Daughters of daughters, 2020

Branch, 2020

Summer Lodge, Nottingham Trent University 2019  

Summer Lodge 10 - carry/hold

I've carried these reels of thread around with me since 2003. They were bought in a box of odds and ends from the Constance Howard collection during my MA at Goldsmiths. While packing my bag for Summer Lodge I gathered the rust/blood ones from the box - just in case.

Like many, I hold the beginnings of ideas/unresolved work/instinctual work as thoughts and objects. Summer Lodge provided the perfect opportunity to sit with this (reels and button handkerchiefs in particular) and allow space for it to speak.

Rust was my mum's favourite colour. I've yet to meet another for whom this is the case. The eight reels became one thread, and after a painstaking and frustrating two and a half days I worked out how to knit them together to form an umbilical type cord. The process took most of Summer Lodge and surprised me. I'd not planned to make a cord, yet here it was forming and becoming in my hands.

The work was emotionally painful and I've not yet processed it. I thought about the women before me who birthed daughters and then I, childless, being the last of the line. The woman before me are Doreen, Ada, Hannah and I plan to trace back the mother of Hannah and beyond so I have eight names, including my own. As I knitted another work appeared in my head, a series of eight connected dress forms in red organza - an idea to carry for a while.

I suspended a handkerchief and let it surprise me each morning. I've held the idea for many years of stitching buttons to a bedsheet and this was a maquette of that. I wonder at the weight of a bedsheet, of how it would feel to lie under, could it be cool and comforting? Might it suffocate? Unprompted, Milly, one of the studio assistants lay under the handkerchief and looked up at the buttons, remarking on how beautiful some of them were.

Summer Lodge provided a space in which new work formed, ideas emerged and old ideas were reaffirme
d. The support and positivity from particular studio assistants and participating artists was also most welcome.
aa2a Project, University of Derby 2018-2019 

 Dry stone wall boundary of Uttley's farm

Fairy Tales by Alison Uttley
 The Field that Didn't Wish for Company 

Hawthorn hedgerow linocut print

Rock and a Hard Place
Pillowcase, thread

My mum died in 2017. When I lived in London there were constant reminders of mum and her family who lived for generations in central London. From my bedroom window the BT Tower was visible, seven miles away on the horizon. This totem transported me back to memories of Auntie Lil's spotless kitchen in Camden Town, where the tower loomed large beyond the window, and of Uncle Fred who lived a stones throw from the tower off Oxford Street. At Leytonstone tube the Central Line could take me to mum's house and Epping Forest where reminders abound. Taking or not taking these journeys wasn't the point, the associations and memories were sparked, keeping Doreen Edna Logan and my London ancestors present somehow.

Moving to Derbyshire removed this layer of association. The land holds no family connection, and this fact has left me adrift somedays while I sit with complicated feelings. When packing up my flat I had the foresight to include my precious handful of childhood storybooks. Immediately after moving to Derbyshire I reread these books, wishing to reconnect with Mum and wondering about my adult reading of these tales with a birds eye view of childhood.

One story, The Woodcutter's Daughter by Alison Uttley stood out. It was eerily familiar, like recalling a fragmented dream. It tells the story of Cherry-blossom who lives in a forest with her elderly parents, a girl who sews by the fire, who mends and makes. When Mum read these stories to my sister and I she slept in the room with us. Looking back I realise she was using us as protection. My dad was an alcoholic and Mum suffered years of domestic violence. That was the backdrop to fairytales in our house. 

After re-reading the stories I became intrigued by the author: Alison Uttley. Tapping her name into the search bar I was astonished to discover that Alison was born three miles from where I live. The seed of an idea began to form and I walked to her house the following weekend.

My childhood memories are tainted and complex and I decided to explore my associations with The Woodcutter's Daughter and bedtime story telling within my aa2a placement. This idea led to drawing, painting, walking, writing, printing, stitching and taking beginners courses in hedge laying and dry stone walling. The boundary around Alison Uttley's farm birthplace got me thinking about boundaries and respect. 
The outcomes produced are a beginning.
Close Knit, 2009-2019

Close Knit: held together, as by social or cultural ties: a close-knit family.

