Louise Saxton – Doily Deconstruction

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Louise Saxton is an embroidery artist from Melbourne, Australia.

‘Maria’s Saturn 2011 – after Maria Sybilla Merian c1700’ Reclaimed needlework, lace pins, nylon tulle 55 x 71 cm

Louise Bourgeois’ said about her art practice; “I do, I undo and I redo”. This resonates with me, but in the case of my reclaimed textile works it’s more like, “I pin, I unpin and I repin”. Sewing pins are intrinsic to my work with reclaimed textiles and, over the past seven years thousands of them have been subsumed into my artworks. The more I use them, the more intrigued I am by their meanings and history – a very practical and useful object they also have the ability to draw blood!

“I began dissecting cast-off domestic textiles, such as embroidered doilies and lace tablecloths and skewering the extracted motifs to swathes of tulle in 2006, after returning from an artist residency in Malaysia. I have long been intrigued by the cross-cultural nature of domestic art traditions such as needlework, which I also found to be an abundant, yet diminishing, resource when I returned home – my neighbourhood is host to no less than seven charity shops, where I source the bulk of my material.

“Textiles that is, not pins, as these have to be purchased brand spanking new from the haberdashery wholesaler.

Louise Saxton - Doiley Case (2014)

“When I first began deconstructing the humble doily in early 2007, it was as if the redundant functional object was crying out to be transformed into something new – something of an entirely different, and sometimes even sinister nature.

“And, it was as if the original anonymous needle-workers were also asking for recognition, anew.

“The exotic garden of my Malaysian residency must have also seeped into my subconscious, as the doilies very quickly became a collection of fantasy insects. The redundant table linen had grown legs, walked off the dinner table and climbed up on to the gallery wall!

‘reCollection – specimens 1-67’, 2008 Reclaimed needlework, silk, lace pins, nylon tulle

“Since 2007 countless embroidered and lace motifs, painstakingly extracted using embroidery scissors, have been skewered upon a sheer support of nylon bridal tulle, by glimmering stainless steel or brass pins. These are used for their archival qualities, but I’m also partial to the gorgeous glass-headed sewing pins, which can’t be guaranteed not to rust, but will add the perfect glint to a bird or insect’s eye.

“My fingers are callused from thousands of pinpricks and my shoulders often ache from the repetitive process of cutting, pinning, unpinning and repining. But, the joy of seeing the final transformation – of the many disparate fragments into the whole – is worth the blood, sweat and tears.

‘Queen Billie 2010 – after Sarah Stone 1790’ Reclaimed needlework, lace pins, nylon tulle 127 x 95cm

There’s a lot that I like about Louise’s work. From a technical standpoint, each piece is filled with design detail that draws you in and can keep you exploring her pieces for quite some time. The recycling and repurposing of materials is elaborate, helping you to rethink the concepts of decoupage and collage. It’s easy to see the starting point of the idea, but Louise raises these techniques to high levels indeed.

Louise Saxton - Halcyon & Ceyx (2010)

The pieces are beautiful and yet many of them have the slivers of darkness that this kind of work needs. Older materials come from an less cynical era (perhaps) and Louise melds them into new works that celebrate death and fear almost as much as their original creations may have celebrate happiness. It works for me.

Louise Saxton - Right Place Wrong Time (2011)

Visit Louise’s website to find out more about her and enjoy more of her work.

Photos by Gavin Hansford, Andrew Wuttke and Louise Saxton. Copyright Louise Saxton