Supporting Character

BY Sarah Archer | February 7, 2010

Sara Archer

A fascination wtih doilies

Kristen Wicklund is an emerging ceramic artist who recently left a career in graphic design to focus on ceramics. Her instincts for working in three dimensions seem spot on: in developing a new technique for casting crocheted doilies in porcelain, she has given an abiding theme in recent feminist art (the anonymous female artists and craftsperson) a new twist. She crochets cotton fiber and dips it in porcelain casting slip. After they’re fired, no trace of the fiber remains, but the porcelain shell that remains looks like a doily that has sprung to life as a lace-like bowl.
“I am very interested in time-intensive craftwork created by women for use in the home,” she writes. “Doilies are fascinating to me because they were typically made not to be objects of art themselves, but to draw attention to whatever was placed on top of them. In the 1950s-60s, doily patterns were clearly marketed towards middle-upper class women supporting their husbands’ careers by entertaining –and impressing—in the home. To me, the doily is a metaphor for the women who made them; dressing up in order to showcase someone else. In creating this work, I encourage people to see crochet in a new way.”
By drawing attention to the ambiguous function of both doilies and ceramics objects, Wicklund invites us to read new meaning into everyday objects of all kinds, and appreciate the support system that certain objects provide to others. The metaphor of the wife dressed up to support the husband reminds us of the larger role that so-called decorative arts play relative to the fine arts, both in popular and scholarly perception. One need only research the surprising history of Botticelli’s “Primavera” (it started out life as the decorated headboard of a lettucio, or daybed, for the Medici) to see that the way we perceive fine art as a conduit for important ideas and the “merely decorative” objects that support the operations of daily life, should always be questioned.