Gladys Paulus textile artist is creating ‘Hinterland’ – an installation of ancestral healing costumes
14

patrons

$52
per month
GLADYS PAULUS TEXTILE ARTIST IS CREATING HINTERLAND: AN INSTALLATION OF ANCESTRAL HEALING COSTUMES DEALING WITH IDENTITY, BELONGING, RACE & GENDER RELATIONS AND GRIEF.

PLEASE NOTE THIS PROJECT IS TEMPORARILY ON HOLD, AS I TAKE STOCK AND CONSIDER MY NEXT STEPS NOW THE EXHIBITION HAS TAKEN PLACE. IT WAS A GREAT SUCCESS, WITH GLOWING REVIEWS AND 1,700+ VISITORS OVER THE COURSE OF A MONTH. IN NO SMALL PART THIS IS THANKS TO THE SUPPORT OF MY LOVELY & GENEROUS PATRONS! 

I PLAN TO CARRY ON DEVELOPING & GROWING THIS BODY OF WORK AND TO PRODUCE AN ACCOMPANYING EXHIBITION CATALOGUE. I WILL UPDATE MY PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND REWARD OFFERINGS AT THE START OF 2018.

IN THE MEAN TIME,  MY REMAINING PATRONS' CONTINUED SUPPORT AND FAITH IN ME - EVEN DURING THIS PERIOD OF REST - IS MUCH APPRECIATED.


Hinterland in the Long Gallery, Black Swan Arts, Frome, Somerset, UK Sept-Oct 2017


Ancestral Healing Costume for Toempek (2017). Wool, copper, copper wire, plant & rust dyed fabrics.



Ancestral Healing Costume for opa (2017). Wool, silk, burnt silk, charcoal, ship's compass holder, burnt rice, eggshells, found objects, my grandfather's war medal.


Ancestral Healing Costume for opa (2017) - detail. Wool, silk, burnt silk, charcoal, ship's compass holder, burnt rice, eggshells, found objects, my grandfather's war medal.


Ritual (2015-17). Wool, hair, silk, cotton scrim, copper, brass, gold leaf



Ancestral Healing Costume for oma (2017) - detail. Wool, wedding veil, silk, gold leaf, grandmother's earrings


Ancestral Healing Costume for oma (2017) - detail. Wool, wedding veil, silk, gold leaf, grandmother's earrings


Participant in poetry workshop in response to Hinterland, led by Dawn Gorman


Ancestral Healing Costume for my father (2017). Wool, helmet, my father's shirts, my father's hair.





Opening preview night,  15 Sept. 2017




A selection of comments from the visitors book


Explaining the background to the work to gallery stewards

Exhibition poster

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Who am I?
I am a professional full-time UK-based artist, working in the medium of hand-made felt textiles. My best known work consist of a series of masks that have featured in theatre, film, fashion magazines, Television, music videos and album covers (well, just one of those actually).



Harrods Magazine fashion feature, Paruno Mexico advertising campaign & Lou Rhodes album cover for ‘theyesandeye’

Born into a Dutch-Indonesian family in 1973 and raised in the Netherlands, I come from an artistic family. Aged 5, I knew I too wanted to be an artist. After studying fine art (painting) in the early 90’s, and moving to the UK, it took 10 years of busy parenting and working a range of jobs to realise I had managed to lose touch with my own creative self. A journey of creative discovery ensued, until a chance encounter with a sheep farmer and some freshly shorn sheep in 2005. The rest, as they say, is history.



Since 2008, when I made the leap from home crafter to professional artist, I have built up a considerable reputation for my work. In order to pay the rent and put bread on the table, I hire out masks, work to commission for a range of international clients (including a very well known Hollywood film star once, but no, my lips are sealed) and I teach felt making workshops and master classes around the world. My work has also been featured and written about in a wide range of magazine articles and books.

View full portfolio

Why am I here?
In short; I am moving away from commercial art into personal content. I want to remain fully in charge of my output and keep my work sacred to me, and thereby hopefully, to others.

Through 2017 I will be working towards ‘Hinterland’. The idea for this solo exhibition, which will be free to visitors, was triggered by the recent death of my father and last remaining grandparent. It will be held in a confirmed venue in October 2017.


Small studies & sketches for my grandfather's costume


Study for my great grandmother Toempek's costume, 2016. Copper, coper wire, wool, nuno felt; plant & rust dyed, stitched. Approx. 75cm x 20cm.

Hinterland will consist of a series of handmade, life size ancestral costumes and masks, which explore a range of deeply personal yet universal concepts, including grief, identity, belonging and attitudes towards gender and race. These costumes are a gesture of remembrance, a way to honour my ancestors, to symbolically heal some deep ancestral trauma and ceremonially clear the way forward for future generations.


Series of small studies for my grandfather's costume, exploring shapes, techniques & finishes


Study for Toempek's costume (detail), 2016. Copper, coper wire, wool, nuno felt; plant & rust dyed, stitched. Approx. 75cm x 20cm.

Hinterland is about making visible unspoken secrets, to shine a little light of compassion on generations of silent suffering in the kindest way I can, and to put this suffering in its wider historical and cultural context to make more sense of it. It is my way of offering, and asking for, forgiveness for past hurts and misunderstandings and to express my gratitude for who I am; a result of all the passions, talents, tales of survival, and strength of character shown by my ancestors.


An example of some life-size fully wearable costumes I made. 'Sande' & 'Mende', 2014. Merino wool; wet felted, Black Welsh Mountain wool hand spun. Approx. 170cm x 50cm.

Grieving has made painfully clear to me the brevity of life, and has influenced the nature of the content I create. Life is simply too short not to follow my heart. I love what I do, am ambitious and fully committed. I am also enough of a realist to know that filling a gallery requires more than some meaningful ideas and is, at the end of the day, about turning up and putting in the hours.

My experience of working as an artist has taught me the value of trust, surrender, authenticity and vulnerability, and with that I come to you to ask for your support.



How will your financial support be used?
Since 2008, most of my earnings from sales, exhibitions and teaching have been strategically re-invested in materials and tutelage from artists and other professionals. I took on my first external studio space in 2014, after outgrowing my workspace at home.

Being an artist is a financially insecure existence. The demands of family life, raising a 10-year old and having a daughter at university, not only present time constraints, but also add financial pressure. Whereas commissions and teaching supplement my income, they are not only subject to cancellations and changes but they also take away the precious limited time I have to develop my work further. Every hour working on a commission or teaching a workshop is taking an hour away from my goal to create work with content that connects and reflects my true aspirations.


Getting my hands dirty...

Your financial support will help to:

  • Pay for my studio rent, materials and resources
  • Give me dedicated studio time and develop the content for my new work practice
  • Help me concentrate on what I do best
  • Support and help grow the network of people who support me in the fields of web design, technical advise and photography, as well as the sheep breeders and local crafts people I employ from time to time to help me produce things I cannot produce alone, such as stands for the costumes.
  • Pay for tutorials with creative experts in fields such as ceramics and metal work, as I am planning to incorporate other materials into the costumes
  • Organise some administrational back up. Who knows, fingers crossed, maybe I’ll even be able to employ a book keeper and someone with their finger on the social networking pulse...
  • Support my family


Sketch for custom made metal stands to display some of my work - an example of working with local craftspeople

Thank you, I very much appreciate your support. If you would like to know more in-depth information about this project, please read on below.


Example of bundle-dyed fabric for Toempek's costume
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOR MORE DETAILED INFORMATION ON HINTERLAND, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

HINTERLAND
Concept


The title refers to people and events in my ancestral lineage that have helped shape who I am.

Hinterland
1. the remote areas of a country (away from the coast or the banks of major rivers)
2. an area lying beyond what is visible or known

I am creating an installation of ancestral costumes for an imagined healing ceremony for the significant persons in my hinterland. Each costume will be unique, life size (or bigger), and will incorporate visual elements based on personal and family memories, oral histories, historical and geographical background facts, and significant events and severe traumas during their lifetimes.

Transgenerational trauma
Recent scientific research has bolstered the idea that the psychological effects of severe trauma experienced by one generation can be passed on to subsequent generations through ‘epigenetic change’. I have long suspected that some of the experiences of my ancestors had left an indelible mark on our family, so this scientific revelation didn’t come entirely as a surprise to me. It is a fascinating concept, and the more I learn about my family, the more I realise their experiences were and are pretty universal.

