Saturday, 12 January 2013

Diane Shink's Apron Exhibit

Fads and Styles of Aprons: An Exhibit by Diane MacLeod Shink
By: Joan Beswick
The Oxford English Dictionary defines an apron as ‘a protective garment covering the front of one’s clothes’. This is a utilitarian but very limited description of a functional but funky garment – one which Diane Shink sees as both a chronicle of the varied roles of women in society and an echo of “changes in fashion, fabric and popular colours”.

During the 2012 Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival, Shink’s apron exhibit at the Four Fathers Memorial Library in Amherst offered vibrant testimony to the role of aprons in the lives of women across many generations. And while technically speaking, these aprons did cover the front of clothes as the dictionary suggests, they came in multiple styles and hues - with and without embellishment. They ranged from recycled flour sacks to fine fabrics with embroidery and ruffles – a reflection of both the diversity of their makers and the changing times in which they lived. 

Diane’s collection of almost nine hundred aprons began as a way to find donor fabric for her real passion, quilting.  Thankfully, her ‘apron hobby’ took on a life of its own and evolved over time into this wonderful collection. Reactions to her exhibit ranged from a middle-aged woman’s nostalgia for the aprons worn long ago by her grandmother to the delighted smile of a high school student who deemed it ‘just awesome’. Visitors to the library stood under the Graphic Novels sign or beside the circle of computers with users busily perusing Facebook and Twitter –they gazed upward, some smiling, others reflecting, some whispering comments to friends -  all enjoying in different ways this vintage assembly. 

Diane's exhibit has moved on but all is not lost – for ‘everything old is new again’ – and aprons are making a comeback. A recent article about Diane’s collection, written by Susan Schwartz last February in the National Post, notes that McCall’s now has at least fifteen apron patterns, there is now an apron website called “Tie One On”, and an apron magazine called “Apronology” with the mission of crafting ‘aprons with attitude’.
Diane’s recent book, “Aprons – My Grandmother Always Wore One”, is an agenda that includes pictures of some of her aprons with descriptive commentary. Copies were available at both the library and at festival headquarters (and according to Schwartz’s article in the National Post, this book/agenda can also be purchased directly from Diane at 514-605-7845 or by contacting her at 
Diane's exhibit inspired me to make an apron for myself and some for others as well. The nice thing about aprons is they are a simple garment - even the most creatively-challenged can make a reasonable facsimile. So this year, several friends and family members got aprons and agendas for Christmas. The aprons varied in style and the fabrics ranged from denim to chintz, sporting everything from footballs to flowers. Like Diane's vintage collection, they reflected their intended owners - what they enjoy and where they are in their lives. 
Inspired by Diane Shink's apron exhibit, we started 2013 with fresh aprons and new agendas, pleased that everything old is indeed 'new again'.  Thanks, Diane!

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