Pussyeyes and nippleflowers – finding one’s identity and expression with textile as medium

My Master’s Thesis Pussyeyes and nippleflowers – finding one’s identity and expression with textile as medium consist of two intertwined parts: the written part and the artistic production. Artistic production, a series of industrially woven and hand-tufted artworks, is the main focus of this thesis. The main themes of this thesis are textiles as a medium, in-betweenness, personal and professional identity and gender.

This industrially woven tapestry is called Femmegod and it is part of a triptych. Photo by Sampo Leiniitty and Matilda Palmu

Series of hand-tufted artworks from the artistic production: Burnt sausage aka kyrsä, Lipsi and Pussyeye vol 2Photo by Tiina Palm

With this thesis, I seek to find myself, and I ponder my professional and personal identity, gender and in-betweenness in the form of art, textile as my medium. The artistic production is the materialisation of my thoughts, which ties together all the themes from the written part and presents my most authentic style that was found during this process. Textiles became the connecting bond between these themes – making textiles has shaped my identity and brought out personal and professional insights.

This picture was taken at the jacquard weaving workshop when I was waiting for my jacquard tapestries to be woven. Photo by Mortti Saarnia

I am interested in the connection between the material and the maker and how the process of making can aid in finding oneself. This thesis searches for answers to questions such as: How textile-making has shaped me as a creative professional and individual? What gender signifies to my practice and how it has affected my journey to becoming a (textile-) artist? How do I reflect my identity, the feeling of in-between, gender and worldview into my artistic work?

“I sat down to the loom and started to weave. Layer by layer, weft by weft, I found my own language. Row by row, weft by weft, inner knots and tangled thoughts started to unravel” -quote from my working diary


Here’s a hand-woven sample of the colors and the weave structures for the bigger jacquard tapestries. Photo by Matilda Palmu

I applied different research methods to this thesis such as artistic, autoethnographic and narrative research. I researched the topic by reading, writing a diary, self-reflecting, intuitive drawing and painting and working in the textile workshops. Creating the artworks became an essential part of understanding the topic and finding answers to the questions; the tacit knowledge brought up important insights for the journey of finding myself.


Here are intuitive drawings and paintings from the process. Some of the motifs ended up in the final artworks. Photo by Matilda Palmu
Here’s a process picture from the tufting studio while I was making artwork called Spark and hammer. This artwork is about empowerment and breaking the chains of narrow gender roles and stereotypes. Photo by Matilda Palmu

In the written part of this thesis, I share thoughts about gender, identity, textile-making and in-betweenness and link them to a broader context by using literature and electronic resources. The artistic production is the materialisation of my thoughts that ties together all the themes from the written part and presents my most authentic style that was found during this process. The artistic production consists of woven and hand-tufted textile artworks. I arranged an art exhibition titled Pussyeyes and nippleflowers from selected artworks of this artistic production at Lokal + Satellite gallery space 10th – 16th August 2020.

This picture is from my exhibition Pussyeyes and nippleflowers. Photo by Sampo Leiniitty

The artistic production is a take on equality and acceptance and a statement against narrow gender and professional roles and discrimination. The artworks represent their own world, a microcosm in the in-betweenness, beyond definition and terms where all kinds of existence are allowed and accepted. It is also my tribute to textiles and celebration for diversity and the found creativity and acceptance through textile-making. Making textiles has allowed me to enjoy and embrace being in-between, outside the “boxes”, and accept me on a personal and professional level – I can effortlessly jump between art, craft and design and be multifaceted myself without any definitions and terms.

This industrially woven tapestry is called Equality. Photo by Sampo Leiniitty and Matilda Palmu

One of the best outcomes of this whole process was how it started my career as a textile artist and I am still continuing exploring the same themes in my artistic work. I feel that with textiles I can discuss really personal and sensitive matters such as gender and sexuality and reveal something about myself that I would not normally do. I have arranged another exhibition, Fantastical creatures in the sexotic garden, as a continuum of this project and currently I am working on the third exhibition, Creatures and other wonders, following the same themes.

Series of hand-tufted artworks: the Nippleflowers. Photo by Tiina Palm

Although the objectives for this thesis were very personal, I hope this thesis can inspire others, disclose insights on a personal and a professional level to many and evoke conversation around the discussed themes. I also hope that this thesis encourages others to find themselves and be the most authentic self they can be.

Here is a permanent link to my thesis book.

This hand-tufted artwork is called Genderflag. Photo by Sampo Leiniitty and Matilda Palmu
Close-up of an industrially woven jacquard tapestry from the Fluidity series. Photo by Matilda Palmu

All the artworks are by the author Matilda Palmu.

Published in Textile Design

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