Photo: Study for Macclesfield Stripe by Ben Cook.
Kristen Bailey picks up the thread with the Boys Who Sew - an exhibition of textile work by male artists, on until April 4 at the Crafts Council, London.
Some of the material in this show is unsuitable for children.
Boys Who Sew aims to be 'a challenge to preconceptions and a play on the presentation of masculinity in textiles'.
Craig Fisher's masculinity presents itself through his soft sculptures, which include dynamite and bombs made from furnishing fabrics, and mysterious machines and gadgets of the type you might expect to find on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.
Hew Locke's collaged and crocheted voodoo dolls exude an air of menace. Pound-shop guns nestle among their violently bright fake fur and plastic necklaces and you get the feeling that at any moment things could turn nasty…
Photo: Hidden Menace (detail) by Hew Locke.
Ben Cook rescues faulty batches of cloth rejected by textile mills, a method he describes as "looking for something which satisfies my sensibilities as an abstract painter."
His 'paintings' utilise found textures in existing fabric, or digitised textures printed onto cotton to be hung as a piece of art.
Saturo Aoyama produces intricately machine-embroidered portraits, recording every spot, freckle and broken vein on the subject’s face. They are honest, yet not harsh, affectionate tributes to the sitters’ humanity.
Photo: Bill by Satoru Aoyama.
Asian-Australian Gregory Leong uses traditional Asian and Australian garments such as the cheongsam and Driza-Bone® to explore his immigrant heritage and particularly his mother’s experience of feeling trapped between two cultures.
His Waitress Uniform at the Dim Kam Chinese Aussie Meatpie Palace is covered in rosettes labelling the wearer as 'Black Inside, Yellow Outside'.
Another Aussie artist, Brett Alexander, examines issues of gender, sexuality and identity with a sinister display of school uniform pinafores and blazers which have homophobic insults machine-embroidered on their backs.
The most affecting work in the show has not been produced by professional artists.
Portuguese/Brazilian artist Fernando Marques Penteado led male inmates of HM Wandsworth in hand embroidery classes, encouraging them to express how it feels to be male and imprisoned, contrasting with 'the overestimated power attributed to men'.
Photo: Clear and Present Danger by Craig Fisher.
The men’s work is full of images of barred windows, imagined countryside and longed-for privacy. One piece shows a man squatting nervously on a toilet while pairs of cartoon eyes glare at him out of the darkness.
For years, women have enjoyed the catharsis of gathering together to knit, sew or quilt together whilst putting the world to rights – and these men benefited accordingly.
"I really did get a great feeling of release from doing it," said John Carpenter, who took part in the project.
Marques Penteado agrees: "Around the textile gatherings there were always talks and laughs, with sparkles of tenderness."
For further details, see the Crafts Council’s Boys Who Sew microsite: click here to pay it a visit.