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100 Acts of Sewing

March 29 – May 19
Reception and Artist Demonstration: Friday, March 29, 6-8pm
Dressmaking workshop: March 30-31. Register now.

An ongoing project of fiber artist Sonya Philip, this special exhibition on view throughout Lillstreet’s three-story building, will include photographs, textiles and a dressmaking workshop.

Artist Bio: Sonya Philip has always made things. It’s the way things were done in her family. Her father, an architect from Australia, spent weekends laying brick in the backyard or remodeling the house. Her mother, an interior designer from the Philippines, designed and sewed her own wedding dress. Both parents encouraged her to truly look at things and instilled a love for the handmade. Sonya studied art and printmaking in high school with every intention of going to art school. Life intervened, as did other areas of fascination, eventually leading to an MFA in Creative Writing. As a self-taught artist, she enjoys the freedom of exploring and stretching mediums.  Sonya lives in San Francisco with her family.

Project Statement: What began as a personal challenge to make one hundred dresses in a year, developed into a larger exploration of praxis. It functions in three parts: display, demonstration, and instruction. By exposing the process, people recognize that they can sew clothes. This awareness simultaneously creates conscious consumers, offers a connection to the past, and provides a means of reclaiming personal style.

All aspects of creating clothing require skill, and whether it is making cloth, dyeing, printing, or sewing, all things our society has largely pushed offshore. When we know how to sew with our own hands, we can make and remake and make well. We become more discerning of our goods and create the possibility of rejecting mass produced items. When we realize the time and physical labor that goes into making a garment from start-to-finish, we are more thoughtful about what we purchase and we are ultimately less driven by the forces of consumption and accumulation.

Making clothing is an investment of time over convenience. The practice creates an interdependence between seasoned practitioners and new enthusiasts, with room for celebrating each act of making from simple to complex. Workshops held in conjunction with exhibits, teach participants how to make a dress. The project is a collaboration with the people who see it and the people who are taught, starting them on the road to creating their own clothes or at least think about who used a sewing machine to create the garments they wear.

Clothing is an elemental part of day-to-day life, offering both protection and adornment. It is also bound up with ideas of culture and the body. Alternately encouraged by and excoriated by the media, women in the US forge a deep discontent with their bodies that leads many on a constant search for clothes that alter appearance. Sewing is a way to return to a more primary mode of expression, which a person can choose to follow or create their own style. A handmade garment is unique and is a display of a person’s skill as well as their taste.

Sewing clothes creates value through the appreciation of skill, the awareness of tradition, and the creation of agency. We exist in a world of hyper-commodification where sewing can act as a balm. When we sew our own clothes, we become mindful of the time and labor that goes into each garment and the cost that production line assembly must have on the human body. In this way, the education of the audience ultimately comes from the de-alienation of the process.

About Lillstreet

Founded in 1975, Lillstreet Art Center is a large community of artists and students working side-by-side in a friendly environment which encourages and inspires artistic growth in the individual. Lillstreet supports the arts through an artist residency program, gallery, studio space, education, and an outreach program.

Hours and Location

Monday - Thursday: 10am - 7:30pm
Friday - Sunday: 10am - 6pm

4401 N Ravenswood (at Montrose)
Chicago, IL 60640 / 773.769.4226
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