inspiration … Jane Whiteley

I haven’t posted for a while due to my job taking up a lot of time… however I was as the Northern Ireland Patchwork Guild’s AGM in Cultra yesterday which was lovely! My art college  friend Caoimhe and I were  invited to bring some of our work and she had her work all set out so professionally that I was pretty nervous… luckily everyone was very nice about my quilts which was a bonus! So thank you to NIPG!

So today I’m posting about the work of Australian textile artist Jane Whiteley. I found her work in the book Art Textiles of the World Australia Vol 2. during my final year and really fell in love with her concepts and ideas, plus the fact that she is a quilter. There’s not a lot of info about her on the internet and I don’t have any other books about her but I would just like to share a couple of images of her work (taken from the book) and why I love them!

Quilt for a Sleeping Person

Quilt for a Sleeping Person (Detail), 2009
silk and cotton gauze, indigo and acid dye

This artist’s work is to do with domestic life and the body. She reflects the ‘make do and mend’ idea that was promoted in post war Britain in her use of stained, worn textiles like bedsheets, towels, bandages. The above quilt is hand stitched, worn, mended again with red thread to draw attention to these areas of wear and tear. The cloth begins to carry the impression of the body of the user.

This same technique is used to make Sides to the Middle, Fingers to the Bone, 2009, which was included in the Quilts 1700-2010 exhibition at the V&A in London, 2010.  This work comes from the domestic practice of ‘turning’ bed sheets when they become too worn thin – cut them down the middle and re-stitch them so that the sides meet in the middle.

“When I mend a cloth I am healing the body, for the cloth is the body. The body remembers.”

jane whitely large red cross

Large Red Cross, 1998
cotton bedsheet, flannelette and gauze, hand and machine stitched

I like this quilt because it combines the association of reassurance and comfort of a quilt with the image of a red cross, the symbol of emergency, first aid etc. Re-using domestic textiles is a theme that I share with this artist.

“I use cloth because it has a powerful human presence and has the capacity to express humanity, human endeavour, emotion. It is as if cloth takes on the imprint of energy, the memory of the body through years of use and wear. Conversely, the body holds within the memory of that cloth.”

Textiles have the ability to hold memory and tell stories, the darned and patched areas show the history of the person who owned it. What  is more personal than the imprint of the body on cloth. I think Jane Whiteley’s work illustrates the connection between human and textile, memory and mending.

I hope to research this artist a little more in the future and I hope more people will see and respond to her work.


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