N A R R A T I O N S & F A B R I C A T I O N S

  • HAIR RECEIVER

    Some of the contents in the box of human hair found in the street (recounted in my last post), has been made into new work, mostly pummeled and pounded into felt of different forms and sizes. Although at the time of its finding, I was exploring a different union, that of ebony and hair.

    I had recently bought some antique ebony including a hair receiver, a yogurt sized pot with a finger sized hole in its lid. This was an accoutrement into which a Victorian lady would stuff the loose hairs from her brush until she had sufficient strands to make a 'ratt', a potato-sized hairnet-encased cushion over which to fashion the hair still attached to her scalp into the voluminous style of the day.

    A century later, hair receivers are often mis-sold as inkpots or pencil stands. I love the name. It makes me think of Bakelite telephones and messages from the spirit world – both things that were reflected in the first piece I made, which additionally combined an unruly length of russet hair.

    I hadn't envisaged that the incorporated hair would conjure up thoughts of ectoplasm; the supernatural viscous substance supposedly exuded from a medium during a spiritualistic trance while manifesting spirits, and widely considered a hoax made from cheesecloth, gauze or other natural substances.

    I bought more hair receivers and other ebony artifacts, along the way learning that the blackness of the wood was often enhanced, and the pieces, which ranged from candlesticks to crumb-brushes, were frequently screwed together.

    Unscrewing the components for restoration, I reconfigured them into new ensembles. I cooked up my own filler, drilled or sawed arrangements that didn't quite fit, and a restorer showed me a trick to regulate the different shades of black.

    Each piece incorporates varying quantities of russet hair as a memento mori to the eternal properties of the substance. The resulting work is an unlikely harmony of dissenting parts, seemingly purposeful, yet without apparent function.

    Working with ebony is slow and requires patience. The finest quality looks more like shiny plastic than fine-grained timber. It is a hard oily wood that clogs drill bits, causes steam to rise when it gets too hot and emits a slightly fishy smell. Not quite smoke and mirrors. But almost…

    Summer Open Studios

    Friday 9 June (5-9pm)

    Saturday 10 & Sunday 11 June (11am-6pm)

    Cockpit Arts, Cockpit Yard,

    Northington Street,

    London, WC1N 2NP

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NARRATIONS & FABRICATIONS

Artist Jane Hoodless presents a personal glimpse at some criminal, cultural and curious aspects of British social history, and shares a little of the inspiration and research behind the work she creates.

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