CRAFTWORK NOELLE CAMPBELL
THESIS I PIRONE DECEMBER 2012
CONCEPT I am studying craftwork as an avenue to discuss and explore sexism, elitism, human rights, and environmental responsibility. I think craftwork is really interesting in that it is so multi-dimensional; it can be associated with political and social ideas such as gender, domesticity, community, labor, trade, consumption, culture, and material. Right now, we live in a disposable, throwaway society. Old world craftsmanship and quality have been replaced by faster, less expensive technologies usually driven by planned obsolescence and increasing profits. Yet, at the same time, while there seems to be a major decline in craftsmanship in the US, it is still largely sought after by peoples of upper classes seeking some quality and/or individuality, and as a result, is often really expensive. There is a huge discrepancy between the high cost for craftsmanship and the extremely meager salaries (if anything at all) third-world craftspeople are being paid. By juxtaposing forms of craft that are assumed to be feminine and domesticated to major, and perhaps explicit, cultural issues, I hope to subvert common (or ignored) assumptions about craft, gender, and the issues with over-consumption. Main points of interest: - Craftwork and its relationship to gender roles / feminism - Exploited labor/garment workers (in India in particular) - Craftwork as the relationship between folk and commercial culture - The relationship between the digital and tactile
STARTING OUT At the beginning of this project, while thinking about craft and craftsmanship, I began with what I was familiar with which is hand drawn type and origami. But thanks to Jane, I moved forward, introducing myself to several forms of craft, from more “masculine” forms such as woodwork and metal work, to more “feminine” forms such as cross-stitch, embroidery, and knitting. At this point, I’ve become captivated by cross-stitch and embroidery and have decided to pursue these forms more exclusively.
Soldering at home
Examples of paper folding techniques
Example of a wood-burn
PRECEDENTS & INSPIRATION Upon researching for precedents, I came across so many wonderful artists confronting serious questions about gender, femininity, sexuality, identity, and memory through embroidery and knitting, forms that seem innately contradictory to such complex issues. All of these artists have served as great inspiration for me. Yet, I did notice, however, that most of this work is very individualistic, used as a form of self-expression more than an exploration of these themes as they stand outside of the artists’ experiences. In that sense, I see an opportunity and a space for my work to perhaps fit into. - Aid to Artisans & Dastkari Haat Samiti are similar organizations that provide needed economic opportunities to third-world artisans to build profitable craft businesses. - Nathan Vincent: Subverts assumptions about gender and craft by knitting “masculine” objects. - Dave Cole: Subverts assumptions about gender and knitting by using “masculine” materials to knit. His work is typically largescale to break through the assumed domesticity of the “feminine” craft. - Sybille Hotz: Studies notions of the body through stitching - Diem Chau: Explores memory and culture through embroidery. - Erin M. Riley: Confronts objectification and sexism through tapestry making. The juxtaposition of the “old-world” craft and contemporary imagery is extremely effective in confronting issues with identity and womanhood today. - Orly Cogan: Challenges sexism and explores feminism through stitching. - Andrea Dezso: Catalogs pieces of advice her mother gave her throughout her life. Explores cultural and familial memory through embroidery. - Tara Kelton: “Outsources” a typeface. Allows users to type in a phrase to a computer, and then watch a sign-painter in India create the sign in real-time.
Erin M. Riley
PROTOTYPES My earliest prototypes (shown to the right, on the top) were my first real attempt at cross-stitching. I used the delicate form to pretty blatantly confront sexism as it stands in the US today. I then briefly toyed with the relationship between the digital and the tactile by cross-stitching the CMYK printing pattern. Moving on from there, I had the idea that I wanted to try portraiture, using the form for something it’s not typically used for, or at least not in the same way. With the portraits of famous women’s rights activists (Carola Woerishoffer shown on the right), I’m addressing the issue of sexism and women’s rights, yet not so obviously as my previous prototypes. I thought that it would provide more space for contemplation than the previous forms.
A quote from Wisconsin state rep. Roger Rivard
Portrait cross-stitch template
The percentage women get paid as compared to their male counterparts.
The process of the portrait
CMYK printing pattern
CHALLENGES & PLANS FOR PROCEEDING Beyond the challenge of having to learn how to embroider as I go, I have yet to come up with a clear and succinct way of producing something that ties all of my interests together. I know what I’m interested in (craft, gender, women’s rights); I know I want to use cross-stitch and embroidery. All the elements are there, but I’m still trying to figure out how to bring all these topics into a beautiful, well-rounded, interesting piece. Extending from the portraiture idea, I’d like to attempt to do more illustrations, perhaps of exploited labor, or female garment workers, especially those who work as weavers or on handlooms. My work will stand as an art piece, yet also as a form of activism for the rights of women and workers. I think doing large-scale embroideries might be interesting, adding another element of contrast between method, material, and subject matter. What the illustrations will be of exactly is where I need to focus on for now.