by Cathy MacTaggart
In 2013 I spent some time volunteering at the Warner Textile Archive, and found I met lots of people with a wide variety of skills. At the time I was working on the penultimate module of my degree in Contemporary Applied Art, but was struggling to find a suitable textile application for my idea. I had been exploring the concept of My Mother’s Work, trying to demonstrate the value of the mundane aspects of traditional women’s work. I had some lovely hand drawings of my Mother’s kitchen utensils – the potato peeler, draining spoon, whisk, masher and wooden spoon. I had worked out that over time she had peeled 30,576 lbs of potatoes, drained 15,288 portions of vegetables, whisked 6,552 eggs, mashed 2,184 lbs of potatoes and made 2,940 lbs of jam. Impressive figures, but I was lost to think of a meaningful application to a textile. I had considered printing the imagery on wool voile to make scarves, but this was firmly slapped down by my tutors: “this is an art course – you are not making scarves!”.
One day, I was discussing my conundrum with Kate – Archivist at the Warner Textile Archive. She stopped and said: “The way you describe your Mum’s life, cooking was not a pleasure, it was a burden…a yoke is used to carry a burden. Why don’t you make the scarves really long, so they touch the ground either side, and call them yokes?!”
This was the answer to my prayers, and I could visualise the finished product. I was immediately on a roll with the solution to my problem. I shot back to university, printed the imagery on wool voile, and staged them by draping the five yokes on old fashioned wooden hangers. I had explored a huge range of materials for this module with limited success, and thankfully, the yokes became the final resolved piece (for which I received a mark of 75%!).
In my final module, I continued to develop the theme of objects typically associated with women, placing drawings of utensils on textile items. My final project comprised five collections put forward for assessment: a 1960s coat, tea towels, roller towels, unfinished knitting, and jam covers. I received 82% for my final project, meaning I got a First!
Thank you, Kate, for giving me the idea – had you not given me that firm push in the right direction, I would not have flown so high. A fantastic idea, freely shared. What is the Warner Textile Archive? It’s truly a creative place of exchange!
Images courtesy of Cathy MacTaggart: