Folding Twenty Towels

The white guest towels

For some time I struggled with how to approach the gift of twenty towels from a local specialist; in linen and towelling supply, and laundry. The towels had been deemed unsuitable for continued use, no longer required, decommissioned from the status of fresh, white, fluffy guest towel. When I collected the towels from the site I was overwhelmed by the height, weight, breadth and depth of folded towels that lined the walls of the establishment, and filled the trolleys for transportation.

The day of collection was Sept 23rd, Auckland was on the fold of COVID-19 Alert Level 3 and 2, physical human contact was still not encouraged. As I cautiously approached the entrance, I was greeted by a radiant woman waving and smiling at me. She was standing at a table, amongst the towels. “Towels for Wendy” she said and pointed at the trolley. She was folding, folding towels, folding towels for me.

I was deeply affected by this encounter, there was an entanglement of emotion; over-gifting, care, domestic labour, privilege … so much so that the pile of folded towels then sat in my house for weeks, untouched. The trace of the woman who folded these towels lay in the fibres, infused with warmth and care. And beneath this layer, were the many lives that had rubbed, dried, and cried into these forgiving towels.

It wasn’t until I was in my exhibition space for EoY assessment that I felt it was time to engage fully with these towels. My other work for submission was on the walls, I was alone in the space, and so I began to fold. I embodied the radiant waving woman, I embodied my mother, and her mother …

Folding Twenty Towels honours those who fold.

For more curiosities about towels