Thursday 7 January 2021

Makeup and Needlework

This is my latest drag inspired embroidery created over lockdown before Christmas. While I was stitching it I was thinking about the many things I'd learnt from my residency at Manchester Jewish Museum aaaallll those months ago (pre-pandemic, remember that?) when I went to research needlework produced by women as acts of devotion to their faith and family and how their identity was manifested through stitching.
In this latest work I've purposely used rich textiles and colours to evoke the sacred language found in devotional pieces and used in worship because, for me, the act of embroidery has been somewhat devotional, giving me mindful space to breathe as I create,
especially during recent turbulent times.
But that isn't the only time I've found moments of contentment and peace. Over the past months, my morning routine of sitting in front of my dressing table, pouring out my make up bag and gazing into the mirror as I apply colours and shapes has also been a balm. On those days when I cried because it all seemed too surreal or when anxiety got the better of me and I felt angry and powerless, that simple moment of focus and creativity gave me calmness and strength. 
This is something I thought about a lot as I stitched the false lashes and lipstick into my drag embroidery, and it became clearer to me that there are many correlations to be drawn from both make up and needlework. I think the following passage from Rozsika Parker's brilliant book, The Subversive Stitch explains it perfectly. Here she concentrates solely on embroidery but her words can be applied to cosmetics too:

'That embroiderers do transform materials to produce sense - whole ranges of meanings - is invariably entirely overlooked. Instead embroidery and a stereotype of femininity have become collapsed into one another, characterised as mindless, decorative and delicate; like the icing on the cake, good to look at, adding taste and status, but devoid of significant content'
There are many comparisons that can be drawn between cosmetics and needlework, the most deep rooted being the paradox each holds in relation to women; a mixture of freedom to express ones self and find power through creativity, and a general presumption that taking part in these these activities at all confirms the participant is a feminine stereotype.
I've got to be truthful, I have found it extremely difficult to concentrate on any personal work since the first lockdown last year and this has impacted on my prior direction of work and ideas. Instead, I have stayed busy by taking on private commissions and these have been an amazing opportunity to stay creative and keep my head above water both mentally and financially.

As we enter a third lockdown in a brand new year I feel more drawn to my personal work and I hope to begin to re-explore previous ideas and start new pieces picking up where I left off with the 'Sacred Heart' embroidery pictured above. I can't promise any definite outcomes and I feel any pressure on myself will be detrimental, however, for the fun and joy and sheer pull towards the things that excite me I hope to continue. I will post as and when it feels right. As for all the other things like commissions (which I am still taking) and outside projects, you can see updates about them on my Instagram, so please head on over and take a look.

 Until next time, despite the current situation, I hope that this year brings purpose and gratitude, health and creativity.