Introducing our 2018 Artist in Residence

Jane Hellings Bits Out.jpg

Jane Hellings

My working practice is always drawn from my lived female experience, it is domestic in nature.

In keeping with the domestic subject matter of my work, my materials of choice are everyday, predominantly found and repurposed, and my techniques low-tech.

My work is usually interactive and I often work collaboratively.

Susan Merrick achieved amazing things as our inaugural AIR in 2017. You can read about her project here.

Now, we are proud to introduce Jane Hellings as the FiLiA Artist in Residence for 2018-2019. Her residency project is Nine Stitches.

"Taken from the phrase A stitch in time saves nine, it is not the one efficient stitch, but the nine, just in time stitches, which are the focus of this project proposal. Those nine stitches, so often  employed by women, whose lives are fragmented by the demands placed upon them, to be, simultaneously; worker, carer, mother, partner, lover, home maker. This lack of opportunity for focus is one of the reasons that women's voices, have been, and often still are, absent from the public sphere.

One hundred years ago the Suffragettes and Suffragists won the vote for women, an important step in gaining women's right to a place in public space and discourse. The debate about how best women can juggle family and the caring commitments of the private sphere, with those of the public world of work and politics, remain unresolved today. In my own art practice I attempt to blur the divisions between these two worlds and bring them together into one chaotic whole. Paradoxically, though women's energies are variously scattered, the choices open to them are fewer than for men. This gender disparity is built upon a history of women's exclusion from public life, and also women's successes in gaining access to participation.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, working class women, alongside their domestic roles, were employed in the making of textiles, first at home under the 'putting out' system and then in the factories of the Industrial Revolution. For middle class women, confined to the home, stitching was an acceptable accomplishment through which to demonstrate appropriate feminine sensibilities, and girls learned these skills through the stitching of samplers. The Suffragette Movement, led predominantly by women from the middle classes,  used the sampler to argue for female emancipation, they stitched banners together and employed Rational Dress in their struggle for empowerment. There is a strong tradition of women gathering together to stitch, talk and support, which can be traced through time and across the world.

Travelling around with my sewing box, I will set up sewing rooms offering Repairs Alterations and Sisterhood.  I will host drop in sessions and invite women to stitch and to talk. My interest is in women's utilitarian stitching and the opportunities that this presents, for creative self-expression. Participants may choose to bring along creative stitching projects of their own, mending, or garments needing alteration. From this starting point, we will incorporate embroidery, appliqué, patchwork and soft sculpture. Materials and equipment will be available for stitchers to use.

In recognition of the women who gave much, for those who come after, we will gather to stitch and converse about what we have gained, how our lives have changed and how our own struggle continues."

The residency will generate stitched works and documented conversations, for installation at the FiLiA Conference 2019, and the project and resulting installation will be documented in a publication.

At the 2018 Conference in Greater Manchester, Jane will mount an installation of textile art and offer drop in workshops for women to stitch and talk. To begin documenting the project, she will be asking women to be photographed with a selected piece of textile art, that resonates with them, and to record why, either as a written response, or to camera. There may even be some impromptu demos/parades!