Friday, April 3, 2009

Sweaterbones: Peggy Mersereau

Peggy Mersereau is an artist with a passion for beauty, skill and fibre. For Mersereau, the smallest possible footprint is a moral and aesthetic imperative. I recall our first meeting. She was concerned about the post-opening-party bottles which littered the back room of the gallery. Specifically, and politely, she was concerned that I might toss them in the garbage. She quietly gathered them up and took them home, for proper recycling.

Mersereau collects sweaters and shirts from thrift shops, friends, wherever. She seeks out garments which have not been made by children or exploited workers, and which are made of beautiful, pure, wools or silks. She has literally hundreds upon hundreds of these, stored and sorted by colour, pattern and fibre, in bins in her studio. These garments and carefully dissected, so that the large pieces, or "sweatermeats" are reclaimed. The sweatermeats are sliced and rolled to make beads, which themselves are re-constituted as sculptural pieces to be worn or displayed:

or recreated as non-functional vessels:

The remaining seams, cuffs, hems and plackets are the "sweaterbones": the structural exoskeletons of what was once a covering for the body.

In the gallery installation, these sweaterbones fly, lift and gather, like a flock of birds, bats or flying squirrels. A rocking chair invites a knitter. But how many more sweaters does the world really need?

The sweaterbones collect and fall into a heap in the corner.

These remnants become the sweaterballs: solid, through-to-the-core authentic. What Donald Judd is to steel, these little Mersereau sculptures are to fibre, only on a huggable, very human scale.

Silk shirts are cut into components for handmade lace collages:

"Sweaterbones": Peggy Mersereau
A.K. Collings Gallery
April 2 to 21. 2009


  1. This is truly beautiful. I know because it holds itself in my memory when I turn my head and heart away. It stays in front of me. If I had more wall or storage space it would (maybe will, whether or no?)fill space and continue to change how I see again and again. Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Anonymous. The gallery looks wonderful, and the doors open for the reception in 5 minutes. I have passed your comment on to Peggy.

  3. Does Peggy knit these herself? How/ where does she find/ make these sweater things? They are oh so colourful I can imagina a great big curtain of them with nice golden sunlight shining through. The webby one reminds me of something I'd expect to find in a technicolour version of Edward Scissor hands! Tim Burton and Peggy should TOTALLY team up!

  4. Thank you for your comment, Claire. Peggy's woolen pieces are all made from recycled sweaters that she finds in thrift stores. Most of them are merino or cashmere, and she tells me they are becoming harder and harder to find. The gorgeously colourful silk lace pieces are made by free-stitching with a machine onto a water soluble membrane. The membrane holds everything in place until the piece is finished, at which point it is carefully washed out. I think I agree with you re: Tim Burton!

  5. Hi! I just met Peggy at a local art/craft show called Harvest of Christmas Delights in Welcome, Ontario (so quaint!).
    Seeing this post gives me even more of an appreciation of what she does - stunning gallery showcase!
    Also, I hope it's okay that I linked to this post via my own blog entry on the Harvest show, so that people can see more of what Peggy creates.

  6. reminds me of an art installation from Moma ....

  7. Thank you for this link, Anonymous. I will pass it on to Peggy.
    Neither of us were aware of this artist's installation at MOMA, and the comparison is flattering. Peggy is very much ensconced in the craft world, and her practice is largely focused on producing wearables. However, I've always been impressed by her strongly sculptural sensibilities, and was glad to provide her with the opportunity to explore her "other side" with this show. It is interesting how such similar ideas can arise from two artists with very different creative processes. I hope Peggy will continue to develop the nonfunctional, sculptural aspect of her artistic practice.