gus·set n.  1 a piece of fabric, usually triangular in shape, inserted in a garment where added strength or freedom of movement is needed.  2 a flat, often triangular plate, usually of steel or plywood, used to connect and reinforce a joint where several members meet at different angles, for example, in a pitched roof.   3 a section of chain mail protecting the unarmoured joints of a suit of armour.  World English Dictionary

The gusset here explored is part of the everyday: a small cotton insert in almost every pair of female knickers. It is an article seldom thought about, let alone discussed. It is private, neglected—by some perhaps disparaged, even vaguely despaired of—thus it rarely enters the public arena, this only through illicit sexual kink and titillation. The gusset is an article laden with suggestion, a final frontier.

A woman wears a gusset every day, pressed against that most intimate private place. The attention it does get is predominantly negative: it harbours stains, things we’d like to get rid of. The gusset acts as a reinforcement, a safety net, a moisture retainer. Unlike your clothing, you do not choose your gusset: it is an incidental, taken for granted; yet it is, in a practical way, essential.

The gusset reflects something back to us when looked at and considered. Be it beauty, fragility, humour, disgust, mortality. It might titillate. It evokes reaction. Intrigue. Compulsion. Eroticism. It reflects the relationship woman has with her body, with her sexuality, and her self-image.

In these pages, the on-looker is challenged to engage with what the gusset means to them; perhaps startled to realise this small piece of cotton they choose not to think about has a meaning at all. You are driven to rediscover this unseen place in a unique, outlandish way, to give it life, dignity, and recognition. The sewn images honour this neglected field, validating it as a looked-at space, giving permission to relate to it in a fresh new way. The imagery gives you a gentle nudge, another dimension, a playful hand into an un-thought-of universe. You are provoked to think of the gusset differently. For some this means shock; for others delight, inspiration, intrigue; perhaps it is simply cute and fun; or perhaps it induces memories. Everyone has their own unique reaction.

I have chosen initially to work on unblemished gussets, aware that the challenge may otherwise be a nudge too far, but my fascination with the symbolic nature of the normal staining is central to my study. There is no getting away from it: women secrete secret fluids daily, these absorbed by the gusset. The fluids are annoying, embarrassing, extremely private. They leave their unwanted trace. And of course, they are sexual. They contain subtle fragrances, enticing pheromones; for all they may annoy or disgust, they make us sexually attractive. These fluids are exciting. Essential. Even when brand new the gusset therefore evokes humanity. A gusset suggests the state of becoming blemished by its very existence; the gusset will harbour body fluids and inevitably become stained. Can these stains become beautiful? Might it be possible to re-evaluate our conditioned reactions? After all, the marks are a symbol of life itself: they betray the mundane bodily function, the process of cleansing and flow, the lack of control we  all must learn to live with. They are ripe with life, and cyclical fertility. They suggest mortality. The fluid—and therefore the gusset—carry an awareness of the life-cycle.

The sewing itself is an old female tradition. The making of imagery in stitches a favourite long ago pastime, both practical and amusing. A means of producing necessary clothing and creating superfluous decoration upon it, in the form of embroidery, appliqué and lace-making. Also tapestry, quilt and carpet-making. It is an occupation both solitary and community based. The act of sewing is itself contemplative. It allows space and freedom in the mind as the fingers busy themselves, the attention given to a pragmatic yet creative source. It takes time, requires gentle patience. It creates rhythm and harmony: each stitch, the breath. In and out. Stitching is breathing.

The act of regularly sewing images, thoughts, and subjects of reaction or inspiration, into gussets draws it into a place of journey and relationship. It slowly becomes a reflection of my life, along with the stories of my life, old and new, told as tales.

The gusset is the place of the secret confessional.

Perhaps the gusset is the last taboo.