The How, When, Where and Why of My MFA Research.

This blog is not intended as serious sophisticated academic writing, rather a visual and written account of progress through my MFA. 

There will be frank, honest and probably often a messy jumble of thoughts and ideas, as I wind my way through the process of practice based research.

I have for a long time been pondering on a MFA, a block of time to really delve into one big project was just what was needed…..hmmmmmm

Doll… African Fabric, bound  arms and hands, height 24”

I wanted to go from doll maker to sculptor….I wanted to drop anthropomorphism, I was interested in identity, narrative and a call to self through hand stitching figurative work.

When undertaking research at an academic level within making and creative practice, you will inevitably hit a wall of confusion, where the practice and the theory seem to diverge….and I did.

I think this has happened for a number of reasons, primarily due to the fact that between completing my MA and starting my MFA, my practice, and the materials I used changed dramatically. The theories and philosophies behind my new materials and processes were completely new to me, and felt like a volcano erupting ….

Textiles and cloth have a different materiality. 

Impermanence, the femenine, domestic making in conjunction with cultural and societal references mean that work made in cloth  yo-yo’s  between craft and art and craft and art and….As the materiality of cloth moves up and down the hierarchy of materials, there are also overlapping areas between the two in which personal definition is the overriding concern. As with everything creative, personal opinion from the lowlies craft worker, to critics and institutions have an opinion.

How then, is the dichotomy of complex and multitudinal theories and philosophies on working with cloth, explained coherently ?

I will skip over the first three months of personal interrogation  by myself….and angst concerning cultural misappropriation, designing and making my own fabric, anthropomorphism, trauma therapy, healing, transformation and get right to the hub of the matter.

The figure wasn’t the important thing, 

the fabric wasn’t the important thing,

It was not these two elements that were critical to my identity and my work….the process was… 

It’s as simple as:

  • using pieces of cloth, 
  • Of various sizes sewn together,
  •  by hand, 
  • with visible stitching,
  • leaving raw edges,
  • Simultaneously constructing and decorating…

It is not the figures that are my narrative and my visual identity it is the process  that is mine….and interestingly not only mine, there are variations world wide that have been established for, hundreds of years.

It is with this in mind that my research continues in 3 areas that use a  similar process.

Kwandi quilting by the siddis in India. The siddis were taken from East Africa to India by the Porytugese. They make a very distinctive quilt,  using hand stitching as a means of construction and decoration. The stitching is done in white and is always done by hand.

Borro stitching, and repair from Japan. Borro follows the Japanese and buddhist aesthetic and philosophy of Wabi Sabi, the beauty of the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

I have chosen  to look at these two traditions and processes as they both use hand stitching, that is visible as both construction and decoration. There is another similarity in the layering of the patches.

My third area of research is the practice and process of slow and contemplative stitch. Developed from the slow movement and used in mindfulness as a creative meditation process.

It is with this in mind that my research and creative process moves forward. After days of reading I realised that there was another element that I had not yet considered that was critical, as essentially it was the outcome of my MFA project.

The outcome for my research is a book and online courses.

My book and courses will therefore cover the histories, cultural traditions, philosophies  and processes of Kwandi and Boro and Slow stitch. Moving from the traditional and into a contemporary personal process for each individual.

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