Kim Stanford wants your socks – holey, tube, dress, work and even ones with hearts or frogs.
She’s not interested in wearing them, in fact she hasn’t worn socks in months. Rather, the artist, who has called Leslieville home for just more than 10 years, is using them to make bulbous sculptures for her next installation.
Socks might seem an unusual material to use for an art exhibit, but Stanford said she prefers working with material that could be described as ordinary or domestic. One of her previous installations, called Unravelled, saw her deconstruct then felt together thousands of steel wool kitchen scrubbers into a long length of yarn, which she then wrapped over and over around itself into a giant ball of wool.
“I’m just trying to use mundane material in my art,” she said. “What I tend to be interested in with my work is the small, tiny insignificant acts that happen over and over again in someone’s life.”
She added she’s interested in how those seemingly meaningless acts actually become a part of who we are.
“For me in the last decade, other than being an artist, my life has been filled with domestic stuff,” she said. “I’m a wife and a mother.”
And as a mother of two young sons, one of the actions she finds herself performing constantly has to do with socks.
“I’m always picking up other people’s dirty socks,” she said with a bit of a laugh. “That happens over and over again. It’s a bit of a bother.”
It’s also a bit of a commentary on gender roles and domestic female responsibilities, which is something she’s touched on before in her work.
“It’s men socks I’m picking up everyday,” she said. “On the one hand, it’s just socks so why is it a big deal, on the other hand why is it still an issue for me or broadly?”
When she speaks with other people about the project, it’s generally women who nod knowingly about the monumental burden that is constantly having to pick up other people’s socks.
The idea of using socks in her art first began percolating in Stanford’s mind about five years ago. She previously kept a sock diary where she photographed and recorded the socks she picked up off the floor and she’s done some drawings of piles of dirty socks. She began working on the sculpture piece in September and, incidentally, hasn’t worn socks since.
“The really interesting thing is I can’t wear socks right now,” she said. “I tend not to wear socks in the summer and I just haven’t put them back on.”
Don’t worry, she has a warm pair of winter boots.
The sock sculptures are made by soaking the socks in glue and then shaping them onto different forms. For the show, the sculptures will be installed over all the surfaces of a small room in an organic fashion, not in a uniform pattern. It takes place at Gallery 1313 on Queen Street West in Parkdale from May 15 to 26. The project is supported by a Toronto Arts Council grant.
But before she can finish, Stanford needs lots and lots of socks. So far she’s received donations of hundreds of socks from fellow Leslieville artists and her neighbours, but in order to complete her project she estimates she’ll need about 1,000.
While some people think it’s bizarre that she’s using socks as an artistic medium, they’ve been happy to help her out with donations.
“People are really happy that they’re going to be used for something,” Stanford said. “And wives seems to be really happy to get rid of their husband’s tube socks.”
Anyone willing to donate their orphaned, unmatched or holey footwear can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org – one stipulation, they can’t be new.
“They have to have been handled and shaped.”