving art scene.

The Stow
Walthamstow is home during the holidays, and also for the next three months as I complete a project independently of university. I hope to move back after graduating to attend the Art Writing MA at Goldsmiths College. I just hope I have enough experience!

Tell us a little about how you started stitching?
When I was 15 – 16, I studied GCSE Textiles at school and designed a dress based on the Amazon rainforest. I hand printed the bodice with a fern pattern, and then hand-embroidered unfurling designs onto the ferns. This first attempt was very amateurish and I took a long hiatus before picking up a needle again! Then, last summer, whilst I was recovering from an illness, my father bought me some very simple hand puppet kits to make for my little cousins. Sewing the simple tiger together was incredibly therapeutic, and soon I was hooked. I experimented with cross stitch and (again, very amateurish) hand
embroidery.

What are you studying in school?
The official title of my degree is "Writing (Contemporary Practises)"; the course as a whole is known as "Performance Writing". In my first year I was based at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, an internationally renowned, avant guard arts and performing arts school. Last year the college relocated to University College Falmouth in Cornwall, due to financial difficulties (however, Falmouth is acclaimed in its own right). My class is tiny; there are only ten of us!

Performance Writing doesn't necessarily refer to performance, per se, but to the fact that the act of writing itself is a performance. This can mean different things for different artists, but my practice mostly focuses on sound art and embroidery.

The Cure for Love

Studying Performance Writing has allowed me to push the medium of writing as far as it can go, and to blur the boundaries between writing and other arts.

I’ve noticed a lot of photos on your blog of you stitching with other artists. Tell us a little about your arts community? Are there any online communities that you’re involved in relating to your creativity?

The arts community in Walthamstow is very much alive and kicking (some would say surprisingly!) We are the home of the East London Craft Guerilla (http://eastlondoncraftguerrilla.blogspot.com/), who put on a monthly craft night, which I attend, as well as the E17 Designers (http://www.e17designers.co.uk/).


I've become more aware of Walthamstow's arts scene since exhibiting in the E17 Art Trail (http://www.e17arttrail.co.uk/). Going around the trail I met many other enthusiastic and inspiring artists. The trail even brought me my first commission!

Rolison's first commission

The online embroidery community, on Blogger, on flickr, and on the needlework blog MrXStitch has been incredibly supportive of my journey in sewing. It's encouraging to see such a thriving contemporary embroidery community.
 
 
Rolison in front of exhibition space


Subversive Stitchery

Contemporary needlework comes in many guises; from the twee to the political via the subversive and disturbing. Mr X Stitch, "the number one contemporary embroidery and needlecraft blog" showcases the breadth of these (including my own embroidery). Mr X Stitch himself, the blog's founder, is Jamie Chalmers, a self-styled "manbroiderer" who gets a mention in Rozsika Parker's book The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine.

Recently, subversive craft has really come into its own; taking the form of everything from sewn swear words to "craftivist" protest banners to knitted and crocheted graffiti.

Crystal Gregory's Invasive Crochet
Ami Grinsted, a recent graduate from Falmouth's Contemporary Crafts course, created an embroidered series on the Egyptian Revolution. Ami cross stitches on wilfully difficult surfaces; wood (which she drills holes into to sew through) and wire mesh. As a review of her work on Mr X Stitch says, "Ami chooses to increase the tension (of her sewn subject) by stitching through hard surfaces".



Embroidering a protest placard seems to my mind to be a reference to the old embroidered trade union and suffrage banners. Suffrage banners are a perfect early example of the "woman's work" of embroidery being employed for a subversive cause.



In the 1970s needlework was reclaimed by the Feminist Movement, for example by the fine artist Kate Walker. In The Subversive Stitch, Walker is quoted as saying that she has "never worried that embroidery's association with femininity, sweetness, passivity and obedience may subvert my work's feminist intention. Femininity and sweetness are part of women's strength. Passitivity and obedience, moreover, are the very opposite of the qualities necessary to make a sustained effort in needlework. What's required are physical and mental skills, fine aesthetic judgement in colour, texture and composition; patience during long training; and assertive individuality of design (and consequent disobedience of aesthetic convention). Quiet strength need not be mistaken for useless vulnerability."

My work (though possibly in a slightly more subtle way!) follows in the traditions of Julie Jackson's Subversive Cross Stitch.

A Subversive Cross Stitch pattern

My Don't be an art school arsehole embroidery

Though I choose to embroider on old linens, the sentiments I stitch upon them are new; this results in a fusion of past and present, acknowledging embroidery's lineage whilst keeping it contemporary. Like many other contemporary embroiderers, I take what could be a twee and cloying pattern and add a healthy dose of irony, with tongue in cheek punning and verse. In other pieces I embroider a line from one of my poems on love in the modern urban environment. I embroider on linens passed down to me by my grandmother, in turn handed down to her by my great grandmother. In this way I acknowledge embroidery's past as "woman's work" whilst simultaneously subverting it.

My work may not be overtly feminist (aside from the fact that it subverts what is traditionally thought of as "women's work"), but it is often subversive, sending up artist clichés in a humorous and self-deprecating manner.

One of my embroideries exploring and poking fun at the "tortured artist/writer" cliché
In The Subversive Stitch, Rozsika Parker explains how at one time embroidery was thought of as "almost a secondary female sexual characteristic". Today, "manbroiderers" like Jamie Chalmers and Richard Saja challenge that assertion.

Richard Saja's work
My embroidery is informed by that of my peers, particularly those, such as Iviva Olenick and Joetta Maue, who explore themes of love. I am incredibly grateful to the always supportive online embroidery community on mrxstitch.com, Flickr, and here on Blogger. They continue to inspire and encourage me.