• Sarah Jane

Second Cushion Piece...

'Sometimes It Hurts' (2018), Aly Gardiner, Tent, hand-appliquéd quotes from abuser on duvet, hand woven textiles, carbon prints, fairy lights, faux fur and tinsel knittings.

The second cushion was inspired by an exhibition piece I saw while walking through Project Space 1 in St Georges. There was a tent with a duvet decorated with embroidered felt text and some pieces hung on the wall. The premise of the work was to highlight the effects of sexual abuse and rape on women, and it really resinated with me and got me thinking about different ways to have text in my pieces. I discovered that hand embroidering the text on my last cushion did take me quite a bit of time, even though I did really like the effect of the finished piece. I wanted to find a quicker method of hand embroidering text and this piece gave me an idea on how to potentially solve this issue.


So from this piece of work, I decided to cut out letters from a piece or two of fabric and stitch those onto another piece of larger fabric. For the text, I got some inspiration from my social media call out which I did to gather research and information from other women outside my circle of friends. One response I got from the callout mentioned something about not being defined by society and having her own identity defined by her. This really interested me and I was inspired to come up with the slogan 'SOCIETY DOESN'T DEFINE ME'. I felt that this really worked well with my own ideas of female identity and being proud to be ones self.

From this, I drew out the letters on pink patterned fabric and then cut them out individually. It was a struggle trying to cut them out neatly and not have the letters too thin and flimsy and I did have to redo a couple of letters as they fell apart while I was stitching them onto the main fabric but overall most of the letters came out relatively okay. I cut the letters out in stages as to not have lots of loose fabric letters everywhere. I cut out the first half of the statement first - 'Society doesn't' and pinned them down in place on my main sheet of fabric.

I then started to stitch the letters onto the fabric. The first problem I encountered was that as I was stitching each letter on, the letter would keep straight and so the word would start to look a little wonky. To solve this I tried to pin down each letter as I was stitching them on. This seemed to work a little bit and the words seemed to look straight although some of them still look a little wonky. It might be something that I work on for future pieces if I decide to do this type of textile work again.

After doing the first set of words I then started to cut out the second set of words and stitch them on. These were written on a slightly different patterned fabric. They did however work well together and worked well with the floral pattern on the fabric. I also noticed that the colours of the letters matched well with the floral pattern as well as the green thread. It looked as if the text was part of the pattern so to speak which looked really effective.

Once I had finished embroidering the text onto the fabric I then started to stitch together the two sides of the cushion. I used two different shades of the same pattern, and stitched them together inside out so that the seam wouldn't be too noticeable when you flipped it over. I then placed the stuffing inside and finished the cushion. I really liked how it came out in the send and I think these cushions are really effective in displaying messages and the idea of the viewer questioning if they are useable objects is very appealing to me. I do want to document these outside the studio and in cosy places to see how they would look against normal, domestic cushions.


Furthermore, there was one major critique of this piece, which was that it didn't look as if it came from me. For example it was mentioned that it is very similar to the works of Tracey Emin in terms of bold lettering and domestic objects, in contrast to my last cushion where I hand stitched the lettering. This was an interesting critique and something that I hadn't thought of while I was making this piece and it is something that I want to consider when making future pieces. Perhaps sticking to hand embroidery might be a better idea as to not loose my own identity in the piece? Or perhaps I could combine the two techniques to create my own style that encompasses both the hand - crafted style and the artistic style inspired by Tracey Emin and the piece mentioned above.

I do want to keep making these pieces as I think as a series they really do work well and become really effective. I also want to start to explore different materials when it comes to making these pieces and really show the contrast between soft and rough materials, and I also want to really explore the idea of touch and inappropriate touch, which relates to some of the movements that I'm interested in such as the #metoo movement.

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