Art Therapy and Ecology 2

January 15, 2018

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Photo: Pamela in her garden

“For most people, art has nothing to do with ecology, or our relationship with environment…Yet ecology, or environment, is where we live, where all life lives – it is where cultures lives, where the arts and human endeavor lives, since culture also cannot be outside the world.” (Beth Carruthers, “Art, Place and the Meaning of Home,” Essay for the Vancouver Parks Board).

In his book An Ecology of Enchantment, Canadian gardener Des Kennedy has written that “a garden is a work in progress, an artistic exercise that’s never finished, but at every stage of its existence stirs with the excitement of the creative process. The notion of the gardener as a pilgrim denotes a journey of discovery, of learning as we go. Gardening is the chance to live in touch with the earth, to find ourselves within its seasonal turnings, and to truly appreciate the extraordinary beauty of each ordinary day”.

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Photo: Shelter made in Ravensdale Forest, Co. Louth

“The natural world is a vital and alive medium for art therapy…The outdoors can be experienced as a signifier for the extension of therapeutic practice into the world at large. The use of gathered, rather than bought, art materials fosters a sensing of one’s way through tactile exploration. The outdoor landscape offers a nomadic sense of exploration and spontaneity, mediated by surroundings that are not predetermined by function. This exterior space can offer the potential for rambling and gathering, a place for physical immediacy within many spatial dimensions that stimulate creative investigations. ..The reverie encountered when working within a natural landscape challenges one to view art therapy not as the creation of images, but rather as an overall experience of assembly…In this context, subjectivity relates to a natural terrain that is continually in flux, a mirroring of one’s own nature in motion amid changing circumstances”

(Quotation from Pamela Whitaker, “Groundswell: The Nature and Landscape of Art Therapy” in Materials and Media in Art Therapy: Critical Understandings of Diverse Artistic Vocabularies by Catherine Hyland Moon)

Inspiration for Outdoor Studios with Applications for Art Therapy

Sharon Kallis 

“Sharon Kallis is a Vancouver artist who specializes in working with unwanted natural materials. Involving community in connecting traditional hand techniques with invasive species and garden waste, she creates site-specific installations that become ecological interventions” (New Society Publishers, Author Description). She works with a “one-mile diet” approach to sourcing materials that are freely available and close at hand.

“In community outdoor work, my creative process begins with a harvest principal that embraces communal stewardship of the land; weeding, invasive species removal, coppicing, gleaning and gathering. Oral traditions of knowledge sharing occur; my own experience with plants and their uses are exchanged with those familiar to a place through close investigation of the surroundings, walking, sharing stories about the landscape and observed shifts in eco-systems. Installation ideas spring forth through conversation, idea sharing, identifying what materials are suitable for harvest and the consideration of the inherent physical properties of both place and material used.”

Sharon Kallis has written a book called Common Threads: Weaving Community Through Collaborative Eco-Art.

EartHand Gleaners Society

The East Hand Gleaners Society in Vancouver is a collective of artists who work with art, ecology and place. The word “gleaner” means to “gather something slowly and carefully in small pieces” (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/gleaner).

“By working with the plants around us using ancestral skills common to all cultures, we inspire participants to discover cultural connections, learn new skills, and discover novel sources of raw materials for creative practices, including garden waste, invasive plants, and textile waste.”

Oliver Kellhammer 

“I take biological systems and I remix them. In the way a DJ would remix music, I remix ecosystems and plants” Oliver Kellhammer 

“Oliver Kellhammer is an ecological artist, educator, activist and writer. Through his botanical interventions and public art projects, he seeks to demonstrate nature’s surprising ability to recover from damage. His work facilitates the processes of environmental regeneration by engaging the botanical and socio-political underpinnings of the landscape.”

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Oliver Kellhammer, Means of Production Garden, Vancouver

Artist Statement

“I am interested in exploring the processes of ecological regeneration in the wake of human disturbance, either through passive field observation (what can I not do?)… or by actively engaging the biological and socio-political processes that inform these landscapes by attempting to improve their relationships with each other. The latter approach often takes the form of what I call botanical interventions, whereby I employ horticultural techniques to mitigate problems between people and the landscape, enhancing both the sense of place and the ecological carrying capacity of a given site, as well as addressing such problems as erosion, food availability and the lack of local agency over the design of urban spaces.”

