Friday, 7 October 2016

Woman’s Work - Nocturne by Phoebe Cummings

Phoebe Cummings has written a beautiful text to accompany her piece Nocturne, which is currently on show at AirSpace as part of Woman’s Work. The text looks at the hours of the night as a time for women to work free from their daytime responsibilities as mothers. 




While her seven children slept, my great Grandmother would sew.  During the war she would sew bags for gas masks. No doubt she was exhausted and did it for the money, but I wonder also if she felt the satisfaction of making things with her hands?  Though tired, if she enjoyed at all those peaceful productive hours where her role in the house changed? Her kitchen table became a factory, and she was the boss.

Like many women, since having children much of my work as an artist follows my work as a mother and is condensed into the hours they sleep.  Planning, thinking, writing, testing, producing some components happens at the kitchen table.  I think about what drives me to stay up and work, often unpaid. Some days I almost crave it.  Those hours are a space to think and to learn in a different way than I do as a mother.  Making gives me a different voice in the world, and through it I go to places and have conversations that I would otherwise not encounter.  And then there is clay; a material I continue to be fascinated by, through its history and properties as a raw material. I think through it.

Nocturne is brief bouquet of flora that blooms at night.  It is an impossible arrangement, combined of plants from different continents, suited to different environments.  Most of the piece, modelled by hand, was made at the kitchen table, the rest in the gallery and will exist only for the duration of the exhibition. It is an ode to the unseen work mothers do while their children sleep, throughout history and today.



Woman’s Work is a partnership project between AirSpace Gallery and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. Woman’s Work seeks to make visible the hidden and unsung labour carried out by women in the home, the workplace and public life, and in particular seeks to redress the imbalance in history and the arts, where work made by women has been undervalued, or simply not recognised.

The exhibition is open at AirSpace Gallery 11am - 5pm, Thursday - Saturday, 30th September to 5th November 2016. The evolving Woman’s Work programme at Potteries Museum and Art Gallery runs through to November 2017.

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