Stitching Things Up

I grew up surrounded by artists, art supplies, art in progress, art books, in galleries, and in museums. I grew up seeing busted furniture repaired, restored, and made beautiful. And I grew up with the whir of a sewing machine in the background.

My mother taught me sewing basics. Even if I didn’t have the patience or good sense to be a consistent student, it still forever enriched my life to take the very notion of sewing and mending as a given. Of course you fix your own things, and of course you create what you can’t afford or which does not even exist yet and which you invented.

Hausu sewing

Re-creating the Hausu cat face out of felted wool and cotton, 2011

It should come as no surprise that subsequent years of complete immersion and abandon, on the level of a religious devotee, into the philosophy, politics, and general ethos of punk subculture only served to nurture these DIY ideals. To this day, I enjoy the practice and look of simple whip-stitch, and I’ll even add it to pieces for solely decorative purposes with contrasting embroidery floss. But that all started with the necessity of patching old pants, then the decorating of my high-school jackets with band names or political slogans. In the late 1990’s, I didn’t have the money, let alone a bank card, let alone a computer connection to the internet, which didn’t even have websites on which to purchase punk rock accoutrements anyway. That stuff was gleaned from attending actual shows with merch tables, trading stuff from friends, maybe finding something in the back pages of MRR, or making it one’s self.

Hausu cloak in studio

Finished Hausu cloak, built onto a vintage cape, 2011

Necessity and boldness became innovation, such as sewing “bum flaps” to hang from the back of my belt-loops (see: crust punk culture and fashion in the very early 2000’s) out of dumpstered Filsons fabric, or creating a large decorated flap to hang over my backpack to protect it from the elements while hopping trains, or making a sleeve to hang from my belt and house my multi-tool. Many hours were spent outside of cafes or train yards punching holes in tough fabrics and leathers, perfecting consistent whip-stitches using dental floss as thread. It’s no coincidence that a subculture with a deeply ingrained critique of the current class system would develop practices that plainly reveal one’s own handiwork: visible white stitches on black and brown fabric, whip-stitches for all to see. There’s no need to hide the fact that you mend, patch, and create your own clothing. It’s a point of pride.

Boar skull bag

Boar skull bag, 2010

While of course I have moved on to other things, and learned to do a thing or two with a sewing machine, the influence of those years will always be with me, and it often shows in my ideals and my work.

i-made-a-backpack-out-some-wool-from-a-thrift-store-and-some-hardware-from-two-other-packs-it-also-features-the-great-weird-every-nun-needs-a-synthi-advertisement-image_29471915036_oMy backpack, made out of material found at a thrift store, with straps from an old Alice pack and a piece of a shirt featuring part of this (baffling) vintage synthesizer advertisement. 2016

Citing this page:
Solomon, Alana. “Stitching Things Up.” Ortolana Studio & Press. Ortolana Studio & Press, 7 May. 2017.

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