It is commonplace for young people with eating disorders to ingest laxatives, diuretics and emetics to purge their bodies of food, or to use caffeine tablets and cigarettes to give them more energy or to decrease their appetites. An outline (or net) of the kind of boxes which would normally contain these has been hand stitched to form a ‘flattened’ box which takes up little space, ‘A voice in my head tells me that if I ate less, took up less space, life would be easier, safer’.
The stitched text has been recreated in a similar way to those on cigarette packets and highlighted with similar graphic warnings, ‘Smoking Kills’ replaced with ‘Eating Disorders Kill’. Both pills and cigarettes can cause addiction; both are dangerous for people’s health.
Death by Chocolate explores complex issues relating to eating disorders.
On the surface the artwork may appear to be an innocent replication of a chocolate box but on closer inspection the viewer will find that things are not as they seem. Research has suggested that chocolate is one of the high risk triggers of binge-eating, causing feelings of guilt, and creating a hyper-awareness of one’s body after ingestion.
This artwork was selected for ‘Transgressing Traditions’ at Schweinfurth Art Center, Auburn, New York, USA.
An innocent bag of sweets becomes a disturbing vessel for medicine capsules which spill out over a worktop. The viewer is drawn in by the miniature sweets, chocolates, fruit and vegetables, only to find text and numbers are part of the mix. A person with disordered eating will lose sight of actual food and will concentrate on its calorific value – food becomes numbers rather than an ingredient for health and pleasure.
This artwork has been selected for the ‘World of Threads Festival’ in Ontario, Canada.
It is known that people with anorexia nervosa view their bodies as much larger than they actually are. Hand stitched cookie motifs, each with their own text, are enlarged under an LED magnifier. The words such as ‘self-hate’ and ‘restrict’ obsessively turn inside the minds of those with eating disorders.
This artwork is inspired by ‘The Story of Augustus’ by Heinrich Hoffmann, 1798-1874, a tale of a plump and hearty boy who would not eat his soup. Day after day the young lad pushes his food away until he ‘scarcely weighs a sugar plum’. The poem ends in tragedy. I have written a parody of ‘Augustus’, a tale of ‘Edie’, a bright and glowing pearl’ who refuses to eat….
This artwork was selected by The 62 Group of Textile Artists for ‘Making Space’ at Macclesfield Silk Museum, Cheshire, UK.
Those with unhealthy weight control behaviours will take capsules or pills, not to improve their situation, but to purge their bodies of unwanted food.
I have hand stitched 144 Tweets taken from social media and placed them inside clear, empty medicine capsules. These are displayed within an old-fashioned candy jar. The paper circular lid cover has been replaced by cotton material hand stitched with candy-coloured stripes and researched text.
This artwork explores the complex and devastating effects of eating disorders. It is a biographical work about a young woman suffering from anorexia nervosa. The piece is in the form of a young girl’s dress as ‘Anna’ confessed that her “anorexia was about maintaining her childhood” – she hand stitched the pocket. The ‘Size 0’ label underlines the need to be thin. All of the text is sewn with human hair.
This artwork was selected for ‘FEAST - pleasure + hunger + ritual at Lexington Art League, Kentucky, USA.
All of the text is sewn with human hair.
Research shows that since the first female prime minister was elected in 1960, 96% of all Heads of Government have been male. The inner border is stitched with the name of every woman PM since that time, and the outer, with quotes found in the media concentrating on appearance, or the ability for those women to behave like a man.
Thes map is centred on the imbalance between male/female international heads of government in the 21st century. Each country has been meticulously hand-stitched to demonstrate this, with country borders sewn in pink for those led by women, and blue for men.
She was cooking something up is a kitchen installation where the lady of the house becomes totally preoccupied with food, and is locked in a world where she obsesses about what she can or cannot consume. She confides that she does not eat bread (it bloats her), cannot eat chocolate (it keeps her awake at night), avoids cream cakes (they upset her system), but insists that she is not on a diet. The viewer can become part of her world, sneak into her kitchen and even open her cupboards to see what is hidden within.
