3. Red Shirts, First Piece Possibly Finished


Uniform 1

The reason for my lack of posts is that I have been trying to complete the above work. It is made from old uniforms worn by my colleagues and myself. I first talked about them here and here.

I have a number of projects involving  these shirts, but for this piece I always had in mind that I would add varnish to enable me to draw/write on it. However, I like it the way it is and want to live with it like this for a while before making a decision about the drawing and the writing.

I know who owned every bit of fabric, but out of respect for the owner I am not going to make this knowledge public. A few, sadly, would not give me their shirts, saying they were too messy or dirty. I really appreciate the fact that some people gave them to me anyway (even though they didn’t really want to), and so will not name them. Each shirt comes with a story.


I started with a pile of shirts like this. These came from a lovely young Polish girl with an incredible work ethic. In Poland she was a physiotherapist, now she wanders around the gallery telling people not to take photographs. Not that many people know her previous occupation, she does not tell you unless you ask. She is polite and kind to everyone. It is a pleasure to work with her.


So then I started piecing everyone together. I sewed small sections together first. Most of this sewing was done on the train either to or from work. Some of those collars are very stiff. If you follow me on facebook you may remember me trying to learn how to use a thimble (unsuccessfully). I do not have a studio, this is my actual lounge. We do not have another room, in this room we eat, watch tv, use the computer et cetera (that one is for you, Gerard).



I ended up with this. Now, should I varnish it, possibly ruining months of work? I just want to take a moment to tell you about the thread I used. I bought it as part of a very old bag of odds-and-ends in a charity shop. Would love to know the life history of that bag.  The main one I used is silk. Both are beautiful.



Apart from the first photograph, above is before the varnish and below is after the varnish. First there are sections, and then not a very good photograph of the whole piece, which is 76cms x 76cms. I was making it to be part of the staff art show. However, due to a lot of entries and lack of space, a size restriction was understandably imposed. So, I won’t be able to display my work. Don’t despair though, I have made a smaller piece.




Below is the small version, here in the early stages, completed during the second week of Wimbledon. Very exciting. Stabbed my fingers multiple times. At one point there was actual blood. I would like to say that it dripped onto my work, but I would be lying. If you happen to be passing the gallery and fancy coming to see the staff art show, it starts tomorrow and details are below. You will be able to smell my work before you see it, it stinks. The last coat of varnish was administered very close to the submission deadline. I had to trim it down and leave it unframed so that it complies with the size rule.



17 thoughts on “3. Red Shirts, First Piece Possibly Finished

    • Yes, I tried to keep the logos off the photos at first, as not many people know I do this, but then I just forgot about it. I wondered if anyone had noticed, as I’m pretty careful never to mention the gallery by name. I guess it makes me feel a bit vulnerable. I can’t see the gallery putting up my work. There is no mention of the staff art show on the website, or the facebook page, or twitter!

  1. Woohooo, it’s done… what a great project. I love that all shirts have a story and the one you told about the Polish girl is touching and very common:-)

    Love the varnish, love the last pic too.. is it a purse? A wallet?
    Wouldn’t miss the exhibition and will definitely come on a Sunday to meet you:-)

    C’mon, spilling your own blood on your art would be so cool! Then you’d feel like a proper artist (only kiddin)

    Great work and congratulations on your exhibition.
    Tina x

    • Thank you, Tina. Yes, for me, it’s the stories that make it interesting. Unfortunately, they aren’t my stories to tell. I have all the information in my sketchbook, though. Every time I look at it I see all the different people. The last picture is just a notepad from Muji. The second from last picture is the small piece from the staff show, before it was sewn and varnished. The more vibrant red in the centre is my shirt, the washed-out cuff next to it is the lovely Polish girl. It will be interesting to see how they have displayed it (I probably won’t get to see it until Sunday). I put some nails in the package and said to hammer it to the wall, or ‘do whatever you see fit’.

  2. These are really beautiful and very intense. Can’t decide whether they’re really cold or really hot. I kind of want to know why you varnished them and kind of not – brilliant move. How long does the show run for?

    • Thanks Richard. I varnished them so that I would be able to write on the surface, but now I don’t know if I want to go ahead with it. Nobody seems to know when it starts and ends, there is no info on the website. They are hoping to have it ready for tomorrow, and it needs to be cleared by 23rd.

  3. Pingback: 3. Red Shirts, First Piece Possibly Finished | Rave Or Rant

  4. I love how you celebrate people’s stories through your art. I’m afraid I’ve missed the chance to view this at the gallery.

    • Thank you. The piece I finally put in the staff show was very small and positioned quite high, so it’s probably better viewed online. Plus, I only finished it the night before, so the stench of varnish was quite strong!

  5. Pingback: 4. Red Shirts, Staff Art Show Piece | Alison Sye

  6. Pingback: 5. Red Shirts, Another Little Piece. | Alison Sye

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