Disaster Preparedness Series
While in Japan, I studied firsthand the devastation brought about by natural disasters such as earthquakes. In visiting schools, my colleagues and I would see various cloth wraps and headpieces that parents had purchased or created for their children to protect them in the event of disaster. Handcrafted versions, more common in less affluent schools, were made from fabrics one would expect to see in a quilt, not in a covering intended to protect the head and face from severe injury. These ubiquitous quilted pieces of fabric, lying in corners or under desks, spoke to our universal desire to protect those we love. I began thinking of who had sewn these headpieces and of their actual value as protective garments. Had the creator ever pondered the futility of this bit of fabric and padding in the event of widespread destruction or devastation? Perhaps. But in the face of disaster, these handcrafted hoods were tangible evidence of the desire to protect those we love. I first explored idea of creating headpieces but later began working with large shawl-like pieces to better wrap the body, enveloping it, using nuno felted wool to create weight and provide a surface for textured embellishment.
Grief was the first piece in my Disaster Preparedness series, followed by Shame, Anxiety, and Heartache. Each piece is excessively large, ranging in widths of twenty to thirty inches and lengths of three hundred and fifty to four hundred inches in length, created from various combinations of hand-dyed merino wool with varying weights of hand-dyed cotton and silk. The nuno felting process was labor intensive, as were the various stitching methods and embellishments used to create the pattern unique to each piece. My original intent was to suggest that through the act of wearing such a garment, one could avoid these emotions, and yet, to deny these feelings is to deny an important transformative experience through which one can discover new truths. Thus, the aim of these wearable pieces is no longer avoidance; instead, each piece acts as a tangible object to protect the wearer through the experience of the emotion, carrying with it the hope of creating safe passage, a talisman in which one can be enveloped and enfolded.