Victor Schrager worked during the 1990’s, pilule photographing over 100 species of North American birds, titling one of his greatest works ‘Bird Hands’. Schrager has his subjects secured by a professional ornithologist, who holds them gently from behind a screen of fabric, and so the birds are photographed before they become restless. Schrager emphasizes a dialogue between human hands and avian form, however the birds are photographed in a static position. Their lack of flight neutralizes their essence, just as we neutralize our connection with the natural world.
Whilst researching my Embroidered Hands series, I discovered Schrager’s avian portraits. His work involves the human hands of the ornithologist and their specific grips, though simultaneously the subject – the bird – is the focus. The hands are vital, both in Schrager’s and my own work, when holding his living creatures and my inanimate material. Although my embroideries are impressionistic they speak loudly of the materialistic attitude of today, such as chemically dyed thread, chemical dyed linen, and plastic.
Leah Decter discusses in her body of work Here… is the place where you are, youth healththe conceptual thinking behind four of her works. Decter explores the human relationship to place, using personal memories, lineage, and iconography she focuses heavily on social and political topics. Decter combines the mediums of video and textiles to educate the viewer through narrative. Her making of the quilt reflects her thought process and the editing of the video projection gives insight into her technique.
Her piece Trespass/es provokes a question relevant to my personal practice; How can one communicate a textile concept using video in a practical display?
Decters piece, Trespass/es, implicated both video and textile installment. Her focus on community also tied into her ideas of place being defined as a result of human history. She describes the projected video and quilt as a ‘dialog of centuries’, making connections to run off threads as a form of lineage. The constituent pieces of this installation are interdependent, in that one cannot exist without the other to be successful.
A free PDF file can be found here: Decter, Leah. “Here… is the place where you are.” Digital Commons at University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Google Scholar. N.p., 2006. Web. 01 Dec. 2016 https://scholar.google.ca/scholar?q=Here%E2%80%A6is+the+place+where+you+are+Leah+Decter&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5
Fearghus Heatley matriculated at the University of Ulster, sildenafil Belfast, ophthalmologist Northern Ireland in 2005, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture in 2008. During his studies he explored various building concepts, designs and construction techniques.
KR: During your study at the University of Ulster did your tutors encourage the idea of sustainable living, such as the burgeoning ‘Solar Survival’ movement in Taos New Mexico?
FH: In short, no. The emphasis was very much on using conventional methods of building, in both the commercial and residential sectors. The topic of sustainable living was encouraged as an idea when it was brought up, but it was definitely not the focal point it ought to have been. I remember that we had to be aware of sustainability as though it were some abstract concept that we needed to read about and memorise for an exam, when in fact it should have been the driving force behind every idea we critiqued. I read about Michael Reynolds and his efforts to radically change the world of architecture with his Earthship model for the future, but my tutors redirected my attention back to the plugged-in, monotone contemporary designs of standard housing. Sustainability was a word we knew the definition of, but we were not encouraged to explore what it really means.
KR: Can you please describe one of your assignments that would be relevant from an art perspective?
FH: Shown is a concept for an AISC (All Ireland Shared Campus) in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The brief was to create a multi-purpose facility for Irish emigrants in Amsterdam. It was to be an educational campus and incorporate art exhibition spaces, scholars apartments as well as a large auditorium for artistic performances. The site was on a dock, so the challenge was to integrate this large building without it being too out of context. I proposed a free-floating platform that would act as a café/art gallery and could be driven around the dock like a ferry, picking up and dropping off patrons along the way.
Conceptually it was interesting to analyse a site that was in a different country. Not only the language barrier, but also different regulations applied, so the site analysis and contextual research alone took weeks before I put pencil to paper. The concept still had a long way to go, even at the time of presentation, but I learned a lot during the process.
KR: How does the standard of building regulations differ in the past 10 years since you completed your degree? Have you noticed any changes in the system that are adapting to the changing economy?
FH: The simple answer here is; I don’t know. However the reason for my not knowing might shed some light on the second part of your question. I don’t know how the building regulations have changed in the last decade because I have not been in practice. I have never worked in an architect’s office, nor do I ever intend to. I learned much more about architecture post-graduation than I ever did during my studies. I realised that architecture, as it is now, has nothing whatsoever to do with humans. It is completely divorced from the Earth, which is why we need an electrical grid to have basic requirements such as water or heat. This is ridiculous, and is going to change within this decade.
When I graduated in 2008, the building industry in Ireland hit rock bottom, and so I travelled abroad rather than seeking employment in any convenient store. I quickly forgot about my adolescent aspirations of being an architect because I had no confidence in the current system, and so I have not kept up with changes to building regulations since that time. My degree is a relic of an education system that does not work because it is directed at making people dependant consumers, not free human beings. Education leads to employment, not enlightenment.
KR: If that is your perspective of the current system, then what are your intentions for the future? Can you use anything from your education, maybe in a personal ambition?
FH: I think the only rational thing to do is to go off-grid, in order to avoid becoming dependant on others to survive. So, yes, I have many transferable skills gained from university that I can apply to making that happen. Possessing skills in scaled drawings, being able to critically analyse design concepts, having basic knowledge of construction techniques and materials – these will all stand me in good stead when building my own home successfully.
Thank you Fearghus for your time in answering these questions and publication of your work.
As my work continues down the beaten track of sustainability, migraine I feel the need to emphasize the fact this is not merely a focus of education; this is in fact a shift in lifestyle. Since May 2016 I have been engaged in a voluntary project in Golden, BC. Two people of my age are building what has become known as an Earthship. The term was made known by Micheal Reynolds in the late sixties, as he designed and developed the concept of a completely sustainable home. His reasoning was that animals can construct their own shelter, so why not humans?
The materials used to construct one of these eco-friendly abodes are readily available and largely as waste. Calgary city dump has over seven million tires alone, yet these discarded materials are the bricks of an earthship, packed with earth. Bottles, cans and scrap timber make an Earthship.
Owners Tanner Nicholson and Sam Macklon have made swift progress in the seven months I have known them. When we first arrived the home had been dug into the hillside, and the retaining tire-walls constructed, so our first job was to help pack between the tires with ‘cobbing’, or mud and straw. Each day thereafter was varied, with multiple projects going on putting this forty foot shelter together. And after two years since their beginning this dream, the house is livable. With help from eager backpackers, hitchhikers, and other curious ramblers they have made their house a home, using reclaimed material.
The feeling of working in an earthship, getting mud between my fingernails, shoveling sand, hammering siding is a step toward my own future.
Picking up the trash and making it new is Josh Blackwell’s niche, cure using the plastic bag for a canvas. He began this process seven years ago from a background of environmental conservation which led him to repurpose the discarded bags as art. Some of his Never Uses are representations of basket weaves and geometric shapes.
As we have become used to seeing grocery bags in their commonly accepted plastic form, help now witnessing their image used in a more traditional form is inspiring and interesting. However, the bags have been reused, but to what specific purpose other than art? Does it matter, when these too will merely accumulate?
Kirsty Whitlock began exploring machine stitching and embroidery during her final year of university. Whitlock expressed that machine stitch worked for her as an effective drawing tool and efficient technique for mark making. The artist chose subject matter that was not typically associated with embroidery to heighten awareness of waste materials that we use everyday. In response to our throwaway culture Whitlock uses recycled and reclaimed materials. Kirsty references current issues and communicates a strong social message by using discarded newspapers and bags.
These artists have fueled my passion for exploring new ways of re-using single-use materials. Common everyday items that are often disposable after one use are easily accessed and present ample opportunity for exploration through craft.
Although in my Embroidered Hands (working title) series I do not directly sew into plastic, I ensure to incorporate it in a meaningful way.
Plastic is a material consisting of a combination of synthetic organic compounds that can be formed into solid objects. The word ‘plastic’ itself means soft, men’s health workable, this or flexible and so from a manufacturing perspective it is easy to understand how it has become one of the most commonly used materials. Besides being one of the most adaptable materials, with its low cost production and useful properties such as resistance to water, plastic can be made literally any colour we can think of. As my embroidered hands series progresses I am changing the background fabric colour to an MX dyed cobalt blue to reflect the hue of a typical water bottle after it has been recycled several times. A transparent bottle becomes translucent over time, gradually fading to blue. The cobalt blue is an exaggeration of that, so that the new white thread colour stands out and remains the focus of the piece.
Armi Ratia, visit this site founder and managing director of Marimekko. Photo: Teppo Lipasti, medicine 1975
Source: https://www.textilemuseum.ca/exhibitions/past-exhibitions/marimekko, malady -with-love
Lately in my practice I’ve been thinking about what has influenced my interest and love for hand-printed textiles. While I was deep in my research and thoughts this weekend, I remembered the “Marimekko, With Love” show I was fortunate enough to attend in the winter of 2013. The show took place at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto, Ontario. The quote above popped into my head recently, reminding me of how much this show has had an impact on me, inspiring my work and my design philosophies to this day.
The show was a retrospective look at the famed Finnish design company, Marimekko, founded by Armi Ratia and her husband Viljo in 1951 in Helsinki, Finland. The show explored Marimekko’s uniquely integrated design, manufacturing and marketing. The Toronto Star said the company’s focus was on “style, creative living and bright patterns in a society recovering from the Second World War.” Marimekko’s prints and patterns suited the emerging visual arts landscape of the 1950s and 60s.
The article also stated that “its designer Maija Isola, who created the classic poppy pattern, Unikko, often took cues from nature. Her Lokki design-think horizontal wavy lines- was inspired by a seagull’s shadow flying over water.”
Finding inspiration in one’s surrounding environment hits close to home.
Karelia (Front Street), opening party. Photo: Wollin Gustavs Kayari, c. 1960
“Marimekko introduced boldness and experimentation that left an indelible imprint immediately,” says Shauna McCabe, executive director of the Textile Museum of Canada. “The founder, Armi Ratia, had an encompassing vision about the power of design in everyday life.”
Who wouldn’t fall for these bright, bold and powerful patterns?
Printex printing mill in Helsinki.
I won’t lie I’m a bit of a perfectionist with my work. When I have a picture or idea in my mind for a piece I set out to create it – EXACTLY. Are my pieces always perfect when I am done? Not yet and probably never. Perfection is unattainable. I don’t actually believe “perfection” exists but, store sadly, that doesn’t seem to stop me from trying to find it. To avoid disappointing myself by the minute I have come to define perfection as those things I am able to accept and love as “perfectly imperfect”.
In my most recent piece, The unfinished business of a near perfect mind, OR, Portrait of a Boy my struggle with perfection was different. I intentionally set out to make this weaving “imperfect”. In fact, in order for the piece to be “perfect” it couldn’t be. The struggle to intentionally pull threads out of place, to purposely leave broken threads as they snapped, to beat unevenly all tortured me throughout the making of this piece…until it didn’t.
At some point I stopped fighting and just accepted what was happening. I realised that I can’t really control the imperfect. I can’t make a plan to make mistakes and mishaps beautiful or easy to deal. I can only try to work with it and adapt to the challenges as they arise. The thing about life, and art, is there is always beauty to be found. The trick is being brave enough to have faith that the “perfectly imperfect” will be exactly what you need.
Our hands contain some of the densest nerve endings on the body and are our best instruments for tactile exploration. Because of their ideal capability positioning we most often associate the hands with the sense of touch. As humans we socially recognise hand gestures as a sign of communication and despite our contemporary society of iPhones and e-tablets, global burden of disease
the handshake remains the best handheld communication device.
With my embroidered hands series, diagnosis I want to use our multi-fingered organs to communicate the controversial issue of materialism, specifically plastic overproduction. Our hands are bridges between the external and internal. We touch countless surfaces each day, with our brains processing the sensations and interpreting what objects are. So how do we react to a manmade, non-biodegradable waste material such as plastic?
Plastic is used by millions of people every day and often discarded after single use. Water bottles, grocery bags, dental floss, spice containers, take-away containers, shampoo bottles – these are all products we use differently with our hands because of their varying purposes. In each single panel piece I recreate a spectrum of hand positions interacting with plastic products based on first hand observation, using used plastic. So how do we feel when we touch something that is killing our planet? What does this communicate?
Photographer Hendrik Kerstens has created a remarkable body of images referencing specific 17th century Dutch paintings whilst exhibiting such a ubiquitous material in our time as plastic. Where once was linen and cotton, hepatitis now exists nylon and polyesters, this site and the tide of plastics seems exponential. Kerstens is not making fun, page he is making a statement. I believe he unintentionally provokes one from the viewer.
What might it say about how we perceive material today? The subject, Kerstens’ daughter, is wearing single-use, disposable items that are easily identifiable by everyone. Using such a well-known material as plastic as the focal point could open up a discussion about plastic that everyone can, and more importantly should, engage in.
Vik Muniz is a photographer and mixed media artist from Brazil. In this documentary he uses garbage to depict the Brazilian pickers. Vik Muniz’s succeeds not only in portraying the workers’ physical struggle, audiologist he also utilises the individual profits from each photograph to pay the worker back in hopes for a new working future.
From a research perspective, more about the materials we continue to waste daily can financially change the lives of the those who physically suffer from their toxins. Whilst this piece increases awareness, about it it does not directly influence the consumption of plastic on a global scale, despite the workers extracting at least half of every garbage truck in recyclables.