Meeting on Monday 11th September 2023
Maria Thomas - RELATIVE
Maria Thomas began her talk by introducing us to Bertha, her dressmaker’s mannequin, named after her grandmother and bought for a song. Her textile journey began in childhood: totally self-taught she was altering her own clothes from the age of nine. Unable to take dressmaking at school because she was the only one interested, she went on to study textiles and embroidery at college, followed by a career teaching in adult and further education.
Her inspiration springs from her daily life, using found objects, particularly consumer packaging, in her patchworked garments to express themes including domesticity, motherhood and family memories. Trying to reconcile the demands of raising three children with the equally strong compulsion to create has been a constant theme. As her children grow up and leave home and her mother becomes more dependent on her, she feels she is at a crossroads in inspiration, which will stimulate new work in the future.
Maria brought along a wide range of pieces to show us. She has worked in series to produce quilts, jackets, collars and pinafores themed for her family past and present, each with its own character based on the remembered “atmosphere” of the individual. She is interested in how the traces of wear in recycled fabrics retain the presence of the wearer, long after the person is gone.
Many of her methods are unconventional – she prefers playing with layouts and arranging objects rather than drawing – responding to the materials and the themes she seeks to express. The work is exquisitely put together, but in an unusual way. She likes to break the rules by gluing fabric and paper together, painting over them all with diluted emulsion paint to fade and fuse the patterns and colours. A magpie for recycled fabric scraps and interesting packaging graphics, layer upon layer is then sewn together, each thoughtfully shaped and combined. We had great fun spotting images and fabrics which had formed part of Maria’s – and our – domestic lives.
Her witty titles often contain puns and double meanings, reflecting the ambiguities of everyday life. As Maria explained her thought processes for each piece of work, we shared her life story with motherhood, family and the echoing history of the generation of women who went before her. By the end of the evening, we felt we knew all her family!
See more of Maria’s work on her website: https://www.mariathomastextiles.co.uk/about/
Words © Liz Wilmott/CETG 2023
Photos © Pirkko Soundy/CETG 2023