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It is staggering to think that the clothes we wear and the objects that surround us were likely all created in a factory somewhere in the developing world.
This idea is something that preoccupies artist Valerie Kirk, who will be exploring the difference between hand-making and the production line at a free event called Factory as part of Hotel Hotel’s Fix and Make series.
Valerie, Head of Textiles at the Australian National University, discusses this disconnect and how the process of making has a place in contemporary society through her work. Specifically, she is interested the “intimate connection with something hand-made.”
In 2013, when the Rana Plaza garment factory complex collapsed in Bangladesh, 1,135 people were killed and it made headlines around the globe. We are more aware than ever that the production of cheap products ultimately comes at a cost, whether to humans directly or to the broader environment but in our individual lives, we are usually disconnected from the process of making.
This event will be a practical and enjoyable way to engage with such a global problem. At Factory, Valerie will set up a production line with students from ANU to make a pencil case and visitors will be able to watch and learn every step of the process, from pattern making, cutting, sewing and labelling, to quality control, pressing and packaging. It will be a unique opportunity to witness the effects of our changing world first-hand.
In a ground breaking collaboration and to add another layer to the event, the installation will have a musical accompaniment with a performance by percussionists from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.
“What we choose to do and have in our lives collectively can make an enormous difference,” she says. “I think we’re seeing that happening through people being more particular about what they buy, for example there are more small fashion enterprises in Australia now than there were say 30 years ago.
“People are starting to use smaller, more boutique production, they’re considering the materials, the labour, where the product is made and what that means for people.”
While environmental concerns are often at the forefront of media coverage and academic discussion, Valerie believes there are more subtle benefits to creating things with our own two hands.
“The sustainability aspect goes two ways,” she says. “There’s the physical consumption of resources, but also this sense of sustainability for people; what makes us tick and makes us happy and satisfied.”
Valerie sees the resurgence of hand-making in textiles, such as crochet and cross-stitch, as an indication that even in the modern world there is an innate human instinct to create. Through Factory, she wants to inspire others to connect with traditional making.
“There’s that grassroots movement towards sewing and making things, and it’s for peoples’ own pleasure and satisfaction,” she says. “We live in a world where we’re completely bombarded by information and technology and people are looking for an escape from that, whether it’s mindfulness or yoga or making something. I think hand-making has a place because it provides an opportunity for people to have a quiet place, to really go into themselves and be part of their own world.”
What: Fix and Make Factory workshop
Where: Hotel Hotel
When: 2-3pm Saturday 21 May
How Much: Free
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