Fossil Garment #3 is all about repair, mending, fixing. Sewn on (and into) a slab of handmade felt, this one really does seem like a fossil. Dorothy Caldwell is the one who made me aware of the history written into clothing by repairs. Long ago, before clothing became so cheap, people mended and darned their clothes, and there are stories in those stitches.
http://www.dorothycaldwell.com/ check out her art: it's wonderful
But we need to take a detour here, in the story of my Fossil Garments. Because if we're talking about repairing clothing, we have to talk about BORO. In Japan, in the early 20th century, the people living in northern Japan had no real transportation to the southern parts of the country. They couldn't get cotton, couldn't grow it, so they grew flax. Each family was able to grow, ret, spin, and weave enough linen cloth for 2 or 3 items per year. Maybe a jacket, a pair of pants and a blanket. Per family. So if something was torn, you certainly didn't throw it out. It was mended, patched, patched again, and again, until there was more repair than original. Clothing was handed down. And darned again. And the white stitches on the indigo dyes blue fabric became living history.
After World War 2, when cotton cloth became available, people were ashamed of the old clothing, calling it 'boro' - rags. Much of it was thrown out. But a folklorist named Chūzaburō Tanaka. began collecting these garments, recognizing their beauty and value as an art form that was irreplaceable (you can now see boro at the Amuse Museum in Asakusa, Tokyo). I first became aware of boro at a show in NYC called Art of the Ordinary. I remember sitting on the floor, staring up at a jacket in awe. This marvel was a complete rebuke to my throw-away American culture. It was one of those smack-you-up-the side-of-your-head moments when you realize THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS.
Soon after, I sewed Worn, But Not Out (47"h x 52"w)
Here's her statement:
The well-worn fabrics in this quilt personify the strength and beauty of an old woman. Constructed almost entirely from recycled materials: hand crocheted pieces from garage sales and scraps from a drapery company. The drapery fabric was repeatedly washed, which created shrunken puckers and badly frayed edges. I cut the knotted threads from these edges, formed them into ‘tassels’ and sewed them on as decorations. The background fabric was pieced together by machine. Everything else was hand sewn. All fabric in this piece is the original color: nothing was dyed or stained. The center section, and under the arms, was overlaid w/ sheer fabric to achieve the desired depth of color.
OK, tomorrow, back to Fossil Garments, and more on boro another time.