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Is smocking1 inherently evil? 2
The activity itself has political overtones – workers clothes and busy hands, alongside the idea of the hidden and revelation through the process of creating folds. 3
1 - Smocking is an embroidery technique made by gathering cloth in regularly spaced tucks, providing flexibility and form within a garment. The word smock, derived from smock – a farmer’s work shirt is a modern spelling of an Old English word "smocc" a verb meaning to gather fabric into unpressed pleats by sewing in a honeycomb pattern. Eventually the word was used to refer to both the sewing technique and the garments it produced.
Fry, Gladys Windsor. 1946 Embroidery and Needlework. Pitman & Sons Ltd.
Every kind of smocking. 1985 (ed) Kit Pyman. Search press.
2 - starting point for the project - Sitting in a restaurant, heatedly discussing the role and presentation of folding and smocking within the clothes represented in the paintings in the Academia in Venice. The individuals in the paintings wearing smocked or folded garments appeared to have poor character qualities, to be hiding notes, from a lower order etc. The activity itself has political overtones – smocking – predominantly an activity undertaken by farm workers to embellish their clothes, the idea of busy hands; subjugation through craft, alongside the idea of the hidden through the process of creating folds. It culminated in the question, was smocking inherently evil? This conversation has developed over 2 years, starting off with a small body of bookworks influenced by some of the smocking structures for a touring exhibition organised by the Irish Crafts Council. This was almost subconscious but later a show titled bookmare at Camberwell College of Art and the repeat show at Norwich University College consciously started the process of exploring smocking through the objects I make. A TESS funding application at what was Norwich University College of the Arts led to a body of work shown at the Imago gallery in London. A lot of meetings and conversations led me to some really excellent people to work with within some interesting collections and archives in East Anglia. This enabled a successful bid to the Arts Council to spend a year working on the idea with a number of partners.
3 - “Folding-unfolding no longer simply means tension-release, contraction-dilation, but enveloping developing, involution-evolution… The simplest way of stating the point is by saying that to unfold is to increase, to grow; whereas to fold is to diminish, to reduce, to withdraw into the recesses of a world”.
Deleuze, Gilles. “The Fold-Leibniz and the Baroque: The Pleats of Matter.” Architectural Design Profile No.102: