Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Crossed Stitches

Last week, I finished my first school assignment of the year. True to form, I chose to do something ambitious and stupidly time-sucking, despite the fact that I needed to come up with an idea and have it materialize in under a week. The theme of the assignment was ownership, and this is what I came up with: two fully-functional cross stitch kits of existing pattern designs, one by William Morris (father of the English Arts and Crafts movement) and one by American home and garden retail outlet, Terrain. Here is some writing I did that gets into the nitty gritty of my work on this project:

This project was in part inspired by my experience sitting in on a jurying session for a large seasonal craft event. Over the course of viewing submissions, I noticed that there were undeniable parallels between some submissions; in some cases, fashionable buzzwords were used to label hair accessories, while certain imagery was almost inescapable. To me, this illustrated that as makers, we are not immune to having the trends of the day-- whether they be acorns or relational aesthetics-- infiltrate our work in some way.

On a broader scale, this same idea relates to the concept of ownership. How much can we really claim to “own” our ideas? The repeating, reworking and re-contextualizing of ideas from the past is part of the postmodern condition. So many ideas have come to fruition over the course of history…when we make something, what are the odds that it hasn’t been made before? Anyone who has come across the work of another artist that is uncannily similar to their own knows what it means to have their sense of ownership over an idea thwarted.

How can we as artists deal with this sense that we cannot truly “own” our work? Perhaps the solution is to forfeit ownership altogether.

My piece, Crossed Stitches, explores these ideas. Using two very similar pattern samples as inspiration—one is by William Morris, and one is by a contemporary independent textile design studio called Terrain—I went through the painstaking process of creating accurate and fully-functional cross-stitch patterns that correspond to each design. This process involved transferring each design onto a large grid and translating each pattern so that it is comprised of squares on a grid. These large-scale grid drawings were then used to make a cross-stitch pattern on another piece of grid paper, dividing the colours of the pattern into symbols as “real” cross-stitch patterns do. This final pattern was then included in hand-made cross-stitch kits which include embroidery floss, a needle and canvas, so people can make their own William Morris or Terrain cross-stitched “fabric swatches.”

This piece plays with ideas of ownership (as well as consumerism and trends in art and design) in a number of ways. Crossed Stitches is a piece of work I have done based on the work of two other artists/designers. One might argue that the Terrain design was derivative of the William Morris design. If one was to take one of my William Morris cross-stitch kits and complete it, how much of the finished piece is considered their work, my work, or the work of William Morris? At the root of this work is the inevitability of “shared ownership” as a part of the current climate of making creative work in any media.


Marchi Wierson said...

interesting project and concept. it makes me think of the balancing point where we want to be connected and similar while also showing that we are different and unique.

Tara Bursey said...

You're right, Marchi! It's the fine line that all artists walk along...originality while still being interconnected to other work and other practices.