Her Industry, Reclaimed : Artist Statement
Her Industry, Reclaimed explores a variety of textile processes that women have historically advanced, such as embroidery, mending, sewing, crocheting and more recently needle felting, through the creation of tapestries made of up-cycled textiles. This project is an homage to my late mother Rollande, as well as to generations of mothers and other women who have toiled and continue to work within the textile industry in domestic, industrial and creative spaces.
Growing up in the sixties with six siblings on a farm in rural Quebec, my earliest memories are of my mother sitting at the sewing machine making clothes and household items for us all. Her own mother was a seamstress who died far too young, forcing Rollande at the age of ten to enter a Catholic orphanage where she learned a wide variety of textile techniques (some of which were used to produce work that would be later sold to help subsidize the orphanage). Unlike our current consumption-based “fast fashion” textile economy, a lot of Rollande’s handiwork revolved around mending and reconstituting both new and used materials.
Rollande derived creative satisfaction from the process of designing, altering and making textile goods, as she worked to make ends meet in helping to support our large family.
As with so many other women of her time, domestic work within our home was taken for granted, since it did not ever result in a physical paycheque; this is something that has long been observed, for instance by Silvia Federici in her essay Wages against Housework. Similarly, within the art world, textile work was considered unimaginative and banal, since it was associated with work done by women within the domestic sphere. As curator Janelle Porter explains, “Lurking behind such characterizations were beliefs that fiber art wasn’t as good as painting or sculpture because it was traditionally the work of women, of the working class, of non-white folks”. Thanks to the persistent drive of the feminist art movement over the past few decades, textile processes have begun to earn the recognition that they so richly deserve, countering the emphasis on male-centrist art practices within institutions, and demonstrating the artistic value that textile processes hold.
Like my mother before me in Her Industry, Reclaimed, I am immersing myself in the process of making, and in so doing also subverting the throw-away culture that our current capitalist culture promotes. But unlike my mother, within the context of art making, I am taking a feminist approach: I rip apart, manipulate and reinterpret up-cycled garments, literally remaking the meaning that these items held in a patriarchal culture, and in the process reclaiming traditional practices and the labour of women that has for too long gone unnoticed.