Two world wars have left an imprint on families the world over, and you only need to look at what is happening in current areas of conflict to understand that traumas experienced now, will have an impact that last much longer than one lifetime.

Healing & ritual
Associated with this body of work is the importance of ritual, and I will be working closely with a trained shaman. I have come to realise that this particular act of creation of mine is very similar to the way a shaman will approach healing (in order to heal a person, his or hers ancestors need healing first). To aid this healing, I will attempt to tell the story of each person through visual means. Objects personal to my ancestors will be incorporated in the work, acting as talisman of sorts.

There is some overlap between how I intuitively approach my grieving process, and some of the beliefs and 'magical' practices of Indonesia, the land of my father’s ancestors. Ultimately, the purpose of these costumes is to make visible the unspoken, act as a symbol of remembrance, honour my ancestors, symbolically heal ancestral trauma and ceremonially clear the way forward for future generations in my family.

My hope is that the work will have some emotional resonance with visitors, and to encourage them to explore the wider context of their own personal cultural and family history.

The costumes will be life size and will (in theory) be wearable. My experience of mask making will form a solid basis for this project, but I am excited to push my creative boundaries, stretch the possibilities of felt textiles, and to incorporate new materials.

Capturing the story of my family
The recent loss within 6 months of both my father and my last remaining grandparent were life changing events that touched me in my core and caused me to ask lots of uncomfortable questions, including how well I really know my family and how much (or little) I had attempted to understand them in their lifetimes. Grief is a complicated affair, and touches everyone in a different way. For me, it became important to understand my father and grandmother in a way I hadn’t been able to do in life. To what extent were their lives and characters shaped by their experiences and the times they lived in? Where did their talents, interests and quirks come from and how do they keep re-appearing in the family? What does that mean for our own sense of individuality?

I started to puzzle their life stories together and quickly came to the realisation that in order to begin to understand anyone at all, you need to look at the circumstances of their birth and youth; the family, geographical and historical context. Through creating a family tree, I got in touch with relatives not spoken to for years, and found some new relatives to boot. I was told many stories, some familiar, some unfamiliar, some sweet and funny, some very shocking indeed.

A picture started forming straight away; of the two branches of my family seperated by oceans and cultures, yet touched by similar issues:

  • Colonialism
  • Attitudes towards women
  • Racial prejudice
  • War trauma
  • (sexual) violence
  • Uprooting caused by (forced) migration
  • Questions of cultural & personal identity
  • Young motherhood

None of the people involved, as I am aware, was able to process their trauma, which simmered unspoken through at least 3 generations of my family, probably more. Although these traumas are related to specific events in my family, they are universal experiences that are as current today as they were then.

This project isn’t just about processing my own grief. Hinterland is about making visible unspoken secrets, to shine a little light of compassion on generations of silent suffering in the kindest way I can, and to put this suffering in its wider historical and cultural context to make more sense of it. It is my way of offering, and asking for, forgiveness for past hurts and misunderstandings and to express my gratitude for who I am; a result of all the passions, talents, tales of survival, and strength of character shown by my ancestors.

Out of respect for the dead and the still living, I feel a strong need to show sensitivity around how, and with whom, I share the details of the traumatic events experienced by my ancestors, so I won't go into detail here. But together with my patrons, and through my posts, I hope to work out a way in which I can tell some of these stories in a way that is healing and nurturing.

In preparation for this project I am in the process of

  • tracking and interviewing family members
  • recording memories and stories before they are lost
  • researching and preparing a family tree
  • researching into the historical and political backdrop to our family
  • tracing documents and records that track the lives of my ancestors
  • creating a Genogram. A Genogram is a pictorial representation of the facts of a family system for at least three generations. More than just a family tree, a genogram serves as a rich source of hypotheses regarding complex family emotional patterns.
  • Collecting as many clues as possible to visual aspects of each costume – ie. Colour, material etc.
  • Sketching, writing, reading, gathering materials, and making small studies.

