The Naming Series developed as most of my projects do: I carried a trio of elements that came together to make water. For this proposal the elements were the void in my family history created when my father and grandmother died within a year of each other, the incomplete embroideries I found at the Goodwill which were probably a result of death/donation, and the anonymity of the embroidered heirloom.
As usual, I get most of my supplies from the Goodwill. Often I purchase bulk lots of embroidery goods in search of stitch kits in which I sometimes find partially stitched pieces. Some of these pieces are very well stitched. It is clear that this was not just a casual stitcher, not someone who tried the hobby and gave up, but someone who loved stitching. It seems likely to me that this work is at the Goodwill because that stitcher died. That’s what happened when my family members died. I donated the books, items, things with a lost meaning to the Goodwill.
That is what happens. The person who can tell you the history of an item, the reason it is important, dies and a vacuum is created. There is no one who can answer the millions of questions that arise from sorting through their belongings. Embroidery, quilting, and needlework probably especially fall into this category. It was someone’s passion, but who in the family also shares that passion? So one generation either holds onto or discards the work, and then by the next generation the meaning is completely lost. There is no memory of mom stitching the irises on her pillow, so what value does the iris pillow hold? Why keep it? And why, especially, would you keep an incomplete piece?
What do we do with all this stuff when our loved ones die? And especially, what do we do with the anonymous stuff? So many generations of women stitch to give the work to our loved ones. The power of these gifts is the labor involved and the act of giving. That’s where the emotional connection is made. But when it comes to generations, death, and inheritance, the origin gets lost, which then causes the emotional connection to be lost. So my project is an effort to keep the origin from being lost, to keep the work from being anonymous, to name the work after the stitcher.
My proposal is to invite the public to bring their incomplete inherited needlework to me. Partially constructed quilting squares, unfinished Christmas stockings, anything that was made by someone who has either passed on or who has gotten to the point where they can no longer stitch. I want to give a name to their work and I want it to be their name. I would like to embroider their name onto their work, and during that time we can talk about the stitcher. Remember them by speaking about them and by giving their name and their work significance. The work will become an installation of remembrances. Memories of many generations of stitching. Memories of the many stitchers. It will be installed for the duration of my residency. The named work may be donated or picked up at the end. I want to see a huge wall of work, each one bearing the name of the stitcher, so no one is forgotten and the work will no longer be anonymous.