20,000 Used labels
Used labels gathered from rag garments 2003-2013, assembled on canvas using only dressmaker pins, many participants.
Framed works in this collection have evolved from visiting farms and using rag labels as a medium to explore the relationship between humans and cattle. The domestication of cattle and changes in their behaviour have been designed to meet our practical and aesthetic needs; qualities that we demand from garments.
Rochester, a champion pedigree Longhorn Bull has been reproduced in used labels because of his decorative reputation and ability to win prizes in the show-ring. The black and white Holstein was developed specifically as a dairy breed, designed to produce huge volumes of milk, she forms part of the collection because of her practical contribution to consumable products. The Ayrshire is both practical and pretty, with her smart red-and-white coat and world-quality milk. It took five years to gather sufficient red labels to produce this smaller canvas. ‘Fashionable cuts’ has been used to describe the Beef Cuts canvas, which provides a direct reference to pattern cutting and colour selection. The addition of a horse’s head provokes discussion around the horsemeat scandal of 2013.
More obviously elegant, historically swans have been hunted for their skins and flight feathers, which have been used to adorn fashion worldwide. There have been many tales of swan transformation from bird to human form and back again which according to Freud are related simply to daydreams. Our dress is almost always contextual and assembled in the image of a swan the 5000 used labels reflect our aesthetic desires rather than practical necessity.
With special thanks to Save the Children and Sue Ryder for permission to gather used labels from clothes identified as rags.