This first exhibit was the result of lots of research by J at the Foundling Hospital in London, originally set up partly by Hogarth I believe.
In the 18th century when mothers were unable to care for their babes they could leave them at the Hospital where they would be sent to the country to a wet nurse for their first few years, then they would be returned [if they survived, i believe some wet nurses were not as caring as others] and the children would be apprenticed. Boys to a trade, girls to service.
At least that way the mothers could hope the babes had a better future than they could give them.The first gowns were made to record the terrible execution by burning of a mother accused and imprisoned of clipping coins. Her child survived in the hospital and went on to learn a trade
Not all the mothers were poor, the second set was made to record the birth of illegitimate twins to a more well born, unmarried woman. To protect herself she gave birth secretly and in silence at home, so her family did not know, and paid the hospital to take the babes.
One twin survived childhood and went on to become independent. The mother later was married off thus maintaining her status.
The textile connection comes from the practice of leaving a token with the child. Then if the mother became able to reclaim her child she would be able to identify the token. Illiteracy being high the tokens were usually a piece of fabric, patchwork or ribbon, or even half a garment. All these were meticulously recorded [still extant] and it is these that J is studying.
J says she can cope with the misery of the memories she is excavating because she is giving these poor women, trapped by their vulnerability, a voice
Other pieces were focusing on the aesthetic
of decay. This one was based on slate.
I have several old slate tiles under a chair somewhere wondering how to use them.
They are so subtly shaded and tactile.
These are based in rusty machinery.
The last piece I chose is based on a poem by Emily Dickinson, as you do.