December 28, 2023 | Thursday

“The women of my childhood were artists!”

Vlora Hajdini’s solo exhibition The ‘Stitching Stories’ opened on October 26 at the House of Europe in Pristina, while on November 21 the artist had the opportunity to talk about her art with visitors to the exhibition. ‘Stitching Stories’ presents a journey through the artist’s childhood alleys and homes she has shared with various women in her life. In the interview below, Vlora explains her insistence on highlighting the under-recognized art of women, as well as their stories. 

Your works contain stories of different women in the field of handicrafts; can you tell us what the research process was like for these stories? How did your interest in these stories begin, and how did you come up with the idea of transmitting them in such manner? Have you conducted interviews with the women whose stories are told through your art?

My interest in arts and crafts started very early. Growing up in an atmosphere where handiwork was performed by my mother and the women of the extended family, has had an impact on my later work. I learned sewing, knitting and embroidery from an early age. The color of threads, knitting and embroidery has had a major influence on my development as a creator. This experience has taught me to work as a stage designer, costume designer, creator and restorer of puppets for theater shows. The work process has helped me develop new practices which have been reflected in my works presented in exhibitions with installations and paintings. In my installations, the fabric occupies a key place, while in the paintings the figure of the woman and the surrounding environment are illustrated with a multitude of colors. The story about women who made their art without being recognized by the general public is my creation. For this story, I did not conduct interviews, but it can be perceived more as a trip back in time, in my recollections of conversations with the women of the family who embroidered and knitted for household needs and for the dowry of the brides, crafting items that had a certain function for decorating the house but at the same time also served for household needs. 

Where did the inspiration to collect these stories in the first place and present them in this way, come from? 

The inspiration came to me at a time when my children were young and I didn’t have the opportunity to work in my studio due to other commitments. So, I started working on paintings with small dimensions and with acrylic colors, since these colors dry quickly and allow the work to be completed quickly. Of course, this way of working at home, in the kitchen and living room, instinctively led to mere interiors entering my works and in many cases the landscape resembled the interior, while the main character behind this whole environment was the figure of the woman. I let my imagination run wild without any particular motive at first. This work took me back in time, delving into my memory of various domestic settings I had spent time in at a young age. During the 90s, I lived in the countryside and had the opportunity to be close to housewives who spent their free time working in their workshops. With great interest, I learned from them how to embroider and knit. Conversations with these women of my family were mainly about the selection of colors and the shades of the threads they used in their embroidery. In the combination of colors they were free, without any previously studied process. Their goal was for their designs to be unique and not copied from others. This made me look at those women with a different eye. To me they were artists! 

How many years did the process of documenting these stories through your art take? When you started documenting these stories, did you have the intention to conclude with an exhibition?

My documentation started in the early 2000s, when I started collecting embroidery and handicrafts. My project is not complete yet. I am in the process of developing the cycle of works. The easiest way for me has been painting, which I consider as an outline of a larger project and enough to keep this project in the works. I have revealed this process in several exhibitions, but alongside it I have preserved the embroideries and I am still in the process of developing a cycle which takes more time, and I believe that in 2025 I will present a new exhibition which will be mostly textile-based and the story will focus on the 1990-2000 period. 

How does your exhibition contribute to the visibility of women in public discourse? How do you view the contribution of your art to advancing the position of women in our society? 

My exhibition presents a perhaps slightly illustrative reality of women in the family and in society, it shows a sensitive creative side of women, so I believe that it offers reflections rather than raise issues. 

Do you hold any of the works included in the exhibition closer to your heart and if so, why? 

Yes, I have paintings that I sometimes distinguish from others, and this closeness is mainly related to the period they associate me with, the period in which I created them. 

The ‘Stitching stories’ exhibition talks about a very specific community of women in Kosovo, is this something you intend to pursue in the future? 

My creative practice, both in painting and installation, is mainly about the position of women in the family and society. These are the topics that I will continue to address in the future.