I am thrilled that Don’t Stop, Keep Going has been shortlisted for Wells Art Contemporary. You can see the work on show from today at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells, Somerset. The exhibition runs until 21st October (Open daily 10am – 6pm).
I’m proud to support International Women’s Day and add my voice to the growing movement campaigning for an end to violence against women and children worldwide.
I cut off a smallish piece from a section of fishing net I found on the beach. The diamond lattice is broken in places and the nylon threads are frayed and tired. I hold the piece in my hands and consider its flimsiness, then I take a long length of red cotton caulking and wrap it round and round the netting and keep going until the structure is covered and begins to plumpen. I select a couple of my children’s old t-shirts – they’re too worn to wear or pass on and I have held on to them wondering about how to extend their life. I cut them into strips and begin to bind them tightly around the caulking. It’s February and chilly in the studio and I sit hunched over at my desk. The cold makes my movements small and concentrated but I work quickly as I consider my next move. The colours of the fabrics clash with one another: All the better, I think – something to work against. I keep wrapping the strips of fabric until I have something of density to work into – something that enticingly feels as wrong as it does right.
I can’t think straight – I’m losing it – My head is going to fall off – I can’t do this – I must do this – I’m a lousy mother – I’m tired – I feel dizzy – I need to be quiet – I can’t keep talking, talking, talking – I, I, I. Too many I’s – Not enough I. I have to stop – Just for a bit – Get it together – Let everything stop moving – whirling inside me.
How do I help myself get through this?
Whilst making “Don’t Stop, Keep Going”, I have been reflecting on a serious and hard to admit to issue: the tightrope one can feel one is walking as a mother of young children; when exhaustion, sleep deprivation and the need for a break – however short – becomes overwhelming and abnormal notions begin to infiltrate – self doubts and idiotic thoughts that you wouldn’t be having if you could just get a bit more sleep and have a little time alone.
When my children first started school the exhaustion persisted and everything continued to feel like a crazy juggling act. I noticed that when I was very tired I could still work but that my approach was different – it was very much a case of head down and working obsessively on small singular tasks. At first I thought this might be a problem but then, with this piece, I decided to work with it and channel those sensations of the mind and body short-circuiting, which were countered by the self-will to persevere, into the work.
It begins light and flimsy – a small, broken piece of nylon fishing net – but becomes dense and weighty. With each stitch and mark, with each piece of cloth that I wrap around it I feel myself grow calmer. I stay with the work; I anchor myself to it and by doing so I resist the impulse to run. A cloud shape begins to suggest itself, perhaps only I can see it. My son likens the emerging form to a butterfly. But really the work is only itself. I think it is becoming strong enough to take all my feelings. Bits of it are flawed, frayed, damaged, dirty. I keep going, binding it up as one would a bandage and stitching, stitching, stitching. Catharsis comes through repetition until the moment arrives when it can hold itself together.
And then, after the trial, I return to it again. I am a new person – stronger, more determined –there is more work to do. It is not finished yet.
I am pleased to announce that Made In Plymouth magazine have published my new article: The Burden of My Anxieties.
The article proposes that the suffering women feel when in crisis is a commonly shared experience and it considers the role of GP care, in particular the work of the Beacon Medical Practice in Plymouth, in supporting women’s mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.