January 3, 2012

Thoughts on SPUN

Needlepoint artist and Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoints (SPUN) founder, Mary Smull, came to HCCC for two events in early December. Smull is one of the artists featured in HCCC’s current exhibition, Beyond Useful & Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft. Curator Anna Walker shares her thoughts on her work and the events.

I’m guilty of procrastination. There, I said it. I think it is something that everyone struggles with to some degree. I definitely remember it as a common excuse for many of my friends in school. What I find interesting about procrastination is the different ways and various projects that are unique to the procrastinator.

For instance, I’m known for beginning a project, getting it most of the way complete and then leaving the ending undone. This is true of the simplest tasks, such as mailing a birthday gift to a friend. I buy the gift, wrap it, and then it sits for weeks--sometimes months--in my office awaiting a short trip to the post office.

Through my personal experiences of “unfinished labor,” I am able to better appreciate the motivations behind Mary Smull’s Unfinished Needlepoint series.  Smull purchases unfinished needlepoints and completes them using only white thread, visually calling attention to that which was left undone, but also recognizing the labor invested by an anonymous hand. At the beginning of December, Smull brought her “Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoint” (SPUN) to our large gallery. A bright blue banner signaled the event, and representatives in matching blue t-shirts were there to assist visitors in completing stitches for the cause. (Click here to see the event photos.)

At Friday’s group therapy session, Finish Fetish, with artist Mary Smull.

SPUN representatives who helped “get it done.

Each visitor brought stories about their own unfinished projects, and we even had a visitor bring her own unfinished needlepoint in hopes that she would be inspired to complete it after talking with the artist. We talked extensively about the feelings associated with incompletion, guilt, avoidance, curiosity, even apathy. Looking back on the conversations, one area we did not spend as much time talking about were the reasons or thoughts on why works were left unfinished. Was it out of boredom with the project, competing external demands, or pure forgetfulness? 

I have to be honest--I even procrastinated on writing this post and on the previous assignment from Curatorial Assistant, Ashley Powell, which you can read about here.  What caused me to not even begin these projects? I would like to think it is because I had competing external demands, and that is partly true. However, for me, I recognize a fear of whether the finished project lives up to my initial expectations and standards. During Friday night’s discussion, Finish Fetish, we talked specifically about writing projects. How some of us never feel resolved about writing, and I agreed--writing can always be changed; it seems to constantly be under revision, editing, and perfecting. Perhaps, this is why I feared beginning the post, as I knew I might not reach the “finish.”

Above is an HCCC volunteer/SPUN representative assisting a
visitor at one of the unfinished needlepoint stations.

The counterpoint to SPUN’s blue t-shirts:  a group of ladies from “Oktoberfest,”
clad in pink t-shirts commemorating 27 years of gathering together.

You can follow Mary Smull’s “Society for the Prevention of Unfinished Needlepoint” on her website http://www.unfinishedneedlepoint.org. Her work is part of the current exhibition, Beyond Useful & Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft at HCCC through Sunday, January 8, 2012.

-- Anna Walker, Curator

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