The dial on the front of the food weighing scales has been replaced by one found on bathroom scales.
This artwork has been created using real weighing scales but has been adapted using silkscreen printed imagery and hand stitched motifs onto cotton. The dial is now in the form of a clock used to represent the time that diets tend to fail, ten past four in the afternoon, when all good resolutions tend to fail….
Guilt Biscuits sit innocently on a laser-cut glass platter. On closer inspection the platter is engraved with words which describe ‘fat’, and the real biscuits are hand stitched with the words ‘GUILT’ and ‘IN CONTROL’. There is a desire to eat the biscuits until one sees that they are stitched with thread.
Time for tea anyone?
This sampler was a site-specific artwork for Newark Park National Trust Property near Stroud. The house was originally a hunting lodge built for Sir Nicholas Poyntz who married Joan Berkeley and the property was bequeathed to her on his death in 1556. Dame Joan remarried a gentleman, Sir Thomas Dyer, who was described by Joan’s eldest son as ‘a monster’.
Dyer did not provide care and medicines when Joan became ill and, to add to her misery, she feared that Queen Elizabeth I was displeased with her. Dame Joan was so ill that she temporarily lost her hearing, sight and speech.
I researched the dame’s illness and established that she would have been inflicted with Conversion Disorder, a form of hysteria, where ailments described earlier quickly develop in response to a stressful situation. Exploration into medicines used in the 16th century reveal that Crocus, Potassium Bromide, Asafetida, Tincture Camphor and Valerian would have been prescribed for hysteria, nervous diseases and nervous excitation.
This site-specific artwork was created in memory of, and in recognition of, the real women of Saltaire drawn from the 1891 census. Women who were born in the parish, worked in the textile industry, married and had children there. Each woman has her own ‘memory plaque’ with her name, year of birth, age, marital status and occupation.
In-depth study of the census has produced evidence that 160 single women were mill workers, and a further 42 had other occupations, e.g. dressmakers, milliners, etc. Fifty-one married women were entered of whom one-fifth were working. Of the latter, only three were employed in the mill, and none of these had children.
One-quarter of the reels were placed into a storage area in the wall of the spinning room in Salts Mill. These reels were a metaphor for those women who, once they married, were discarded as mill workers.
Tied by the Apron Strings illustrates the inequalities in occupational choices between males and females in the 19th century. Women’s occupations are hand sewn in pink onto one of the apron ties, and side labels give figures of how many women worked in particular jobs in the mid-1800s. On the second tie, the wide varieties of employment open to men, taken from the 1891 census, are sewn in blue.
This artwork consisting of two constructed dresses is an investigation into the childhood of twin girls who had the same upbringing. It examines their recollections, exploring whether their memories converge or deviate as these women bravely reveal their challenging past. The text and imagery have all been hand stitched with silk threads.
Hand stitched detail of childhood dolls house.
Handmade button for The Button Project held at The Silk Museum in Macclesfield, Cheshire, UK.
This piece deals with the mundane and repetitive nature of housework; I wanted to limit the workload by shrinking the chores to a manageable size!
‘Wafer Thin’ centres on the throes of dieting and takes the form of a paper towel roll. It begins fat and rounded and as it unwinds gets thinner and thinner. At its core, hidden from view, is ‘Stick Thin’ which lists the extremes dieting can reach when obsession takes over.
The roll starts with a hand stitched bibliography which lists the researched texts used in the creation of this artwork.
Wafer Thin has a hand stitched upper and lower border made up of measurement tallies one would find on a tape measure. The upper border has a never-ending list of diets, all taken from four women’s weekly magazines, (Best, Bella, Woman and Woman’s Own), over the course of one year (2010-2011). I wanted to emphasise the ridiculous obsession with women’s magazines which constantly publish articles pertaining to women’s bodies and dieting.
The lower hand stitched border has text taken from ‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’ by Susie Orbach.
