four wall-hung figures, each life size
My husband traced my shape onto brown paper, and that was the basic pattern for these figures. The framework is constructed from recycled campaign materials (those wire and plastic signs that bloom along the roads before an election? Well, after the election, I harvest them. The wire is very strong and useful). I bend and push the wire into shape, use other wire to connect, add wire hangers and more wire until it all holds. Then I 'upholster' the wire frame with old blankets, and cover that with dyed quilts, old handkerchiefs, kitchen calendar towels...and aprons. What you see in the photo is the BACK of the aprons. In this next in-progress composite photo, you can see the front of the aprons, on the backs of the figures.
Why backwards? Partly in honor of the ancient Eastern European tradition of brides wearing special aprons that covered them front and back (to protect fertility, I've read) and because it works visually. I like that viewers see the ends, the workings, not the decorative-protective front.
The scissors on the front represent backbone and ribs. I upholstered the scissor segments in white damask, then sewed them under a layer of wool that closely matched the color of the dyed quilt. Yes, it's confusing, but if you're interested, here's how it goes:
The upholstered scissor segments are sewn between the matching wool on top and another layer under them (think of a sandwich, with the wool as the bread, and the scissors as the filling). First I baste them all together, then sew them very tightly, so you can really see the shape of the scissors. When that's finished, I used a razor blade to carefully cut away the fabric directly over each scissor. All this effort means the scissors look like they're growing up out of the quilted body.
One last, unfinished witness to the past. After visiting the Irish Aran Islands , I wanted to make a figure that spoke of the handworked history of the place - the bleak, beautiful rockiness. The early farmers made a supreme effort just to survive* and life there still isn't easy today. I pictured my witness holding a baby composed entirely of the modern (computer bits, Legos, wires, color!) representing the children today, growing up in a technologically connected world, who can't wait to leave.
But the child figure was too large, the bottom of the mother needed work...and so she waits.
*they literally had to create their own soil, by dragging up seaweed and mixing it with manure. Each field is the size of my living room, surrounded by handbuilt stone fences to keep the wind from blowing it all away.