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Palmer discusses the fabric of her Fulbright

Io Palmer in front of a dhobi ghat in New Delhi, India.
Io Palmer visits a dhobi ghat called Devi Prasad Sadan in New Delhi, India.

The title of Io Palmer’s latest work, “Created, Consumed, and Scrubbed,” could also describe the process of her proposal that led to the project’s funding.

Palmer is currently in New Delhi, India where she is studying the vibrant fabric of the region, the dynamic journey it takes and the spaces it occupies.

“Fabric is created in villages then bought and sold in markets, boutiques and government-run emporiums throughout India,” Palmer explains. “Some of these items are taken to areas in rows and cities called dhobi ghats, where it is beaten against cement-like tubs to clean it. And then it comes back to you ironed and pressed, tied up in a bundle. I’m interested in the fabric, but this project is more about society and commerce and labor in India.”

Palmer’s project is funded through the Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award, a prize she worked years to attain. Like the fabric she’s studying, her Fulbright proposal was put through the ringer.

“It was my third time applying with this same project, so I worked at it for a long time,” says Palmer. “The most helpful part was definitely having a lot of people offering feedback and constructive criticism on my proposal. Quite a few colleagues looked at it, and I even had people that had nothing to do with the arts look at it, including three colleagues from the Department of English.”

Palmer’s first trip to India sparked her vision for the project. The vibrant fabric blowing in the Indian wind “mesmerized” her, and she was attracted to the craft of fabric. Her project delves into sociology, looking at labor and how it’s shown in India.

“My project mixes all these things I’ve been interested in,” Palmer says. “The first time I went to India I was drawn to these things and I didn’t know why. I knew I wanted to apply for a Fulbright, but I didn’t know what to propose, so it all started to come together and make sense in a wonderful way.”

Palmer is now on her fourth trip to India. She’ll work and research through the spring and early summer before returning to Pullman, and she’s already looking at a return trip to India to see more of the country and extend her work.

Palmer has lined up an exhibition of “Created, Consumed and Scrubbed,” at Sura Medura Gallery in Sri Lanka, and she is working with a colleague to publish her work in the Journal of Cloth and Culture.

Palmer’s work is a testament to her versatility and collaboration. She’s worked in painting, ceramics, sculpture, drawing and multimedia. A WSU faculty member since 2007, Palmer is the Berry Family Distinguished Professor in Liberal Arts. She says persistence, patience and following her passions were key in earning the Fulbright honor.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Palmer says. “And WSU really helped a lot with the process.”

Read more about Palmer and her work at WSU.