Crafting sorrow: The use of textiles in contemporary art practice to perform mourning

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPoster presentation


Someone dies, and an expectation to extend the life of clothing is turned upside down. A wardrobe of the deceased presents a conundrum for a widow when the duty of care and ongoing preservation of clothing can feel overwhelming.

This paper presents my practice-based research in which I explore and reveal experience that is imbued in the worn clothing of someone who has died, specifically through my recent work Cactus Shadow. In this work, I undertook to carefully stitch the shadow of a cactus into the deconstructed sleeve of a jacket of the deceased. It is an intervention that reflects, from a widow’s perspective, on the ways the repetition of stitch is allied to the time and labour in mourning. By referring to a term used by Freud ‘mourning-work’ I ponder how the labour of sewing and the labour of mourning coalesce into something that is performed over time. My response emphasises the process of making work as a performative act that crafts sorrow into a material reality. This raises questions about the use of textiles as an art medium, where the histories embedded in materials and the ways things are made are fundamental to the content of the work.
Period6 Jul 2023
Event title92nd Textile Institute World Conference: Sustainability of the Textile and Fashion Supply Chain – Transitioning to Zero Carbon and Zero Waste
Event typeConference
Conference number92
LocationHuddersfield, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational