For this project we had to choose an item of clothing that was personal and deconstruct it to make a 3-D sculpture. I love vintage clothes so I chose an Edwardian blouse made from thin cotton with embroidered detail and trims. We had to explore the qualities of the garment, which in this case were transparency, delicacy and femininity. Because of the age of the item I originally thought I would do something around the theme of Suffragettes, women’s struggles and gender issues. I was going to make a fabric torso with a red heart inside the body that could be seen through the fabric- referencing Catholic iconography of the bleeding heart or fabric scapulars worn under clothes.It was the transparent quality of the fabric in the end that made me lean more towards the corporeal.
I made a mood board to give me ideas-originally looking at the work of Frida Kahlo. I definitely wanted the idea of transparency and a reveal, I started making a torso from a dolls’ pattern but it looked well, too dolly! Then I found two ornate hurricane lamps that had been collecting dust on top of a cupboard for years that had some great verdigris and patina on them. This made me think of specimen jars and Damien Hirst so my idea changed to creating body parts and putting them in water.
Because of the femininity of the original shirt I wanted to make something to represent the nature of the female body and for me the obvious choice was to make a Mother and Child sculpture. The torso shape changed to an embryo, which I made with polystyrene balls and shells for the backbone but it looked too grotesque. I filled the inside instead with a vintage nylon scarf which was transparent in water and looked like body tissue. I made the umbilical cord from some of the original embroidery which I detached.
The fabric womb came from a triangle shape with the embroidered flowers cut out from the garment used as fallopian tubes. I also stuffed that with the red scarf but left the stuff hole open. I cut out the embroidered circles and made flowers with pearls that I was going to put in the bottom of the jars but they looked too busy. The scarf provided support for the two sculptures and dye started leaking so the liquid went a bit pink. I didn’t like the open tops so I made some ‘lids’ from a polystyrene ball cut in half and painted and distressed to match the metal on the borders. The two jars were presented on an antique porcelain tray.
In general I was satisfied with the piece and felt it worked well as soft sculpture that explored elements of the original piece’s history, purpose and construction. I also learned practical things with materials –making a pattern, suspending items in water, colour and texture matching to an object. I photographed it in the lighting studio but wished I spent more time here as I didn’t realise I’d reflection in the glass. Oh well!