Perhaps we can afford to give up a little control to let this second ‘nature’ take its course. We’ll need to learn to tolerate a few weeds, a little uncertainty and a little mess, but we might just learn something” Oliver Kellhammer

The Means of Production Garden, Vancouver 

The Means of Production Garden in Vancouver grows living art materials for use by artists and community groups. Founded by artist and activist Oliver Kellhammer and the Environmental Youth Alliance in Vancouver (with land supplied by the Vancouver Parks Board) it offers “open source” resources that are harvested for “community creative use.” Kellhammer believes than an open source landscape encourages experimentation with botanical materials and an investigation into art and ecology.

There is willow for sculptures, flax growing for linen, plants for natural dyes, and foraged natural materials for weaving and fibre arts. Skill sharing, social gatherings, artist residencies and celebrations prevail within this artists’ garden. Kellhammer’s philosophy regarding open source landscaping encourages nature to enter the urban world in unpredictable ways. Kellhammer also believes that self-seeding trees, flowers, and weeds erupting along the edges of urban areas, may also stimulate experiments in community living.

The Means of Production garden is a living art installation. It is a gathering place for community, and an ecological art form. According to Kellhammer it is a biological intervention Inspired by Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics which encourages the practice of art within social environments,  Kellhammer’s living art acts as an event, and ecological improvisation. Curating gardens as art projects, can develop gathering spaces for spontaneous interactions. Gardens themselves are unpredictable happenings, where irregular growth cycles, weeds, decay, and weather all influence ever changing conditions. Gardens can be both public art forms and places/acts of environmental and community activism.

 Common Ground 

Common Ground is a charity, based in Dorset, UK that explores the relationship between nature and culture,”seeking imaginative ways to engage people with their local environment.”

Common Ground “plays a unique role in linking nature and culture, working to inspire, inform and involve people in learning about, enjoying, and taking more responsibility for their own locality. We champion popular involvement and inspire celebrations as one starting point for local action to improve the quality of ordinary places and everyday lives” (Common Ground, “ABC: Learning to Read Your Locality,” brochure)

Local Distinctiveness

Local distinctiveness is “the web of rich understandings between people and their land and their histories, it is not about scenery, it takes us below the surface, to where the land might reflect back to us purpose and belonging. Sometimes we forget that our everyday surroundings are nature’s greatest reservoir, history’s biggest book…By focussing attention on significance in our surroundings and helping build courage to be demonstrative and to take action on attachment to place, then perhaps we can make our surroundings better for nature as well as daily life” (Common Ground, “ABC: Learning to Read Your Locality,” brochure)

“We sometimes forget [that we live in] a cultural landscape.”

“Local distinctiveness is essentially about places and our relationship with them…Places are process and story as well as artefact, layer upon layer of our continuing history and nature’s history intertwined…Meaning is entrapped in the experience of change [and] symbolism and significance cling to seemingly ordinary buildings, trees artefacts…

“Locality needs to be defined from the inside, with a cultural and natural base…”

“We are talking of quality in the everyday…[which] involve[s] emotional attachment…”

(Quotations Above, from “Losing Your Place” an article by Sue Clifford and Angela King in a book produced by Common Ground called Local Distinctiveness: Place, Particularity, and Identity)

 

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Photo: Rachel Gomme, The Memory of Yarn Performance, R Space Gallery, http://www.rspacelisburn.com, Northern Ireland, 2012)

Knitters learn valuable life skills such as patience, perseverance, and the knowledge that mistakes can be undone (www.stitchlinks.com).

Stitchlinks is an organisation dedicated to promoting the therapeutic benefits of knitting, stitching and crochet. It disseminates research into the health benefits of these crafts in relation to rhythmic movement, texture, and social interaction.

Our mission is to use knitting and other therapeutic creative activities to improve wellbeing generally, but also to complement medical treatments in the self-management of long-term health conditions. We are working closely with academics and clinicians, and as a direct result, therapeutic knitting and therapeutic knitting groups are being formally acknowledged by leading clinicians and academics for their benefits in mainstream healthcare. We have been successfully using knitting therapeutically in the NHS (National Health Service, UK) since 2006.

Our prime focus is on the use of therapeutic knitting as a healthcare tool – unravelling the neuroscience behind its bilateral, rhythmic, automatic movements and the complex combination of physiological, psychological, behavioural, social and creative benefits experienced.

Knitting’s portability plays a key role in making its benefits available when you need it. We have helped people to use it to successfully manage panic, anxiety and pain spasms when out and about as well as problems with sleep and social confidence (www.stitchlinks.com).

