Inspiration in Unusual Places
Inspiration can be found in the most unusual places, and sometimes, you find yourself not only inspired, but opened up to a whole new way of being creative which nurtures your writing in an exciting and unexpected way.
Such was the case for me in August 2018. I was on the lookout for exhibitions to visit where I could gather further information on how and why women experience gender related isolation to inspire more poetry for my forthcoming collection The Isolation Hospital. While scrolling through online listings I came across artist, designer and lecturer Vanessa Marr’s phenomenological project: Women and Domesticity: What’s Your Perspective?
I’ve been meaning to write about this trip for a while and in light of my upcoming article for Hamblin Vision (due to be published in March): Who do you think you are? Habitual thought, Feminism and Freedom, it seemed like the perfect time to put pen to paper (or rather, hands to keyboard…) and let you know all about it.
Throughout the article I’ll be popping KEY TIPS down that highlight what helped me capture and process information to give me as much fodder as possible to return to when I got home. I hope these might give you some handy hints for your own trips or remind you of some you’ve used before and might like to try again.
More about the project…
Vanessa’s project began in 2014 and has been exhibited in numerous museums where she ‘invites people to commit onto a duster their own views and experiences on the relationship between women and domesticity’ using ‘red thread to represent femininity.’
For further information on this or to learn how you can take part, click on the link below:
My Initial Impressions…
I began by looking around the room, taking photos of various dusters and writing instinctive impressions in my journal. I was drawn in particular to the following phrases: ‘Didn’t it occur to you to bring the washing in?’, ‘Invisible hands make light work of silent tasks…is this domestic bliss?’ and ‘Why do you still persist in making an object out of me?’ I was struck by the sense of frustration associated between women and domesticity, apparent in these statements. Word use such as ‘invisible’ and ‘silent’ in the first phrase mentioned, alluded to the idea that domestic tasks serve to silence women. Domesticity, then, when thought of in relation to women, can be seen as an oppressive force and one of the reasons for women experiencing gender related isolation.
KEY TIP 1: Take photographs and write in a journal to capture initial impressions of an exhibition.
Talking and Creating…
Each time Vanessa or the woman next to me shared their experiences of domesticity I found myself jotting down words or phrases to use as inspiration for writing my poetry. Coupled with the phrases I had noted from other dusters, I had, although admittedly select, a pool of lived experiences and impressions to create from. This helped me make connections between my own experiences and the experiences of other women, enabling me to write from multiple truths which would develop the accessibility of my work.
KEY TIP 2: Discuss the topic at hand to inspire you to create.
KEY TIP 3: Collect words and phrases from people around you interacting with the same material to provide you with authentic, lived experiences.
A Woman’s Role…
What a woman and her role in society should be and what a woman and her real role is, is a phenomenon I have been trying to understand my whole life. It was staggering to realise this on a conscious level after attending the exhibition. Social expectation and media representation of women being responsible for managing domestic life was something that the three of us talked about a lot which brought to mind the following statement by Rozsika Parker in her book The Subversive Stitch: ‘the sexual division that assigns women to sewing is inscribed by our social institutions’. After my discussion, I realised that you could replace ‘sewing’ with ‘domestic tasks’ and the statement would still ring true.
It’s the expectation that bothers me and brings me back to the phrase: ‘Didn’t it occur to you to bring the washing in?’ My counter argument would be: ‘Didn’t it occur to you to bring the washing in?’ The ‘you’ here seems to me to be the voice of misogyny. I found myself roused into challenging this voice which created a surge in creativity.
KEY TIP 4: Inspiration strikes when you care deeply about something. Take in exhibitions, read widely and this will spark your creativity.
Sewing and Creating…
The misrepresentation of a woman’s role in society is something that still needs to be addressed and changed and this exhibition brought that fact to light very clearly.
I resonated with Parker’s statement that ‘embroidery display(s) the power of the political on personal life’ and wholeheartedly agree that it has the ability to ‘challenge the subordination and oppression of women’. Engaging with this exhibition encouraged me to weave a new thread through my poetry as it became more important than ever to me to expose the gap between whom women are ‘supposed’ to be and whom women really are. By analysing my own and other women’s experiences of domesticity through a cross collaboration between embroidery, text and discussion, I felt far more equipped to navigate the two sides, experiencing first hand and for the first time, the transformative power of sewing to help you write.
KEY TIP 5: Work with other creative media to evolve your creative processes and practice.
And now for a poem inspired by the exhibition…
I stand in the dim gap between
doorway and frame, hand curled
around the wrought iron latch –
watch my wicker chair
sitting in sunken dents
where pressured feet meet floor.
My empty dress is cast over its cane arm
sour cream cushion fixed
to its seat, bearing deep depressions
either side of its lipless seams.
I look up, eyes caught
by the snibbed window
and ploughed fields beyond paned glass –
scattered with abandoned hay bales
wrapped in heavy duty plastic left
I push the door with a flat palm –
step inside, sneck
it behind me, pluck my dress
slip it over my head lifeless cotton
nooses my neck. I urge my arms
through unfilled sleeves
let the dress sink
to my knees.
Until next month, then!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and reading my poem ‘Latched'.
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