My aim is to make a minimum of five ceremonial costumes. With your support I hope to be able to increase that number significantly. I fully intend for this to be a growing project, with more costumes being added over time (beyond this deadline) and more exhibition opportunities.

Why felt?
Despite the characteristic strength of felt there is an implied fragility to the sculpted form. It is soft and associated with warmth, protection and comfort. It is organic in nature and as much subject to the ravages of time as we are. In all these ways the medium fits my theme perfectly.

I may also incorporate other materials, such as wood, metal, glass and other forms of textile, but felt will be the binding factor, much like blood and accumulated experiences bind families.

To make felt is also to practice alchemy; the transformation of a material into something entirely different. Wool’s capacity for holding shape is due to its ability to ‘remember’. Felt making is a long, physical and in some ways very intimate process, during which wool fibres, water and soap are combined to transform into a fabric which can be shrunk into tactile forms. As the wool shrinks and dries, the shape is stored in the fibres.This idea of the wool ‘remembering’ adds another layer of meaning, as well as linking my work to a long and ancient lineage of felt making that started at the dawn of human civilization.


Endless possibilties with felt, some examples of my past work.

Textiles and textile art in particular tends to be a feminine domain, and with that I am following in the footsteps of many generations of women all over the world, who have cut, stitched, sewn and darned to keep their families clothed, safe and protected.

How is felt made?
Felt is a unique, non woven textile made from wool fibres. Traditionally, felt is made from sheep’s wool, but other animal (protein) fibres such as alpaca, camel, yak, mohair and angora can also be felted. There are many varieties of sheep’s wool (there are 60 different breeds of sheep in the UK alone) and each produces a different quality of felt. Different wool breeds are therefore more or less suited to specific projects.

Wool fibres are covered with scales, which give wool fabric its unique ability to resist dirt, wick water and insulate. When warm water is absorbed into the wool fibres this causes them to swell. Swelling causes the overlapping scales on the outside of the fibre to lift and act like little grappling hooks that help work the wool into a dense mesh. Water also causes the crimp, or curl, of the wool fibre to lengthen and contract. Both of these actions help the wool fibres mesh. Once they are meshed, they do not easily come apart. Unlike woven fabric, felt does not have a warp and a weft and is equally strong in all directions, meaning that it can be cut, still hold its shape and won’t fray at the edges.

Felting is the earliest known form of textile fabric. It is estimated to be at least 8000 years old and the making of felt is accepted to predate woven cloth, which places its discovery in the Neolithic period. It is believed that the idea of felting wool derived as people observed matted animal hair/wool, and then figured out how to make it themselves. Felt played an important part in the life of early man and was in many ways integral to human survival. In cold, Northern climates, felt provided warmth, while in hotter regions, thick felt insulated people from heat and wind.


The ancient art of feltmaking. Clockwise from left: Saddle blanket from 3rd Century BCE (Pazyryk tombes, Siberia), Mongolian woman beating wool, man in his kepenek or shepard's cloak (Turkey), felt ornament from Pazyryk tombes, village women rolling felt for a yurt cover (Mongolia).

The first physical evidence of felt was found in Anatolia, where archaeologists discovered what appeared to be a felt rug among other floor coverings of an early Bronze Age sanctuary, dated approximately 3000 BCE.

Felt making has been practiced by cultures all over the world. Some areas such as Mongolia, central Asia, Turkey and Scandinavia have feltmaking histories that have been uninterrupted for centuries.


Rewards
Pledge $1 or more per month
10 patrons
Thank you, you are a star!

Aside from my eternal gratitude, you will have access to some of my patron-only feed with periodic updates on my progress. You will be able to follow my journey in the lead up to the exhibition and beyond, and ask questions along the way.
Pledge $5 or more per month
5 patrons
  • Aside from my eternal gratitude, you will gain exclusive periodic updates on my progress through my patron-only feed. This will include insights into my working methods, sketches, photos, trials, failures and successes. You will be able to follow my journey in the lead up to the exhibition and beyond, and ask questions along the way.
  • Access to digital files of any promotional material accompanying the HINTERLAND exhibition.
Pledge $15 or more per month
5 patrons
  • All the rewards of $5 patron, plus:
  • Your name in credits on my website, social media and exhibition related promotional materials
Pledge $25 or more per month
0 of 20 patrons
  • All the rewards of a $15 patron, plus:
  • 1 x signed A2 photographic art print of your choice, featuring one or more of my masks, photographed by Bella West