1199701-7Photo: Bora Lee, bora201308, Keywords: black, space, time, infinity, knit, line, saatchiart.com

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Photo: Katie Holten, It Started on the C Train, Crocheted Maps, http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk

Usually I’m on the move, and I started to crochet on the subway making circular shapes that were like a drawing accompanying my journey. I collected a bundle of crochet doodles, all made from a simple chain stitch and connected them together. The bundles of crocheted ‘maps’ can be displayed and assembled in different ways (Katie Holten, It Started on the C Train, Irish Museum of Modern Art).

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Photo: Kathy Prendergast, The Grave Blanket, wooden blanket and marble chips,        www.kerlingallery.com

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Photo: Kathy Prendergast, The Secret Kiss, Kerlin Gallery, Ireland

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Photo: Faith Wilding 1972 Womb Room (Renamed Crocheted Environment in 1995)

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Emin, Tracey, I do not expect to be a mother

Photo One: Tracey Emin, Everyone I Ever Slept With 1963-1995, Appliquéd Tent and Mattress, http://www.saatchigallery.com Photo Two: Tracey Emin, I Do Not Expect, 2002, http://www.artinamericamagazine.com, Blanket Graffiti

It’s not what you inherit, but what you do with your inheritance (Tracey Emin, tate.org.uk)

Emin employs the lightness of traditional “women’s crafts”, like sewing, to explore what (Louise) Bourgeois classed as the “volcanic unconscious” which we only ever encounter in parts: “That’s why I use a lot of embroidery,” Emin explains. “I take this craft but I don’t treat it like a craft, but like high art. (Tracey Emin: Craft Work, http://www.independent.co.uk)

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Photo: Tracey Emin, My Bed, 1998

Well-known for her confessional art, Tracey Emin reveals intimate details from her life to engage the viewer with her expressions of universal emotions. Her ability to integrate her work and personal life enables Emin to establish an intimacy with the viewer…By presenting her bed as art, Tracey Emin shares her most personal space, revealing she is as insecure and imperfect as the rest of the world (www.saatchigallery.com)

Within art therapy fibre, texture and story can be incorporated to make a variety of items: 

Book Covers, Sheets, Curtains, Purses/Bags, Tablecloths, Scarfs, Cloaks, Tents, Pillow/Cushion Covers, Veils, Quilts, Blankets, Clothing, Accessories, Upholstery, Aprons, Personal Altars, Baskets, Shrouds, etc.  

Fabric acts to conceal and cover objects and persons, while at the same time, disclosing them…The objects may be commonplace but the wrapping gives them a certain mystery, vitality, and seductiveness. Fabric is malleable. It lends itself to wrapping, draping, and swathing. It restricts direct access to the naked object, but it also has the ability to suggest, enhance, and draw attention to what it covers over and adorns ( Anne Hamlin, Freud, Fabric, Fetish).

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Photo: Tracey Emin, Sleep, 1996, http://www.saatchigallery.com

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Photo: Tracey Emin, There is A lot of Money in Chairs, Credit: David Sillitoe, The Guardian)

Tracey Emin admits that she is a product of her past, created with her experiences sewn into the fabric of her very being, much like her tapestries. As the onlooker, we’re encouraged to not be ashamed of what occupies the dark recesses of our minds; the skeletons in our closets and the insecurities to which we never gave a voice  (Morgan Meaker, The Art of Self-Indulgence: Tracey Emin).

References

Hamlyn, A. (2012). Freud, Fabric, Fetish. In J. Hemmings (Ed.), The Textile Reader (pp. 14-26). London: Berg Publishers.

Meaker, M. (2013). The Art of Self-Indulgence: Tracey Emin. Retrieved from http://www.londoncalling.com.

Tracey Emin: Craft Work. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk

Tracey Emin Exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.saatchigallery.com.

Ward, O. (2011). Tracey Emin: No Bedtime Story. Retrieved from http://www.artinamerica.com

 

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(Photo: Beverly Ayling Smith, Absence, http://www.beverlyaylingsmith.com)

The stories of people’s lives are implicated within the threads that compose the intimate surroundings of body and home. Textiles portray a sense of ritual, of making special everyday spaces through a quality of adornment and presence.

Even when the immediate feelings of grief and mourning are passed, we are changed forever; the emotions embedded in the fabric of our lives emerge at different times to stain our emotional states.

Melancholia has been described by Julia Kristeva as ‘an abyss of sorrow’. By exploring the expression of melancholia through the representation of loss in cloth…(lies the) question whether it is possible to re-evaluate the term ‘melancholia’ in the light of contemporary ritual and practice using textiles as a metaphor for grief and loss within rituals of mourning.

