Social Textiles

Poetry as protest in the Anthropocene

This paper interrogates the common threads between protest literature and banner sculptural poetry, while it also explores alternative forms that protest banners take and the way that these communicate with ideas surrounding ecological and social justice. Overall, it seeks to theorise and map contemporary sculptural poetries produced by women in the UK and beyond and, in the process, to provide an up-to-date account of this mode, not only from a critical angle but from a creative angle as well. The paper starts with considering poetry in banner form as a prominent element of protest with relevant work by Thalia Campbell and Maggie O’Sullivan, and then considering wearable art by Rachel Fallon as a dynamic and multisensory praxis. These materials and more are blended with relevant secondary literature review and creative responses. The textual banners presented here showcase innovative poetry’s potential to destabilise canons, reconfigure, and restitch our social and ecological stratification.

Visible Stitches: Towards an aesthetics of repair

Using examples taken from my own text and textile-based poetry, this essay demonstrates how an aesthetics of repair may suggest both restoration and fragility. The essay starts with a discussion of Tenter (2020) in which the ‘darned’ and repaired panels of the Bayeux Tapestry suggest a poetics with which to engage with post-war commemoration. In these poems, collage features as a repair strategy although the text demonstrates not all wounds can be healed. In Little red mouth (2020), an extended, contemporary poem based on the ancient Homeric Hymn to Demeter, I preserve the damaged manuscript of the original within my own text, stabilising the edges of the torn text through my use of poetic form but also exploring the significance of what has been torn away. The essay pursues the complexities of a repair aesthetic into a discussion of one of my recent, textile-based visual poems, Persephone (2021), and discovers that torn fabric may pose different questions to a damaged text. In the context of this piece, and of visual work by other artists, I discuss the importance of an aesthetics of repair which keeps visible traces of the often systemic violence which caused the original damage and acknowledges the fragility as well as the resilience of what has been harmed.

[Thread]baring my soul: Regrets and reparation

This creative essay is a retrospective look at a body of work created by the author in 2018. The work, Thread Bare[ing]: a confessional response to witnessing dementia, was a personal exploration of the emotional impact of bearing witness to a parent’s descent into Alzheimer’s disease. This essay describes the process and thinking around the creation of four artworks that embodied the emotional context of bearing witness: guilt, frustration, sorrow and fear. The aim of this autobiographical and deeply personal project was to generate discussion about the emotional fallout for carers as a result of dealing with a loved one’s dementia. With the hindsight of three years and the death of the author’s mother, additional insights into the reparative nature of the work became possible. A re-examination of the project, through this paper, reveals how the act of making can facilitate a longer term healing influence on relationships, even retrospectively.

Making Mending Visible

Community repair spaces, such as repair cafes, play a significant role in reducing the environmental impact of clothing and textiles by taking repair skills out of the domestic sphere and into the public realm. They make visible the process of repair, and normalise clothing repairs as a social practice. Globally, consumers currently purchase around 80 billion new items of clothing every year but this could be reduced by regular maintenance, which would enable clothing to be worn more frequently before being discarded, thereby reducing the demand for new clothing. Community repair spaces highlight the value of repairs in reducing both consumption and landfill, foster repair skills and increase awareness of the environmental impacts around the purchase and disposal of consumer items.