Pledge $50 or more per month
0 of 15 patrons
  • All the rewards of a $25 patron, plus:
  • Invitations to gallery opening(s) & Private Views events


Pledge $100 or more per month
0 of 10 patrons
  • All of the rewards of a $50 patron, plus:
  • A set of exclusive printed (post)cards of the work created for Hinterland, based on professional photography taken during the exhibition. Please note this reward will be released some time after Nov. 2017.

GLADYS PAULUS TEXTILE ARTIST IS CREATING HINTERLAND: AN INSTALLATION OF ANCESTRAL HEALING COSTUMES DEALING WITH IDENTITY, BELONGING, RACE & GENDER RELATIONS AND GRIEF.

PLEASE NOTE THIS PROJECT IS TEMPORARILY ON HOLD, AS I TAKE STOCK AND CONSIDER MY NEXT STEPS NOW THE EXHIBITION HAS TAKEN PLACE. IT WAS A GREAT SUCCESS, WITH GLOWING REVIEWS AND 1,700+ VISITORS OVER THE COURSE OF A MONTH. IN NO SMALL PART THIS IS THANKS TO THE SUPPORT OF MY LOVELY & GENEROUS PATRONS! 

I PLAN TO CARRY ON DEVELOPING & GROWING THIS BODY OF WORK AND TO PRODUCE AN ACCOMPANYING EXHIBITION CATALOGUE. I WILL UPDATE MY PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND REWARD OFFERINGS AT THE START OF 2018.

IN THE MEAN TIME,  MY REMAINING PATRONS' CONTINUED SUPPORT AND FAITH IN ME - EVEN DURING THIS PERIOD OF REST - IS MUCH APPRECIATED.


Hinterland in the Long Gallery, Black Swan Arts, Frome, Somerset, UK Sept-Oct 2017


Ancestral Healing Costume for Toempek (2017). Wool, copper, copper wire, plant & rust dyed fabrics.



Ancestral Healing Costume for opa (2017). Wool, silk, burnt silk, charcoal, ship's compass holder, burnt rice, eggshells, found objects, my grandfather's war medal.


Ancestral Healing Costume for opa (2017) - detail. Wool, silk, burnt silk, charcoal, ship's compass holder, burnt rice, eggshells, found objects, my grandfather's war medal.


Ritual (2015-17). Wool, hair, silk, cotton scrim, copper, brass, gold leaf



Ancestral Healing Costume for oma (2017) - detail. Wool, wedding veil, silk, gold leaf, grandmother's earrings


Ancestral Healing Costume for oma (2017) - detail. Wool, wedding veil, silk, gold leaf, grandmother's earrings


Participant in poetry workshop in response to Hinterland, led by Dawn Gorman


Ancestral Healing Costume for my father (2017). Wool, helmet, my father's shirts, my father's hair.





Opening preview night,  15 Sept. 2017




A selection of comments from the visitors book


Explaining the background to the work to gallery stewards

Exhibition poster

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Who am I?
I am a professional full-time UK-based artist, working in the medium of hand-made felt textiles. My best known work consist of a series of masks that have featured in theatre, film, fashion magazines, Television, music videos and album covers (well, just one of those actually).



Harrods Magazine fashion feature, Paruno Mexico advertising campaign & Lou Rhodes album cover for ‘theyesandeye’

Born into a Dutch-Indonesian family in 1973 and raised in the Netherlands, I come from an artistic family. Aged 5, I knew I too wanted to be an artist. After studying fine art (painting) in the early 90’s, and moving to the UK, it took 10 years of busy parenting and working a range of jobs to realise I had managed to lose touch with my own creative self. A journey of creative discovery ensued, until a chance encounter with a sheep farmer and some freshly shorn sheep in 2005. The rest, as they say, is history.



