In conversation with Claire Watson about her series With Kids Gloves. In the words of the artist, this series of gloves altered, hand sewn, and stuffed with sawdust to become discrete objects, the ladies' kid leather gloves some well worn and some pristine, evoke tensions surrounding concealment and enhancement of the feminine form, and escape through role playing and costume. Remaking them calls to mind traditions of women’s handwork, particularly in the long hours of sewing, but as they incorporate doll parts or doll making techniques they are also reminiscent of doll-things or toys in animated states of dress and undress.

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ART & CULTURE | by AIDHA BADR | 09 JULY 2020

CLAIRE WATSON: WITH KIDS GLOVES

Observation, 2005. Glove, leather, thread, wire, sawdust; wall mounted; 8 x 4 x 3 inches

LOS GATOS: Feminine art and feminist art are two different entities, or perhaps two sides of the same coin, which statement would you agree with? and which side do you feel like your series falls under?

CLAIRE WATSON: My work may be inherently feminine because I am female, but it’s not political.

Real and Pretend, 2006. Leather gloves, porcelain doll parts, wire, sawdust; wall mounted; each approx.. 7 x 5 x 3 inches

GATOS: Your gloves can be seen as a critique/opposition of beauty and beauty standards, in the sense that they are beautiful in a way that is discomforting yet alluring and sublime, is this intentional? What can be said about your series in relation to beauty? and what does beauty mean to you?

WATSON: I’m interested in paradox and juxtaposition, and intended this to be a series of objects that expressed self-contradiction.  Beauty is subjective, but I find it often in attention to craft, or where every detail of the whole seems essential, where nothing seems extraneous or superfluous.

Circumferee, 2007. Altered leather glove, porcelain doll’s feet, wire, sawdust; 7 x 4 x 4 inches

GATOS: Each one of your gloves is very different from the other, does each glove speak of something different?

WATSON: In working with the gloves as found objects, I was responding to the unique material qualities of each particular pair of gloves, and impressions of the personalities or attributes of their former owners.

Suddenly Somebody, 2007. Altered leather glove, wire, sawdust; 8 x 5 x 5 inches

Metaform, 2006. Altered leather glove, wire, sawdust; 11 x 5 x 8 inches

GATOS: Although the gloves are inanimate, they carry a wide array of emotions, which in turn forces the viewer to create an emotional bond or connection with each glove. Is this something you think of, or something you try to convey to viewers?

WATSON: I think each piece is completed when the viewer arrives at an understanding of it through their own associations and reflections.

Neither and Both, 2005-2007. Gloves, leather, wire, sawdust, aniline dye; wall mounted; each approx.11 x 5 x 3 inches

Fingerling, 2007. Glove leather, thread, wire, sawdust, porcelain doll’s head, metal rod, painted wood base; 5 x 2 x 5 inches

GATOS: Throughout history, in addition to performing domestic duties, mothers would sew dolls and teach their daughters to sew dolls and this tradition would be carried on for generations, which constituted a girl's informal apprenticeship for being a wife and a mother, would you say this series is a take on this tradition and on motherhood?

WATSON: The series didn’t arise out of an inherited doll-making tradition. But after a long hiatus in my studio practice while my two sons were very young, I discovered by working with the gloves that hand sewing didn’t require a studio, and that it was something I could easily pick up with my young family around me. It was quiet and meditative, and it was a connection to earlier generations of women in my family whose handwork I’ve inherited.

Observation, 2005. Glove, leather, thread, wire, sawdust; wall mounted; 8 x 4 x 3 inches

GATOS: What are some words that have been used to describe your gloves?

WATSON: The glove works have been variously described as funny, humorous and disturbing, unsettling; erotic or sexual or sensual; feminine, also masculine. Given my previous answers, they are probably all of the above.

All images courtesy the artist.

FOR MORE ON CLAIRE WATSON FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAMAND CHECK OUT HER WEBSITE

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