For my MAK9 Draw on the Walls site specific installation I was inspired by the meme among internet crafters to stitch the word ‘Hope’. Yes this may have become popular due to Shepherd Fairey’s ‘Obama’, but embroidering or cross stitching the word ‘hope’ has is roots in earlier traditions. The embroidered word has religious and cultural connotations, aping the classic Victorian ‘virtues’ (commonly stitched mottos of Faith, Hope and Charity).
I want to challenge the idea of traditional notions of needlework, and female domestic and decorative art, while evoking women in servitude. And I wanted to relate Hope to the fire somehow.
Fireplaces are portals. In the hearth fire represents warmth and hope, but fire can also represent destruction, purification and phoenix like re-birth (a potent symbol for the troubles/ Derry’s conflicted past from which we now arise). Also related to fire is Lundy (wall mounted face) burned annually in effigy as a traitor for stepping down from his role during the siege and absconding alternatively a conscious objector?
The answer came in the form of a fire guard, and all and any connotations that may have. The difficulty however is that the grid of the fire guard runs in a diamond rather than square grid. Which proved much trickier to stitch. In the end after much consideration and experimentation I decided to create my own stitches, inspired by the look of basket stitch ( a traditional crewel stitch). You’ll also notice (above) little zig zags in black along the inside edge of the frame- inspired by stitches for netting. (Many thanks to Jessica Kelly for sending me details on this).
Embroidering the word Hope has personal resonance, and speaks to the issues that this space raises about class, religion, political status. I’ll be posting pics of the piece in situ and details of the exhibition later this week.
In the meantime you can view all my work in progress pictures in my MAK9 DOTW flickr set, and see previous experiments in non-traditional embroidery here, and my forray into Jacobean stitching here. As well as the background to the project.