Since 2008, when I made the leap from home crafter to professional artist, I have built up a considerable reputation for my work. In order to pay the rent and put bread on the table, I hire out masks, work to commission for a range of international clients (including a very well known Hollywood film star once, but no, my lips are sealed) and I teach felt making workshops and master classes around the world. My work has also been featured and written about in a wide range of magazine articles and books.

View full portfolio

Why am I here?
In short; I am moving away from commercial art into personal content. I want to remain fully in charge of my output and keep my work sacred to me, and thereby hopefully, to others.

Through 2017 I will be working towards ‘Hinterland’. The idea for this solo exhibition, which will be free to visitors, was triggered by the recent death of my father and last remaining grandparent. It will be held in a confirmed venue in October 2017.


Small studies & sketches for my grandfather's costume


Study for my great grandmother Toempek's costume, 2016. Copper, coper wire, wool, nuno felt; plant & rust dyed, stitched. Approx. 75cm x 20cm.

Hinterland will consist of a series of handmade, life size ancestral costumes and masks, which explore a range of deeply personal yet universal concepts, including grief, identity, belonging and attitudes towards gender and race. These costumes are a gesture of remembrance, a way to honour my ancestors, to symbolically heal some deep ancestral trauma and ceremonially clear the way forward for future generations.


Series of small studies for my grandfather's costume, exploring shapes, techniques & finishes


Study for Toempek's costume (detail), 2016. Copper, coper wire, wool, nuno felt; plant & rust dyed, stitched. Approx. 75cm x 20cm.

Hinterland is about making visible unspoken secrets, to shine a little light of compassion on generations of silent suffering in the kindest way I can, and to put this suffering in its wider historical and cultural context to make more sense of it. It is my way of offering, and asking for, forgiveness for past hurts and misunderstandings and to express my gratitude for who I am; a result of all the passions, talents, tales of survival, and strength of character shown by my ancestors.


An example of some life-size fully wearable costumes I made. 'Sande' & 'Mende', 2014. Merino wool; wet felted, Black Welsh Mountain wool hand spun. Approx. 170cm x 50cm.

Grieving has made painfully clear to me the brevity of life, and has influenced the nature of the content I create. Life is simply too short not to follow my heart. I love what I do, am ambitious and fully committed. I am also enough of a realist to know that filling a gallery requires more than some meaningful ideas and is, at the end of the day, about turning up and putting in the hours.

My experience of working as an artist has taught me the value of trust, surrender, authenticity and vulnerability, and with that I come to you to ask for your support.



How will your financial support be used?
Since 2008, most of my earnings from sales, exhibitions and teaching have been strategically re-invested in materials and tutelage from artists and other professionals. I took on my first external studio space in 2014, after outgrowing my workspace at home.

Being an artist is a financially insecure existence. The demands of family life, raising a 10-year old and having a daughter at university, not only present time constraints, but also add financial pressure. Whereas commissions and teaching supplement my income, they are not only subject to cancellations and changes but they also take away the precious limited time I have to develop my work further. Every hour working on a commission or teaching a workshop is taking an hour away from my goal to create work with content that connects and reflects my true aspirations.


Getting my hands dirty...

Your financial support will help to:

  • Pay for my studio rent, materials and resources
  • Give me dedicated studio time and develop the content for my new work practice
  • Help me concentrate on what I do best
  • Support and help grow the network of people who support me in the fields of web design, technical advise and photography, as well as the sheep breeders and local crafts people I employ from time to time to help me produce things I cannot produce alone, such as stands for the costumes.
  • Pay for tutorials with creative experts in fields such as ceramics and metal work, as I am planning to incorporate other materials into the costumes
  • Organise some administrational back up. Who knows, fingers crossed, maybe I’ll even be able to employ a book keeper and someone with their finger on the social networking pulse...
  • Support my family


Sketch for custom made metal stands to display some of my work - an example of working with local craftspeople

Thank you, I very much appreciate your support. If you would like to know more in-depth information about this project, please read on below.


Example of bundle-dyed fabric for Toempek's costume
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FOR MORE DETAILED INFORMATION ON HINTERLAND, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

HINTERLAND
Concept


The title refers to people and events in my ancestral lineage that have helped shape who I am.

