Prudence Bowman

Art Project

Bachelor of Visual Arts Sculpture Material Thinking Craft Place Contemporary Crafting Hand-made Furniture
Prudence Bowman (2020). Art Project, Charred Oak Timber, Horsehair, Linen.
AD20 Award
Visual Arts Studio Award
For Year 3 Studio

Hand-Shredded Industrial Rags

Hand-Made Pillow trim with Human Hair from my Mother and myself

Charred Oak Timber using Shou Sugi Ban technique

Bone Buttons

Assorted Buttons from my Great Grandmother's Collection

Hand-Bound Horsehair

Waxed Thread

Hand-Made Single Mattress

Durational and repetitive actions intensely drive the techniques and processes utilised within Art Project. Over a period of 6-months, each of these processes was undertaken, either in collaboration with my Mother or my Father. The sewing of the mattress and binding of horsehair was completed with my Mother, and the carpentry and Shou Sugi Ban with my Father. Shou Sugi Ban is a traditional Japanese technique, in which the timber is charred using a blowtorch. This method preserves the timber for a long time and creates a dark and distinctive patina. Many of the methods and processes employed in this work are reflective of a desire to explore the hand-made through familial collaboration and the passing down of knowledge.

Charred oak posts stretch to graze the ceiling of this obscure high-stud backroom within my parent’s furniture showroom––swathes of horsehair fall down, tightly bound together by hand. We strain our necks to see the object’s full height.

Art Project is a four-poster bed and mattress, made in collaboration with my Father, my Mother and myself. The work is an exploration of craft and familial collaboration and the impact of intergenerational knowledge. Both of my parents have histories within areas of craft. My Father studied industrial design, and my Mother theatre craft in costume making. In addition and collectively, they have expertise in a wide range of mediums.

When I was young, my parents often helped me to complete projects the night before the due date, their perfectionism keeping us up through the night. Their continual enthusiasm for the hand-made has led me to engage with this area and way of practising. Through this familial collaboration, I have been given the opportunity to explore the relationship between craft and our family history. The different skill sets of each of my parents were utilised throughout the process of making the bed. My Mother and I worked on the soft furnishings, my Father assisted me with the carpentry. This division of labour, highlights concepts around ‘gendered craft’, and the nature of their passing down of knowledge.

Binding, stitching, tufting, stuffing, ripping, burning and sanding, are just some of the actions that have been undertaken in the production of this work. Made in this way, the structure is imbued with intergenerational knowledge and a shared care for materials and the value of manual labour.

Our collaboration has also been driven by a shared interest in the overlap between art and furniture. The concept initially reworked a previous design for a four-poster bed by my Father. Using this as a blueprint allowed me to explore the “artification” of objects intended for practical use. Each element considers its place within an art context, while interacting with a certain commercial viability. I am interested in the exploration of my parents’ furniture and design business as a commercial playground. A space to explore boundaries between art and furniture and to test relationships between buyer and seller. What has resulted is somewhat of a playful response to the restraints of consumer-culture.

The location of this work at my parents’ showroom, Apartmento is conceptually integral to understanding the object in both a commercial and familial context. Viewing this work in a commercial showroom, alongside other furniture designed by my Father allows for conversations around traditional business models. The transference of knowledge or inheritance of business is often seen in male to male (father and son) relationships. Art Project seeks to respond to this idea by interacting with the inheritances of ‘gendered craft’,  and exploring it through a framework of intergenerational knowledge.