A weight, date and time, as if taken from the ‘sell-by’ dates, etc from food packaging, but in reality come from a young woman’s blogspot in which she marks her weight - she weighs herself obsessively almost every day. And in turn, I obsessively stitched this information onto each sheet.
This section is hand stitched in black and lists the extremes of dieting and eating disorders and is hidden in the heart of this piece.
House Work is centred on the inequality between male/female Members of Parliament in Great Britain, and each constituency has been meticulously hand stitched to visually show that imbalance. The border details some of the legislation resulting from bills introduced by backbench women MPs. The labels highlight other related issues pertaining to women in politics.
This artwork was selected for the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition and was chosen as 'Work of the Week'.
Detail of constituencies. Male Members of Parliament are stitched in blue and female MPs in pink.
The temptations of fast foods, biscuits and wine, contribute to the failure of diets, whilst the diet products stab at our consciences. The monograms read across the three handkerchief boxes the word FAT – it’s enough to make you cry!
Parasols reflect an era of gentility, and are distinguished by their quintessential femininity. By way of contrast, ‘Team Spirit’ highlights ‘ladettes’ in the 21st century and a culture centred on drinking.
The Diet Came To Grief deals with women and dieting, and highlights the ten foods which contribute to the failure of diets. The piece is in the form of a ‘tissue box’ to represent the misery and tears caused by restricting food. Hand stitched monograms on the corner of each tissue read D-I-E-T-S F-A-I-L.
1. Women’s weekly magazines and tabloids continually dish out dieting failures and success stories from celebrities and women in general. 2. The average dieter can spend up to £25,233 on diet products over the course of a lifetime. 3. An obsession with not eating can leave the dieter preoccupied with food.
Each pocket is filled with a 'chicken fillet' normally used as padding in bras!
Nutritional information hand stitched onto a table napkin.
It was crunch time.
How much housework do young people do? My survey revealed that 66% of males between the ages of 16 and 26 would personally carry out housework once they had homes of their own; according to scientific research they will not! Males will do less and less housework as they get older.
The title echoes three components, the sound of a woman’s voice, the repetitive nature of quilt making and the time taken in producing a quilt.
How Many Times is centred on research relating to women, the workplace and the home. It asks the question, are women happy with their working lives in the 21st century. The results of a questionnaire were surprising, 8 out of 10 women who worked full-time said they would prefer not to work, and 50% of women who had part-time jobs said they would prefer not to work at all.
This work was a commission for 'Quilts 1700-2010' which took place at the V&A museum in London.
The concept behind this piece relates to Emily and Alfred Tennyson but has a universal theme. I researched the Tennysons’ lifestyle and found that they read a vast amount of literature. Their evenings would be filled with readings, guests and discussion, and I compared these to a typical evening spent by the average person in the 21st century.
Farringford House, Isle of Wight. Home of the Tennyson family.
My research into gender stereotyping in media advertising has led me to believe that women are still portrayed as the main cleaner, shopper and cook in the home in the 21st century. When men are chosen for advertisements they may be dressed in white coats (technicians), dressed up as women, portrayed as comical individuals or are celebrities.
TV advertisement - rinse away your wash-day blues!
Womanual is a textile piece in the form of an outrageously long ‘tea-towel’ which has been folded, starched and ironed. The length relates to the never-ending list of household tasks carried out by women, and the meticulous ironing to a typical job within the home. The folds conceal images of household chores in the same way that ‘women’s work’ is done but no one sees the effort and time put in.
Along the lower edge of the ‘tea-towel’ are care labels. These labels are handmade and hand stitched with humorous messages which come from an unknown woman and relate to the domestic.
The bands of text along the length of this piece contain information gathered by published surveys on women’s roles within the home. It also has sentences relating to cleaning which are based on simple instructions found in household manuals but on closer examination some of the words are not quite as they seem.
The eight pairs of protective gloves which accompany Womanual have their own role, to remind us of the unseen woman who carries out the household tasks. These gloves have their own labels which are stitched with the names of television programmes whose titles have words which relate to women and the home.