Homage to Kept Cloth

My Mother’s Jacket ll by Denise Zygadlo
32.7″x44.9″; collage/transfer print/gouache on paper; 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Arusha Gallery


Homage to Kept Cloth

at Arusha Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland
online only

Denise Zygadlo says about this work:
It is my past–Clothes as our second skin are the closest to us, as a loved one, that anything can be. From the moment we are first wrapped or swaddled to our last windings on our final journey. Just as a smell can evoke so clearly a memory of a place or person, so can an item of clothing or a piece of cloth bring back to life a past experience.

I became aware of the importance of the tactile qualities of cloth when I came across my first book as a child–looking at the illustrations I was so familiar with the images, but not just visually.

I remembered the smoothness to the touch of Old King Cole’s hose and the soft, satin plumpness of the quilt on a kitten’s bed. As a small child I had the sensual experience of touch through looking and imagining. This way of remembering I found mystifying, then I realised I am continuously drawn to feel the quality of a piece of clothing on a shop rail, a roll of cloth in a fabric shop or any other cloth just in passing–it is the sense of touch that is important to me and that feeds my imagination.

The skills of our grandparents–dressmaking, pattern cutting, lacemaking, mending have become a thing of the past. Knitting and crochet, once familiar to most women and girls, have almost become a novelty craft.

The exotic names for different forms of cloth–Georgette, Chiffon, Crépe de Chine etc. have little meaning for people no longer handling and working with them on a regular basis and which are so often replaced with a synthetic alternative.

I can hear my grandmother, who was a milliner, enthusing over Moygashel, my mother claiming her suit was made from Barathea. My first ballet tunic was Pique, evening dresses would be made from Taffeta, Organza, Devoré–delicious evocative words.

Honeymoon Dress II by Denise Zygadlo
33″x28.3″; collage/gouache on paper; 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Arusha Gallery

Our throw away culture has given permission for fashion to change at increasing speed with the emphasis on current new trends. Those of us who grew up in the post war years, when our clothes were lengthened, altered and passed on, learnt how to use a pattern in domestic science classes–how to pin darts, set in a zip and ease a gathered shoulder. Making clothes gives us an understanding of cloth–the way it hangs and moves, the weave and the nap, the best fabric for a particular use.

Clothes lasted for as long as they would fit, or went into holes and then there was always darning! Mending is now becoming a respected art–hooray!

Over the past few years I have collected quotes from friends regarding their personal associations with cloth and the variety of meaning and nostalgia it can provide.

This has inspired me to look at my own kept cloth–there is plenty–and re-experience my own connections, bringing them into the present through a series of art works.

(Text adapted from the artist’s press materials.)


Arusha Gallery
13A Dundas Street
Edinburgh EH3 6QG, Scotland
+44 7814 189018

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