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Title: Stitching and thinking : an analysis of the communicative potential of silence in schoolgirl samplers as a framework for understanding hand-stitch in contemporary artworks
Author: Mason, Dawn
ISNI:       0000 0004 7431 7609
Awarding Body: University of the West of England
Current Institution: University of the West of England, Bristol
Date of Award: 2018
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The core concern of this practice-based thesis is to consider silence as part of the practice of hand-stitch in order to offer a framework for understanding hand-stitch within contemporary artwork. I achieve this by paying close critical attention to the minutiae of process and materials seen in the plain sewing contained within schoolgirl samplers and in contemporary artworks using hand-stitch. The question at the heart of this thesis is how and what does hand-stitch communicate? I argue that hand-stitch is a form of silent communication for emotion and the body through the themes of Testimony, Mortality and Mourning, and Wound & Repair. Key to developing this argument is the identification that the communicative concept of silence is part of the maker’s physical engagement with materials and processes. I offer a reading of hand-stitch that identifies its dual function, that it is both practically and conceptually active within artworks. This thesis offers a critical repositioning of artworks, including my own, in relation to schoolgirl samplers and plain sewing through the communicative concept of silence. In doing so I create a particular archive of stitched works that pays attention to the historical positioning of hand-stitch through the concept of silence. To do so I focus on analysis of my own practice along with examples of stitched text, patching and darning found in the samplers of Elizabeth Parker, Kate Lye and Florence Yeomanson. This has informed readings of the work of contemporary artists Elaine Reichek, Sara Impey, Tilleke Schwarz, Tracey Emin, Tabitha Moses, Beverly Ayling-Smith, Diana Harrison, Jessica Rankin, Anne Wilson, Daphne Wright and Berlinde De Bruyckere. This offers a unique grouping of hand-stitched art-works. I explore a circular relationship between historical and contemporary practices of hand-stitch in order to identify the role that hand-stitch plays in contemporary creative practice. Through this I foreground the informed knowledge that comes from engagement in practice as significant in developing a critical position for hand-stitch. By using my own term the double][double encoding I argue that naming stitch as stitch within artworks cuts across definitions of fine art and craft practices and positions this particular skills base as adding to critical discourse for art-textiles. Through this approach my contributions to knowledge are: the creation of a particular archive of stitched works that gives an alternative historical positioning of hand-stitch through the concept of silence; new readings of artworks by Tracey Emin, Daphne Wright and Berlinde de Bruyckere, which focus on their use of hand-stitch and add to the positioning of silence as a critical tool for art practice. In addition to this my main contribution to knowledge is the development of a new methodology that foregrounds a fully integrated approach between my own art practice and the written aspects of the thesis and allows space to pay attention to silence as part of this formulation. I have positioned stitching and thinking as equal components in the construction and communication of knowledge through a combination of written material and my original artworks, which are used to underpin the development of arguments in each chapter. The practical and written aspects of the submission have equal importance and together confirm an approach that does not place a hierarchy on types of knowledge. I demonstrate a methodology in which I think and write through the process of hand-stitch, and stitch through the process of thinking and writing. This thesis is centred around my practice and the experience of the looping and circular relationship between stitching, thinking and writing and the communicative role that silence plays within it.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: UWE
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available