On Tuesday my daughter and I went along to our local library to take part in a fantastic art project using domestic dusters as canvases to express women’s feelings about cleaning, housework and their engagement with domesticity. The project has been developed by Vanessa Marr who is both a gifted artist and a lecturer at the University of Sussex. She blogs about the project here; you can see some amazing examples of the 100+ dusters that have now been created for the project as well as a picture of my daughter with the duster she made this week!
As Vanessa explained, the idea is to take an example of a mundane, everyday piece of cleaning equipment and subvert it by using it as a canvas for self-expression. Some women really enjoy housework and gain a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from it while others hate and resent it; still others feel ambivalent about it. One duster displays a gaming console controller entitled ‘Call of Duty’ while another confides that when its creator is feeling domestic, she puts on her pinny! Some of the dusters are really beautifully embroidered but the point of the project is that it is for all women and not all of these are skilled in handicrafts. One women stuck her comment on her duster with wool and glue!
Vanessa supplies the dusters, a needle and red embroidery thread to get you started. She also has a trove of copies of advertisements from 1950s women’s magazines to inspire you or for you to incorporate into your art. My daughter was inspired by the catalogues of household gadgets and tools and created a catalogue entry for ‘The Domestic Woman’ who ‘never tires’. My own duster says that I would rather be reading than cleaning and reflects on how I hadn’t expected my life to be so embedded in domesticity.
We really enjoyed our sewing session and chatting to Vanessa about her work. Vanessa will be running further sessions and providing the materials at Sutton Central Library in the weeks to come (details can be found on her blog) but there are other ways to get involved including sending for a pack and returning your finished master(or mistress!)piece to her. There are also further displays of the full collection planned for this summer.
Thank you, Vanessa, for sharing your project with us!