Hinterland
1. the remote areas of a country (away from the coast or the banks of major rivers)
2. an area lying beyond what is visible or known

I am creating an installation of ancestral costumes for an imagined healing ceremony for the significant persons in my hinterland. Each costume will be unique, life size (or bigger), and will incorporate visual elements based on personal and family memories, oral histories, historical and geographical background facts, and significant events and severe traumas during their lifetimes.

Transgenerational trauma
Recent scientific research has bolstered the idea that the psychological effects of severe trauma experienced by one generation can be passed on to subsequent generations through ‘epigenetic change’. I have long suspected that some of the experiences of my ancestors had left an indelible mark on our family, so this scientific revelation didn’t come entirely as a surprise to me. It is a fascinating concept, and the more I learn about my family, the more I realise their experiences were and are pretty universal.

Two world wars have left an imprint on families the world over, and you only need to look at what is happening in current areas of conflict to understand that traumas experienced now, will have an impact that last much longer than one lifetime.

Healing & ritual
Associated with this body of work is the importance of ritual, and I will be working closely with a trained shaman. I have come to realise that this particular act of creation of mine is very similar to the way a shaman will approach healing (in order to heal a person, his or hers ancestors need healing first). To aid this healing, I will attempt to tell the story of each person through visual means. Objects personal to my ancestors will be incorporated in the work, acting as talisman of sorts.

There is some overlap between how I intuitively approach my grieving process, and some of the beliefs and 'magical' practices of Indonesia, the land of my father’s ancestors. Ultimately, the purpose of these costumes is to make visible the unspoken, act as a symbol of remembrance, honour my ancestors, symbolically heal ancestral trauma and ceremonially clear the way forward for future generations in my family.

My hope is that the work will have some emotional resonance with visitors, and to encourage them to explore the wider context of their own personal cultural and family history.

The costumes will be life size and will (in theory) be wearable. My experience of mask making will form a solid basis for this project, but I am excited to push my creative boundaries, stretch the possibilities of felt textiles, and to incorporate new materials.

Capturing the story of my family
The recent loss within 6 months of both my father and my last remaining grandparent were life changing events that touched me in my core and caused me to ask lots of uncomfortable questions, including how well I really know my family and how much (or little) I had attempted to understand them in their lifetimes. Grief is a complicated affair, and touches everyone in a different way. For me, it became important to understand my father and grandmother in a way I hadn’t been able to do in life. To what extent were their lives and characters shaped by their experiences and the times they lived in? Where did their talents, interests and quirks come from and how do they keep re-appearing in the family? What does that mean for our own sense of individuality?

I started to puzzle their life stories together and quickly came to the realisation that in order to begin to understand anyone at all, you need to look at the circumstances of their birth and youth; the family, geographical and historical context. Through creating a family tree, I got in touch with relatives not spoken to for years, and found some new relatives to boot. I was told many stories, some familiar, some unfamiliar, some sweet and funny, some very shocking indeed.

A picture started forming straight away; of the two branches of my family seperated by oceans and cultures, yet touched by similar issues:

  • Colonialism
  • Attitudes towards women
  • Racial prejudice
  • War trauma
  • (sexual) violence
  • Uprooting caused by (forced) migration
  • Questions of cultural & personal identity
  • Young motherhood

None of the people involved, as I am aware, was able to process their trauma, which simmered unspoken through at least 3 generations of my family, probably more. Although these traumas are related to specific events in my family, they are universal experiences that are as current today as they were then.

This project isn’t just about processing my own grief. Hinterland is about making visible unspoken secrets, to shine a little light of compassion on generations of silent suffering in the kindest way I can, and to put this suffering in its wider historical and cultural context to make more sense of it. It is my way of offering, and asking for, forgiveness for past hurts and misunderstandings and to express my gratitude for who I am; a result of all the passions, talents, tales of survival, and strength of character shown by my ancestors.

Out of respect for the dead and the still living, I feel a strong need to show sensitivity around how, and with whom, I share the details of the traumatic events experienced by my ancestors, so I won't go into detail here. But together with my patrons, and through my posts, I hope to work out a way in which I can tell some of these stories in a way that is healing and nurturing.

