An ideal shopping list

I’m currently working hard on our People Make Glasgow book, which approaches its final stages (exciting!) and am finding the different stories the book covers about the city’s making and producing communities really inspiring, thought provoking, and often moving. As well as creative enterprises of all sizes, in fields from woodworking to whisky, the book also profiles a range of individual artists and makers, many of whom are involved in some really interesting local projects. One such inspiring Glasgow artist and maker is Deirdre Nelson of whose work I’m a long-term unashamed huge fan.

As well as being a regular at Repair Café Glasgow (you might have spotted her in our post about this brilliant initiative) Deirdre is one of 23 artists / collectives involved in Glasgow Life’s Creative Communities project, which recently brought artists in residence to each ward of the city. One outcome of Deirdre’s residency was a huge collaborative “Ideal Shopping List,” which Tom was able to photograph as Deirdre worked on the piece. I thought you might like to hear more about the project, so here’s Tom’s images, and my words from our soon-to-be-published People Make Glasgow book.

Might communities find a voice through stitch and making? In a recent project with the diverse residents of Glasgow’s Linn ward, local artist Deirdre Nelson suggests the collaborative possibilities of just that. The ward brings together the villagers of Carmunnock with the varied populations of the Castlemilk estates where, following the closure of many local shops and businesses, residents of the ward found themselves trapped in intractable and difficult situations of food and fuel poverty. Unable to afford basic transport or utilities, many have become increasingly reliant on the inadequate provision of food banks and takeaways.

With the lack of good local shops at the top of the community agenda, Deirdre devised a creative shopping list through which Linn began to articulate its collective desires.

Frequenters of a much-loved local park felt that more accessible public toilets were needed; kids imagined the promise of dinosaurs, donuts and community superhero days; light-hearted Gala attendees suggested pop-up DIY-savvy husbands, while those recently arrived and seeking asylum wished for a women’s mosque.

Residents recorded their ideal shopping list along a length of the heavy linen for which the textile industry previously centred in Linn was once renowned, and Deirdre embroidered the collated list upon the linen cloth.

Like a domestic tablecloth, a shopping list perhaps seems an artefact of the private sphere, a commonplace personal catalogue. But, by bringing together the words and wishes of so many of Linn’s residents, the embroidered length of linen becomes a powerful public document, a compelling expression of the ordinary wants and needs of just one of Glasgow’s creative, imaginative and sometimes struggling communities.

Deirdre’s work has always been distinctive for the way it elevates domestic labour and objects into art, while simultaneously making room for the situated, honest voices of local people and communities. The Linn Ward cloth sums up everything we love about her work. Thanks, Deirdre, for sharing it with us in this book.

Deirdre’s ideal shopping list is part of Glasgow Life’s Creative Communities initiative, bringing artists in residence to each ward of the city.