After the Icon

After the Icon

My sense of place shifted when I left Canada to study. Initially wearing a Maple Leaf suddenly seemed important.  As a white woman of settler origin, I had once believed the stripes of the Hudson’s Bay Blanket to be the epitome of “Canadian” iconography, representing ‘our place.’ I undertook to spin and weave a Hudson’s Bay Blanket. But in my research, I became aware of alternative narratives - disturbing and contested correspondence about small pox infections and the blanket trade, the shadow cast by Residential Schools and the growing number of missing and murdered Indigenous women. I realized my sense of place was constructed on colonial privilege. I began to reconsider, to look more closely. After the Icon - a work first begun in celebration of what I had mistakenly believed to be a boastful Canadian identify became instead a collection chronicling a much darker personal transformation. After the Icon eventually emerged as a collection which now include the Hudson Bay Blanket, the Shadow Blanket, and Colonial Tea Jackets. 

 

The Hudson Bay Blanket is hand spun wool – thick and tangled - a purposely imperfect textured surface much larger than a blanket.  Its surface covers ... much. Woven into the stripes of the blanket is my hand-written narrative, revised, over and over as my awareness of colonial privilege and history changed. This narrative was hand printed on  gampi paper then woven into the blanket stripes. In contrast, the Shadow Blanket is hand woven using a single strand of filament. The Shadow Blanket appears to replicate the woollen blanket, but in truth it is a shadow that serves to distort the dominant blanket. When hung in exhibition the two blankets shadow each other, and often the viewer is required to walk between this shadowy space. I am becoming more conscious  everyday I occupy this shadow space myself - needing to take  responsibly for how my own actions shadow this place I once assumed to be 'my' home.  

The Tea Jacket Series uses embroidered tea bags to symbolize the dominance of a colonial  history. Colonial Tea Jacket I is pure and unsullied - the way Canadian history has been revised, retold, and taught for years. The voice of the patriarch. In contrast is the worn texture of Colonial Tea Jacket II – steeped in the stain of its own tea, as our history is stained with the genocide of colonial actions.  

The final work in the collection is a series of four free motion embroidery works of the Hudson Bay strip icon.  Beginning with a fulling embroidered version of the stripes using cotton embroidery thread and gampi paper free motion embroidered paper the series evolves as the stripes and the intensity of the embroidery fade and break down. Over the series of four pieces we witness the deconstruction of the icon.  

 

 

WHERE

Sanctuary represented Canada at the 2009 Cheongju International Craft Biennale 

WHEN

2009 - 2014

Noelle Hamlyn

noellehamlyn@sympatico.ca

@noellehamlynstudio

© 2020 Noelle Hamlyn all rights reserved

artist | designer | maker

shop the studio -