Margot Dower (she/her) is a writer and printmaker from Cape Town living and working in South East London. She is interested in care and tenderness, and textiles, and other soft things, and how they intersect with the stickiness of justice and implication. Her independent research project Tacking Stitches is about draped textiles, tactility and intuition, and she has previously written about mending, archives, luxury fashion and the history of the worker’s smock, among other things. Her practice includes making clothing, cooking, writing, and walking around Peckham Rye. She has worked in non-profit arts institutions and small galleries, and has a degree in Fine Art from the University of Cape Town majoring in printmaking and art history.
Tacking Stitches is about drapery, textiles, tactility and intuition. It is also about art and clothing, and about describing the places where they touch: in the pleats of a sculpture and the pleats of a dress, in the structures that hold things up, in the drop of cloth as it falls to the floor. It is about moving countries and the practices that will hold you when you get there.
In sewing and garment construction, tacking stitches are temporarily used to baste or attach pieces of cloth together. You mostly tack by hand, though ‘tacking’ is often the same as ‘basting’, and you can baste things by hand or using a sewing machine, in which case the stitches would simply be long and not secured with backstitches at their beginning or end. They’re sometimes sewn using special tacking thread, which is made from cotton and designed to snap easily by hand, and this makes them extra easy to remove when they have served their purpose. A tack can also be a way of transferring a marking from a pattern piece to a piece of cut cloth: sometimes these are called ‘tailor’s tacks’, and they are satisfying to do — you sew loosely through both the pattern piece and the layered pieces of fabric, and then you gently lift up the top layer and snip delicately through the tacked stitches holding them together. Tacks are also used to hold the vents and pockets of garments in place while they move from the factory to the shop floor: they correctly position things, make sure that nothing is sagging or sitting funny. Sometimes when I am walking around I see people wearing coats with vents at the back still tacked shut, and I want to go up to them and snip them open so the garment can hang correctly. A tack’s most important feature is its temporality. It is never permanent.
A review essay on Molly Goddard's smocks and how they might protect us.
'The hieroglyphics of dress are complex and subconscious. We do not always notice when someone else is incorrectly clothed for an event or setting, but we are painfully attuned to our own failure to gauge what is appropriate, to wear a dress with the wrong hemline or to leave our tie at home. Toplis says that "smocks were bound up in an individual’s personality, of feeling sartorially correct." This correctness is, I think, another way of saying that the smock was a garment that was reliable and appropriate, and simultaneously an expression of personal style and taste. Why should we not expect the same from all of our clothes?'
Slim Pickings is a book of miscellaneous writing from 2022–2023. Printed using risography and letterpress, and hand-bound, it is broadly about looking closely, at seasons and landscapes, and about remembering things. It contains four short essays: The Mountain, Billions, The History of Singing, and Spring Piece. It has been written variously on the 185 bus to and from Lewisham, in and around Peckham Rye, on park-benches and in public libraries, on planes and buses and trains.
There are copies of Slim Pickings available to buy for £8; each comes with a hand-printed letterpress postcard. Set in Times, printed risographically and with letterpress on recycled paper, hand-bound and sewn, edition of 60, 16pp.
'I am writing a love-letter to my housemates, past, present, and future-tense. I am trying to put it into words, the feeling of the full fridge-shelf that is your fridge-shelf, of a shared cupboard of condiments, a large stainless steel mixing bowl found for R10 at the flea market in Milnerton or for £3 in IKEA. Coming home and Aviva says, I made us roast chickpeas and vegetables for dinner, with the nice pesto from Giovanni’s, and there is bulgar wheat and seconds if you want it, or lunch for work tomorrow. In communion, in the breaking of bread, there is a shared understanding that this is our home, where we live together.'
Staple-bound, risograph printed on recycled paper with blue riso insert printed on Munken, Vredehoek, bound in, 12pp. I have copies of this available to buy for £9: you can get in touch with me using the details above.