Last year, Call for Cloth was a new work commissioned by Tall Tales as part of their touring exhibition.
Everyone has a relationship with cloth, it is the thread that links us together. Its history is political, personal, theatrical, familial, intimate and spiritual. Clothing and cloth are imbued with personal stories. The concept was to create artwork through social engagement from stories and memories shared about cloth and clothing.
People were invited to gift their stories relating to specific items of cloth with a description, a photograph of the item or of someone wearing it, or even a drawing. All gifts contributed towards the community of stories and extended the personal into a shared, yet deeply intimate, community narrative.
There was no restriction or rule guiding what people shared; I was interested in how we talk about our lives through a cherished item. People gave whole heartedly and generously with no expectation of reciprocation; the draw for people was to have their story as part of the community of stories within the artwork.
As conversations and story telling continued it became clear that the artworks should be a series of blankets. These came up many times in the sharing. I learnt that blankets are profound to us as humans. With a blanket we can swaddle a baby, have a picnic, keep warm, dress up. They give us comfort.
Working on the three blankets, my experience was that the participants were present with me; telling me their stories. The way the artworks turned out was as a result of this way of working. My job was to draw together and display the stories, be they told through words, a piece of cloth or an image, as an integrated piece.
I decided not to tidy up or make look new, the cloth that people sent to me. I kept the fraying, the tears, the tiny bits of thread. Jayne’s muslin (Manchester story), was posted to me folded. The folds had been created after many years being safely stored away. In order to keep the folds, I sewed onto them with gold thread.
Costume Designer, Kayt Turner and Textile Artist, Usarae Gul , collaborated with my on the project, giving valuable advice and support both creatively and technically. Many thanks to both of them.
The placing of the blankets in the exhibition reflect the generosity of the participants and their willingness to trust the artist to create something from their gifts. Visitors can ‘experience’ them; feel them, put them over their shoulders, on their knees.
This Project was part of the Tall Tales’ national touring project, supported by Arts Council England, Grants for the Arts and Open Fund Grant, Creative Scotland, and ‘Commissioned by Wewioraprojects (Elizabeth Wewiora and Helen Wewiora) 2015/16.
With further support from Link4Life and Camden Council,
Call for Cloth was presented at Swiss Cottage Gallery & Library, London, Rochdale Central Library & Touchstones Museum and Gallery, Rochdale and Glasgow Women’s Library, Glasgow
Read more about the Call For Cloth Blankets
Call For Cloth was supported by Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces.
More on New Art Spaces:
Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces (NAS) is an initiative to create dynamic project spaces for artists, artist collectives and artist development agencies. Making use of temporary vacant retail, office and light industrial units, NAS provides opportunities for emerging creatives to incubate their practices, produce work and showcase new art to local communities. Currently CG runs New Art Spaces in Chorlton, Leigh and Salford.
With thanks to the following for their great support:
SWISS COTTAGE LIBRARY