Gloves are a mediator between us and our environment. A barrier between our most valued appendages and the harsh world. Cold. Ice. Wood. Concrete. Steel. Germs. Bodily fluids. Dirt. Weeds. Thorns. Gloves allow us to work faster, grab harder, and hold longer. Gloves are often the most essential form of PPE in working class industries from landscaping and construction to restaurants and health care. My family are wood cutters, rock pickers, and farmers. I grew up dreaming of the day that my little hands would fit leather gloves and my body would allow me to help on tough jobs like cutting wood, unloading hay, moving rocks and gardening. The completion of these dirty and gloved jobs to me seemed like the definition of a successful day and a clear metric of worth.
In college, I spent my summers working as a gardener and on landscaping jobs. Here, I wore gloves every day. I often would double glove on the job; one layer rubber glove and one layer gardening glove so that my hands would be clean-ish at lunch. This piece of clothing became a very important, the most important, part of my outfit at work. The newness and fit determined how comfortable I was going to be that day and how fast I could move through projects. I never really loved the sensory deprivation of wearing gloves, but as an artist, my hands are my most valuable asset and I was not about to let shrub roses or rocks ruin my future career. I learned quickly which parts of my hands were getting the most use based on which parts of the glove wore through first. To some small degree, I measured my worth based on how many gloves I would wear through in a single summer. I felt useful, successful, and valuable when I worked with my hands in force and repetitious strength. Every hole came with a sense of pride for a job done. I have a hard time throwing worn gloves away because I earned those holes; how does one justify tossing out a pair of gloves that is still 90% good?
Now that I am further distanced from my former work in landscaping, I have been reflecting on how this manual labor relates to the tedious, indulgent, superfluous manual labor I put into my art work, specifically the more gendered "women's work" of embroidery. This relationship between manual labor like farming and manual labor like sewing is most often considered to be a juxtaposition. Tough and crude opposing delicate and tedious. As someone who has occupied both these roles, I struggle to accept and understand the multiplicity of my hands' work. Can I be both a badass in landscaping and also a delicate embroiderer? Can these two realms co-exist?
In this new series, I am revisiting used and worn out gloves and expressing the perceived labor value of the glove and the wearer by mending their holes in fine gold thread, thus simultaneously juxtaposing masculine labor with feminine labor. I am collecting gloves and stories of labor from individuals for this series. If you have used and worn out gloves from some form of labor with holes or tears, I would like them in this project! I am looking for fabric gloves, leather gloves, synthetic gloves, cotton gloves, and maybe rubber gloves...please no bio-hazards. Please fill out the form below and I will contact you with a shipping label to send me gloves, or arrange a time to exchange the gloves. If you are interested in this project, I would also love to have a conversation about your work so that your gloves can be memorialized with your story.