a catalogue of textile work by Claire Crompton
Exhibition: Making Futures: Lifecycles of Material Worlds 24 sept – 7 Dec 2013 at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery (http://makingfutures.plymouthart.ac.uk/)
Curated by Elaine Dye (www.craftingspaces.co.uk)
The tea service is a response to the history and design of a found garment; a cape worn by a member of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC).
The garment was found in a charity shop, it shows no signs of wear, no frayed edges or worn hem, no darning or patches. There is nothing to identify its previous owner, no stitch marks of badges or insignia, no name tag. A time of being unlooked at is revealed in the small areas of moth damage.
What narrative can we write for this cape? The label tells us it began its life at Hilliers Couture Ltd of Cork Street, London, a specialist uniform tailor. The design tells us that it is post 1950. Was it general issue to the nursing corps or was it made bespoke for the nurse? Was she based in Devon or retire here, bringing the cape as a remembrance? How did it end up at the charity shop? The owner gone perhaps and with her the emotional significance of the cape?
Utilityware revalues a garment that no longer has a purpose, giving the beautiful wool fabric another life.
The nurse is represented by the tea service; a shared cup of tea suggesting time spent caring for another.
The tailor is represented by stitching and textile shaping techniques, and by the design of the pieces; grey outer surfaces with scarlet interiors and scarlet details.
My creative practice explores themes of waste textiles, mending, repairing and reuse, and has focused on revaluing textiles and garments by asking what becomes of them when they have reached the end of their lives. Some are kept as containers of memory of time or place, a special occasion or person. Others are carelessly thrown away, their value diminished by fashion, quickly replaced with an equally expendable garment.
But when a garment is sent to landfill or recycled into lower grade materials, in addition to the physical materials, other things are lost. The time and human energy that has been spent in producing the garment. On each piece of textile it is possible to see the handprints of each person who has been part of its lifecycle; the fibre grower, processor, spinner, dyer, garment cutter, stitcher, button maker, and wearer.
My work investigates ways of preserving this human energy together with the precious fabrics. By reinterpreting the textile into ceramic shapes such as tableware and vessels, I ask the viewer to look at the materials that clothe us with a fresh eye.