Couture is inspired by the artist’s mother hand-stitched school exercises done between 1934 and 1938. The exercises focussed on plain sewing, basic stitches for joining, mending and finishing household linens. These were skills, a young working-class rural French woman learned at the time.
The artist reconfigures the stitches onto Washi paper (Japan, mulberry) and Khadi (South India, cotton rag). She chooses paper over woven fabric to expend the field of stitching into the domain of drawing, to explore the idea of drawing through stitch and blur our understanding of ‘traditional feminine’ skills. Without the woven grid provided by warp and weft threads, regular stitching through paper is a challenge that the artist manages by piercing a grid to guide her stitching. Dupré focuses on darning – a stitch used to strengthen a fabric’s worn and broken threads. For the artist, darning onto fine Washi paper is a profound yet silent performative act of memory, repairing the broken intergenerational bond between mother and daughter.
Mending installation, 2019, includes two curtain tie-backs and kitchen towels from worn linen sheet and cotton mattress ticking, all made by her mother. For Dupré, they are powerful sensory connections and cultural referents that recall her French childhood and her family’s working-class life. The Provencal printed fabric, used to make the tie-backs, is a printed cotton with a single floral pattern, originally imported from India in 17th century then printed in France. Dupré often draws motifs from tissu provençal. This has prompted her to research the history of the printed fabric. It is explored in her hanging pieces Courtepointe (do visit page for more).
Dupré’s references includes Encyclopédie des Ouvrages de Dames (Encyclopedia of Needlework), 1886 by Thérèse de Dillmont and The Constance Howard Book of Stitches, 1979.
Photos © Carl Fox, photography
Couture de raccord, 2018, installation.
Joining stitch: Reconfigured antique seam/Surjet antique (couture de raccord).
Washi (Japanese paper), Kozo (mulberry); linen napkins; polyester and linen threads; white glass-headed steel pins; dressmaking steel pins; dowel pine rods, double ended galvanised metal suspension wire, self-adhesive white plastic ceiling hooks; galvanised metal S hooks.
Washi paper piece: 0m98 H x 0m48 W Stitched napkins: 1m42 H x 0m53 W Overall dimensions H: from floor to ceiling: 3m20 1m80 W x 0m52 D
Point de chausson, 2018, installation.
Embroidery and joining stitch: Herringbone stitch (front and back)/Point de chausson (endroit et envers).
Washi (Japanese paper), Kozo (mulberry); silk and linen threads; dressmaking steel pins, aluminium rod, metal rings; aluminium rod, double ended galvanised metal suspension wire, self adhesive white plastic ceiling hooks; galvanised metal S hooks.
0m65 H x 1m W x 0m18 D
Tissu provençal, 2018, installation detail.
Joining stitch: French seam (double seam)/Couture anglaise (couture double).
Washi paper and silk thread.
Red darning, 2019, wall installation.
Darning stitch: Linen darning running in the warp threads. Reprise de toile, fil de chaîne.
Washi (Japanese paper), Kozo (mulberry); DMC Mouliné Spécial, stranded cotton embroidery thread; linen thread; dowel pine rod; white metal rings.
0m97 H (variable) X 0m46 W X 0m08 D 1m70 H from floor
White darning, 2019, wall installation.
Darning stitch: Linen darning running in the warp and weft threads/Reprise de toile, fil de chaîne et trame.
Washi (Japanese paper), Kozo (mulberry); DMC Mouliné Spécial, stranded cotton embroidery thread; linen thread; dowel pine rod; white metal rings; ink printed motif transferred from early-20th century rubber cylinder.
0m97 H (variable) x 0m48 W x 0m08 D 1m70 H from floor
Mending/Reprise, 2019, wall installation.
Darning stitch: Linen darning running in the warp threads/Reprise de toile, fil de chaîne.
Washi (Japanese paper), Kozo (mulberry); Kitchen towels, linen and cotton mattress ticking; curtain tie-backs, Provencal printed cotton (Buti motif); DMC Mouliné Spécial, stranded cotton embroidery thread; linen thread; dressmaking steel pins, white glass-headed steel pins; dowel pine rod; white metal rings.
0m90 H x 0m92 W x 0m05 D 2m10 H from floor