Iris Haussler: Honest Threads
Installation views of Iris Haussler: Honest Threads at Honest Ed’s department
store. Courtesy of the Koffler Centre of the Arts, Toronto, Canada.
(above and below)
The Koffler Centre of
the Arts, Toronto, Canada, presented the uniquely interactive fiber exhibition,
Iris Haussler: Honest Threads, on view January 22–March 8, 2009, and our
Summer 2009 issue includes a review of the exhibit.
For the show, Haussler collected and cataloged cherished items of clothing
from members of the surrounding community and then shared those garments (along
with photographs and stories about the items) with the public at Honest Ed’s
department store (also in Toronto). One example from the exhibit is Molly Sutkaitis’s
wedding dress. It was exhibited with the following poignant story of finding love
in Canada after World War II and photo of Sutkaitis and her husband, Tony, on
their wedding day.
Wedding Dress by Molly Sutkaitis
It was March 1961 when I was jilted. I lived and taught in the parish of Glasgow,
Scotland. The hotel had been booked for the reception, the invitations sent, acceptances
and gifts had come in, the Wedding Banns had been called in church, and then the
letter arrived. He had met someone else. The elders advised me to stay put, and
that the emotions would settle. It was difficult seeing pity in the eyes of those
around me. In 1963 I saw an ad that teachers were needed in Toronto. I decided
to go there and to dedicate the rest of my life to teaching.
In Canada I felt that I had cut the emotional umbilical cord. The daughter
of my new landlady, Rhoda, was a matchmaker. When she heard I wasn’t interested
in marriage she told me of two eligible bachelors. Rhoda managed to put a guilt
trip on me when she said I was depriving a good man of a good wife. Tony and I
were married on July 26, 1966.
Tony was born in Padowabie, a village in Lithuania. When word came that the
Nazis were advancing, Tony was sent to live with an aunt at the other end of the
country. On his return journey, the Nazi soldiers burst into the train carriage
and took him at gunpoint. The first night was spent in the castle in Vilnius.
The following day and that night were spent in a cattle car along with other boys.
They were jammed like sardines. There was no food. The train stopped from time
to time for them to relieve themselves. On arrival at the camp, Tony was given
a canvas bag to fill with hay—it was to be his bed. A machine gun was used
to strike him when he was moving too slowly. Food was a watery thistle soup. One
of Tony’s jobs was to load bombs into airplanes. He kept his sanity by meditating
on the Rosary, a simple Catholic prayer.
Toward the end of the war the guards became less vigilant, and one day Tony
and another man from his village simply walked away. They wandered over Germany
until a German farmer’s wife told them that the war had ended. She directed
them to a displaced persons camp. From there he went to England. In 1963 he made
contact with his family, he sent them all his savings. Tony came to Canada because
he always felt a foreigner in England and in Canada he reckoned that everyone
except aboriginal Canadians were foreigners.
Molly and Tony Sutkaitis on their wedding day, July 26, 1966, in Toronto, Canada.
Part of the exhibit Iris Haussler: Honest Threads.