Sonia Boué’s new blog “The Museum for Object Research” is making me think.



I kicked it off myself, with a piece about The Bra.

I love the way other people’s thoughts and working practices link with mine. The object prompts memories which sprout new ideas. Or they prompt the imagined narrative, which sprouts new ideas. The Object is a focus for the ideas. To me it provides shortcuts, clues, analogy and allegory.

Sometimes I work directly onto the item, sometimes work around it, draw it, draw from it.


The latest post, an abridged version of Philipa Perry’s article for the Independent, about the transitional object – the phrase coined by Winnacott – concerning a child’s attachment to an object such as a teddy or a blanket, has got me going again.

Sometimes, when faced with a phrase or theory I like the sound of, I apply it to everything to see if it sticks in any way. Sometimes the “stick” is completely false, and takes me down cul-de-sacs for a while. Sometimes things stick a little longer. Long-time readers may remember my obsession with Aristotle’s “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”? This one still sticks… I bend it to my will, and peel my work into constituent parts, and layer up the fabric and the meaning to make something more. Yep… Aristotle can stay. Deleuze’s rhizomes have stuck a little too… ideas pop up unexpectedly in new areas, I think they are new, unconnected, but blow me down, three months later, I see the rhizome lurking beneath the surface. Or someone else does. Cool… that bit of Deleuze can stay (I don’t care if you think pick and mix philosophy is unacceptable. It’s my work, I’ll do it how I want!)


Anyway… Winnacott’s transitional object reared its head a few years ago when I was making work about the over-protection of children.

I made a straitjacket… a really soft, comfy, quilted, lovingly embroidered straitjacket. This was a transitional object, but one that didn’t transition… the parent tied the young adult in.

The transitional object is a wonderful thing, and a useful thing too, allowing the child to feel safe when venturing out into the world. The problem happens when the object stays, and the child doesn’t feel safe without it. It’s the job of the parent to wean them off, not tie them in tighter.

Easier said than done, but for the most part, successful. The item is still loaded with meaning and affection, but shouldn’t be used as a crutch. In Perry’s article, she speaks of how the same transitional teddy gets taken to university. It now provides a sensory link to home and love, allowing the adventure to continue, the child still feeling the presence of parent and home, wherever they are.

“Stitch him a quilt for wherever he goes, a portable mother to comfort the woes”

“Lullaby” 2011/12

So… bringing the concept of transitional object up to date, I think about these bras. They are old and tired, and I have speculated on why they have been held onto and worn for so long – economic necessity? Lack of time? Lack of interest?

But…is it conceivable that they are just another sort of transitional object? If I am a mother, losing parents to illness, infirmity, senility and ultimately death: and losing children to university, employment, partners and their own lives and ultimately their own children (not necessarily in that order), is this garment the object I cling to to make me feel safe? The new bra doesn’t feel right, smell right…

At the moment I have no idea if this one will stick, but it will be another angle to think about when I am stitching.

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Marion and I met yesterday.


We ritualised this occasion. We hugged. We both sat, in turn, with tissue wrappings on our laps. Our fingertips smoothed, found the creases, lifted the flaps, searched and exposed the contents slowly. We gazed upon the items. I had lovingly folded mine to bring to Marion, knowing that the unwrapping would be important somehow.

I sat with the box of layered tissue. I have seen photos of this work, and loved it. Nothing had really prepared me for the feel of it at my fingertips. We spoke of how paintings often leave us cold, they frequently have nothing to offer. But this?… Oh my…

These foundlings, these complete garments that speak of the child not quite there, not born, not quite formed, or not quite forgotten. Incomplete. The shapes and colours we see in the photos, the texture implied by a trick of the light, are nothing compared to FEELING.

The sense of touch. The first sense to develop and the last to leave us. The importance of the touch of others, humanity inherent in the tender touch. The making of these things… I found myself thinking that they had to exist… Their making was inevitable somehow.  How is that possible? Memorials for those that never existed?

One of these items I still feel now. A body, a ghost encased in it. A blend of delicate colours suggesting skin, but like those surgical garments and appliances, not quite the right colour to match anyone’s flesh. The softness of this tiny item slipped through my fingertips… One hand outside, one inside, an intrusion? My premature son was brought tomind, his strength to survive such fragility. I swallowed hard.

Marion has great strength too. Her art is powerful, overloaded with meanings layer upon layer… The longer I held this piece, the harder it was to rewrap it to look at the rest. I wondered about the fragility of Marion and the relationship of that to the strength of her work.

