Collaged Timecards by Elaine Luther, 2021

“Clocking in for Unpaid Labor/Time Cards for Mother,” collaged time cards made by Elaine Luther in October 2021 at the Grand Marais, MN Independent Artist Residency. Part of a series of 7.  From L to R: Mending and Emotional Labor, Childcare, Escape.

How to Participate
Clocking in for Unpaid Labor is a new public participation art project where people are invited to collage, sew, quilt, paint, whatever, a time card in order to express something about the unpaid labor that they do.

Whether that work is emotional labor, housework, childcare, unpaid aspects of freelance work, those new parking meter machines*, whatever unpaid labor you do, make a timecard about it.

Be sure to put your name and email address/some contact information, and social media handle (mostly IG) on the back of the time card.  This project is open to all genders and all forms of unpaid labor.

There are no restrictions on type of media.  Ideally, art will not extend more than two inches beyond the time card itself, and some portion of the time card should remain visible.

Get a free time card by mailing a business sized self addressed envelope to:

Elaine Luther
PO Box 5292
River Forest, IL. 60305

International folks can do Venmo or something instead, use the web form to contact me.  (Or maybe you could find them on eBay and share with your friends?)

Free card, just pay postage.

What will be done with the cards? I’ll share them in blog posts, on social media, and attempt to get shows of them in the future in public spaces such as libraries and art galleries.

Make art on your time card and mail it back, that’s it!  Rolling deadline, but artists need a deadline, so let’s say mail back your card within 30 days.

Time cards are copyrighted, that’s why I can’t just scan it and make it a pdf for you to download it.  (I wonder if it would fall under fair use if someone shrank a time card and made a miniature version for a show in a micro gallery?)

*How are those Pay to Park machines different from an old fashioned parking meter and how is that shadow work?  In the past, you’d get out of your car and put some quarters in the meter that was right there and move on with your day.  Now, you have to walk some distance (discriminatory against anyone with a mobility issue, pregnant women, people with small children) and stand in line in order to use an annoying, badly designed machine.  It takes longer.

It’s shadow work because you’re doing work that someone else used to get paid for.  Shadow work is a term coined in 1981 and later was the title of an essay and then a book by Craig Lambert.  The Subtitle is “the unpaid, unseen jobs that fill your days.”

Please Submit a Short Statement

I created this project to be old school and analog: you mail me a business sized SASE, I put a time card in it and mail it back to you, you make the art and mail it back to me.  But then the art started coming back and sometimes I totally get it right away, and other times, I think, “I need to hear more from the artist about what this means.” And the people on Instagram want to hear about why you made what you made!  Now I’m collecting statements to go with your card.

No need to fill out the google form, linked below, until you’ve actually made your art or writing on the the time card. Once you’ve done that, please fill out the form, with a short statement. 200 words is perfect.

Link to the google form for Clocking in for Unpaid Labor Project.

Statements are optional, but really very much appreciated, and may be used if/when this project becomes a book, which it should, because the work that’s coming in is really terrific.  We’ll contact you about the book as that project develops and we get closer.

Reminders on the Rules

Ideally, cards will be able to be mailed in a regular business sized envelope for one stamp. I realize that someone’s one’s artistic vision doesn’t fit in that size envelope, but if possible, it’s appreciated.  The goal is to keep costs down for everyone.  I try to ship art back the same way it was received. I regret that I may need to contact you to have you pay for return shipping, unless grant funding happens. (This is kind of a weird project for grant funding, it doesn’t fit into the boxes…)

Work needs to be light weight and able to be hung on the wall with a 3M Command Strip (or two). If your work is extremely heavy, depending on the venue, I may not be able to include your work in a given show or public display.

To prevent tearing of the back of the card, I may need to put a piece of archival book tape on the back of your card. The Command Strip is then affixed to that spot.  When the time cards are shown in glass cases, we affix them to our custom made easels, still using Command Strips.

Can International Folks Participate?

Yes!  And you don’t have to send a SASE.  An international stamp from the U.S. is currently $1.45.  You can send that to me on my Ko-Fi page. Then send me a message using the Contact Us form on this page to give me your address. I’ll send it right out. I can send more than one card for a single internationals stamp, I’ll have to weigh them to figure out exactly how many, but at least two. Feel free to ask for additional cards and distribute them to your friends.

Can I Have a Bunch of Cards to Share with my Art or Collage Group?

Yes! I’m happy to mail out a bunch of cards for you to share with your local collage meet up. I also have a lesson plan that’s almost ready to hit publish on, that you can have for free, take it out into the world, and offer your own workshops to facilitate other folks making time cards. I’ll weigh up some time cards and see how many I can send for a single U.S. stamp.

Show of the Time Cards to Date – January, February 2023 at the Orland Park Public Library

A view of the time cards show, Clocking in for Unpaid Labor, at night, at the Orland Park Public Library in Orland Park, IL.

This show included almost 60 time cards, on custom made easels.  We also held a workshop at the library, and participant’s cards were added to the case.  This is the lobby display case at the Orland Park Public Library.  You can see more images from that show and the list of everyone who had work in the show in this blog post.

One Day Pop-Up Show at the One State Conference, Springfield, IL

One day pop-up show of the Clocking in for Unpaid Labor time cards at the One State conference in IL.

One day pop-up show of the Clocking in for Unpaid Labor time cards at the One State conference in IL.

I’ll do the blog post about this mini show soon, and list all the artists who were in this show. This was a one wall, one day show at the One State Conference, sponsored jointly by the Illinois Arts Council and the Arts Alliance IL. I facilitated a time card workshop and installed this pop up show. I wish I took pictures of the workshop, but I was being present in the moment and didn’t want to disrupt the flow of the workshop. Plus, the official conference photographer was there.

The First Display of the Time Cards – at the Compassion Factory, Brookfield, IL

"Your Turn" wall of time cards sent in by project participants. Art made on time cards.

“Your Turn” wall of time cards sent in project participants. Shown as installed as part of a solo show by Elaine Luther at the Compassion Factory in Brookfield, IL.

Here’s a post with close ups of the time cards in the image above, and the names of all the artists who had sent in time cards as of the time of that writing.

Where Can You See All the Time Cards Online?

Right here on this site, Clocking in for Unpaid Labor.. There are about 15 new ones that I’ll add to that page soon, and in general, that page is the archive for all the timecards.

Will There Be More Shows? What’s Next?

Whenever I send out an exhibition proposal for my own artwork, for a show about labor, which is my primary topic right now, I include the time cards as part of that show. I’m always on the lookout for a place to exhibit the time cards. Know of one? Please let me know! I’m in conversation with one college right now about a possible future show.  Colleges have a very long timeline for planning shows, so that one could be a while.

What is definitely in the works is a book! I’ve been photographing each time card on a black background – one of those spur of the moment decisions that I then had to keep up for over a year! I’ll be re-photographing each time card on a white background. I’ll mail a letter to everyone who has sent in a time card (I don’t have email addresses for everyone), asking for statements for possible inclusion in the book.

Watch this space for updates!

If I’ve had your time card for a long time, and you’d like it back, no problem!  Thanks for the loan, and hit the Contact Us button and send me a note.