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Sweetness of the Work


sweat | labour | tears 

a gentle meditation on the loss of traditional hand skills

Sweetness of the Work

Sweetness of the Work is a collection of pieces which include Tools of the Trade, The Machine, and Spinning Jenny.  Intended to be installed together, Sweetness of the Work was created in homage to hand work – usually completed  by women. Using lace as a metaphor and employing contemporary embroidery techniques, I sought to embody the accumulated stitches, labour and hours invested in traditional women’s hand work. Many of the pieces in the collection have been washed, exposed to saline solutions and nurtured to encourage the formation of salt crystals. These crystals are like the sweat labour and salt tears of the seamstress – a gentle meditation on the loss of traditional hand skills. The intensity of the embroidery and the strength of the resulting lace spoke to me about the repetitive nature of hand work, and the density of the layers of embroidery hinted at the political importance of cloth and the social role of women. 

Part of the Sweetness of the Work collection, Tools of the Trade was created using fragile Japanese gampi tissue paper. For these pieces I used the paper to cast the tools  – scissors, buttons, irons, spools and bobbins of hand spun thread, thimbles pins and needles hoping to create ghost like references to the hands that  long ago used  these ‘tools’. These  women makers were rarely granted the identity of artist, the use of these tools were rarely considered art making. 

Preparing for Sweetness of the Work, I researched three women in particular – Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos – known as the Three Fates. Clotho - the spinner, of the thread of life is represented by salted spools and the bobbins of hand spun paper. Lachesis is responsible for the creation and measurement of the cloth  is represented by the tools of her trade – thimbles, needles, thread, and a paper cast iron. Finally, Atropos as the cutter of the thread and cloth  is represented by paper cast and embroidered scissors. Collectively, these three women, referred to as the Moirai in Greek mythology, inspired me in my work as they model the responsibility, beauty and relational nature of women at work. 

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