(1999 – 2004)

In 1999, my family experienced a crisis of sorts – we truly had some sharp differences with each other. At one point, something happened between my Dad and me – I found myself in a sticky situation – and out of it came one of my pincushion figures. Not only did the figure bear a strong resemblance to my father, but also to make it I had cut up part of his jacket.

I stuck his pincushion on the fridge in the kitchen, right where my Mom spent a good deal of her time. I suggested that she might find it a very useful object; she could stick her pins and needles in it when she didn’t need them for sewing. Mom turned down my advice, she said it wasn’t every day that she wanted to kill my father. I told her she certainly couldn’t kill Dad by sticking pins in a trivial little doll and, furthermore, they were going to kill each other anyway, if they kept arguing like they did.

I kept pushing her to see my point: using this pincushion was a way to realize the actuality of death; each prick of the pin just might prod her (each of us) to be more loving. Every time she – or whoever – stuck a pin into the pincushion, they would feel it – as if it was a real person, near and dear to them. A pincushion like this could enhance the human propensity for compassion, it might encourage people to be a bit more thoughtful. Something to strive for, especially if you feel trivialized. The tiny-ness of the figure is significant, stuffed as it is with vulnerability and fragility. Above all, it’s the odd feeling it evokes, as if you now own – hold in the palm of your hand – some genuine emotion. Essentially, it’s a doll for a grown-up that personifies a real human being.

The origins of the other pincushions are connected with the birth of my son. That’s when I changed my ways – I no longer felt it necessary to go abroad so much. I wanted to spend time with my son, to be calm and enjoy the joy of him. So I stayed home, but to deal with that, to deal with all the temptations I still found myself in the midst of – and to maintain some contact with the people around me – I manufactured some more useful pincushions.

I grew up in a Prague housing estate – with hundreds of neighbors, none of whom I knew or knew me, although we met and exchanged hellos on the sidewalks in front of the same old apartment blocks day after day. These days I live in another working-class district. I find things there pretty much the same. Liben is boring – it’s on the gray outskirts of the city and, in a way, the grayness shapes the people living here I tried to overcome this handicap; to remedy the boredom and be more productive I began manufacturing my pincushions. When I first made the decision to spend more time at home, I had insisted that it would not be a loss of time – on the contrary. Even when presented with the truth of the situation, I didn’t consider it a waste of time. By investing my time I whiled away time – and so it was profitable, not only for me, but perhaps, also for those of you who use pincushions, or at least, come to view them. The pincushions were an attempt to integrate the immaterial, and consequently, unmemorable stuff of life; they dealt with dead-ends and the likelihood anymore for a decent existence – and so gave rise to an urgency to “wake up and smell the coffee…”

I needed to find some suitable types to people my so-called Pincushion Situations. For the most part, these situations deal with poor memory – folks who have almost no idea or conclusion about what they want out of life, and so intentionally forget. At first glance you might think there would be a lot of such situations, but it turns out there aren’t that many true portrait/pincushion cases out there. If one is to succeed in preserving the rare cases, it is necessary to bring these captured takes on life into the artistic dimension, employing some bona fide working technique (the act is significant) – hence, “Pincushions”. The resulting object, created with care and patience, should have a physical presence and the quality of genuinely manufactured work. It should be viewed not as an art piece per se, but as something that even an amateur might make that is almost art; an object which is truly created and can stand as an artistic work – not at all misery art in contrast to great art – with a simplicity that more aptly belongs in a sewing shop or boutique than it does in an art gallery.

Jiri Cernicky
Prague, April 2005

Curatorial text

(daily voodoo) – 1999, 14x10cm, cloth, metal, glass


A conflict in our family led me to make a pincushion for my mother to use, one not unlike my father in appearance, who then found himself in a precarious situation. In making the figure I used a swatch of cloth from the pocket of Dad’s coat. It’s also very important to know that for one of the needle objects I used a valuable family gem – Grandma’s broach. I attached the pincushion to the fridge in my parents’ kitchen.

Grey Granny

Mrak Nike

The Opening of an Exhibition of Drawings for Sale

Proceeds from the sale will be put into the renovation of a regional exhibition hall at the town hall.

Alone on the island, and not a blade of grass anywhere

What now?


I’m in a hurry and I’ve been standing in a queue for about a quarter of an hour with pensioners paying with heaps of change they can’t see properly because they’ve left their glasses behind. The receipt roll in the till has just run out. The head cashier comes to pick up part of the daily takings. I have a feeling that the credit plastic-reader probably isn’t working today. I haven’t got any cash. My prediction’s come true. I have to leave the shopping bags with the cashier and rush to the nearest cash machine half a kilometer away. The whole queue has to wait for me to come back, and customers already well-wound-up are beginning to lose it.


Mum has just found out that I have mis-loaded the washing machine with whites and coloreds together.