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Ruth Singer. A textile artist who can be considered a leading figure of Fabric Manipulation. The technique with which an artist, through sewing and special folding techniques, reshapes the surface of textiles giving them new forms. However, Ruth Singer is above all a storyteller. Through her works, she brings to light her own personal experiences as well as those of her community. As you will find out reading the interview. Before I leave you to her words, I would just like to say that there is one work by Ruth that has struck me more than the others. It is called The Beauty Of Stains and it is a tablecloth that was used for nine months and was never washed, and the stains that formed were embroidered rather than washed away. This way, all the memories connected to that object were made unforgettable – an everyday object which listens to us in silence every day as we lay it on our tables. I find this project amazing because it manages to dignify a very common object and make it extremely original.
Ruth Singer and human narratives
DHG : what does it mean to be a textile artist for you today?
RUTH: I have been working in textiles for 12 years and it took me some time to find the right niche. I started out making products such as bags, scarves and cushions which I continue to do for books, magazines and other projects. For my own work I make one-off exhibition pieces, always creating new things, working on new ideas and trying new techniques. I also develop and run community and arts projects which follows on from my previous career. Working in museum education jobs and do a lot of teaching, mostly of adults in weekend workshops and retreats.
D: what are some recurring themes in your work?
R: I am fascinated by material culture, history and the power of objects in human narratives. I create research-driven series and projects in response to my research into stories, meanings and impacts. Very often my work draws upon my first career in museums.They reflects my fascination with our interpretations of the past. I often use intensely personal and emotive subjects or historical themes inspired by people, objects and places as well as how we respond to and interact with objects and materials in our daily lives, the traces and stories we leave behind. I tend to use old cloth, hand stitch and very traditional processes which is important to the way I work.
Ruth Singer focused on unusual project
D: exploring DNA is a very special artist’s residence. Could you tell us about it?
R: I am working with fellow artist Gillian McFarland to make new artworks inspired by the work of the scientists working in Genetics Department of Leicester University. We are working with academics who work across different fields of yeast, plant DNA and archaeology. It is very exciting but we have only just started. I don’t know exactly what we will be making. Later in the Spring we will be working with local schools and will present an exhibition in Autumn 2017.
D: would you like to tell us more about your evocative and peculiar project, Criminal Quilts?
R: the Criminal Quilts series was originally commissioned by the Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford UK. They were looking for work inspired by their building which is an 18th-century courtroom. On display they had photographs of criminals with their hands on their chests which I found completely fascinating and haunting. They were photographed like this in case of any missing fingers which would be identifying marks. It makes these women look vulnerable and makes the photos very emotive. I found the details of their clothing intriguing too. I’ve used colours, textures and patterns that reflect items they would have worn and textiles they might have known. The layering of this piece reflects the layers of history, and the unknown stories of the women. Many of the pieces are miniature quilts, hinting at the comfort and security of home, which these women would not have felt whilst on trial and in prison.
Quilting mon amour
D: quilting is an expressive medium that you use very often. If you had to tell your life story through a quilt, what would you sew and embroider to represent it?
R: I would have to include my local area of Leicestershire where I grew up, did my Masters degree and have lived for the last 12 years. I have lived in a number of other places too but I am drawn back to the vibrancy of the city and the beauty of the local landscape outside the city. I would also include something to represent museums and objects as this side of my life has been very important to the kind of work I make now. The natural world is very important to me, I love walking in nature and exploring landscapes of the UK. I particularly love trees and woodlands.
D: if you had the opportunity to spend a day at the park chatting away with a famous person from the past, who would you choose and why?
R: I think I would prefer to meet some not-famous people! I would love to talk to the makers of amazing textiles such as medieval embroiderers, carvers or goldsmiths. I would love to see their workshops, see people at work and understand their techniques, tools and techniques.
Did you enjoyed Ruth Singer textile stories? Let me know!
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