‘Arachnes Metaphor’ by Vinny Stapley

“Quecha the word for “language” is “thread” and “embroidering” – used to describe complex Conversation.” Psychas

As part of my research for the Bridging the Gap project, I discovered a very interesting essay: 

‘Women Weaving the World: Text and Textile in the Kalevala and Beyond’ by Hanna Eilittä Psychas  published by Harvard in 2018.

The essay explores the age-old connection between textiles and language, a subject I initially explored when doing my dissertation as part of my textiles degree.

Psychas is interested in the expressive power of weaving but also in the power of  textiles to be “a uniquely unifying thread of humanity” and has said that “as tactile forms of communication or kinds of writing, textiles offer themselves as objects to be understood”. 

She also examines the feminine aspects of mythology, namely: Arachne, who was turned to a spider and doomed to weave for eternity because her skill in weaving infuriated Athena.  Psychas describes this as “the elevation of women’s work to celebratory status”. She also refers to Penelope who, to control her destiny, weaves during the day and then un-weaves again at night to keep suitors at bay until her husband returned to restore order, therefore “maintaining her freedom and sexual agency”, by both weaving and buying time. 

I have in the past created weblike textiles for a previous project and like the lace-like transparency these techniques create, so I thought that I would try to ‘weave’ something of Arachne’s webs into the streamers made of fragments of items made by women and text of the stories of strong yet forgotten women.

When I did my degree I was particularly interested in the writings of artist and activist Cecilia Vicuna. Earlier this year I visited her recent installation ‘Brain Forest  Quipu’ in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern. She explains that in the Andes people did not write, they created the quipu (woven or textiles knot), as a poem in space and a way to remember. 

Below are two close up images of ‘Brain Forest Quipu’ by Cecilia Vicuna

This was an atmospheric and deeply moving installation, created by Vicuna and women from Latin  American communities, whose homelands were affected by environmental damage and their struggle to protect their ancestral communities and traditions. 

Psychas also mentions Vicuna in her Essay: the word ‘metaphor’ is explored and the “metaphoric inter-twining of quotes – showing that weaving, more than writing, is inextricably linked to our means of communication”. Vicuna explains that the ‘Phor’ in Metaphor, when traced back means to “bear children” and is therefore linked to the feminine saying;  “women weave life, weave together family and society”

The women’s stories I am commemorating in my final Bridging the Gap project are not the stories of famous or exceptional women, but the very women that Vicuna mentions who weave life and family together. 

I hope to connect their physical stories by creating webs of language and hand-made textile fragments, creating a connection between the physical and metaphysical; binding their stories together in a strong and memorable visual metaphor and joining them in a sisterhood of remembrance. The stitched webs of women’s handiwork will connect the stories of these ordinary yet exceptional women who struggled and strove to survive and nurture their families, sometimes against all odds and in the face of a system imposed on them. 

The stitched remnants of women’s work (sewing) and their stories printed on to organdie will be knotted, creating ‘Quipus’ to remember them by.

Sample for ‘Arachnes Metaphor’ by Vinny Stapley 

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