“The world is not what I think but what I live through.”

  Maurice Merleau Ponty, Phenomenology and Perception

Current Areas of Interest:
    • The Live/Living/Lived body as it relates to ideas of CLOTHing
    • Body, Home and Architecture
    • Symmetry, Repetition and Pattern
    • (Collecting)

The Live/living/lived body
I have a particular interest in the live/living role textiles play on the body and in space. My position is that the phenomenal and the conceptual are intertwined. I did not come at this inquiry head-on, but rather the inquiry found me, insomuch as the essential questions emerged organically over time through the processes of my practice and my teaching.  

This long term inquiry is reflected in some writing, and many wearable works that I have produced, such as my tribute to my favourite couturier, entitled: “When a Woman Smiles her Dress Should Smile With Her”, a quote from the woman herself. (Image 6) Madeleine Vionnet worked “in the round” directly on a dress-form or a live model. She did not think of clothing as front and back; the idea that forms came OUT of the body, and that these forms should live and breathe as the body does, was an inherent consideration in her designs.

As co-organizer of an exhibition of fifty eight haori’s and kimono’s titled, MEISEN: From the Collection of Haruko Watanbe part of the intention was not to present the work only as historical artifacts, but to activate the work on the body and in the space of the gallery.  Each model/mannequin chose how they wanted to “dress” themselves.  This idea was further reinforced by the presence of the folding station, where the kimono was repeatedly folded and unfolded. The process of folding enables a deeper understanding of the structure and resolve of the garment.

In addition to this I am interested in “performing” the garment. Some of my performanative CLOTHings are more abstracted in their forms, but also the most germane to this concept. In the performance, Two Tubes Times Two cloth’s and clothing’s capacity to transform and be transformed was manifested as the wearable form was turned upside-down and inside-out, where subject and object become interchangeable. My primary research (I refer to hands-on learning as Primary research) in draping at La Chambre Syndicale de La Haute Couture Parisienne furthered this investigation aimed at understanding through making, which leads to concepts and departures as an essential mode to learning.  

Body, Home and Architecture
This idea of the lived body by extension leads into another long-term interest, which is the “home”. My exhibition, A Home and Its Owner: A Variety of Arrangements, (Image 11) examined and explored my interest in domestic collections and how we place and arrange things in the home. This included observations of gender-identification in both space and artifact, objects as they relate to identity and place (lobster artifact collection), and the inclusion of other ‘difference’, such as the colloquial and the formal.

In his article concerning collecting, Unpacking My Library, Walter Benjamin writes,

“Among children, collecting is only one process of renewal; other processes are the painting of objects, the cutting out of figures, the application of decals – the whole range of childlike modes of acquisition, from touching things to giving them names.” When I moved to Nova Scotia twenty-five years ago, I was struck by the breadth and scope of the character, the distinctiveness and the ingenuity (particularly with regard to the re-use of materials), present in traditional regional rug-making (braided, rag, hooked, penny, and tufted). In order to most effectively represent this research interest, and the role and value that I believe research holds in the area of Craft and Education, I would like to illustrate an example of a research project I would love to realize. The overall inquiry and dissemination would fall under the designation: UNDO:  Historical Research and Contemporary Applications of Re-pair and Re-use in Textiles. This project would culminate in prototypes for a better economy, creativity, and happiness!

Amongst other Domestic-related primary and secondary research I have been involved in is the rich history of Quebec weaving as meticulously described in Oscar Beriau’s book from 1938, published by the Department of Agriculture, Tissage Domestique. Adhering to Beriau’s prescriptive formats, describing in detail the structures, colours, types of yarn, and outcomes (such as “men’s dressing gown”, “living room curtains”, woman’s coat”), I spent hundreds of hours experimentally departing from the expressed variables to create avant-garde wearable pieces, most notably, hats. (Image 15) The traditional notion of the home as a primary place for creative use/production, directly reflects the actual needs of the space and its inhabitants. This presents potential for research in a range of both new and old knowledge sources that might study, test, and create prototypes for a new economy – drawing on the traditions of re-use, while fostering independence, creativity and community capacity. 

Symmetry and Pattern in Craft and in Nature
As a graduate student I designed a course entitled: Repeating Pattern: Repeating Pattern. Embedded in the language of Textiles, in particular, printed textiles, and by extension, wallpaper, is a dialect of symmetry and repetition. This has been explored in every culture, and is particularly relevant to all areas of Craft. These many dialects of symmetry and design originate in and are sourced from patterns that occur in the natural world. This allowed for the phenomenon of disparate cultures simultaneously discovering and developing similar, or related design concepts prior to any physical communication or trade. In both my teaching of Silk-Screen Printing and Repeating Pattern, I have incorporated and applied the principles and mysteries of the “Seventeen Symmetries” as tenets of the curriculum.

More recently this research led me to Musee de L’impression Surs Etoffes in Mulhouse, France, and the nearby Musee de Papier Peint, in Rixheim, France to examine first-hand the printed textiles and wallpaper of the French tradition. It is important for students to discover that these kinds of abstract visual languages – often associated with modern geometrical design tendencies – in fact pre-date the modern age, often by several hundred years; also, that weaving code is the foundation of binary digital technology. Concepts such as the grid, cumulation, seriality and repetition are entrenched in textiles. These topics have been adopted by many contemporary visual artists in the 20th and 21st century: I believe this vast subject and its sources deserves a broader investigation in the visual arts .