Monday, 25 March 2019

a rock and a hard place

When my mother died in 2017 I kept the sheets and pillowcases stored in the large drawers under her bed. These textiles felt significant at the time and are significant still. They retain the scent of her fabric conditioner and breathing it in brings tears to my eyes.

Within my AA2A placement at Derby University I'm working with my childhood memories of Mum reading fairy tales to my sister and I in bed. She joined us, sleeping with us for safety from my alcoholic and violent father. So sheets, pillowcases and storytelling hold an added complexity for me, and again lead me to notions of safety and danger. Is the dark wood dangerous? Is my home safe? 

The fairy tales I loved were written by Alison Uttley, who was born just three miles from where I live. I visited her farm birthplace last Autumn and became fascinated by the dry stone wall and hawthorn hedge boundaries around the farm. The notion of boundary and bedding became linked for me.

With this in mind I am over halfway through hand stitching a dry stone wall from Uttley's farm onto a charity shop pillowcase (I can't bring myself to use my mothers bedding yet, it's too precious). Night after night I stitch, much like the protagonists in Uttley's tales. Will it say what I wish when finished? I'll only know when it's complete






Haarlem artspace

Very excited to share that I have a studio at Haarlem Artspace. I've found Haarlem Artspace to be an incredibly welcoming place since my move to Derbyshire and have enjoyed their exhibitions, talks, workshops, monthly crits and general hospitality and support. 

Its the first studio I've been in that is warm and the plants are alive and flourishing. Bodes well!

stitch

A week or so ago I found this embroidery in a Matlock charity shop, and bought it for the princely sum of £5. It measures 10.5 x 8.5 inches and is densely packed with skilful stitch depicting flower, tree, leaf, bird, path and sky. I find it remarkable. The directional and repeated stitches remind me of the cuts I've been making in lino to suggest form and surface of dry stone wall and hawthorn hedgerow.

I opened the back of the frame hoping to find information about the maker, and discovered dated 1980's patterned kitchen roll, carefully folded as padding behind the work. I tenderly replaced this treasure, a time capsule, hidden behind stitches. 


 


Wednesday, 6 March 2019

george

My work tends towards the time consuming end of the spectrum... at times ridiculously so. Last year I completed and photographed an acid yellow 'gravestone cosy' for my Uncle George's headstone in Slough. The images were perfect.

A couple of months later my MacBook Pro expired, having not backed up these photographs were lost. The following August I relocated from London to Derbyshire, making traveling to Slough a bigger challenge. In December 2018 I took the trip, photographing the work on a sunny winter day... The sun revealed a deep crease in the knitting (having been folded during my relocation) that I just couldn't remove by pulling the knit into shape. The shadow was so obvious on a majority of the images that the trip was in vain.

This week I traveled again to Slough, having washed and gently ironed the knit. I'd checked the weather forecast daily, hoping for an evenly cloudy day and I got it! Placing the knit on the headstone my heart sank - it had grown by inches and no longer fitted the stone. It turns out you can't wash these knits!

Today I ordered five balls of acid yellow wool and will reknit the work and at some point travel to Slough and photograph for the final time... 

Audiences don't witness this side of an artists process and in my exasperation felt the need to share my frustration. This is the third knit in the series that I've re-knitted, the firsts not fitting as intended. There are many hidden hours within this work, each stitch made by hand, using the first stitch my mother taught me.

I back up once a month. Lesson learnt.  

George (crease not visible)

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

frederick

Family lore is that my maternal grandfather was buried in a communal grave. Mum was 9 years old when he died in 1945 and I wonder if she ever visited her fathers burial place, I imagine not.

My intention is that Close Knit comes to a end this year, a decade after I began hand knitting 'gravestone cosies' for my ancestors. I've been searching for the site of my grandfathers burial, wondering if there may be a distinct area, a marker. Unable to find any record and with the end of my tether fast approaching I enlisted the help of a friend who's brain works in a distinctly different way to mine - she is the most un-dyslexic person I know!

The evening of the day I asked for help an email appeared with information that led to the discovery that my grandfather had a grave! Grave 360 in area Y6 at St Pancras and Islington Cemetery. 

74 years after his death I found a forest, undulating with burials without marker or headstone. Checking the backs of the headstones framing the forest I attempted to understand the sites layout, wondering if I could get near to where grave 360 might be... It was impossible, the passing of time erasing any order.

Maybe it is appropriate that my grandfather rests in a forest, my dear forest. Canopied in green, amongst his London contemporaries.   

Frederick/Forest