Landscape Medicine – The Weaving of Eloise Sentito – A #LoveStory For Fashion Revolution WeekKate Stuart
Kate Stuart is an artist, craftswoman and writer based in the North East of England. Here, she is answering the call from Fashion Revolution, to tell the #lovestory of a garment she loves, as Fashion Revolution Week prepares to encourage people to call for sustainability, transparency and kindness in the fashion industry, getting them to love the clothes they already own, and supporting them to ask the question #WhoMadeMyClothes.
Clothes and their design, were a big part of my Mum’s life. As a young teacher in London in the 1960’s, she studied the haute couture of Paris Fashion Week in whatever newspapers and magazines she could get her hands on, before designing and making her own outfits. She was absolutely, the height of fashion. Later, as a mother of five, what clothes weren’t handed down to us from cousins and neighbors, she made. Some of our outfits were met with more welcome than others, but it was an important part of who she was, to have this practical space to be creative in, and even as kids I think we all understood that. I recall with fondness the Christmas morning when my sisters and I awoke to matching floral brushed cotton dresses that Mum had still been hemming at 3am.
I first came to know the weaving work of Eloise Sentito at the same time that Mum was in hospital, dying. As a family, we were busy with the business of making her last months and weeks and hours on earth the best, most nourishing they could be – juggling hospital visits and orchestrating secret escapes so we could take her in her wheelchair to the park, let her feel the sun on her face and eat ice cream with the grandchildren. So busy in-fact, that we had little time for our own escape, and I could feel my longing for hillside and wild sky growing, alongside the frustration that I just didn’t have time to leave the city to find it. Even after she died, there was still work to do, with arrangements to be made and a life to catch up on. What I needed was some landscape medicine, and I found it in a beautiful shawl Eloise had made and listed on her Etsy shop. It’s probably the most uncharacteristically impulsive purchase I have ever made, one that I could barely afford, but which felt so important. I didn’t even stop to consider the “people not stuff” argument, or that I didn’t need it, I just wanted it, and was probably buying it to try and fill some of the space my Mum had left behind her. I didn’t think of any of that, I just took a deep breath and hit the BUY NOW button.
Listed as a second, it wasn’t “perfect” (whatever that means), and cost less because it had snags and a soft felted bit at the bottom, where the washing machine hadn’t been gentle on the finely handwoven cloth. But I loved it – it spoke to me, took me to the hills of Banffshire, the birch trees and the bracken, the granite outcrops and the deep red soil. Holding it in my hands that first time, smelling the wool, feeling the texture of the weave and the homeward pulling colours, brought me to the top of Ben Rinnes, under a winter sky, with a fresh wind in my face lifting my grief skyward and holding it awhile.
Eloise Sentito has a tangible connection to the landscapes she travels through, as her nomadic life brings her from rugged hillside to sweeping shoreline – with a sense of place woven in the warp and the weft of every weaving she creates. She calls her work “earthenware“, and so it is. A recent piece of hers, woven in alpaca wool, kid mohair merino and silk, is the very essence of the Dartmoor hedgerows that inspired it and she describes it thus:
“with subtle little flecks of additional colours in the yarns, it is a rainbow of verdant greens! It is part of a range inspired by the stunning hedgerows and woodlands around my old Dartmoor home in May, when bluebells, pink campions, new red bramble stems, lime green beech leaves and young bracken fronds erupt every spring.“
My earthenware shawl is still one of my most beloved garments – multi functional (shawl, scarf, beach blanket for my babies) – I use it all the time, and consider, with each wearing, the hands that made it. I am finding myself more and more drawn to the ideology of slow fashion, and the story that permeates a piece of clothing made with care and vision and attention to detail. When I wear it, even now I feel like the ache of loss for Mum is wrapped up and held by it. This December Solstice it will be 2 years since Mum died, and I am free now to reach my bare toes out to landscape whenever I like, but I still remember those days of early bereavement when Eloise’s work, her way of capturing the landscape and like a fibre witch, making it reappear in cloth brought escape, and when wrapping myself up in the warm woollen shawl she’d woven really was like being held by something as strong and forgiving as all the mountainsides I longed to climb.
As I reflect on my most loved clothes for Fashion Revolution Week, I realize that they are all pieces whose maker I can name – hand-knitted arm-warmers in soft earthy brown wool, made by my dear friend Rachel – I’m wearing them as I write; a long black skirt I wore constantly in my early 20s that my Mum designed and made for me – her pattern pieces cut from newspaper, stuck with sellotape; a patchwork skirt I made as a teenager for the 18th birthday of my best friend, that was reborn as a rainbow patchwork quilt to snuggle my babies and adorn every sofa I’ve ever owned – and a landscape shawl, woven by the hands of Eloise Sentito, on a loom in the back of her converted motor-home workshop. Unique and unmistakably hers, there will never be a hint of mass production about the work of this artisan. Perhaps, as the tide turns on mass produced garments, made at the cost of people and planet, we will one day all be able to answer the question #whomademyclothes. For now, I’m happy to say that this shawl, my little piece of landscape medicine, was made by Eloise Sentito, and I hope that the telling of this tale might inspire you to consider your own fashion revolution #lovestory.
Eloise will feature in future publications of No Serial Number Magazine, and has written a guest blog for us – read it here!
Fashion Revolution Week is happening 23rd – 29th April 2018. Find out more about why we need a fashion revolution here.
“No Serial Number Magazine is committed to supporting the slow down and preservation of of our collective environmental and artisanal heritages from unsustainable production practices and corporate greed. No Serial Number Magazine is a humble attempt to explore how human creativity, nature and activism intersect in contemporary society.“