I have come away with a head full of ideas, full of the remembered touch, full of admiration. I don’t think my work comes close to this. I wish.

Last year, I started producing a body of work that concerned touch, mainly digital, because Iwas temporarily unable to stitch… (I’ll look up the dates of the posts, I definitely wrote about that!)  (edit: it’s about here, May 2013: https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/threads/date/2013/05 )

Some thoughts are left over from that that I think I may have to return to. They are unresolved. This meeting with Marion and her work has brought it close again. A great deal of careful thought will be needed…. Or maybe I should just let things sink in… let the feeling… emotional and physical… leech slowly through… until it becomes inevitable, and the join doesn’t show?


It is a tragedy this work of Marion’s is not seen by thousands. That it lies wrapped in boxes, unseen and untouched, more to the point, seems like neglect. If anyone out there reading this has the space and wherewithal to provide a showcase for these pieces, please consider doing so. They deserve a really good gallery…..

I think I will return to this in another post. I’ve not touched upon Marion’s work using the photographs of her father. I’ve not talked about the children’s shoes, the sailor suit, the hair dresses hanging on the walls. We talked of so much more, too. It will take a while to process it all, but I wanted to write of this meeting as soon as possible. It seemed important that I report it, record the emotion of the occasion. Occasion. We laughed about all sorts and talked of very serious matters, which we have no control over, feel helpless in the face of dreadful humanity- have we learned nothing? We laughed about the curly pubes and the joy of shiny colourful shoes, in which every step is precious.

Our time together flew by… The alarm was set on my phone, as I knew it would be hard to pull myself away, and so easy to miss my train home.


Thank you Marion, for a few hours that will stay with me forever. The feel of your work will affect the feel of mine (if I’m really lucky). My fingertips hold something different now.


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Today I have cause to pause, and ponder the nature of friendship.

I am going to see an old friend. I don’t think she would mind me using the word old. I have known her for about 35 years. I knew her before I was married, before children, freshly dropped out of what was then polytechnic, scared witless in my first proper job. She had children the same age as me – ish. She didn’t mother me, so much as treat me as she would want her own children treated. She was my guide and mentor through “How to be a working woman”. She would take me to one side and whisper “like this” in my ear, if something was going wrong… as things frequently did! She knew I was pregnant before I did. She knitted things for Daniel when he was born, and at the same time, taught me to knit from a proper pattern, complicated stitches in expensive yarn. I had chips on my shoulder which she gently brushed away, seeing me for what I really was, not the person I was pretending to be, or the person I thought I should be.

I don’t see her often, but always feel I should see her more. She waves a hand at this and we just carry on as before. Life being way too short for scolding grown women perhaps.

I feel excited, looking forward to telling her what I have been up to, and can’t wait to hear what she is doing. Because although retired, she hasn’t stopped being the woman she is. She has taken up painting. I haven’t seen what she has done, and I don’t know if she will show me. But I know that her painting will come from her fizzing brain and her heart, not just from the ends of her fingers. She is a role model, in that she is honest and astute, she has insight, and clarity of vision.


I look at the friendships I have made since, and all of them have had to, in some way, measure up to this. I have no idea what I bring to a friendship, and it is undoubtedly different depending on who you ask… But the friends I consider the closest, no matter if I have known them thirty five years or five years, seem to have the goods on me. They know something of me, a couple of them know the very worst there is to know, and they seem to love me regardless. And that goes both ways. To know someone’s really irritating humanity, their awfulness, but to be able to see past it all and get to the soul of them, and realise that the awfulness of us is exactly the thing that makes us interesting. To smile at it… hug it… and carry on.


Sometimes it takes years of being jostled about by someone, close by accident rather than choice or design, to realise what you have. Sometimes the growth of friendship is quicker, and people get scarily close, scarily fast.


I have made new friends recently, through this blog and other social media. They are different sorts of friends.. but they do appear to have similar qualities. They know me through the work. My art as clues and shorthand to the stuff that’s taken me years to understand, and in some respects still don’t. It appears that bits of my awfulness leech out through my work, as if every stitch betrays me. There’s no hiding any more. These new friends see me for who I am. No point in hiding or pretending any more then eh?



I find myself ridiculously excited.


