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Recognition: The veiled lives and history of tea and cotton plantations.

What is the MJ DO GOOD Memorial Residency??????

The DO GOOD-MJ Wood Memorial Short-Term Residency at Red Lodge Clay Center in Red Lodge, Montana. 

I was selected as the 2014 inaugural MJ DO GOOD Memorial Short Term Artist in residence at Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana for the months of March and April.

The intention of the residency is to support ceramic artists who wish to develop a body of work with a socially-conscious spirit and a strong sense of community engagement. Through a competitive application process one candidate per year is selected to work at the Red Lodge Clay Center Studios in Red Lodge, Montana.http://www.redlodgeclaycenter.com

Red Lodge Clay Center Gallery, Red Lodge Montana
Red Lodge Clay Center Gallery, Red Lodge Montana
Red Lodge Clay Center Studio Facility
Red Lodge Clay Center Studio Facility

The purpose of my Kickstarter campaign is to raise funds needed for roundtrip transportation, lodging at the residency, materials and shipping costs all directly related to the residency and my project proposal. The residency has supported one month of lodging, however, I need additional funds for lodging for the second month.

The work made during this residency will be exhibited in early 2015 at Five Points Gallery in Torrington, CT.

Residency Proposal

The DO GOOD-MJ Wood Memorial Short-Term Residency will allow me an intense and focused environment to create a new body of work following the research of my Fulbright Scholar Grant 2012-13 in India. The inspiration of my residency centers on work that will recognize, honor and address the history of the people of tea plantations in Assam, India combined with the history and people of cotton plantations in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries of colonial America. The past and present conditions of the Adivasi people (name used to identify tea plantation laborers in Assam, India) is marginalized and undervalued in the history record and current political sphere in India and globally. The people of tea and cotton plantations share a history and experience of suppression and control by their respective systems of colonialism. Therefore, I am motivated to make work that will engage meaningful discourse, giving audience to the complex and marginalized histories of tea and cotton plantations.

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”-Frederick Douglass
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”-Frederick Douglass

My project during the residency is to create 2 full tea services, each with 15 place settings. One set is for the women of tea and cotton plantations and the second set will be used for me to host tea-parties in the gallery for 15 guests while the work is exhibited, in order for people to come together and sit next to the tea/cotton tea service table and engage in understanding and dialoguing about the complex and difficult histories of tea and cotton and how these commodities have impacted their lives on a deeper level. The women of both plantations labored to bring privileged, wealthy people the enjoyment of fine cotton clothing and tea. They never experienced the full social inclusion, equality and luxury of these plantation commodities, yet it was (and is still on tea plantations) their labor fueled their respective economies and generated great wealth of which they saw no return, received no recognition. The purpose of my tea service is to create for these women a place at the table, an invitation to the table they had a hand in creating yet were never invited, nor had the means to create for themselves. At this table will be one vacant seat/setting specifically for the viewer to place him/herself, to sit with those who are rarely mentioned or considered when we sip tea or the painful history of cotton in America.

Excerpt from article by Biswajeet Saikia from Quarterly Journal, Dialogue, edited by Astha Bharati
Excerpt from article by Biswajeet Saikia from Quarterly Journal, Dialogue, edited by Astha Bharati

Four (4) place settings of the tea service will symbolize/represent the women I encountered on the Dirok tea plantation in Upper Assam. These women will be joined at the tea service/table with Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Sally Hemmings, Mary and Emily Edmonson, Phillis Wheatley, the plantation Nursemaid, the plantation Seamstress and the plantation House-servant. I will be setting and using an actual table, with fine cotton linens together with my tea service (made during the residency) in the manner of the traditional English tea service. There will be one vacate seat for the viewer at this table. The tea service will also function to reveal the combined and similar stories, struggles, triumphs. The empty seat, especially for me, is to place ourselves among these often forgotten women, that we may acknowledge and contemplate their labor, contributions, strengths, sacrifices and resilience. 

