I’ve been reading Stuart Mayes’ blog from 13th July 2021,
https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/project-me/ in which he is talking about new work made with a bundle of shirt collars and cuffs I passed on to him. They are a remnant of the days when I quilted and patched and stitched. I was given a whole load of them by someone who used to strip down men’s old shirts (or old men’s shirts?) to reuse the fabric. The collars and cuffs were left overs. I must have held onto them for about 7 years, just in a box gathering dust, just waiting for me to have a good idea to use them. It never came. I used the button and buttonhole strips, and a few of the collar points to make bunting… but they didn’t do much for me really. I just kept them in the cupboard waiting for something.
I’ve been following Stuart’s blog for years now, and we have become friends. I even met him in the real world once, in Stockholm, where we greeted each other like long lost family across an open square. (I didn’t run though, that would be unseemly.) Recently he has been using ties and shirts in his work. I won’t presume to describe the reasons, but it’s beautiful work… go look it up! In using these ties in work reminiscent of heraldic shields it occurred to me that it was so “male”… my textile work was so “female”… I’d used bras and children’s clothes and domestic textiles. I said out loud to myself in the studio “Stuart needs these shirt bits!” and I posted off four stuffed parcels to him in Sweden. His first instinct was just to simply connect them by buttoning them together into a long chain and hang them in loops. This very simple act had not occurred to me, because I don’t do that. That buttoning action is not part of my everyday experience. I had been trying to think of a way to use them that required them to be stitched together, to sort of obliterate their former use, whereas Stuart just did with them what came naturally. They look great. He has titled the work Rest. A great word. Implying the left over, and the stillness… the support of one by the rest? Perfect title Stuart! I’m glad I sent them. They have found their appropriate home.
In another part of my studio lay a box. A rough hewn box, made from some sort of packaging wood reclaimed from elsewhere, that had mysterious and unidentified calligraphic Japanese(?) markings on the side. Inside were a series of compartmentalised trays, fitted snugly with ribbon tags on the edges to lift them out. The inside wood was smooth and worn and carefully crafted. Smooth on the inside, rough on the outside. I was given it more than ten years ago, and it did contain a few sea shells, because the giver thought I might like to draw it, or give it to classes of children to draw. I think I did a couple of times, but it never really sparked anything. So it sat on my shelves gathering dust, waiting. I have come to know an artist who lives and works much closer than Sweden, just across the other side of town, who has a penchant for limpets. I say penchant, but that implies a vague, passing fondness… Helen Garbett’s relationship with limpets in much deeper than that – again look her up: https://www.facebook.com/limpetsthroughtime/ her work has museum-like qualities, collections, assemblages, constructions, drawings… supported by continued anthropological research into the human use and significance of limpets. So this box, rough on the outside, smooth on the inside, just like the limpet shells, has been donated to Helen’s Limpetarium. It will sit among her work perfectly, far better than on my shelves.
As an artist, I’ve been given all sorts of things that have added to my work, from bras to bits of furniture, materials, equipment. It’s good that these items find the home they belong in.