Jon Crispin's Notebook

Willard Patient Dress / Part 2

The Willard Suitcase Project

This is the back of the dress that I posted the other day.

The Willard Suitcase Project

There is more of the beautiful orange thread on this side, as well as some very fanciful figures.

The Willard Suitcase Project

In the image below, I love how the two horizontal lines at the bottom of the dress seem to me to indicate water.  And is that a spigot just above the lines?

The Willard Suitcase Project

Here is the reverse side of the above figure.  I was thinking at the time we were shooting that people who do embroidery might like to see this view.

The Willard Suitcase Project

This figure is similar to one on the front of the dress.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The faces she does are so expressive.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Here is another detail of a hand, and I am not sure what is represented coming out of what appears to be a pocket.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The figure below in the box looks like either a kind of face or something from the depths of the ocean.

The Willard Suitcase Project

Is this another face?

The Willard Suitcase Project

Her use of lines is very cool.

The Willard Suitcase Project

I have been trying to figure out how the grid below fits in to the overall design.  At first I thought it represented a building, but I am not so sure.

The Willard Suitcase Project

And here are just a few more shots of the reverse side of the dress.

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

The Willard Suitcase Project

Thanks for checking this out.  I will continue my efforts to find the name of the Willard patient who created this.  In the meantime you can continue to see the latest uploads of the cases at the Willard Suitcases site.

12 Responses

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  1. Darlene Williams said, on 13/03/2017 at 3:07 pm

    The grid part of the dress reminds me of plans for a garden. There are so many flowers and butterflies that I think that may be a good guess.

  2. Tania M said, on 13/03/2017 at 3:59 pm

    It is s beautiful, in the photo of the whole person in the black pants, I thought it looked like a fern coming out of the pocket. The item under the box looks like a monkey to me. I love it. Could look at it for hours.

  3. Carolyn Hill Rogers said, on 13/03/2017 at 5:16 pm

    I love seeing this. The stitcher was so precise and careful in her design and work. Very well done.

    Could the pocket you mentioned represent an empty one? No money?

  4. Mema said, on 13/03/2017 at 9:20 pm

    Jon Crispin, you’re artistry is wonderful. Your eye for painting a narrative picture with your camera lens is superb because my response to your work is inspiraction for my particular art form: the written word. The way you captured this outsider artist’s work speaks volumes. It is at once haunting, speculative, editorial, beautiful, thought-provoking.
    To my eyes, the object that seemingly is coming out of the pocket looks like the leaves of the stem of the orange flower which the figure is blocking (since the same thread & pattern is being used). The object in the box reminds me of human anatomy…could this be the artist’s attempt to represent what she sees and perhaps doesn’t understand (two lungs, rib cage/public bones perhaps)? The grid reminds me of a window view and the gold flowerstandard could signify snowflakes or a representation of spring.
    All in all, thank you for memorializing these human beings and challenging you’re audience to observe themselves for their voyeurism, challenging them to “see” the work of those who were stigmatized and forgotten due to mental illness or other misunderstood behaviors. Great work, man. I’m sharing…

    • joncrispin said, on 15/03/2017 at 9:24 am

      Mema, thank you so much for your comment. It means so much to me to hear from other artists, and the fact that my photos inspire really keeps me going on this project. Best, jon

  5. Charlie Seton said, on 13/03/2017 at 10:32 pm

    I love the whole Willard series, but this dress blows my mind! I hope you can find out the story of the person who made it (and then I hope you get permission to tell us!). I have been fascinated by “Outsider Art” for years. This was probably created purely for the pleasure of the person who created it. That is PURE Art or “Art Brut”. Thank you!

    • joncrispin said, on 15/03/2017 at 9:23 am

      Thanks Charlie. I have good connections with some retired staff and some leads about who made the dress. I’ll keep everyone posted.

  6. BL said, on 15/03/2017 at 1:00 am

    I thought the rectangle akin to perhaps a calendar or bars on a window. Some of the back motifs look like reproductive organs. It’s really amazing.

    • joncrispin said, on 15/03/2017 at 9:21 am

      Thanks BL. Interesting idea about reproductive organs. Appreciate the comment. Jon

  7. Dhyan Atkinson said, on 22/03/2017 at 11:29 am

    As an embroiderer from a family of female embroiderers, I was intrigued by this dress. In fact I took awhile to respond because I was trying to figure out what the outline stitch she was using was and why she chose it. In the most usual outline stitch you bring the needle up through the material, pull the thread through and then take a stitch a little ways off (the length of stitching and the fineness of stitch that you want.) When you stick the needle down into the fabric again, you come up about half way back toward the starting point. Repeat. Her stitching line has a MUCH shorter back stitch than usual so that when you look at the line it almost looks as if there are two stitches with a tiny stitch covering the gap between the two. When I saw the back, a dotted line, I could tell that she only used one needle and thread. So how did she do that? ???? I checked some of my stitching encylopedias and couldn’t find “that stitch.” My guess is that she was being cautious with the amount of thread she was using and took the smallest possible back stitch – thus saving herself thread but also giving that interesting “wavy” quality to her lines of embroidery.

    The second thing I found very intriguing was that this is not at all a “normal” embroider pattern from the era. It is not symetrical. It does not have borders and patterns. It is so random. I am reminded of the dream pictures that Jungian patients did about the same time she was embroidering. They are very different and unique pictures in which something or someone might be floating in the air, as many of her figures do, or a figure might have a feather (that’s MY guess) coming out of a pocket. I also looked at her use of color (wondering if she had a limited color pallet, or if those were her preferences.) I also, and this may be prejudicial of me, thought “This does look like someone in an insane asylum might have done this.”

    Regardless, it is beautiful and I also wish we knew who she was, and why one of the dark pants men seems to have another set of legs underneath him, and what the cat is doing zooming around in a teacup (?)

    I have worked with personal historians (people who save other’s stories and memories) and I just think this dress is a strong reminder to leave stories with special things. This woman was kind of “lost” three times: once when she entered Willard, once when she died, and again when her story was forgotten leaving this tantalizing artifact behind.

    Thanks for doing this, Jon!
    Your friend in Boulder, Dhyan

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