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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Identity Through Textiles Workshop

I created these 4 builds during the 'Identity Through Textiles' UAL workshop by Sukhwinder Sagoo-Reddy.

The first build I made was in response to the question 'what does identity mean to you as an artist?'. I used hessian, felt and embroidery threads to create this build, which was supposed to represent the idea of intersecting or overlapping circles. Inspired by "Venn diagrams", each circle represents different communities which can constitute an individual's identity; such as 'British', 'Black', 'LGBTQ+', etc. The stitching represents these diverse communities linking together and "reaching out", rather than existing in isolation.

The next build I made didn't turn out so well, it was a response to the provocation "Illustrate how you express identity in your creative practice". I based this design, created in felt, on one of the oil pastel studies for my 'Intersectional Identities' research. I am focussing on the use of colour to express identity - using hot pink, purple, black and neon yellow to represent my research participant, Lora Krasteva. However, the flat colours of the felt fabric meant the build came out looking somewhat naive. I tried to add some embroidery afterwards (see the left earring) to develop the piece, but realised that it was incredibly difficult to force my embroidery needles through the layers of felt so I abandoned that idea.

The next build I created, was a response to the question "what's one thing you hope people take away about you from viewing your work?". I really loved thinking about this question, because I subscribe to "audience response theory", how people respond to and interpret my work is very important to me. The design I created was somewhat kitsch, but I think accurate; a light blue heart (my trademark colour) and rainbow strings radiating from the centre of the heart outwards. I was trying to think of how to represent the values of kindness and inclusion, which are really important to me, and I hope manifested in my creative work. Someone else in the group asked if the lines were "heart strings being pulled?" - which I hadn't thought about but I think is also true - because I have high levels of empathy for others, my heart strings are constantly tugged.

The final build I created was responding to the the question 'How has your view of identity changed?'. Since I grew up in Leicester, which is a very multi-cultural city, I had been exposed to the different ethnic communities from a young age, however, I also noticed that these communities tended not to mix and very much kept to themselves. This was demonstrated by the violent unrest in 2022 between the Hindu and Muslim communities, which surprised the rest of the country. My primary and secondary schools was very white, even though there were a few students from other ethnic backgrounds and therefore, I feel like my understanding of identity was a bit narrow and that ethnic communities were distinct from each other. I also had never really considered the way in which religion, sexuality, gender, disability and neurodiversity intersected with ethnic identity. I decided to represent this with 3 "boxes" in white, brown and black felt. In contrast, my understanding of identity and particularly intersectionality is much more complex. I represented this by using fragments of felt in a multitude of colours, stitched together with multi-coloured embroidery threads - to me the second half of this build is far more vibrant, joyful and celebratory.

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