The Central Collective

923 N. Central St. Knoxville, TN


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First Friday: The Tiniest Nail with Aaron Sanders Head


From Aaron Sanders Head:

“May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.” - Mary Oliver

One of the primary reasons I am drawn to textiles is the accessibility of the medium. At its core, the only required tools for sewing are fabric, needle, thread and time. Each of the pieces in this collection is made up of the tiniest, most basic component—a stitch. With this collection of work, and all of my work, I am attempting to stretch the limits of the beautiful, important and useful work that can be created with the smallest, most basic components.

This collection of work is composed of large, intricately stitched pieces, and patchwork wall-hangings. The stitch work I create is inspired by Sashiko, a style of decorative reinforcement that emerged in the Edo era of Japan. Sashiko is a rigid type of stitching with specific parameters. I learned those rules in order to break those rules and develop my own stitching voice. The patchwork pieces are inspired by traditional quilt and quilt blocks, but I enjoy the freedom of improvisation and the less rigid rules that come with that.

With my materials, I am committed to using only plant-based and natural dyes. All of the thread I use is hand dyed wool using plant-based dye materials, including osage, madder, indigo, black walnut and more. I often stitch intuitively, not quite knowing where the pattern will resolve, but trusting the process and materials. The patchwork pieces are hand-dyed by me using an organic indigo dye vat, along with other natural dyes like osage and cochineal. The natural dye process is long and less predictable, but the environmental and stylistic benefits are worth the exploratory process. Each piece is completely hand made, and completely impossible to reproduce exactly. 

Aaron Sanders Head is a curator, writer, and traveling, teaching artist based in Nashville, TN. His work personal work investigates, restores, and reinterprets historical textile practices, with a focus on natural dyes, handiwork, hand-mending and hand-stitching. Aaron explores the intersections of practices of the past with contemporary craft, and the ways that sewing and textile arts can aid in increasing diversity and representation in the creative class.