I am going to a meeting in London on Friday, all art and education related stuff, which I’m really pleased to still be involved in, even after shucking off the job a few months ago. We all have an interest in education, even if we no longer work in it, or have children in it. Or at least we should. I actually think it would be a good idea that those who go to university should get it for free. Society as a whole benefits from people who learn, and keep on learning. A more diverse and more widely valued post 18 education system benefits all of us. So all of us should pay for it. (Idealist andSocialist, I know!)I was lucky enough to start my higher education when we got grants, and lucky enough to continue it recently when my MA could be funded… or at least 2/3 of it, with the support of NSEAD. Whether a person is suitable for such an education should certainly not be solely decided by whether they can afford it. Society is missing out.

We could end up with a government full of rich-boy waxy-faced clones who all went to Eton and Oxbridge for goodness sake!… oh…. hang on…..


anyway… all that aside…


My son stood me up. He had a better offer than traipsing around London with his mother, so I found myself free for most of Saturday. What to do then? So many exhibitions, events, galleries, and yet really, so little time.

So I have opted instead for a rather more homely, personal experience, and I’m going to see Marion Michell. Don’t worry, she knows I’m coming! And I can’t wait. We have conversations now through Facebook, Twitter, emails and our blogs. She is the latest in a line of people that I would never have met without the internet.

I am travelling light, to enable me to carry some selected pieces of work, so she can look at mine “in the flesh” and vice versa. People who work in textiles, I have observed, are always very keen to get their hands on other people’s work. People who work with textiles often say “please touch” rather than “don’t touch”. The experience of finding my items, stitching them and thinking about them is so tied up with the part of my brain that deals with touch, how can I deny the viewer that experience? (I do insist on clean hands: bacon butties and chocolate cake do not make for happy textiles in the long run)

Marion sent me a piece of her work, that I have hanging in my studio, a pair of itchy woolly crocheted elongated pants, complete with luxurious curly pubes. I have taken to tickling them on the way in each morning, as a way of saying hello to my studio. Every time I do it I giggle!

Sets me up for the day!


So, I can’t wait to meet this mysterious woman! I have no idea what she looks like. From her writing I can kind of guess at her age, but I’m not sure. I just know though, that we will talk and talk until I have to go. We will play, and laugh, and talk seriously too maybe.


THIS is why I am evangelical about blog writing… so many people I have met through it, particularly Julie Dodd, Franny Swann, Sophie Cullinan, Kate Murdoch, Wendy Williams and so many more I hope to meet in the future…


The conversation shapes my work, frames it, gives it context and layers onto it more meaning than I could hope to do on my own.


See you Saturday, Marion!


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So here I am, feeling completely and utterly lousy. The result, I suspect, of yesterday’s fishcakes and salad. It is 3:25pm and I’m only just able to drag myself from my bed, to the shower, to the armchair, thoroughly exhausted.

Through this haze of blurred vision and wobbly legs and headache, and the other symptoms not to be shared on a public forum, I found myself able, while horizontal, to complete and submit my Arts Council Research and Development application. It is my first ever. Shocking. I am ancient (more of that later) and this is the first I’ve ever done. I feel nauseous now for a completely different set of reasons. I feel it is the best application I could have done… I have drafted, rewritten, got lots of people to read it, and lots of people to support it, and my husband financial advisor has checked that the numbers balance. I am highly motivated to get this right, and I feel confident that I have done my best. The rest is up to some stranger now.

It concerns the work with the bras and the songs. Obviously I will share if and when I get the funding, but for now, not jinxing anything! I am not normally superstitious, but did feel a pang of ominous-ness (yeah, whatever, I used up all my wordiness on the form ok?) when the wire from my bra escaped as I was dressing and poked me in the ribs.


We wait with baited breath. Those of you that are veterans to this process, do you still feel sick? Having got yourself all enthusiastic to write the proposal, how do you then get real and forget it?


I expect I will need therapy, if I get it, or if I don’t!




Old. Yes.

My lovely, inspirational and supportive MA Course Director, Carol Wild (naming and shaming, getting my own back) is, I think, now, after two years from my graduation, considered a friend, rather than “Miss”…. However…. She has just nominated me for Selfridges “Bright Old Thing” initiative. My first reaction was rather ungracious, and to be honest, I was a bit indignant. I spend my whole life trying to disprove that I am old. But, again, get real, I am. I am Too Old for Turner…

which means I should come to terms with it and take what I can!

Thank you Carol, you said some really lovely things about me and my work, which I will print out and keep next to my Arts Council rejection letter… Balance in all things as Bo would say!