(Beverly Ayling Smith)

Some Functions of Texture, Fibre, Cloth, in Art Therapy: 

Rites of Passage, Heirlooms, Amulets/Charms, Adornment, Comfort, Mending

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Photo: Beverly Ayling Smith, Shroud

The substance and physicality of fabric…conveys multiplicity, temporality and complexity. Various processes contribute to the somatic history of the fabric and its multiple transformations…As sensuous materials suspended in space, casting shadows on the walls and floors, they confront the viewer differently from different perspectives as they subtly oscillate in response to the atmosphere, becoming ultimately, communicative memories…By creating line as well as openings, and by delineating positive and negative space, the edges frame information – or demarcate the lack of information – caught within, behind, or beyond the edge…The gossamer layers of experience, depending upon our perceptual vantage point, are transient, creating a mutable, translucent skin that keeps quietly changing as we proceed forward in time (Rebecca Cross, Artist Statement)

Some Metaphors Referencing Texture, Fibre and Cloth in Art Therapy: 

Spinning a Tale, A Network of Ideas, Piecing Things Together, Hanging by a Thread, On Pins and Needles, Wear and Tear, Feeling at Loose Ends, Weaving Things Together, Patching Up Relationships, All Sewn Up, Ties that Bind, On the Mend

What if the poetics of cloth were composed of ‘soft logics’, modes of thought that twist and turn and stretch and fold? And in this movement new encounters were made, beyond the constraint of binaries? The binary offers two possibilities, either/or; soft logics offers multiple possibilities. They are the realm of the and/and, where anything can happen…Soft logics are to think without excluding…And if soft suggests an elastic surface, a tensile quality that yields to pressure this is not a weakness; for ‘an object that gives in is actually stronger than one that resists, because it also permits the opportunity to be oneself in a new way’ (Pennina Barnett, Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth)

References

Barnett, P. ( 2012  ). Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth. In J. Hemmings (Ed.), The Textile Reader (pp.182-191 ). London: Berg Publishers.   

Cross, R. (2016). Artist Statement. Retrieved from http://www.rebeccastextiles.com

Smith, B.A. (2016) Artist Statement. Retrieved from http://www.beverlyaylingsmith.com

 

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Photo: The Parangolé, 

Irish Museum of Modern Art , Hélio Oiticica: Propositions  

Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica’s (1937-1980) contribution to physical performance was enfolded within the dimensions of the parangolés  he produced as wearable sculptures. The parangolés  were inhabited as a dwelling space for physical exploration and expression. The complex fabric dimensions of these tent like constructions embodied architectural spaces. The fabric also had associations to homelessness and the nomadic carrying of one’s own belongings. Foremost, the wearer entered into an experience which performed new sensations regarding one’s physical positioning within public space.

The parangolés supported non-conformist bodily actions. They were intended as political interventions within the social context of a military dictatorship in Brazil. The purpose of these cape like structures was immediacy during a historical period of constriction. Rather than behaviour within boundaries Oiticica proposed the wearer of the parangolé to exert an influence upon surrounding social conditions. The anarchy of wearing unstructured layers of fabric could be considered a camouflage, but also a banner. The parangolé experience was an intimate experiment, aimed at finding new routes of social movement within limiting political circumstances.

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Photos: A Forest Art Therapy Studio, Investigations of Movement

The consideration of fabric being worn as a supportive frame for physical disclosure and deterritorialization* is perhaps unusual within art therapy. The parangolé was not a costume, but a physical revelation. And still today it offers an inspiring example of how to interrogate physical presence. The wearer of the parangolé was both a celebrant and a dissident. Particularly evocative when worn outdoors, these draped dimensions of fabric facilitated movement patterns that were ambiguous and sculptural, punctuating public environments with sensory inquiry.

The choreographer, theoretician and dancer Rudolf Laban used the term living architecture to describe explorations of space and geometry through movement. By drawing the body through lines of travel, a mapping process occurs. These lines of investigation compose movement dimensions  – forward and backward, high and low, and diagonally across from side to side. Demarcating space with pathways and networks of geometry, facilitates not only the physical explorations of spatial possibilities, but also cognitive capacity. Embodying the full spectrum of environmental possibility stimulates both mind and body. By learning to move in more than one direction, the coordinates of how we travel through life are extended. We move into new places, new situations, new volumes and depths.

