Finding the limelight


Alphabet sampler
Alphabet sampler, 2008


This small piece, about 12 inches square (I am older than the hills), is one of a series that I made in 2008, about making samplers to say something about contemporary ideas about management.  The idea was that in the past, samplers had been used at least in part to inculcate ideas of femininity and what it means to be ladylike, or conversely, in the lower orders, how respectable money could be made through needlework.  These samplers often had verses from the Bible or other worthy texts, and collecting sampler quotes became a bit of a hobby for me in the way that some people collect epitaphs in graveyards.  I wondered what would  happen if we used the sampler to inculcate good management practice in, say, MBA students, and I went for inspiration to an interesting source of knowledge, the weekend edition of the Financial Times which has a tiny business card feature every week in which someone shares their business wisdom.  I used the quotations as they came out, making a small quilt a week for twelve weeks and the final quilt I made for myself using my own business wisdom.  The quilts got more elaborate as I realised that I would achieve my one a week goal.

So, the idea was to interview the people who gave the quotations and present them with the quilts which I had (beautifully) framed as a thank you for their time.  In the event I only arranged one interview.  But, the quilts had a one night show at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, which is, after the Victoria and Albert, probably the most prestigious textile museum in the country.  This was one of the highlights of my life.  These quilts are real showgirls and really sparkle under the lights in a gallery.  There was a dinner and it was a big deal for me.  But, I never finished the project.  But…  This may be an idea whose time has come.

Yesterday, a new colleague joined us at the Department of Management at the University of Bristol, and we were discussing putting together a conference paper on queering management.  He suggested that we could use some of my work.  I was sure we could, but couldn’t quite think which bits.  This morning it struck me, that this would be a really good vehicle for the project.  The quilts queer the way that we think about doing management research, and the content is about models of entrepreneurship and success.  So, the showgirls – and I had never thought of these pieces as camp – might have found the limelight after all.

I will post more images of this series, but start with this one because it is probably the most popular.  It appeals to the slightly cynical with its motto, and most of the management scholars I know do rather tend to the cynical.  Plus the ABC quote is particularly fitting for a sampler in which young girls were taught to embroider initials so that they could find a job in service marking linen.

2 thoughts on “Finding the limelight

  1. It was a delight to discover your blog and find someone combining creativity and thinking on management issues. I have tended to keep the two things in different parts of my life but you have made me reconsider that tactic and maybe this is something I will explore as part of my Coaching and Mentoring course at UWE.
    Thank you.

    1. Dear Julie, I think that you raise a very interesting and slightly sticky point. It’s good to work with your passions, but what happens when your respite to your work is actually, well, your work? I don’t think that I’ve quite sorted that one out! But I am really glad that you like the blog. It’s a much better way of getting research out there than publishing in journals. If only the rest of the academy agreed with me! Glad to hear that you are doing the coaching and mentoring course. I hope that you are enjoying it. Ann

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