What are we debating?

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Thoughts by Cas Holmes from www.casholmestextiles.co.uk

Stitch as Art..why are we still debating this issue?

In the 1980’s whilst studying for my Fine Arts degree I presented a research essay titled The Sex of the Artist Matters’ and where this was tied in women’s connection to stitch the domestic and issues of re-use there were endless discourses on the subject. Exhibitions such as the ‘Subversive Stitch’ (titled after that wonderful book by Roszika Parker and Griselda Pollock) and ‘Womens Work in Fibre and Textiles’ presented at the Battersea Arts Centre in 1983 countered the arguments which 

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margininlised embroidery and stitch as ‘just a craft’. I was fortunate to be taken up by and guided by Janis Jefferies and found may way through this debate and participated in some of the more significant exhibitions of the time (Subversive Stitch and Women’s Work amongst them) .Thirty years later it has been confirmed (it is the BBC after all) by a judge on a BBC2 programme Show Me the Monet that an embroidered landscape scene is ruled out as art, because, in her words, embroidery cannot compare to the artistry achievable with a paintbrush.

I chose to use textiles and stitch as a fine artist precisely because of the narrative it carries with the domestic, the connection to people and to place and the value I place on the mark I can achieve with stitch to convey meaning and content to my work. Surely, what is important is the artist’s motivation behind their work. On debating on the title for my first book, ‘The Found Object in Textile Art’ I had discussed several titles. Robert Pulley, at the time Principal of West Dean College gave me the best argument for the title. ‘The Found Object’ is a known artistic term, it relates to your practice’ and will do well in searches’ . He clearly saw my work as an art form and 

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adding to the discussions on this page, in the context of textiles, I use the specific narratives of found cloth and stitch as it suits the way I choose to express my ideas as an artist. If its good enough for Rauschenburg, Emin and countless other artists, it is good enough for me.

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