Jessie, Alexina, John, Robert, 2009

Jessie, 2009

Marjory, 2009

Ada, Evelin, Lilian, 2009

Krysia, 2011

Violet, 2014

Sandy, 2016

George, 2018

Doreen, 2018

Frederick (grave unfound within the trees), 2019

Frederick, 2019

 Henry, 2019

Once my Mum had taught me to knit I was off, enthralled by the process and the aim of getting to the end of the ball of wool. After hours of labour my Dad was presented with a blue, red and green scarf taller than my girl self. He wore it once, carefully tucked into his coat and looking back, realise he was embarrassed by the gaudy colours. My Mum’s oldest sister, Auntie Lil was an incredible knitter but for all her patience in learning Lil did not posses the patience to teach, so her encyclopaedic knowledge was never passed on before she passed on.

Close knit took a decade to make. Close Knit is an unusual family album exploring my interest in family history, textile process, landscape, grief and loss. Purposely using the first stitch my mother taught me Close Knit marks and commemorates characters from my particular family, some unknown but hinted at and others who played leading roles in my childhood. These threads link me to people, land and place. Making this work involved travel throughout the UK, research and sensitive detective work, particular graves were familiar, most were a discovery. 

The cosies function in dual ways - while identifying these plots as somehow important they simultaneously conceal the identity of the interred, giving no clue to my relationship to them. This painstaking, time consuming and caring act is also pointless on a physical level, my attempt to warm up a gravestone might be seen as comic, irreverent and my choice of colour cheerful in the cemetery context.

As I sat knitting in public three older ladies passed by grinning, my knitting was baby pink and beginning to look like a blanket. One asked, 'Do you know it’s a girl?', I nodded, thinking to myself of the girls that had been my grandmother and aunts.
Hawthorn, 2018 

Hawthorn in a holly grove

The tree hand embroidered onto this child's nightgown grows at the end of Englands Lane in Loughton, Essex. As a girl I sat beneath its branches withn my flower fairy book. This memory leads to the next, that afternoon I developed sun stroke and spent the rest of the day in our back bedroom, curtains drawn, being sick. This memory is vivid and hazy all at once.

I moved from London to Derbyshire in Autumn 2018 and knowing I'll no longer walk past this tree stitched Hawthorn to commemorate the tree/my childhood.
Embroidery & Thread Stick, 2016

Auntie Jessie's thread

Thread Stick 
Cherry branch, thread

Living room studio

Path, work in progress

Branch, work in progress

Handkerchief, thread
24cm x 23.5cm

Handkerchief, thread
24.5cm x 25cm

Handkerchief, thread
30.5cm x 31cm

Handkerchief, thread
26.5cm x 27cm

As a child sewing tins were a treasure trove to me. Reels of thread, press studs, hooks & eyes, buttons, precious packages of needles with evocative logos and unfamiliar price tags. The fluff, the stuff of ages past, of hopes, of mendings.

When my cousin Krysia died in 2009 my sister and I emptied her house in Elgin, Scotland, a home once shared with her mum, Jess. The house and loft were packed with possessions and during our repeated visits we sorted, organised and cleared away their lifetimes. Magpie me was drawn to Jessie's sewing and button tins, and I gathered them together with a pile of plaid, plain, monogrammed and embroidered handkerchiefs found in the house. This year in my first owned living space, I've begun to experiment and play with these precious materials, heavy with family history. My aunt died in 1997 and by working with threads she selected I've felt we are working in collaboration, making magic in Thread Stick.

Using photographs taken while walking and an embroidery hoop, circular images emerged and I hand stitched these into the handkerchiefs. The woodlands depicted are far from suburbia, in parts of Derbyshire well known to me, unpeopled sites with clear and hidden pathways, places between places. Landscape, family history and slow textile process meet within this new body of work.

