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“The Stitching of Her Wake”: The Collaboration of Pamela Campion and Ian Hamilton Finlay

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Part of the Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics book series (MPCC)

Abstract

Finlay’s collaborative approach to art-making is well-documented, but the works he made with the embroiderer Pamela Campion have yet to be the subject of extended consideration. Campion was Finlay’s sole collaborator in embroidery. Campion also produced a host of works for Finlay’s exhibitions not conventionally considered works of art. In this chapter Matsumoto examines a selection of Campion and Finlay’s collaborative works, to pose two key questions about the function of embroidery in these pieces. The first line of inquiry regards the idea of embroidery as a ‘domestic’ rather than ‘public’ art, historically imbued with associations of sentimentality, tradition, homeliness, and femininity. Drawing on Rozsika Parker’s pioneering study on the relationship between women and embroidery, The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine (1984), Matsumoto examines how the idea of embroidery as domestic activity activates the works. Secondly, drawing on Finlay’s and Campion’s correspondences held at the Pamela Campion archives at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, she considers the ambiguous border between craft and art, and the repressed burden of gendered labour.

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Fig. 4.1

(©Tate, London 2018. By courtesy of the Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay)

Fig. 4.2

(©Tate, London 2018. By courtesy of the Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay)

Fig. 4.3

(By courtesy of the National Galleries of Scotland at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art Archive and the Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay)

Notes

  1. 1.

    Susan Stewart, Poetry and the Fate of the Senses (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 162.

  2. 2.

    Rozsika Parker, The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine (London: The Women’s Press, 1984), 5.

  3. 3.

    For instance, practices by those who have little or no institutional art training are accepted within those institutions’ gates when they are recalibrated as ‘outsider art.’

  4. 4.

    Parker, The Subversive Stitch, 5.

  5. 5.

    Sheeler stated in an interview with author, 20 January 2012, that while Finlay was director of the magazine, she economically funded the first few issues of the magazine through holding down multiple jobs and doing much of the administrative aspects, including letter-writing, advertisement, and distribution.

  6. 6.

    Arguably his most prominent collaborator—and at the same time most overlooked until recently—was his (then) wife Sue Finlay, who was responsible for much of the gardening of Little Sparta, Finlay’s garden in Dunsyre, Scotland.

  7. 7.

    All letters are from Finlay to Campion (with the exception of one from Sue Finlay), and are drawn from the Pamela Campion Papers, 1972–2000, GMA A04/5 Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. All subsequent citations from letters are from this source.

  8. 8.

    Though the correspondence is one-sided, being only from Finlay (and occasionally from his then-wife Sue Finlay), there are still glimpses into Campion’s working methods as well as suggestions and responses to their collaborative projects which can be picked up in Finlay’s letters and in the notes Campion made on the margins of their correspondence.

  9. 9.

    Commenting on this work, Stephen Bann writes that the eponymous seamstress is “metaphorically represented as a boat picking her way across the water and leaving the stitching of her wake behind her” (15).

  10. 10.

    Sandra Deighton, “Technique and Condition,” August 2005, www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/finlay-terra-mare-collaboration-with-pamela-campion-t11739, accessed 26 May 2018. Deighton also notes that “On the reverse a backing board is overlaid with paper sealing tape.”

  11. 11.

    Parker, The Subversive Stitch, 106.

  12. 12.

    Parker, The Subversive Stitch, 106–107.

  13. 13.

    As he did with all exhibited flat-surfaced pieces he made with Campion, Finlay lay an emphasis on the colour and material of the mounts on which the works rested. The mounts formalise the pieces: it is what moves the piece from pastime to art (as when we mount a completed jigsaw puzzle into a frame).

  14. 14.

    Yves Abrioux, Ian Hamilton Finlay: A Visual Primer (London: Reaktion Books, 1985), 309.

  15. 15.

    Other ideas included: “Don’t Put All Your Heads In One Basket,” “Spare the Blade and Spoil the Factions,” “Don’t Cast Your Revolutions Before Swine,” “Happy States Are States With A Single Idea,” “Revolutions Dethrone Kings and Enthrone Columns and Watering-Cans,” and “Everything Under Heaven Has A Beginning.”

  16. 16.

    Donald King, Samplers (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1960), 2.

  17. 17.

    King, Samplers, 1.

  18. 18.

    Drew Milne, “‘Adorno’s Hut’: Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Neoclassical Rearmament Programme,” Jacket, 15 (December 2001), http://jacketmagazine.com/15/finlay-milne.html, accessed 26 May 2018. Finlay’s French Revolution works are discussed in detail in places like Yves Abrioux’s Ian Hamilton Finlay: A Visual Primer (London: Reaktion Books, 1985) and Jessie Sheeler’s Little Sparta: The Garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay (London: Frances Lincoln, 2003).

  19. 19.

    Parker, The Subversive Stitch, 6.

  20. 20.

    Parker, The Subversive Stitch, 6.

  21. 21.

    Finlay for the most part diligently gave due acknowledgement of others’ work in the formal pieces.

  22. 22.

    Faith Wilding, “Monstrous Domesticity,” in M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writing, Theory, and Criticism, ed. Susan Bee and Mira Schor, 87–104 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2000).

  23. 23.

    Illnesses on both sides often halted work for months and even years.

  24. 24.

    Stephen Bann, Ian Hamilton Finlay: An Illustrated Essay (London: Shenval Press, 1972), 17.

  25. 25.

    Johanna Drucker, “Visual Pleasure: A Feminist Perspective,” in M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writing, Theory, and Criticism, ed. Susan Bee and Mira Schor, 167 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2000).

  26. 26.

    Mary Mellor, Feminism and Ecology, 8 (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997).

Works Cited

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Matsumoto, L. (2019). “The Stitching of Her Wake”: The Collaboration of Pamela Campion and Ian Hamilton Finlay. In: Walton, J., Luker, E. (eds) Poetry and Work. Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-26125-2_4

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