*Deterritorialization is a term developed by Deleuze and Guattari (Anti-Oedipus, 1972) to describe the transgression of subjectivity from its routine formations, into a state of becoming  (being in a state of flux, in process, in transition). It also refers to political and social movements, and society undergoing disruption and change.

 

Useful Book: Stitching Resistance: Women, Creativity and Fiber Arts by Marjorie Agosin

Maxine Bristol (2012) suggests that touching wool, felt, threads, and fabric furthers self knowledge. Such fibers act as a silent witness to experience. Our bodies become  imprinted upon textiles throughout the course of our lives. Bristow understands ‘the somatic sensuality of cloth’ (Bristol, 2012) to be like a skin, an interface between inner and outer worlds.

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Photo: Eliza Bennett, A Women’s Work is Never Done

A series of photographic works titled ‘A Woman’s Work is Never Done’ Using my own hand as a base material, I considered it a canvas upon which I stitched into the top layer of skin using thread to create the appearance of an incredibly work worn hand. By using the technique of embroidery, which is traditionally employed to represent femininity and applying it to the expression of its opposite, I hope to challenge the pre-conceived notion that ‘women’s work’ is light and easy. Aiming to represent the effects of hard work arising from employment in low paid ‘ancillary’ jobs, such as cleaning, caring and catering, all traditionally considered to be ‘women’s work’ (Eliza Bennett, Artist Statement, http://www.elizabennett.co.uk

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Photos: Roxanne Evans Stout http://www.roxanneevansstout

Ann Futterman Collier (2011) believes that weaving, knitting, crochet, needlecrafts, felting, quilting and sewing are all threads of discourse that in essence ‘craft humanity’. Traditionally, these forms of fiber art production have taken place within communities of makers. Conversation, and processes of production have been interwoven within these collectives.

Wandering and collecting found objects from nature, within streets, or public places can infuse fibre arts with a journey of discovery. Textile artist Cas Holmes (2010)picks up discarded objects and bundles them as packages, or souvenirs of her travels. These collection of specimens for her art, are disused relics. She makes new meaning from her findings through reassembling them, re-packaging what has been forgotten or thrown away, and re-instating their meaning. She is transforming everyday objects into portable icons, each becoming a talisman to be carried for protection and guidance.

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Photo: Judith Scott, http://www.judithandjoycescott.com

Judith Scott’s sculptures are made through binding and weaving wool around found objects. The physical mass of her sculptures are evocative personal landmarks made from repetitive acts of wrapping and tying. A collection of found or appropriated objects are hidden within the core of her sculptures. They resemble cocoons, nests, bodies, and are strong icons of a visionary artist who never repeated shapes or color schemes in her entire series of sculptures spanning eighteen years.

Fibre art can also influences styles of writing and communication; the stitching together of ideas as a patchwork of felt textures, colors and fabrics of living. Writing/conversation, like fibre arts, can be interrupted – picked up and set down – becoming a collection of different time frames, an assemblage of perspectives, an aesthetic that is stitched and taken apart repeatedly during its construction.

References

Bennett, E. Artist Statement. Retrieved from http://www.elizabennett.co.uk.

Bristow, M. (2012). Continuity of Touch-Textile as a Silent Witness. In J. Hemmings (Ed.),  The Textile Reader (pp.44-53). London: Berg.

Collier, A. F. (2011 ). Using Textile Arts and Handcrafts in Therapy with Women. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Holmes, C.  ( 2010 ). The Found Object in Textile Art. London:Pavilion Books.

Scott, J. Sculpture Photos. Retrieved from http://www.judithandjoycescott.com.

 

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Photo: Rebecca Cross, Textile Artist

The substance and physicality of fabric…conveys multiplicity, temporality and complexity. Various processes contribute to the somatic history of the fabric and its multiple transformations…As sensuous materials suspended in space, casting shadows on the walls and floors, they confront the viewer differently from different perspectives as they subtly oscillate in response to the atmosphere, becoming ultimately, communicative memories…By creating line as well as openings, and by delineating positive and negative space, the edges frame information – or demarcate the lack of information – caught within, behind, or beyond the edge…The gossamer layers of experience, depending upon our perceptual vantage point, are transient, creating a mutable, translucent skin that keeps quietly changing as we proceed forward in time (Rebecca Cross, Artist Statement)

Textiles portray a sense of ritual, of making special everyday places through a quality of adornment and presence. Cloth enriches architecture, people, furniture and objects with significance. Binding, stitching, knotting, and layering thoughts into a weave of cloth evokes memory and the passage of time. The drawing of threads in and out of cloth, the mending of fraying edges, and the matting together of fibers are all physical experiences which translate a narrative into material form. Cloth is intimate, another skin, a boundary and a caress. It designates function, and also layers on a story. Cloth is a textural overlay, it wraps and drapes itself over and around personal interactions.

