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Threaded Memories by Tricia Townes

Tricia Townes, Family Album Series

My “Family Album Series” is about trying to capture that fleeting sense of familial connections through the time-bound things that many families collect to spur those memories– snapshots, old linens, and sometimes buttons and other sewing notions.  Some people see this stuff as junk to cart away to the Goodwill, but to me they are golden.  Perhaps you feel the same way.


When I was growing up my grandmother, whom we called Nana, taught me how to quilt.  We made a small quilt for my dolls– I think I probably still have it somewhere even after many moves.  She gave me my first sewing box too.  It was a re-purposed handbag made of straw that caught my eye in the supermarket one day.  Learning from her is one of the most cherished memories of my childhood.  I also learned to do embroidery at the YMCA one summer in camp as a kid.

I include all these elements in my handkerchief pieces.  The very first handkerchiefs I used for these works came from my father.  After he passed my mother gave me his collection of handkerchiefs.  These had a rich patina of memory for me because I recall him going to church every Sunday with one of them in his lapel pocket to set off his suit.  He had about 20 or so of them.  I set them aside for about eight years, not sure of just what to do with them.  Then in grad school one of my teachers, Helen O’Leary, suggested I use them to “frame” a bunch of pieces I was working on using family photos I was translating into acrylic paint on mylar.  A studio visit with the artist Beatrice Schall reinforced that idea.  She showed me this lovely piece she did with a delicate woman’s handkerchief mounted in an antique dresser drawer with an actual vintage photo from her family.  Finally!  Something to use those handkerchiefs of his for!  The true packrat in me rejoiced and felt vindicated!

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In this series I want to explore family photos both contemporary and those that pre-date me.  The old pictures of my immediate family especially fascinate me.  Who were these people– my relatives– who are so young and full of life’s promise before I came along and they were suddenly old?  How I am coping with their loss now that my generation is suddenly in charge and in my parents’ place?

The embroidery, my button collection, the photos, and the handkerchiefs are all important parts of this mix; I consider each piece a page of my family album, and I also have expanded that idea to include my painted version of photos of friends and their families.  I also think of each piece as a block from a quilt.  In the past I have displayed them that way.  Nod to my Nana.

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Now my process has evolved and I paint directly on cloth that I then attach to the handkerchiefs by sewing.  I also have gotten more handkerchiefs from second hand stores, friends and relatives.  I have even gotten really nice vintage-style men’s handkerchiefs from Amazon, of all places.


These pieces are really hard for me to part with because they are so personal and close to my heart.  I would happily do a commission for someone using their family photos however.  440 Gallery knows how to contact me!


2 comments on “Threaded Memories by Tricia Townes

  1. Jo-Ann Acey
    April 15, 2018

    Wonderful and a very special account of Trish’s work! Thanks so much for sharing your memories and process! Jo


  2. Joy Makon
    April 16, 2018

    Fascinating look into your thinking, Trisha. We all acquire “stuff” from our families, but it takes a special way of thinking to put them to such creative use.


Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on April 15, 2018 by in Collecting, From our studios, What's up @ 440 and tagged , .

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