Irène Bujara is the Director of the Equity and Human Rights Offices at Queen's University. She has studied Sumi-e (Japanese Brush painting) with the late Tomoko Kodama. She considers herself an occasional artist.
I grew up in a small Québec town where one of the largest employer was the Singer Sewing Company, and where there was a working wool mill at the time as well as relics of hand looms for the production of lace in the church basement. Two of my aunties supplemented the family income by sewing for women who did not easily fit into the super thin mold of 60’s fashions. These childhood experiences led to my fascination with how tied the histories of women are to the history of textile and fashion - and the tension between the violence this has created in their lives and the freedom that it has generated.
Women have often worked in conditions of misery, slavery and indentured labour in the production of textiles. In addition, the violence done to women’s bodies from the fashion industry is well known. On the other hand, with strength and determination, untold numbers of women across the globe have used these skills to help themselves and their families out of poverty. I remember fondly the afternoons spent in that small Québec town playing with leftover fabrics and the sense of community created by the gathering of women working together in those bright sewing rooms – and mostly I remember the laughter and the sense of freedom and self-worth.
In creating this tile, I used fabrics from different eras and composition to illustrate the strength and diversity of women and their connection to textile as a source of violence but also strength and ingenuity for survival: a cotton floral from 1960’s North America, silk from 1970’s France, a floral from 1980’s Mexico, lace from 1990’s China.