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Within art therapy fabric can be embellished to make a variety of items:

Book Covers, Sheets, Curtains, Purses/Bags, Tablecloths, Scarfs, Cloaks, Tents, Pillow Covers, Veils and Quilts

Encouraging the inclusion of fabric within art therapy offers new ways of exploring stories as they are told not only through words, but through the rhythm of going in and out of strands of meaning.

Layering cloth, with words on paper, beads, thread, small branches, dried flowers and souvenirs, can enclose fragments and symbolic ‘findings’ within a wrapped collection of meaning. Stitching together memories of experiences, that are tactile and remembered through the senses, can be nurtured through cloth that tells the story of the body’s journey.

image  imagePhotos: Goat Hair Door Curtains, Morocco

A thread now most often means a line of conversation via e-mail or other electronic means, but thread must have been an even more compelling metaphor when most people witnessed or did the women’s work that is spinning. It is a mesmerizing art, the spindle revolving below the strong thread that the fingers twist out of the mass of fibers on an arm or a distaff. The gesture turns the cloudy mass of fiber into lines with which the world can be tied together. Likewise, the spinning wheel turns, cyclical time revolving to draw out the linear line of a thread. The verb to spin first meant just this act of making, then evolved to mean anything turning rapidly, and then it came to mean telling a tale (Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby).

References

Rebecca Cross quoted in Ann Futterman Collier, Using Textile Arts and Handcrafts in Therapy with Women.

Rebecca Cross Website http://www.rebeccastextiles.com/

Gwen Hedley, Drawn to Stitch: Line, Drawing and Mark Making in Textile Arts.

Cas Holmes, The Found Object in Textile Art.

Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby.

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The poetics of fiber (fabric, paper, felt, wool, fleece, etc.) contains folds, which can metaphorically link to physical and psychological dimensions of space.

What if the poetics of cloth were composed of ‘soft logics’, modes of thought that twist and turn and stretch and fold? And in this movement new encounters were made, beyond the constraint of binaries? The binary offers two possibilities, either/or; soft logics offers multiple possibilities. They are the realm of the and/and, where anything can happen…Soft logics are to think without excluding…And if soft suggests an elastic surface, a tensile quality that yields to pressure this is not a weakness; for ‘an object that gives in is actually stronger than one that resists, because it also permits the opportunity to be oneself in a new way’ (Pennina Barnett, “Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth in Jessica Hemmings (editor) The Textile Reader and Max Kozloff, “The Poetics of Softness” in Remderings, Critical Essays on a Century of Modern Art).

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Philosopher Gilles Deleuze believed that the concept of the fold was an image of the mental and physical landscape. The fold is not unlike exercising the brain to perceive differently; it is experimental thinking, a creative activity that is triggered by a new encounter or conditions that are unfamiliar. The fold is tactile, embodied and sensuous. It is not an interpretation, but a response, a feeling of being ‘touched’ in a unfamiliar way. The caress of an unexpected happening can inspire and rejuvenate. The poetic fiber stretches out, enfolding a new set of experiences. The mental and physical sensation of being stretched (unfolded and unformed) through new ideas, new people, new places, and spontaneous activities exercises both mind and body to be more flexible.

The smooth space of experimentation, where ideas and body may flow is not unlike felt.

Because it is made by rolling fibers back and forth until they enmesh, felt can potentially extend in all directions, without limit, entangled in a continuous variation – a fabric, at least in principle without top, bottom or centre (Pennina Barnett, “Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth” in Jessica Hemmings (editor) The Textile Reader.

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Felt is a metaphor for extended space, an enmeshment of influences that shape our character and actions. The friction needed to produce felt, is indicative of the effort and force needed to create the material of our lives. Rather than uniformity, felt is entanglement. It also reflects the transformation of one reality into another, as loose fleece becomes a strong cloth through concentrated action.

References

Pennina Barnett, “Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth” in Jessica Hemmings (editor) The Textile Reader

Max Kozloff, “The Poetics of Softness” in Renderings, Critical Essays on a Century of Modern Art

Photos

Crocheted Seed Sculptures, Suspended by the Grand Canal, Dublin

Sheep’s Fleece from Finland, Sculpted in a Washing Machine, Ireland