“Originality, Technical Ability, Emotional Response”
Artist? I learned my technical skills by taking City and Guilds courses; I learned my painting skills at College; I learned everything else not by studying at University for 3 years but by a simple and constant firing of synapses.
Quilts have longed been used as an unrestricted voice of women’s creativity; and I have chosen this medium to express my thoughts and feelings. Why? Apart from the obvious answer of Why Not? I enjoy creating something which is technically very difficult; it’s a challenge to get right. I also like the connection to a largely female craft, and enjoy stretching the boundaries and perhaps adding my own voice to the shared history.
Each of my quilts tells a story about the woman depicted, and the majority of them explore what it means to be a modern woman being pulled in different directions by motherhood, domesticity, career, ambitions, and age. The women, all drawn from life, have text blistered and ingrained into the skin, before being painted over with acrylics. The person and the story become one. The text is intentionally difficult to read, but not impossible. I do not want the image to exist only to illustrate the text, but to be a subtle extra layer; one you have to look for. I am whispering my stories to you and not shouting.
I was born I 1955 and grew up in the West Country during the 60’s and 70’s when sexism in work and family life, was common. Women were challenging their traditional roles, becoming vocal, burning their bras, and listening to Germaine Greer.
Being female, my family’s expectations for me were different from those of my brothers. My father explained that I needed to get married and have a family life, with perhaps secretarial or nursing work o tide me over until my husband could keep me. Try as we might, we cannot get away from our childhood, and it colours all our later years.
I married, raised a family, and had a minor career as a secretary, and later worked in schools and colleges. I have always been creative, and about 12 years ago I began to sew as a hobby. I went to college 5 years ago, to learn the basics of painting and drawing, and I found life drawing especially challenging; it’s a difficult exercise to paint the human body with its complex musculature, foreshortenings, proportions, and subtle colourings, and is a fascinating challenge to try and get right.
I also began to think of the way we use clothes, not only for protection and modesty, but also as a statement about ourselves; to show our ethnicity, our wish to belong to a certain group or tribe, (Goths, Hells Angels, or maybe just in admiration of a pop group, celebrity, or athlete) We have developed a constantly changing fashion, and some of us have a need to be in the latest colour or style, and we just feel better about ourselves when we think we look nice. We use clothes to attract the opposite sex, or make ourselves look interesting. Sometimes the opposite applies and we may choose to dress in a very conservative way, or a dishevelled way, purposefully to avoid attraction or indeed repel others! We may wish to say that we have reached a certain standard in life and are beyond frippery and are hard working and sensible. Reliable or expensive. We wear clothes as a uniform of age.
I wish to take away all those assumptions and prejudices and look at the human being underneath in it’s true and natural state.
The two skills of sewing and painting, merged into the “Life Series” of art quilts. Each one depicts a woman and tells a story about her both graphically and textually. The words may be a poem, an extract from a book, or a piece written by me, and they give an extra layer of meaning, capturing the essence of the dilemmas of being a woman today. The words are often in stark contrast to the cosy domestic imagery.
(left) Life 2,3, and 4 at Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum during October 2012 to Jan 2013 as part of the exhibition “Through Our Hands”. This exhibition moved on to the NEC in Birmingham in August 2013.