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.”

Update: June 2022, Please Submit a Short Statement

So, I’ve really been enjoying the old school, analog nature of this project. 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.

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!

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 option, but appreciated, and may be used if this all becomes a book of some kind, which it should, because the work that’s coming in is really terrific.

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. 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. An upcoming show of the work will be in a glass case, with the time cards on custom made easels.

More on Shadow Work

Shadow work is when you fill out all those forms for the doctor’s office online, before your appointment.  It’s when you do self-checkout. Both are jobs that somebody else used to get paid to do.  It’s those darn Pay to Park Machines.

Ghost Prints and Shadow Work is the title of my May show at The Compassion Factory in May in Brookfield, IL. My timecards will be in the show and will be for sale.

There will be more about labor in the show – invisible labor, emotional labor, and shadow work.  I’ve been thinking about labor and making art about various forms of labor, mostly women’s work, for years, starting with my Our Ladies of Perpetual Housework, and then more recently More Work for Mother.  It’s a big theme with me.

Further Reading

If you’re a mother, you might like to read the book The Price of Motherhood, which is a bit depressing but informative.