Sojourner Truth, sisters Mary and Emily Edmonson
Sojourner Truth, sisters Mary and Emily Edmonson
Harriet Tubman, 'Female Negro Slave with a Weighted Chain to her Ankle' by John Gabriel Stedman c.1796
Harriet Tubman, 'Female Negro Slave with a Weighted Chain to her Ankle' by John Gabriel Stedman c.1796

 Also, I will be creating 3 ceramic quilts  (below image-quilt made from ceramic tiles that hang on the wall). 

Strip Pieced Quilt #6: ‘flowers that grew on the plantation’, stoneware, porcelain, colored slips, glass, glaze, 6’ x 7’ (dimensions variable), cone 6 oxidation
Strip Pieced Quilt #6: ‘flowers that grew on the plantation’, stoneware, porcelain, colored slips, glass, glaze, 6’ x 7’ (dimensions variable), cone 6 oxidation

Two of the ceramic quilts will serve as portraits to honor the two young Adivasi girls I met and spent time with in Assam, Tuktuki Nayak and Matu Tati. They are live-in babysitters working for Assamese families, located off the tea plantation in order to earn extra money for their families. The two ceramic quilts will have the dimensions of twin size quilts to represent Matu and Tuktuki. The girls shift back and forth, going home to the tea plantations on the weekends. They both dream of a different life and future from the tea plantations, however they accept that work on the tea plantation is their destiny - they know this at the ages of 10 and 12. Every year I will make two cups in honor of the tea service that I will send to Tuktuki and Matu. It is important to me to share their lives, history and current circumstances with others in my work. Meeting Tuktuki, Matu, the families they work for and the Adivasi people on the plantations who embraced me so warmly, have made a great impact on me personally and artistically. It is important to me that Tuktuki and Matu know that their culture and their lives are being shared with others and mine with them.

'afternoon tea break', installation view, Hunterdon Museum of Art exhibition - 2009
'afternoon tea break', installation view, Hunterdon Museum of Art exhibition - 2009

The third ceramic quilt will be made up of an assemblage of cups reflecting the dimensions of a queen size quilt. The cups will sit upon tile shaped saucers that are mounted and cantilevered from the wall. They will commemorate significant events and people in tea industry in Assam coupled with historical events and people from my ancestral roots of cotton plantations.  

Thank you for taking the time to read my Kickstarter proposal and consideration of support!

Sincerely, Chotsani Elaine Dean

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Shipping of the work made during the residency is crucial. Kickstarter funds are integral and will be used to ensure the best shipping available can be used to ship the work across the country from Montana to Connecticut.

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    Postcard of tea garden landscape taken by me in Assam along with a handwritten thank you note for your support.

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    Awesome set of 6, 4 x 6 postcards. Three (3) images of the beautiful green landscape of tea plantations in Assam taken by me during my time in Assam along with three (3) postcard images of the beautiful 'Big Sky' landscape of Montana taken by me during the residency at Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana. Also included, handwritten thank you card for your support.

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    Two (2) ceramic tiles from my current body of work on my website, chotsanidean.com. Tiles can be selected on my website. Please indicate selection at time of donation and via email, first come first serve basis. Click on Individual tiles for purchase to view selection. Also included, handwritten thank you note for your support.

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    Two (2) ceramic tiles, 5" x 5" made during the residency at Red Lodge Clay Center, with a personal thank you message on the back of the tile.

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    One (1) tea cup and saucer set made during the artist residency at Red Lodge Clay Center with a personal thank you message on the saucer.

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    One (1) tea cup and saucer set and one (1) tile (5" x 5") made during the residency at Red Lodge Clay Center, with a personal thank you message on the back of tile and saucer.

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    Two (2) tea cups and saucer set and two (2) tiles (5" x 5") made during the residency at Red Lodge Clay Center with a personal thank you message on the back of tile and saucer.

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    Teapot with four (4) cup/saucer set made during the residency at Red Lodge Clay Center. Two (2) ceramic tiles, 5" x 5" made during the residency. Also, a set of postcards of the 25.00 donor reward level along with a personal thank you message on the saucers and tiles.

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Funding period

- (30 days)