In Close Knit, you can see the heart shaped gravestone cosies I knitted for Jessie (2009) and Krysia (2011).
Girlhood, 2015

Girlhood, 2015 
Large format photograph

First experiment with stitched arms and woodland

Hand stitched arms using vintage bedding and aprons

Orange blanket

Epping Forest had a deep effect upon me. There were no houses opposite my childhood home, just the forest and this view filled my bedroom window. I walked alone there as a child and have since fantasised about this being a safe place for a girl and wanted to represent her using fabrics from my childhood era. Some of the fabrics used are my mothers aprons, pillow cases and blankets from home, some were sourced in charity shops. I traced my friends eight year old daughter's arm many years ago, this tracing and my first experiments lay dormant for a time, and this year I decided to see the idea through and stitch ten pairs of arms by hand. It took months.

I staged the work in Epping Forest, and with the help of a photographer made a large format image.
Interior Lightning, Navigation Warehouse, Wakefield 2011

Interior Lighting was a group show created by staff at The Hepworth Wakefield. My installation took four and a half days to install using nine balls of acrylic yarn, and that time again to raise my arms above my head without wincing. Interior Lightning included painting, photography, drawing, sculpture, intervention and installation.

My installation was inspired by Hepworth's use of string within particular sculptures and a desire to play with an illusion of colour mixing in space. This work continues my fascination with elevating low value materials using time consuming processes.
The Market Estate Project, N7, London 2010 

Yarn has an association with homespun activity, of comfort and familiarity. Using yarn in the simple act of wrapping bannisters created an alteration in the everyday experience of this stairway setting. Conversely, the covering revealed and delineated the usually passed over and unconsidered, providing a visual and tactile experience that altered as hands grasped the banister and dislodged yarn. While wrapping I inhabited the stairway for three days, settling in a (non)space that others pass through from one place to another.
Cut It Out, The Otter Gallery, Chichester, Southampton City Art Gallery, Bentliff Art Gallery, Maidstone 2009

Lair, 2009

Benliff Art Gallery, Kent

Making new work for Cut It Out allowed space to explore a process that was a relatively new departure to my usual method of making. This work continues my interest in using simple processes to transform the value of second hand or cheap materials through time-consuming work. A theme that runs through much of my practice is a juxtaposition of inside/outside, particularly in relation to notions of home and nature. I purposely selected a wallpaper printed with a repeated vine motif and with scalpel in hand attempted to return this simplified and repeated version of nature to a three dimensional form closer to that of the original plant.
Momento, E17 Arts Trail, London 2008

The use of handkerchiefs as a commemorative device inspired my embroidery of snippets of text onto vintage hankies. Handwriting identical to the original was painstakingly hand stitched using backstitch, the text came from various sources, a 1907 postcard and from letters and the backs of photographs that belonged to my father. 
Incandescent: Light Night, Hull Art Lab, Hull 2006

Making the line

Installing lights

Installation image taken by Gary Pickles

A night of outdoor, live events featuring surprises, quirks and charms from four commissioned artists. Light Night was part of Incandescent, a month of events organise by Hull Art Lab exploring the spectacle of illumination in Hull.

The installations aim was to disrupt the familiar, to simultaneously deceive, while also enticing the viewer to linger in a place usually hurried through. The work is a continuation of my experimentation creating illusion in situ using basic materials and simple, clunky processes. The lights lasted eight hours and this temporality interested me and is key in creating an experience of apparition. One viewer asked, 'Where is the light projected from?'. 900 lights manufactured for night fishing were used in this installation.
Goldsmiths College, University of London, 2002-2003

There's No Place Like Home

Ribbon House

Yarn Line

These images illustrate playful experiments in woodland using torchlight, laser, yarn and ribbon. The time and support during my MA enabled the exploration of my practice in my childhood stomping grounds.