Hello readers! Welcome to the very first installment of a series of interviews with this year's City of Craft installation artists. Jacinta Lodge is a freelance writer and embroiderer who currently resides in Berlin. The following interview discusses her crafty technique of choice, her installation for City of Craft, Early Training, and the ideas that informed it. Enjoy!
Your installation Early Training employs a technique called Blackwork. What is it and where did you first learn about it?
Blackwork is generally considered a 16th Century English technique. The most famous picture of it from this time is Holbein's portrait of Henry VIII. However it does seem to stem from earlier Spanish work, and it's widely considered that Catherine of Aragon (that poor ex-wife of Henry VIII) introduced it to England. Mary Gostelow's book Blackwork has a fascinating introduction to the history of the technique-- and embroidery in Europe-- which can be read online at Google Books, if anyone is interested.
Blackwork itself is a single stitch, a double running stitch (also called the Holbein stitch, I guess because of that painting!) which is just a running stitch run first one way then back over it so that there is a solid line. Traditionally, blackwork was (employed to create) ornate images, usually of vines and fruit. Modern blackwork is made more of repeated small motifs (called diaper patterns), which are used to fill an area.
I was introduced to blackwork about seven years ago at the Stitches and Craft show in London. (It was there that) I met Leon Conrad, a passionate traditional blackworker and incredibly helpful man, and bought a book by Jack Robinson from him. Since then, blackwork has become one of the many techniques I enjoy.
What is the relationship between your way of working-- embroidery in it's various forms-- and your subject matter, which has included tattoo flash, graffiti tags, and stencil art?
Well, to be honest, I'm not sure there is one. Personally, I enjoy graffiti and am impressed by the political and social messages that a number of graffiti artists impart. (Because) my current work is more heavy on social commentary, evoking graffiti meshes well with that and I enjoy coming up with new ways of using what are, in the end, very traditional techniques and stitches. But embroidery is just my chosen medium and I'm far more at home with needle and thread than with paint and paintbrush. Although it's common in textile art stay with themes close to textiles/women's roles, I've never really thought that the medium should dictate the theme-- painters rarely examine the history of paint in their work, or the role of painters in society. There are a lot of things to examine in this world and just because the mirror you hold up is made of fabric, it doesn't mean the subject must be also.
Training addresses the subject of the indoctrination of children. This is something that happens around the world, from child soldiers in Africa and the Middle East, to the passing down of racist ideologies from generation to generation. What inspired you to address this subject in your work?
(The indoctrination of children is) something that always interested, or perhaps better said, offended me. Ten years ago there was a photo in the newspaper taken at the Orangemen march in Ireland that year, with a young girl-- not more then seven-- at the forefront of the picture, doll in hand, fist raised and screaming in hate. That was where this piece started…it was such a vivid and horrific picture for me.
Right now I'm at the age where all of my friends are having children, so (the indoctrination of children is) a topic that (had been) running (through) my mind. If I'm against indoctrination, I would want my own children to be against indoctrination...but then am I not just indoctrinating them myself? Every individual or group thinks that their way is right, so in this respect who is worse-- the people with children at protest rallies holding signs against non-believers, or those with children holding signs against believers? Can any group actually take the moral high ground in terms of what they are training into their children?
You are originally from Australia and currently live in Berlin. The Berlin art scene is well known-- what is the craft scene like in Berlin? Is there overlap between the art scene and the craft scene there?
The craft scene is really only just developing here. It's a few years behind the US, UK and Australia in that respect and mostly because the Germans are amazingly hung up on the idea of Spießig. Spießig is a great word-- it means bourgeois, old fashioned, conservative...it's generally used to describe anything your parents like (and which, therefore, you are far too cool to do). I usually translate it as "think of ceramic flying ducks on a wall"…that pretty much covers the concept of Spießig for me. So avoiding Spießig-ness is the number one aim of every German under the age of forty, which means that crafting is generally avoided.
But all that said we have a few people beginning to push the craft scene here. A sewing cafe called Linkle, a crafting cafe called La Bastellerie and events such as Fashion Reloaded, a diy fashion recycling and upgrading show as part of Berlin Fashion Week, are slowly moving the crafting movement out of Spießig-ness. But we do have a way to go yet before we're really taken seriously by the ultra-cool artists.
Do you have any favourite artists or craftspeople who embroider, from the past or present?
Two embroiderers I admire are Jane Nicholas and Tracy Franklin-- amazingly skilled women. Jane is an Australian who brought stumpwork back en vogue, and Tracy is a Royal School of Needlework graduate who specializes in contemporary goldwork. As for embroiderers from the past...I must admit that I'm not a huge fan of antique embroidery…not because I dislike it per se, but because (I feel that) it usually doesn't offer me much, thematically or technically, to chew on.
Jacinta's installation Early Training will be on display during City of Craft in the window space at the Ontario Crafts Council, 990 Queen Street West (near Ossington Avenue, north side).
Images, from Top:
Early Training (in progress), embroidery on canvas, 2009
Early Training (detail shot, in progress), embroidery on canvas, 2009
Stitch Graffiti, cross stitch on canvas