You are here:Works>Textiles


prostitutes' advertising cards on cotton backing cloth
204 x 204 cm 

Notes on this work

Back to main work


Pencil and watercolour on paper
76 x 76 cm

Sewing the sections together

During the laborious fabrication of Women's Work there was much time to muse on the relationships between cards, quilting and possible subject matter. The floor of the studio was strewn with piles of collected cards many of whose colours had now been excluded from the final design. The drive for good studio economics craved another project and Women's Work seemed to need its male mirror. Unlike The Peeler, another feminist work made by a man, Women's Work lacked a masculine correlative.

The answer came literally out of the blue when the Stealth Bomber made an overflying appearance at the Farnborough Air Show. Its silhouette from below (it has virtually no silhouette sideways on) was, as shown in the following day's newspapers, exactly like some stepped element in the traditional vocabulary of quilting. That such a sweet piece of airborne geometry was the purest tool of war provided an irony of aesthetics, compounded by the fact that this was the only man made thing that was (literally) worth its weight in gold.

I bought a book on the aircraft in order to find a technical drawing that would give me the exact proportions of its outline. I then translated its fearful symmetry (though hardly any adaptation was necessary) into the terms of a quilt design. From its angles and intervals, a grid was generated from which could be derived the bars and stars of US Air Force heraldry. The 'white' of this echo of the American flag utilises all those pastel pinks, yellows, blues and greens that had not found their way into Women's Work.

Since most quilts are made of regular groupings of repeated elements I decided to incorporate a formation of bombers, remembering the sombre flocks of well-aligned Washingtons and Flying Fortresses that passed over my childhood home in South London during the War.

The title of the work however eluded me. This was frustrating since I knew that the right word or phrase would link the two quilts and make sense of the correlation between subject matter and materials used. Manpower, once found, told exactly the right story. The toys of war were still men's playthings and the show of military might some equivalent of sexual display: this advanced machine is the ultimate flexing of masculine muscle.