Ten days and counting……and time for another studio posting, on this occasion featuring Dorothy Tucker whose beautiful work is known by many people. Her very successful workshops over the years have been enjoyed by countless enthusiasts and during the exhibition Dorothy is one of the TSG tutors teaching in Stroud, giving students old and new the opportunity to try some of the themes and techniques she has used and explored in her submission. I asked Dorothy to tell me about her work.
I have created two dresses for DIS/rupt: “Hung out to Dry” and “Left Behind”. They belong together and are presented as a free standing installation. “Hung out to Dry” features a pristine dress which has been washed and hung out to dry on a line with other clothes. The other dress is stained and torn, trampled on and left behind in an area of sand littered with cigarette butts and can tabs, etc. Made from a size 12 dress pattern both dresses are life size and will fit a young girl. The contrast in the placement and condition of these two dresses is intended to convey the danger, suffering and loss of identity a young girl might experience when she leaves home to escape war, political conflicts or famine. The dresses invite viewers to imagine what might have happened to the girl, or to bring to mind the disruption and loss we have witnessed in film footage from war zones and areas of famine.
Initially I collected newspaper articles and photographs relating to current migration stories and tragic episodes in the past. Like most people I only have second hand knowledge of these events through the media. So I began to search for a way into the subject which I could relate to and express in a personal way.
Looking through one of my travel notebooks I came across a sketch of a Rajasthani skirt hung out to dry on a washing line. The pleated, flared panels of the skirt created a memorable half circle of colour and pattern. Very reluctantly I jettisoned this format because it was too beautiful, too Rajasthani. But I kept the idea of “hung out to dry”. I explored other garment formats e.g. the Greek peplos, or the salwar and kameez . But I felt that the cultural references associated with these were also too strong. I was looking for a garment everyone could relate to, something as universal as a denim jacket or quilted anorak. When the idea of a simple, sleeveless, shift dress surfaced, a friend lent me a 1960’s dress pattern.
Also In my notebook there were photographs of fabric held down by stones and spread out to dry on the ground. These connected with the way we sometimes find scraps of cloth or perhaps the odd shoe on a walk on a beach, and led onto the idea of a garment being “left behind”. With a concept and format in place I could now move into making the dresses and finding the props needed for the installation. However I still needed to resolve what if anything should be included on the dresses by way of colour and decoration.
I am interested in how clothing and designs on clothing can express cultural identity, and how when people migrate they keep some of their cultural traditions intact, whilst they discard others or they become fused or exchanged in the host countries. Whilst working with a group of refugees in a community arts project I noticed how choosing colour and designing decorative motifs seemed to provide a powerful source of comfort and pleasure, and also a renewed sense of personal and cultural identity.
What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?
Both dresses carry designs based on the pomegranate. I chose the pomegranate because it symbolises life and death and the borderlands between the two. A.S. Byatt in her essay The Peacock and the Vine described the pomegranate as …. “ a rounded seed container surmounted by a crown of leaves that can suggest a closed secret or something about to burst open with shining crimson seeds with life blood in birth and death”. in many cultures it is a very old and readily understood symbol for life, fertility and growth, and prosperity. Variations of the symbol are to be found for example on the robes of Hebrew priests, or ancient carpets woven in the Middle East or the printed fabrics of William Morris.
To replicate a commercially printed fabric I traced my drawings of pomegranates onto a white cotton polyester fabric with a permanent ink pen and then painted in the designs with brilliant dye based water colour. I then made up the dress. The second dress went through exactly the same stages but I went further and disrupted the pristine, bright, qualities by staining, bleaching and burning the fabric. I grazed it with sandpaper, ripped and tore the dress, and then darned and mended it in places.
That is fascinating Dorothy and shows the breadth of your research into your work. I’m sure the symbolism of the dresses will convey your message to the visitors in a very poignant meaningful way, a message still so current in our lives. You are one of the TSG tutors running workshops during the DIS/rupt exhibition, briefly, what can your students expect from the class?
I hope that students will come to explore this idea with me in a full day workshop titled “Add to it, Alter it. Even erase it!”
Venue: The Museum in the Park, Stratford Park, Stratford Road, Stroud, GL5 4AF
Date: Sunday 14th May
Time: 10.00. – 4.00.
Cost: Full Fee £65.00 Max students: 12
Students will disrupt the design on the hem of a dress by changing small sections, adding their own colours and some simple stitching. I want students to come and leave their own take on a story revealed and concealed in my exhibition pieces: Hung out to Dry and Left Behind
A materials pack will be supplied cost £3.00.payable at the workshop.
Thank you Dorothy, that sounds really interesting and I’m sure the students will gain a lot from their day with you. As before, booking information for Dorothy’s and all the other workshops running during DIS/rupt can be found here. SIT select 2017
Don’t miss the chance of a place on Dorothy’s or one of the other workshops – as I said, ten days and counting……….
Further information about DIS/rupt can be found here TSG