Work in progress for ‘Bridging the Gap’ by Vinny Stapley

Shrine to Arachne’ … (working title)

My work for Bridging the Gap celebrates the stories of the unsung heroines – the ordinary women; our mothers and grandmothers who battled against the odds to bring up their children and assert their rights at a time when working opportunities and childcare were scarce and society frowned upon ‘independent’ women. Struggling to cope on their own and refusing to accept the ‘lot’ that society had dealt them, they sacrificed their own ambitions and hopes in order to put food on the table, a roof over their heads, and see their own children fulfil their potential.

I’ve long been interested in the Myth of Arachne, who was doomed to weave for eternity and elevated ‘womens work’ to celebratory status.

As part of my research  I have also read an essay; ‘Women Weaving the World – Text & Textile in the Kalevala and Beyond’ by Hanna Elilitta Psychas, which has drawn together the threads of my idea further.

She says: “The world of women is at once the burden of the monotonous unrecognised labour of domestic craft” and that “women literally weave together life, family and society’. I was also interested in the origin of the word ‘Nest’ from “‘net’ a mesh fabric used to protect confine or carry…  or a framework to protect and raise young’.”

I am creating a piece that will literally ‘weave’ these womens’ accounts together, by creating delicate meshes and weblike strands, similar to those that have featured in my work previously. These will surround elaborately stitched framed icons and ‘memento mori’ to create shrines  honouring the individual women histories and connecting the women in an installation of shared sisterhood and experience.

As Psychas describes: “Textiles have the capacity to ‘mean’ in different ways, literally they are the “‘thread of humanity. In the ancient Quecha language the word ‘language’ is thread and ‘embroidering’ is used to describe complex conversation”.

Like Arachne, when all is hopeless these women metamorphosise to become stronger and keep on going, creating their fragile webs to reach their goals.

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