Saturday, June 10, 2017

Wednesday's Children Are Stitched Up


Neglecting my blog in the last month was one of the sacrifices I made for Wednesday's Children. Just a recap since it's been such a long time since I mentioned them.  Here is my submission for the exhibition "Stitched Up" - bringing to life the girls who were  placed in care at the Newcastle Industrial School 1867-71. I have now created 193 art dolls, made from sticks and strips of cloth.

Wednesday’s child is full of woe (from a nursery rhyme c.1838)
The stories of each of the girls in the Newcastle Industrial School and Reformatory   have been r researched by local historian, Jane Ison. Each story captured my heart.... 
Stick dolls seemed an appropriate way for me to honour the life of each of these girls and to compensate for lost childhoods.  I like to think if they had the opportunity they might have made little dolls from found materials - sticks and scraps of fabric, just as I enjoy making them 150 years later. These dolls are artistic representations and are not intended to be accurate or lifelike depictions of the girls.  In the installation, there are 193 stick “figures” wrapped in layers of cloth and individually stitched and sculpted Their different sizes and shapes draw attention to their individuality. Some have their hands ‘tied’ (knotted cloth), others have their arms raised in defiance (natural fork in a branch)  or hanging loosely in quiet resignation. (thin branches).The  polymer clay faces are individually sculpted to convey some of the sadness and misfortune  of the girls’ lives.

 In a previous post, I said  that this post would focus on how  the arms are made, so if you have been following the posts in this series, you have a set of mini-tutorials so you can create your own stick doll. 
1. The easiest way to improvise arms on a stick doll is to choose a suitable branch. In the group I made, I wanted to portray the defiant behaviour of some of the girls... The natural fork of a branch  to me was the shape of  arms held up in protest  by the escapees from the institution.

2. The next easy way is to choose two small twigs and wrap them in cloth, and stitch them into place . These straight stick arms I think suited the girls who were compliant or had  learnt to tolerate their fate.


3. For many of the dolls in this installation, I wanted to show that these girls were not only 'stitched up' but  were defenceless and unprotected  - their 'hands were tied'.... hence the arms and hands are strips of  knotted cloth. I also improvised a sleeve from the same piece of fabric. 
Step 1. Iron a strip of fabric - approx 10cm/4 inches longer than the total length of arms for the doll. As I made 193 of these dolls by hand , I did not stitch this strip, but of course, you could fold the fabric right sides together lengthwise and stitch by machine and turn the strip out to the right side. 

 Step 2 ; Tie a know in the middle of the strip - these are the improvised hands.
 Step 3. Stitch at the top of the arm and secure, and then turn the remaining fabric inside out
 Stitch on the top of the arm line to the body of the doll.
Step 4. Turn  the end of the strip  towards the bottom of the arm, so that it creates a sleeve and sew an inside seam. 

Step 5: Secure the arm and sleeve to the body  of the doll by ladder stitching or slip stitching around the top of the sleeve and taking a stitch right through the sleeve and the body to hold in place

Hope you have enjoyed this series of mini tutorials and you will try to create a stick doll of your own. 



'STITCHED UP' Exhibition  opens at "The Lock Up' in partnership with Timeless Textiles Gallery - 90 Hunter Street, Newcastle NSW Australia.  on 23 June,  6pm , until 6 August. 
Featuring 24  international and national artists 
Co-curatedby Anne Kempton and Wilma Simmons 




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