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The majority of the work I have made is weighty and will sit on the floor. I decided I wanted to make something about Brenda and Marion’s stories in the WAAF. Something that refers to the air, the sky and lightness in both meanings of the word.

I started by tracing the shapes (along the seams and edges) of the WAAF uniform in the museum collection and cut them out:

I had already made some cyanotypes on postcards, so went back to this process. Cyanotypes are a mix of potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate, which becomes sensitive to UVlight. They have a female history, some of the most famous examples being botanical photograms made by Anna Atkins in the mid 19th century. I coated the chemicals onto a bed sheet – a used bed sheet.

I divided the sheet into four, then placed the tracing paper shapes in four different compositions on each piece of fabric. Then exposed them to light.

I wanted each composition to reference a female warrior. The ladies we interviewed talked about the liberation the war bought, but of course women, with rare exception, weren’t allowed to pilot planes. So I wanted these pieces to resemble banners to commemorate these heroic women who weren’t allowed to fly.

The title of the banners are ‘Brenda’, ‘Marion’, ‘Mrs Adams’, ‘ER Hammond’. The first two are ladies we interviewed who were in the WAAF (see previous post ‘Memory of Clothes – Worthing Museum (Womens Air Auxiliary Force)), the latter two name being linked to the museum uniform.

I would like these banners to hung high up. The room at the museum has a wide glass ceiling. I like that these banners be high, connecting to the sky and that the blue of the cyanotype will change slightly during the exhibition because of that.

‘Brenda’ ‘Marion’, cyanotype on fabric, 102 x 76 cm each




Another stack of museum boxes that takes my interest are the swimming costumes. The location of Worthing by the sea would logically suggest the reason why Worthing Museum has so many in its collection. The earliest costumes appear more like outfits covering most of the body:

‘Sun and Fashion’ – page from a museum leaflet about swimming costume styles.


Suzanne Joinson discovered this great collection of ‘bathers’ in old photographs. The only one with any writing on the back says ‘Bathers in Boulogne’. I think they are mostly unrelated, but beautiful images:

Jackie and some others remember Heene Baths in Worthing that originally opened as a Victorian washhouse, later becoming a swimming baths, and now demolished. Some others remember the feeling of wearing a sagging woolen swimming costume. Or the postwar roushed styles that filled and ballooned with water. I came across two swimming costumes that match these memories:

Firstly in a Peckham charity shop. It dates from the 1940s. The elastic is wearing out, but otherwise in good condition.

Suzanne Joinson also came across this swimming costume in her in laws attic. It is made of wool and was worn by Auntie Betty.

I can’t bring myself to cast these swimming costumes, instead I rummage through drawers at home and ask friends and family to donate:

I decided to stitch together these swimming costumes into various shapes. Then fill them with liquid jesmonite or plaster, till the weight of the material started to split the seams.


Then peeled the fabric off. And decided to place them upturned on mirror. I like the idea of viewers peering down into the mirror, and the reflections of the skylight above that will appear once in place in the gallery. The weight of the casts and weightlessness of the reflection bring to mind the immersive feeling of swimming and the boundary of the surface or water level, above and below.

‘Bathers I, II, III, IV’, 2019, jesmonite, plaster, steel, perspex, mdf, 168 x 122 x 72 cm, and detail in the studio.



Worthing has lots of charity shops. I love charity shops (so much more than shops selling new clothes). They are museums; each anonymous item has stories and memories within its worn fabric. I am interested in how the contents of these shops reflect the seaside town as a depository of memories, and the stories this opens up. As charity and vintage shops became more commonplace, donations to museums have decreased.

During workshops I asked people to write a memory of clothing on a postcard. I then went round charity shops trying to find clothing that matched their description. Obviously it’s virtually impossible to find an exact match, but I liked that impossibility of it – seems appropriate to memory, which can become distant, mediated or sort of lost in translation.

I then cast each piece of clothing I found on a rope. The casting process involves stitching up the clothing, filling it with jesmonite (material similar to plaster but with resin component) or concrete, then peeling the fabric off. The colour and pattern comes from the clothing.

