This project is a work in progress and has brought up a number of ethical questions. Inspired by a trip to Nepal and Tibet, Laura was inspired by the beautiful, traditional ways that rural people wrapped their clothes.
Seeing similarities between the ways that people living in traditional rural cultures dressed, from Nepal to Wales to South America, Laura attempted to investigate a uniting of these traditional styles of dressing. This project has a huge capacity to be expanded further, and there are many ethical questions to consider while undertaking this project. Examples of this are how to take into consideration the danger that each cultures unique identity could be lost through a uniting of them, there is also a risk that cultures may not be represented correctly. By consulting and working with people from the cultures in question, Laura would hope to sensitively investigate the traditions of rural cultures.
Inspired by the abstract folding techniques pioneered by Simon Hantai, Laura using draping as a form of expressing the similarities she saw between styles of dressing in rural cultures. Through draping fabric, then painting the folds of the fabric, thus abstractly documenting the shapes she created, the results culminated in simple canvasses.
Contrary to society’s opinion that a fault or flaw means that an item is defective, this project is about augmenting the beauty of a flaw. Influenced by the Japanese principle of wabi sabi, Laura believes that the transience of a garment is an aspect that makes it beautiful. Wear in a garment shows that it has been used for its intended purpose, covering the body and protecting it from the environment. Wear shows that the garment has gained experience; this is particularly relevant to this particular garment because it begun its life in the RAF in the 1950s. This artefact has been work by military service men, possibly during battles. Using embroidery to cover a hole in the underarm, Laura has lengthened the life of this garment and added character to the garment.
“This heart-shaped pincushion, decorated with pins and glass beads, was made by an unknown soldier during the First World War. It was sent in a box marked ‘With Love’ to Miss Ellen Burns of Manast Street, Rhymney. Pincushions such as this one are often called ‘sweetheart’ pincushions’… They were probably made by convalescing soldiers as occupational therapy”
National Museum Wales. 2015. National Memory - Local Stories. [Online]. Accessed 13th September 2015. Available from: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/national-memory-local-stories/partner-collections/explore-the-collections-amgueddfa-cymru-national-museum-wales.php
These pincushions are fascinating artefacts in themselves; the idea that a soldier, typically imagined as a physically strong, emotionally callous person, could sew something as beautiful and sensitive as this pincushion is an incredible contradiction of these stereotypes.
However, it is the potential and the untold story of the pincushion which Laura finds the most fascinating. ‘Sweetheart’ pincushions of these type were often made by injured soldiers to keep their minds and bodies active while recovering in hospital and sent to loved ones at home, who would usually be females.
There are many unanswered questions raised by this artefact: who was Ellen Burns? What was her relationship to the soldier that made the pincushion: was she a girlfriend, wife, mother or sister? Did the pincushion even get to her? Did she live through the war? Did the soldier who made the pincushion survive the war? Were they reunited after the war finished?
This artefact tell the story of the people who made these extraordinarily sentimental objects, people who created history during this tumultuous time, showing sensitivity during a war with the highest death toll to date. It is the hypothetical questions raised above that Laura is aiming to highlight and investigate with this embroidery.
Photos of pincushion copyright, Collection of Amguedddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales
Shoot Direction, Styling and Clothes: Laura Niehorster
Photographer's Assistant: James Weaver
Hair & Makeup: Harriet Young
Models: Rasa and Renie @ Gingersnap
Photography: Matthew Thomas
Having purged her anger with the pain experienced by the Welsh people during the industrial revolution through the manifestation of her pre-collection, the collection was softer, calmer and lighter.
While still being aware of the unfair treatment of the Welsh people, the collection focussed on the strength, humility and courage of the Welsh people. It was the strong sense of community, willingness to sacrifice and the bravery of people during this time that defined them.
Still using fabrics from one of the last surviving mills in Wales, Melin Teifi, Laura created a collection of contrasts; strong silhouettes wrapped in soft layers and eclectic traditional Welsh patterns.
Archive photos copyright National Museum Wales, Big Pit
The pre-collection research begun in the Welsh valleys. Having been surrounded by the industrial heritage of Wales, living in a city that used to be one of the largest producers of copper, Laura already had a strong grounding in her subject matter.
With a passion for interacting with people and learning about their stories, Laura felt that a culmination of her fashion education would be best expressed by an investigation into the humble stories of the historical working people of Wales.
Inspired by the changes experienced by the people, communities and landscapes of Wales during the industrial revolution, Laura's work portrayed an anger at the unfair treatment and destruction which occurred at the time. With terrible working conditions, long term illnesses gained through work in the mines, communities destroyed by poverty and unemployment and beautiful natural landscapes destroyed by industrial works, Laura's work was dark with extreme proportions representing the burden which people were forced to carry.
Using authentic Welsh fabrics from one of the last remaining mills in wales, Melin Teifi, Laura designed a collection to express her frustration about the pain which the Welsh people experiences during the industrial revolution.
Archive photos copyright National Museum Wales, Big Pit
This project was inspired by the postmodern object, a necklace made from broken pieces of Japanese porcelain entitled, “Hiroshima Mon Amour.” The film of the same name was also considered an important piece of inspiration for this project, the film juxtaposed the horrors of Hiroshima with the intensity of love and lust, using the theme of memories and the tragedy of forgetting.
In this project, Laura argues that the Hiroshima atom bomb was a postmodern event itself, and ties in with many dystopian characteristics. “There is an intense distrust of all global or totalising discourses, a rejection of metanarratives...” (Sarup, 1996: 95). This postmodernism project was heavily inspired by art movements created during the 1960s, a time in which the public lost faith in their government and many believed that nuclear war was imminent if they did not protest.
Many political artists of the 1960s used destructive art : “actions to overcome the burden of history and collective guilty associated with the Holocaust, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Vietnam and the nuclear threat...” (Serpentine Gallery, 2009) Destruction was cathartic, and this action helped overcome the cultural trauma of horrific modern events. Laura wanted the wearer to be able to empathise with a victim of Hiroshima while wearing her clothes, she tried to imbue them with emotion by looking at clothes which she associates with deep emotions, sadness and feelings of loss.
Bernhard Schobinger used the postmodern principle of bricolage in his work by appropriating found objects and turning them into jewellery, thus changing their meaning. Laura used a kimono and draped it on the stand, then designed from these drapes using nuclear victims as inspiration; she thus took a symbol of Japan and its heritage and subverted it by turning it into a comment on Hiroshima.
Laura wanted the idea of romance to be present throughout; the pain and intensity of love and lust is juxtaposed with the pain of the bomb in the film, ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour,’ and she felt that the power of love and lust can be equal to the power of destruction and have an equally cathartic power. Featured throughout her project are survivors who are finding the beauty in the world, from mourners who wear black for the rest of their lives in memory of their dead husbands, to the ‘Hiroshima Maidens’, disfigured victims of Hiroshima who underwent many reconstructive surgeries to try and rebuild their lives, to Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who developed Leukemia because of radiation poisoning whose story of creating 1,000 paper cranes became a story of inspiration for the Japanese. Laura wanted to juxtapose beauty, dignity and romance with the disfigurement and horror of Hiroshima.