Danielle Du Plooy

Artist Catalogue

Virtual Exhibition

Family Threads

Family Threads examines the connection between the values and interests of the women in my family and me. Through watching them devote their time to their passion for clothing and textiles, subconsciously I fell into the same line of interest. Growing up, I was surrounded by clothes. Whether it was watching my great-grandmother knit jumpers, my grandmother using her sewing machine, or my mother taking me to work with her in clothing factories and later in life to Fashion Weeks. Although distance keeps us physically apart, I adorn myself in the clothing that was made by these three women from the ‘60s to the ‘90s which makes me feel closer to them. Through my need for connection to my family I taught myself to work with textiles, turning it into a form of creative expression that better suits me. This allowed me to pick up aspects of their work and put them together into an exhibition that is an homage to these women while still showing my individuality within the group.

My choice of materials for my looms came from my great-grandmother using acrylic yarn to knit all her jumpers. It was through her that the skills were passed down. The embroidery that I have included speaks to my mother. As a young adult, she took up candlewicking as a hobby. My choice of fabric and thread is based on the traditional materials used for candlewicking. Historically, old flour bags and the wicks from candles were used to do embroidery, therefore I used unbleached calico and natural coloured embroidery thread to put a contemporary reading on the traditional craft. Originally, clothing and textiles were considered “inconvenience textiles” as everything was done by hand, therefore I hand sewed my gown and all its attachments. The iconography present on the gown is comprised of decorative organic shapes and flowers. Flowers are traditional within embroidery as well as storytelling. I used flowers to represent us through our birth months (Aster, Morning Glory, Lily of the Valley and Chrysanthemum) and our family’s immigration (Daffodil, Rose, Bougainvillea and King Protea). All the stories and photos used for my work are second or third-hand information and therefore lack crucial details. To include the idea of memories missing vital aspects in my work, I stripped the images down into their basic forms and colours and fragmented some images to evoke the idea of details in memories being lost to the viewer.

Negative space is very important to my project. With regards to my gown, it will not be worn or be fitted onto a body. The absence of a body represents the absence of family. I have created purposeful negative space in my looms by fragmenting my images, but the spaces left behind allow you to peer through my looms into the ones that come before them, adding another layer of distortion.

My artistic process has been a process of self-discovery through finding out more about the lives of my family members and their journey from Wales to England, to Zambia, and finally to South Africa. Who I am today is because of being surrounded by strong feminine figures. Although my work does not physically include myself, it represents me. It is the combination of these women’s involvements in my life that has resulted in the woman I am today.

“culture is organized by and about identities, both individual and collective” (Fields 2014, 152)