I’ve used rope before in my work. In this case it loosely resembles a washing line, but also refers to story told by 97 year old Jackie. She was taught to swim by a lady on her street. This lady, who had swam the channel, took it upon herself to teach the children of the neighbourhood to swim in the sea. Jackie recalls having a ‘gridle’ attached to a rope tied round her middle and wading out to sea. My rope (about 7 m long) with 11 casts on it, will meander across the floor resembling a tide line and washed up objects.

Not having enough space to photograph it all in one go, I took photos in sections:

‘Untitled (eleven)’, detail, 2019, Jesmonite, rope, concrete, 675 x 60 x 18 cm


Jackie was bought up in Worthing, the daughter of a pub landlord. She joined the Womens Land Army in Ferring. She cycled to work, her main duty was digging vegetables, until she did her back in lifting a box of potatoes. Then she worked on the buses in Worthing for the remainder of war. I asked if she continued gardening or growing vegetables after the war. She said no as she lived in a flat once she was married and they didn’t have a garden.

Womens Land Army Uniform – Worthing Museum Collection

I came across a book by Vita Sackville-West about the Land Army. In it she romantically promotes the noble work of the Land Girls, at the same time sympathizes with a seemingly prevalent snobby attitude towards the Land Girls and their appearances. She reminds the readers they were not part of the military, so not expected to adhere to their standards, but wishes they could see how ridiculous they look with example their hats on crocked, which seems extremely harsh!

I bought a pair of WLA breeches on ebay. I am not convinced they are genuine. The fabric feels slightly synthetic, less course, than the pair the museum has. I asked the ebay seller, she said she doesn’t know about their history. She herself had bought them from ebay to wear Goodwood Festival, but they were too big so she never wore them. I might put them in the exhibition as handling item, people could try them on!

I think about Jackie and the photo in the Vita Sackville West’s book of heaps of potatoes. At the same time I collected some stones from Worthing beach. I started to draw stones and potatoes on postcards, making connections between the two. Both dug up from under the earth, a geological link to place, a similar size and weight, a size that fits neatly into the hand. Year’s ago I was told that there is a German word (Handgröße)that refers to something that fits satisfactorily in the hand.

Potato and Stone drawings on postcards


Professor Catherine Loveday (University of Westminster) has researched how the ‘reminiscence bump’ occurs in memories of clothing. The reminiscence bump refers to the high frequency of significant memories people recall from a particular period of their life. Usually this is from teenage to early adulthood, when independence is gained and identities are forming. In her research, that involved asking people to choose 10 items of clothing with a significant or important memory, Catherine found a significant memory bump for clothing in this period.

This reminiscence bump for the elderly group we are working with in Worthing begins with WW2 when they were late teens or young adults. So we began by focusing on this period.

At a local care home we met Brenda, Marian, Jean and Jackie all in their 90s who were in the Womens Auxiliary Air Force, the Auxiliary Territorial Services and the Womens Land Army. They have extensive, detailed memories of that time.

We took handling items from the museum, including clothing and objects from WW2 to show them. It was amazing to hear the stories provoked by handling a gas mask, ration book or uniform.

Marion was in the WAAF. With a few exceptions women weren’t allowed to pilot planes. But Marion drove ambulances to aircraft that had come down, navigating through the dark. She wasn’t allowed near the crash site as she might see something too upsetting for a woman. Marion went on to bring up 7 children and at age of 97 still writes poetry.

Brenda and Jean both turn 97 this year and were both bought up in the Brighton area. Brenda signed up to the WAAF and was based in barracks in Oxfordshire during the war. She met her husband there who was also in the RAF and remained in the RAF after the war. Jean was in the ATS and was in London working in Grovesnor Square. Brenda and Jean didn’t know each other till they met recently at the residential care home they now live in.

Undeveloped cyanotypes on postcards using photocopied WW2 aeroplanes from Flypast magazine donated by Brenda.

Postcard series II – Planes


On being handed a gasmask from the museum collection both Brenda and Jean recall how they used them as handbags to carry their lipstick. When in uniform you weren’t allowed to carry a bag, so they had to make do. Meeting up with soldiers, nights out dancing seems to feature for all the ladies. They all speak of a new found independence that they war gave them. As Jean told me, if it wasn’t for the war she doesn’t think she would have ever left home.

WAAF uniform, Worthing Museum collection