Hello stitching, weaving, and creating friends!
Welcome to the new bi-monthly post, Thread Reviews, by me, Joetta Maue. I am excited to join the awesome and amazing team at the Textile Arts Center in spreading the love and passion for all things fiber. Thread Reviews will focus on bringing artist, books, and exhibits about fiber to your attention all surrounded by my opinions and experience of them.
When deciding what to focus on for my posts for the Textile Arts Center Blog I was inspired to do Thread Reviews mainly by my desire to write a post about the book The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker. The Sub Stich was originally published in 1984 and has been re-published a few times over the years but it has been a long time coming and has been a book impossible to find and when found premium money was needed to purchase. So when I found out that the book was being republished with a new introduction I was beyond excited. I first found out about The Sub Stitch when reading a friends thesis and she quoted from it – I immediately was like what? I NEED to read this book, but it was nowhere to be found. So know it is found and being thumbed by my needle calloused hands.
In The Subversive Stitch Rozsika writes about the relationship between women and embroidery in the context of history, feminism, and art.
I have to be honest, I literally just started the book – I am only on page 3 of the original book and have read the introduction- but in short it is amazing. As an artist working in embroidery who had to write a thesis about why I was doing what I was doing and why it was relevent and then defend this work and thesis, I am ecstatic to find an intellectual book about this subject that delves into the contradictory and complicated relationship that women have to embroidery and how this affects us in our making and not making. I have been disappointed by most books that say they do this as they have not been written intellectually and are more fluff and amusement, which has its place. But The Sub Stitch seems to me to be a theoretically and critically well written book about the women andher needle.
So just to give you a taste and encourage you to go out and buy this book, read it, and then meet me over a cup of coffee to discuss.
The forward begins with this amazing quote by Olive Schreiner:
Has the pen or pencil dipped so deep in the blood of the human race as the needle?
In Rozsika and my opinions- NO. And that is why it is so exciting, complicated, and inspiring to look at the history of the needle and the thread.
In the Introduction Rozsika brings her thoughts up to speed in the fact that things have changed a lot since 1984, artists have changed how fiber work is being done and what it’s role is. She specifically mentions Louise Bourgeois’ recent works in fiber and the seminal work of Tracy Emin. She also talks quite a bit about how the attitude towards feminism and femininity has changed which has affected our, women’s, relationship to embroidery and cloth. I will not go on and on but just to encourage you and inspire you I will end with a few selected quotes from the book.
Roszika quotes the artists Kate Walker as she discussed her “Wife is a Four Letter Word’ Sampler. Kate states:
I have never worried that embroidery’s association with femininity, sweetness, passivity, and obedience may subvert my work’s feminist intentions. Femininity and sweetness are part of women’s strengths… Quiet Strength need not be mistaken for useless vulnerability.
Later Roszika discusses the role and power of the creative object and in this she says:
The process of creativity -the finding of form for thought- have a transformative impact on the sense of self. The embroider holds in her hands a coherent object which exists both outside in the world and inside her head… Embroidery promotes and reflects a richer, more meaningful internal world, which is in turn substantiated by the reception of the work in the outside world.
All I can say is my mind is being blown, I am underlining like crazy, and am just really excited to be being forced to think hard about the choices I make as an embroider and why I make them. I am not promising that this subject will not re-appear in these blog pages. But for now I am back to stitching and reading.
Until next time keep your needle threaded!
Joetta Maue is a full time artist primarily using photography and fibers. Her most recent work is a series of embroideries and images exploring intimacy. Joetta exhibits her work throughout the United States and internationally, and authors the art and craft blog Little Yellowbird as well as regularly contributes to Mr. X Stitch. Joetta lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, baby son, two cats, a goldfish.