Artists Interview – Dorothy Tucker

This week Dorothy Tucker’s  short yet insightful  interview  discusses  the  inspiration and processes that inform her textile practice.

Dorothy Tucker

Are the ideas/themes for this project ongoing or are they new?   
The blue sky days we have had over the last few weeks have been beautiful.  I love to paint mainly in watercolour and weather permitting out -of-doors.  I had imagined that this spring and summer I would be out and about painting in lovely locations along the North Norfolk Coast.  But the coronavirus is restricting the possibility of any of us being in the big out doors to the confines of our gardens – if we are lucky enough to have one – and to walks immediately around where we live. During the lock down I have been busy gardening, unpacking boxes of books and filling the bookshelves in our new home. 

In my own work my attention and focus has turned inwards.  I am patching and piecing together scraps from the best parts of an old pair of Levis jeans with suiting fabrics from a sample book, overlaying some areas with fine coloured cottons, working blocks of hand stitching over the patches, and sanding some surfaces away. This is evolving into a series of nine irregular blocks which reference a nine patch quilt. But I do not intend to join the blocks together.  They will remain separated from each other – not touching. 

Stitching by hand is essential to my working practice.  I like the rhythm and feel of a needle and thread going in and out of the cloth, and value the meditative zone it takes me into. The way I am stitching is informed by kantha. In the first week of the lockdown I took up stitching a kantha which I had begun on a recent trip to India. This helped me to slow down and to settle into my workroom again.

The work numbered and pinned onto my workroom walls is on-going, work in progress. It is a development of ideas and working processes which I used to create Orange and Indigo , a flat piece and a folded bundle, recently completed and photographed to be included in my chapter for  INSIGHTS .

As a visual artist was it a challenge to write about your practice?
INSIGHTS  has required me to reflect very deeply on how I work and what my work is about.  Initially I found it  difficult to find connections  between things seemingly  going in several quite different directions with outcomes which did not appear to relate to each other in linear way, Once I had sorted and drilled down far enough it was challenging to articulate what I had I discovered in words.  As a result of working through the project brief I feel rooted and can confidently say : Essentially my work is about light and colour.  The multi-media way processes I use reference textiles such as kantha, Japanese Boro, the Gees Bend Quilters from Alabama, USA.

In my water colour painting I explore light and colour within limited palettes, through mixing incremental amounts of pigments using perhaps just two colours. In these fabric pieces I am working with Orange and Indigo.  Orange is a powerfully radiant colour which I associate with the sun, warmth, abundance and life. As a counterpoint Indigo provides a darkness, and the blue shades of Levis or worn working clothes.

In the nine block series the radiant power and size of the orange square is gradually diminishing, losing its strength until the amount of orange will only suggest a reflection, and then even that will disappear. 

This idea is so deeply disturbing and depressing I hesitate to share it. But if the blocks were presented differently, say with the last block as the first  in a horizontal series row or in the series but in reverse order,  then the work could be read an orange square of colour coming back to life in whatever the new normal is to be.   

Dorothy in her workspace

0 thoughts on “Artists Interview – Dorothy Tucker

  • May 25, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    What a fabulous review of your work Dorothy… My friend Terri and I were fortunate enough to visit your DISrupt exhibition up here in the North West. When you Exhibited up here. We, that is Textile21, have an exhibition at Chester Cathedral in September … IF it goes ahead after this Covid De Vile thing… and I’m stuck. Other members have lovely, even superbly expressive ideas but I’m struggling. The Cathedral theme is journey and our title is Odyssey. I keep thinking of the path or pathway. Sometimes broken, sometimes bright and my friend has given me a beautiful piece of poetry about the journey to Ithaca. It begins
    “Hope your journey is a long one…. “

    The horrid thing is, I’ve been brewing a heart attack for months without getting a solution to my symptoms …3 days ago, it hit … I’m just 3 days out of hospital in recovery, feeling like I’m getting my mojo back a bit.

    I love the no-touching 9 patch piece. I’ve been Looking at broken pavements and trying to research fabrics that might pass for broken slabs. I’ve been making paper cloth, and feeling I’d like to work with plaster and open weave bandage scrim. Maybe I can somehow come up with my pathway composition- wise …. it just feels a bit poor after seeing such talented ideas that slot together in a meaningful way.. My work has to have some kind of relevance. Thanks for inspiring me with your work. I’m addicted to orange and blue … Best wishes with it’s completion .. Norma Hopkins.

    • June 2, 2020 at 2:16 pm

      It was very rewarding to read your response to my work, Norma. Thank you for your positive comments and good wishes .Take heart , this particular piece of work has been on the go for well over a year now and it isn’t completely resolved yet ! I do an intense stretch of making and stitching on it , and then I get stuck. Because it pinned up my workroom walls. I can look and think about it what’s actually being communicated in fabric and thread . Given a break i can then usually see where i am going and what it needs to be done next. But it is slow going !

      Its great that after treatment in hospital you have your mojo back – all the best for a creative summer and the exhibition in Chester Cathedral in September. Dorothy

  • May 27, 2020 at 5:43 am

    OMG. I woke yesterday morning with your work still in my mind Dorothy… After struggling with where I’m going with my work, you have so inspired me to calm down and question how I work with my media of watercolour, collage, drawing and mixed media. I replied to your post yesterday but reading it has stayed with me. I graduated in Embroidery in the 80’s from Manchester. Since then, I’ve had lots of trouble identifying my artwork with textile practice. I often turn to collage, overdrawing and over painting … I knew it relates to collage, . but I’ve really balked at the obvious link with appliqué and translating what I do in my artwork, into textiles. I’m preferring to use the term, applied fabrics. The word appliqué tends to send me screaming down the street because of the stiff applied shapes surrounded with zig zag stitch. However, From this lovely review of your work Dorothy… A door seems to have unlocked… Hope my journey is a long one … Best wishes

  • August 30, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    It was wonderful to read about your continuing creativity amidst a move and more. I reflect on the first time that I met you at the Embroiderers Guild at Hampton Court as you were guiding a few students through an historical journey of another kind, studying embroidery items (in the 80s). You inspired all of us. From my studio in Washington State, I realize we are each engaged in a persistent creativity that follows or leads us.

    • August 31, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, creativity is indeed something that drives us.

  • September 22, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Hello Dorthy, Suraiya Kidia, who was also in our one-year Adv. class on embroidery and textile design at Goldsmith’s College directed me to purchase the new book out and I ran across your name. We attended Goldsmith College for a year in the 70’s. I lived with Constance Parker for another year after the course and then I was practically forced to move to NYC and run a boutique there. This Covid year has given me the chance to change directions in my photography career and try and get back to the arts which I started out in. My house literally looks like a museum which was a lot from the influence I had from Constance Parker and her older husband who had wonderful discussions with me daily, as I lived with them for a full year and didn’t want to return home to California. It is wonderful to see that you have kept your career in Textile Design. I would truly enjoy hearing from you. I live in Washington State near Walla Walla….literally wine country. They tried to make me a winemaker after taking tons of classes in order to get a certificate for Wine marketing. Instead, I photographed wine conventions, classes, and all kinds of wine events. Hope you remember the American in your one-year embroidery class. Thanks, Jeri Goodwin-Akari


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