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Matrix Artists

Allison Smith: Notion Nanny

May 13, 2007; 50 Minutes; Video

For her Notion Nanny project, Allison Smith builds collaborative relationships with other craftspeople in an effort to create a temporary guild of makers, providing a platform for the exchange of ideas, skills, objects, and experiences around the practice and politics of the handmade. "Notion Nanny" dolls were popular during the Victorian era, representations of the traveling peddlers who journeyed through the countryside with baskets of varied wares in hand. In life, these itinerant traders served as important conduits of aesthetic articles and ideas, connecting isolated locales through news and stories as well as useful goods. As objects, the notion nanny dolls serve as miniaturized collections of eighteenth-century material culture, with tiny examples of needlework, tinware, ceramics, and other traditional crafts. In the exhibition and related activities, Smith fashions her own role as a contemporary maker, apprentice, trader, and storyteller and also creates a literal twenty-first-century notion nanny in the form of a life-size doll, modeled after the artist, that presents the fruits of her exchanges with her collaborators in various locations across England and the United States.