I grew up on the Burren in Clare, a place much prized for its picture postcard beauty. It taught me that beauty could also be boring and was a product of work: a product of the way I lived, my neighbours lived, and the inhabitants of the Burren had lived for thousands of years. Discussions and conflicting opinions about the practicalities of living and working on the land - and the need to conserve it - have been a constant in my life and are the reason for my interest in agriculture and the politics of production.

I also grew up believing there were certain skills that everyone knew; how to sprout a seed, chop an onion, and sew on a button. Skills like these were part of how I learnt both to look after myself and other people and came to realise that when done with others, is a way to build relationships. The production of food and clothing interests me because what is produced fulfils our basic needs. When we think about farming the focus tends to be on the produce. With my work I try to look at the personal effort that farmers put in, the knowledge, dedication, faith, and the larger forces that they need to contend with.

Embroidery is my main medium, especially counted thread techniques such as blackwork and cross stitch. These techniques are less about an intuitive creativity and more about careful planning, precise execution, and patient persistent focus. This process allows the accumulation of stitches to represent the kind of repetitive and necessary work of farming. Cross stitch also walks a line between tradition and technology, with embroidery produced this way appearing pixelated as in a low quality digital image. Introducing stories to the works, through text panels, plays with how information can be passed through practice, oral tradition, texts, and digitally.

Grain 1, 2018

© 2014 by Sadhbh Gaston

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