We are, as artists constantly making observations and connections, and keeping records is so important in order to refer to them at a future time.
Sometimes these connections create lucid thoughts and ideas that I literally have to rush to my journal to make a record of before, rather like waking from a dream, they begin to fade.
One such connection followed conversations with some friends last summer about the situation in Calais. I thought about how my use of garment making could work well in expressing my sense of concern for the human impact of mass migration. I had made work about the childhood experiences of WWII evacuees a few years ago based on first hand descriptions. There are so many parallels with what we see unfolding in the media. The connections remained suspended until recently when my son went over to Calais to help build shelters for refugees.
My niece sent several bags of clothes with my son that her three year old son had grown out of, layers of perfectly intact and laundered trousers, coats, jumpers and shirts, which retained a tangible sense of my great nephew – gentle and loving, bright eyed and full of happy energy. I felt a pang of sadness for my niece for letting go of this physical reminder of his early years, but it was a practical and generous act.
I considered the connections made as these clothes crossed the channel and passed from my son to volunteers in the distribution centre. This personal collection would be separated out and spread throughout the camp – or to camps in other countries – taking an essence of my great nephew with them. The recipient might sense the love and nurture embedded in the fibres and in this way goodwill and kindness would accompany these little clothes.
I have been working with a variety of pattern papers, layering them, aging them with petroleum jelly, drawing and stitching and then assembling pattern pieces into little coats.
I’m interested in creating something that appears to have be old and used – it gives me the chance to tell a story perhaps – without words but with form and texture. The work expresses the idea of taking refuge – which can be found in another state or country, in a distant town, a stranger’s home and even within the warm layers of a little coat.
This coat reflects a sense of fragility and upheaval and its design is influenced by the light, highly waterproof Alaskan Parkas made from seal intestine – the epitome of resilience and resourcefulness. The garment is decorated with overlapping representations of traditional British and Syrian textile designs.
This work will be on show at The Brecon Women’s Festival exhibition at the Andrew Lamont Gallery, Brecon Theatre from 4th – 26th March and to coincide with International Womens’ Day on Tuesday 8th March.