Intertwined in the soft, knit, oversized draping is where I always found the answer. There was never a problem that couldn’t be solved once cloaked in the magic powers that have nestled themselves snuggly in every stitch of this white sweater. One might wonder what those who know its power call such a majestic entity. This title, so lovingly given, is woobie.
Woobie (n.): A device that is used to create a sense of comfort in a time of anxiety and uneasiness. Woobies come in many forms, but the woobie fabricated by the Motzer family is a white, heavy knit sweater (usually oversized for perfect snuggling).
Introduced to me by my mother at the earliest age at which I was able to comprehend, I always thought my family solely invented the woobie. No one I knew had heard of this comfort item or had the belief that an object like this could heal all your mental anxieties. However, upon doing more research, I have learned that the word and idea of woobie have been around for many generations. All the texts I have discovered introduce the woobie to be a comfort item that aids in mental anxieties that seem to be greater than we, just as my family always thought. The woobie is also present in writing in the form of a character type. In writing, a woobie tends to be a character that is incessantly brought down by different factors in life and gives the reader a feeling that they must console the character. Ironically enough, this consoling process is called, “Woobification”. Through my studies, I will prove that the woobie, in fact, has the power to alter our perceptions of situations that give us anxiety in a positive way, and aid us in the process of coping with the problem.
The first steps I took in regard to proving this thesis were to investigate the word, woobie. Although I felt it was a word that my family had coined, I wanted to attempt to find other definitions and examples of this word that other people were using today. I was surprised to see that this idea and word had been introduced and popularized as early as 1983 through popular culture. The 1983 film, Mr. Mom, used this word to describe a blanket. The spelling of this word was at that time shown as “wubby”, however through further research I was able to find out that this has also changed.
I also found a current definition of woobie that encompasses all items that have been given this name:
Woobie (n.): Any object, typically a blanket, garment or stuffed animal that is used simply for its comforting characteristics; A term of endearment; A fictional character, usually physically attractive, who is put under constant stress and angst so as to create emotional attachment; A poncho liner
Another avenue I decided to comb for information was child psychology. I read many articles, but the one I found most helpful discussed the philosophies of Donald Woods Winnicott and his introduction of “transitional objects” and “transitional experience” into the world of psychology. To describe his ideas on transitional objects, Winnicott discusses the importance of the object, or woobie if you will, during the child’s distinction between “me” and “not me”. These two ideas discuss the physic and external realities that we all face subconsciously. Before grasping the concept, babies are unaware of what is part of them and what is the external reality. For example, mothers feed them information on the world and the baby develops a bond to the mother. Once the process of learning what is physical and external reality begins, the baby realizes the mother is a separate being from themselves and will not always be there to comfort them. This realization forms the transitional experience. It is at this moment that mothers typically offer their child a blanket, teddy bear, or other comfort item to ease the mental anxieties that occur upon this understanding of “me” and “not-me”. The object being offered is what serves as the transitional object and is usually the first “not-me” object that the child is given. Rather than the baby relying on their mother for consoling, they look to the transitional object to lull the mental anxieties. This psychology is not limited to babies either; many police officers and firefighters also carry these comfort items in their vehicles to offer to those who are suffering from the trauma at hand. I was also able to find a statistic that at least 35% of British adults use a teddy bear when they’re sleeping.
In regard to the work I plan on fabricating for thesis, I’d like to continue using the woobie that my family has designated the “true woobie”, white sweater material, and make three-dimensional forms that conceptually discuss the concepts behind the comfort item. Due to the fact that this material does not stand on its own easily, I’ll be doing further experimentation with chicken wire, fabric starch, and wax. I feel chicken wire is a valid choice because it is made entirely of hexagons, the strongest shape in architecture. Bees use this shape to construct their hives, a protector of the honey they hold so dear. This idea is not far off from humans using woobies to console themselves mentally. I’d like to look more into fabric starch and wax on fabrics to portray the idea that the woobie has the ability to stand on its own and heal all as long as the user of the woobie believes it has the power. These materials will act as the little extra that’s needed, same as magic or suspension of disbelief. I’ll also be using different sense stimulators such as lights, heaters, etc. to activate the power of this material. Through my understanding of the research and my own family beliefs, woobies are activated. They are snuggled, squeezed, pulled, anything that gives the user comfort. Some may even feel that their woobie is their nightlight (hence the experimentation with lighting). I’d also like to further investigate the creating of other ideas of woobies. For example, I found a patent for a baby blanket with a pocket that can cradle the baby that was developed by Love My Woobie, Inc. The thesis piece I plan to create will be sculptural and also considered an installation. It will incorporate all these ideas, but I am unsure of the specific shape or size of the work up to this point.
The woobie has so much to offer us as viewers, and myself as an artist. I feel the different facets that tie into the concept of woobie are endless, and there are many topics that can be addressed. While I very much look forward to searching these ideas for inspiration, I feel it is necessary to interpret the roots as my thesis. This will give myself a better understanding of why we depend on the woobie for comfort, but also it will give the viewer a better understanding of the roots when attempting to decipher other aspects of this loving material.