We are really excited to have The Domestic Dusters at The Knitting & Stitching Show this year. Vanessa, this globally collaborative project, where women embroider their domestic perspectives, experiences, complaints and celebrations onto a yellow duster, has been underway since 2014 with over 100 contributions. How does it feel to be the curator of such a long-running exhibition that has been evolving and expanding for almost a decade?
It's a real privilege! When I first began this project, I could never have anticipated the reach it would have nor the opportunities that have arisen from it. I have met so many amazing women. Most duster submissions come with a note telling the stitcher’s story. They give insight into the lives of these women, whom despite assumptions are not usually those who have the time to embroider a duster; it is much more likely that they don’t but that they feel driven to because they need their voices to be heard. I also make a point of working with those whose domestic situations are compromised through violence, enforced migration, unpaid caring responsibilities or homelessness, which rarely join the exhibited collection because of their necessarily private nature, but nonetheless share the domestic legacy. It is very humbling.
What do you think the far-reaching geographical origins within the exhibit add to the experience of the collection and how does this impact the meaning behind the work?
I think it’s evidence of the ubiquitous legacy of women’s domestic role. From America to New Zealand, across to Australia then back via Europe, the stories held within the stitches of the dusters from across the world echo similar themes. They include frustration, celebration, lots of humour, sometimes anger but also fond memories of mothers, stories of family and discussions of home and what it means to be a woman today. I’ve discovered that the duster is well-known in the UK, some parts of Europe and Australia, less so in America, New Zealand, or India. This has led to other domestic cloths occasionally joining the collection, which nonetheless represent the same thing – invisibility, mundaneness, lack of value and domesticity.
Image: Vanessa Marr, Self Portrait, 2020.
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