Yesterday was the last day of my artist residency at the museum and I can't believe how fast it's gone yet how packed and intense it was. Monday feels like a lifetime ago!
I spent the morning pulling together all the info from my research to make a short presentation that was to be held in the afternoon. It was really helpful to gather my ideas and put them into words.
People who came to the presentation included other artists from the Jewish Museum's network and staff members. Before we began there was a little Hannukah/ Christmas lunch including kosher foods of bagels, cream cheese, fish balls, vegetable crisps, hummus and blended herring (which I tried, but the less said about that the better), and to finish delicious donuts.
For my presentation I spoke about my week at the museum (please scroll back to previous posts to read more and see images of the things I did and found). I also elaborated on where my thoughts were now heading thanks to the research I had carried out
All the embroidery I’d seen relating to ceremony both in the Synagogue and at home had served some purpose of concealing, protecting and adding a theatrical nature to it's purpose which set it apart from everyday activities.
I really enjoy theidea of turning a simple cover, mantle or bag for something important into a desirable object, and how the creation of these items could be used as an act of devotion and mindfulness in itself; the process of making, the end result and the use of the item all connecting ideas of ritual and ceremony.
This got me thinking about personal rituals and took me back to my initial interest in identity and what are classed as 'female' pursuits including glamour and needle work. One of the main purposes of my research was to reassess the assumptions associated with these pursuits and side step the snobbery that prevents them from being given unquestionable status as art forms in themselves.
I remembered one of the ladies from the Women's Textile Group telling us how her mother used to sew and embroider covers for everything in her house, including the cassette player! I loved this idea so much and it stayed with me throughout my residency. I began to look up covers and bags used in everyday life for items generally connected to women
...and then covers, mantles and bags made for every day items that don't usually have them
If we could use the ceremonial language of stitching and needlework for items we use that help to define our sense of self, we could create our own moments of mindfulness and self expression in ritualistic stitching. We could even use the things we make to memorialise moments or people that are important to us or make us feel good. Perhaps in this way we could re-frame the assumptions about female pursuits and open them up to all genders and backgrounds, taking away the fear of labels associated with women.
This is something I'm going to investigate further and try for myself. I love the idea of creating paraphernalia for 'moments' in the day.
Looking through Manchester Jewish Museum's archive was a great way of unlocking women’s stories and chance to reveal some of the secrets the collection holds.
I have been really touched by how unifying the needlework has been, connecting women in coming together to practice the art that also supports families and communities.
I’d like to say thanks to Manchester Jewish Museum for this opportunity which has been invaluable in giving me an insight into Jewish practices and women’s roles in the community and faith. I have so much to think about and work upon now and it’s given me a new direction for my work.