24th April 2019: Supervision meeting the Becky and Penny

Wide-ranging discussion about my work so far. I have been concerned that I had not really been doing very much but both B and P seem to think I covered a lot of material. My task now is to focus, to orientate myself for the next phase – this is my RF2. So far, I have been engaging with the material, thinking of practical and technical ways of working with it and starting to see it in different ways.

We talked about my upcoming paper at the historical dress conference and whether historical study is necessary for the research. I feel it is for two major reasons – 1: providing a context and 2: potential material for feeding my practice. I want to do some work around the stylistic changes, finding historical context for my exploration of embodied making – the discourse with past makers through the objects and the re-enactment of their making and I am interested in the motifs and how Blackwork was represented. I feel that the historical study will provide a structural basis for everything else I want to do.

I do not think it will be a huge endeavour, as the technique is quite obscure compared to others but even if the scope does reveal itself to be larger, I can do the base work and leave it for someone else to expand on (I am not a historian after all!)

The idea of collective making is emerging as a theme, many of the objects I am looking at would have been collectively made. I am considering the possibility of setting up a collective, performative embroidery project at a historic site, but will need to think about how to document and analyse the experience to be a useful research exercise.

We talked about the inbuilt failure of re-enactment – skill, time and availability of tools and materials, as well as the completely different cultures of the makers. What are the limits of what we can find out? What can and can’t be made tangible? To what extent can you recreate the past? And what does this reveal about production today? I’m not trying to make counterfeit; it’s about trying to enter a dialogue with past makers through the objects and their remaking.

We touched briefly on my interest in using pulled white work as a way of exploring stitch geometry through voids and distortions left in the weave of the cloth after the threads have decayed, and about the need to go back to mark making to explore light and shade in the embroidery.

It seems that there are two phases of Blackwork, the early geometric and the later speckling (with a few outliers and transition pieces) and each seems to be suggesting a different approach to thinking and working with them.

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