Artist Agustina Woodgate has been sewing quotes into secondhand clothes to bring ‘poetry to everyday life’
Residents of Miami have been getting a little something extra with their charity shop purchases after artist Agustina Woodgate began surreptitiously sewing tiny pieces of paper carrying lines of poetry into the city’s thrift store clothes.
Describing her project as “poetry bombing”, the Argentinean artist nonchalantly enters Miami’s charity shops with needle, thread and scissors, and quickly sews a short quote into a piece of clothing without – she hopes – staff noticing. Skirts are targeted with the Sylvia Plath quote, “Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts”, while the Li Po extract, “Life is a huge dream / why work so hard?” has been mainly sewn into trousers.
“The idea is to generate a surprise for the future buyer. Read the brand of your new suit and next to it find a little message,” said Woodgate, who has sewn 500 labels into clothes so far. The clandestine project is part of the poetry festival O, Miami.
“Sewing poems in clothes is a way of bringing poetry to everyday life just by displacing it, by removing it from a paper to integrate it and fuse it with our lives. Sometimes little details are stronger when they are separated from where they are expected to be,” she said. “Places and objects are alive, we make them alive, they tell our stories and tales. Sewing poems in clothes in a way is giving the garments a voice.”
So far, says Woodgate, “the reception has been great. People really enjoy it. And they actually do smile.” Once a customer even got angry on her behalf after spotting her sewing and finding out she wasn’t being paid for it, but she has been thrown out of two stores. “I did get kicked out twice, but it’s fine – there are so many [charity shops],” said Woodgate. “Most of the time, they can’t even imagine that there is someone around sewing poems. It’s harmless.”
Currently in Berlin, Woodgate is now hitting the German capital’s shops with her needle and a new collection of tags bearing the quote “Wissen spricht. Aber Weisheit hört zu”, the German translation of the Jimi Hendrix quote “Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens”. She’s just looking at targeting charity shops so far, but is considering “plane seats, or even table cloths from restaurants – why not? The idea is to get the message out.”
Video by Jacob Katel