01 MAP OF LOSS & LOVE (to my brother) – white cotton shirt with sewn on synthetic flowers
I started working on this shirt in October 2016 and finished it in July 2018. Whenever I found the time I sat down and added more flowers. It took me much longer than I thought it would and it tested my patience. Part of the reason was that I wanted to do something quick and originally wanted to sew the flowers on by machine. I then decided to do it by hand. Now I like the idea that it ‘grew’ steady and slow and couldn’t be rushed.
Read more about the work process below.
Loss & Love:
I live near a cemetery and regularly walk along the road beside it. Over ten years ago I’ve noticed the synthetic flowers that get blown over by the wind from the graves over time and end up beside the road or in the bushes. A lot of them are falling apart, fading and dirty. Sometimes it can be just a part of a blossom sometimes it could be a whole bunch of flowers. It touched me to see them ending up like this. These flowers were once placed on somebody’s grave, an expression of love and respect. It also made me thinking about artificial flowers imitating nature. People choose them because they are meant to last. Still they end up beside the road as rubbish. At some point they will get cleared away and are gone.
I started collecting the flowers for many years without doing anything with them. Then six years ago I lost my brother and it brought me back to the collected cemetery flowers. I was looking for a simple and ‘quiet’ idea to give the flowers a new life cycle.
First of all the flowers were washed and ironed. I never reflected much on artificial flowers apart from seeing them as kitsch, good or bad. Now handling them I was quite intrigued by their details: the different shapes and shades of colours. One blossom usually contains several layers to create dimension. I reversed the process by taking them apart and ironing them flat. In a charity shop I bought a plain white cotton shirt for men. It’s a bit like a sheet of white paper you can draw on. But a classic white shirt also stands for certain ideas. Some of the associations that come to my mind are: simplicity, redemption, order, formality, rationality and control.
I started to arrange and pin the petals onto one area of the shirt, then hand sewed them on with a prick stitch, I then moved on to the next area so the flowers started spreading over the shirt.
The hand sewing is quite a different work process compared to the machine sewing. First of all it’s a quiet and a much slower process. I find myself more focused on the actual moment and also more aware of what’s going on in my head. Hand stitches are personal, they can show your mood. It takes a while to get into a certain rhythm. If you are stressed or not focused enough it will show.
Looking on the inside of the shirt you can see a fine net of thread lines. The whole thing reminds me of a map.We are using a map for context and orientation: Where are we and where do we want to go?