A few months ago I had the privilege of being interviewed by a woman named Sue Ann Gleason, culinary nutritionist, nourishment guide and marketing strategist at Conscious Bites Nutrition. She was drawn to the textile artwork I'm creating with crowdsourced vintage linens and sought out a conversation, which had nothing to do with food, but everything to do with nourishment.
She has a special project of her own: Luscious Legacy, a writing course that focuses on shaping collections of family recipes and stories. She will use our synergistic interview with her writing group --both of us on the road to discovering how aligned we are in terms of object, memory and reverence for the maker -- a west-coast/east-coast, multi-time-zone conversation that could have lasted much longer.
There is audio from the interview, over an hour long, but we worked together to edit the transcript into a much shorter blog form. An excerpt from that interview is below, but you can find the entire post on the Luscious Legacy site, including the audio link. I hope you'll poke around on her gorgeous website and look into her various inspiring projects while you're there.
Sue Ann: I am deeply curious about what we keep and what we pass on, be it tangible or more spiritual in nature. When I happened upon your Inheritance Project, I was captivated. First, because I saw in it such an honoring. Here you are collecting these pieces of handwork as a vehicle to explore voice and history and narrative. Where did it begin? When did these mystery boxes start coming?
Amy: Family members in Sweden have always sent me linens and handwork, but I’ve rarely used any of these things for my home. They’ve been stored in my trunk for years until I started using the cloth in my artwork. Then I received an email last summer from a woman I’d never met in upstate New York who really wanted to send me a collection of vintage linens. I have to admit the alarm bells went off, but I wrote back with my address and said, “No anthrax, no fire bombs.”
When the box came, my daughter and I opened it on the deck, and inside were all these vintage pointy bras and seamed stockings, linens and doilies. She and I had the best time going through it. Her brother had a friend over that afternoon and she was feeling a little left out, and it was also a time when our relationship felt strained. She was starting first grade and had a lot of fear that manifested in snotty remarks towards me and lashing out at her brother; just this really unsettled presence about her. But that afternoon felt really pure. We tried on bras and held up stockings, and then we caught the boys spying on us through the sliding glass door and we laughed and screamed. It’s just this lovely visceral memory I hope she’ll always have.
I don’t know the woman was who sent this to us or who had owned the items before, but we made up a lot of stories and we guessed and wondered. I felt strongly that the experience was informing the next phase of my work. It felt important.
After I blogged about it in a post called “Box of Mystery,” other people contacted me and things started arriving and I realized right away I had to keep track of everything. These were objects that deserved and needed documenting, spreadsheets, proper thank you cards and shaping.
I also realized I’d need to put parameters around the project if I didn’t want people emptying out their cupboards and sending all their unwanted things to me, so there’s a formal list of items I’m looking for. I’m also asking for information: who the maker is, what the origin is and what the circa is because I feel like this also needs honoring. For the most part, all three of those things aren’t readily known, and that in itself feels so powerful to me. I keep envisioning this list of makers of which 95% will be labeled "Unknown."
This process of collecting, documenting and corresponding with people is vital to what I now call “The Inheritance Project.” I’m inheriting things originally inherited by others. And there’s an understanding that very few of these items are going to remain intact once I begin working with them. People are okay with this. If they’ve spent time looking at my artwork at all, they understand I’ll make something else out of the linens they send. Up until this point my work has been really personal, like memoir, using moments, experiences or fears and transforming them into a piece of artwork that then people bring their experiences to and have responses based upon their own history.
Now, I’m feeling a shift and want to explore the fictional aspect of these items. I’m curious about the mythology generated by this vast pool of artifacts that have little or no history. I feel a connection to these unknown makers, and the narrative gurgling up is something I’d like to explore through the next series of work I make from these items. I’m still shaping it and unsure what the end result will be, but I’m envisioning an exhibition with a written component and a combination of two-and three-dimensional work.