In preparation for this project I am in the process of

  • tracking and interviewing family members
  • recording memories and stories before they are lost
  • researching and preparing a family tree
  • researching into the historical and political backdrop to our family
  • tracing documents and records that track the lives of my ancestors
  • creating a Genogram. A Genogram is a pictorial representation of the facts of a family system for at least three generations. More than just a family tree, a genogram serves as a rich source of hypotheses regarding complex family emotional patterns.
  • Collecting as many clues as possible to visual aspects of each costume – ie. Colour, material etc.
  • Sketching, writing, reading, gathering materials, and making small studies.

My aim is to make a minimum of five ceremonial costumes. With your support I hope to be able to increase that number significantly. I fully intend for this to be a growing project, with more costumes being added over time (beyond this deadline) and more exhibition opportunities.

Why felt?
Despite the characteristic strength of felt there is an implied fragility to the sculpted form. It is soft and associated with warmth, protection and comfort. It is organic in nature and as much subject to the ravages of time as we are. In all these ways the medium fits my theme perfectly.

I may also incorporate other materials, such as wood, metal, glass and other forms of textile, but felt will be the binding factor, much like blood and accumulated experiences bind families.

To make felt is also to practice alchemy; the transformation of a material into something entirely different. Wool’s capacity for holding shape is due to its ability to ‘remember’. Felt making is a long, physical and in some ways very intimate process, during which wool fibres, water and soap are combined to transform into a fabric which can be shrunk into tactile forms. As the wool shrinks and dries, the shape is stored in the fibres.This idea of the wool ‘remembering’ adds another layer of meaning, as well as linking my work to a long and ancient lineage of felt making that started at the dawn of human civilization.


Endless possibilties with felt, some examples of my past work.

Textiles and textile art in particular tends to be a feminine domain, and with that I am following in the footsteps of many generations of women all over the world, who have cut, stitched, sewn and darned to keep their families clothed, safe and protected.

How is felt made?
Felt is a unique, non woven textile made from wool fibres. Traditionally, felt is made from sheep’s wool, but other animal (protein) fibres such as alpaca, camel, yak, mohair and angora can also be felted. There are many varieties of sheep’s wool (there are 60 different breeds of sheep in the UK alone) and each produces a different quality of felt. Different wool breeds are therefore more or less suited to specific projects.

Wool fibres are covered with scales, which give wool fabric its unique ability to resist dirt, wick water and insulate. When warm water is absorbed into the wool fibres this causes them to swell. Swelling causes the overlapping scales on the outside of the fibre to lift and act like little grappling hooks that help work the wool into a dense mesh. Water also causes the crimp, or curl, of the wool fibre to lengthen and contract. Both of these actions help the wool fibres mesh. Once they are meshed, they do not easily come apart. Unlike woven fabric, felt does not have a warp and a weft and is equally strong in all directions, meaning that it can be cut, still hold its shape and won’t fray at the edges.

Felting is the earliest known form of textile fabric. It is estimated to be at least 8000 years old and the making of felt is accepted to predate woven cloth, which places its discovery in the Neolithic period. It is believed that the idea of felting wool derived as people observed matted animal hair/wool, and then figured out how to make it themselves. Felt played an important part in the life of early man and was in many ways integral to human survival. In cold, Northern climates, felt provided warmth, while in hotter regions, thick felt insulated people from heat and wind.


The ancient art of feltmaking. Clockwise from left: Saddle blanket from 3rd Century BCE (Pazyryk tombes, Siberia), Mongolian woman beating wool, man in his kepenek or shepard's cloak (Turkey), felt ornament from Pazyryk tombes, village women rolling felt for a yurt cover (Mongolia).

The first physical evidence of felt was found in Anatolia, where archaeologists discovered what appeared to be a felt rug among other floor coverings of an early Bronze Age sanctuary, dated approximately 3000 BCE.

Felt making has been practiced by cultures all over the world. Some areas such as Mongolia, central Asia, Turkey and Scandinavia have feltmaking histories that have been uninterrupted for centuries.


Recent posts by Gladys Paulus textile artist

Rewards
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Aside from my eternal gratitude, you will have access to some of my patron-only feed with periodic updates on my progress. You will be able to follow my journey in the lead up to the exhibition and beyond, and ask questions along the way.
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