Recently, I’ve started working on a couple of vintage woollen blankets – raw material for opening up opportunities for making new work, perhaps – you never quite know. The blankets are both a very distinct pink in colour, dating from the 50/60s. I’m enjoying being reacquainted with them – such evocative items – the blankets’ colours, their feel and the biscuity kind of scent attached to them conjure up all sorts of memories. I’ve always been drawn to the colour of the wool, but the satin trim also appeals.
The last time I used one in my work was a while back – it’d been stored away in a suitcase, protected from moths. I’d been looking for fabric to wrap around a dressing table which needed transporting – the mirror in particular needed protection. I remember hesitating before cutting the blanket – that first cut! – but on the basis that there were plenty more where they came from, I went ahead. The blanket was cut into several pieces, wrapped around the dressing table’s main frame, the drawers and mirror and then tied securely with string. I spent some time doing it, enjoying the process of swaddling the various bits of the dressing table. I wish now that I’d taken photos of the assembled pieces before I loaded them into my car to transport them – it was a startling transformation.
Cut to, seeing a very similar blanket in a local Oxfam shop recently for the grand sum of £50 – one almost identical to the one I’d cut in pieces; they’ve clearly become fashionable and sought after. I find it fascinating how fashion dictates what’s ‘in’ (or out) at any given time. For me, their appeal has been never ending – more than anything, I think, because they evoke such strong childhood memories – the good parts, particularly – those moments of feeling warm and safe and secure and loved.
The blankets take me back to overnight stays in my Nana’s house, from the age of around eight onwards – pre duvet days, when you were tucked up in bed so tightly sometimes that you could barely move, the soft satin trim around the neck, a welcome relief from the itchiness of the all wool blanket. The colour pink has been traditionally associated with love – with kindness and femininity, too.
My hope is that new work might evolve from being reacquainted with them, but it’s fine if it doesn’t – having the blankets around me in the studio again is a joy in itself, calling to mind those overnight stays with my Nana – the one on one attention, the feeling special – the ‘girls’ united in love – a hot water bottle slipped under the blankets for extra warmth and comfort.