Blog by artist/printmaker Dawn Cole
I seem to be having many conversations about pillowcases and it is interesting to hear others thoughts. I would welcome any thoughts you may have on pillowcases and would love a dialogue to begin via this blog. Any pillowcase stories or musings, please add you comments.
As part of the process of collecting pillowcases I have been cataloguing them. Recording where and when I bought them, noting the materials they are made from, the colours used for the embroidery, the stitches used and making small sketches of the designs. I have also been researching, mainly the ones purchased on Ebay, their provenance. Many sellers do not know anything about the pillowcases but some have contacted me with details of who embroidered them and why, or how they came to own the pillowcase in the first place. Each story I am told I am adding to what is fast becoming a pillowcase archive.
But it is more than that. I seem to be building a project archive, adding to what I already have in Clarice’s archive. I suspect this will become a major part of Resting Place.
I find the idea of labelling and cataloguing, researching and cross referencing fascinating and hadn’t realised, until now, just how important this aspect is.
As a child I remember being thrilled when I was allowed to go up in to the loft to explore the many boxes of collected ‘treasures’. Long forgotten boxes of a past. I suppose this excitement at discovering some long forgotten item has never left me. Except that now I am actively creating the boxes of ‘treasures’ and building something which I hope will perhaps express the pleasure of discovery that I experience.
So, back to pillowcases. These items that have witnessed so much. Played host to dreams and nightmares, to those wakeful times of excitement, dread, worry and anticipation. From procreation to death, they bear witness to so many aspects of our lives, in fact almost a third of it.
I am still exploring how I will use pillowcases. My initial starting point of making castings has now progressed to making prints from the castings.This series is titled ‘The Pillow That Smells of His Hair’ which was taken from a radio interview I was listening to last year on Remembrance Day. The interview was with a mother who had lost a son in Afghanistan, as she spoke she talked about how she had kept many things that reminded her of her son. One of them being his pillow because it smelled of his hair. At the time I wrote this on the wall of my studio so i wouldn’t forget it and it somehow seems a fitting title for my series of prints. I hope she will not mind. I will add a new gallery page soon of these prints.
This process of transformation has helped me to focus on the next stage, to etch the fabric of the pillowcases themselves. This process, known as Devore, is something that is new to me. I will be learning this technique during my next visit to London Printworks Trust (LPT) in Brixton.
I am working with LPT as one of their ‘artists in residence’ over the next 6 months. I will be developing Resting Place with them and then launching the project and my new body of work at their studio in November. They are a wonderful resource and it was very exciting to see their studio feature on ‘The Apprentice’ this week. If you want to learn textile printing techniques they hold many great workshops. www.londonprintworks.com