🐯When I was 17 my therapist had a box of plastic toy animals on the table. One day I must have been staring at them because she suddenly asked me ‘which animal do you feel like?’ I must admit that at the time it felt like a strange question, but I didn’t feel able to say that so instead I replied, ‘I don’t know which one I feel like, but the tiger is my favourite. They are beautiful and they are almost extinct,’ I immediately felt stupid for stating the obvious, but my therapist took me quite by surprise when she replied ‘like the tiger Solly you are too beautiful to become extinct.’ She allowed me to keep the tiger and to me it became a symbol of my therapy with her and of her belief in me.
🪟 13 years ago I hit rock bottom. I lost almost everything I held dear when I finally escaped from an abusive relationship. In this time of need I don’t know what I would have done without the help of a wonderful woman called N. who hardly knew me at the time, and who drove to Seven Sister tube one night at the end of October 2010, to collect a broken woman holding a baby and a suitcase.
N. gave me a place to rest and recover. It was thanks to her incredible kindness that I was able to pull myself together and restart a new life. It was through this experience that I started working with glass thanks to another wonderful woman, Zoe, who introduced me to fused glass out of pure generosity. She gave me a quick demo, her old tools and some scrap glass, and offered me to fire my work in her kiln until I got my own. Thanks to these two women’s acts of kindness I rebuilt my life.
With the gift of creativity, I was able to transform it into the life I love: being an artist and offering in return opportunities to work creatively with glass to others. Ten years later I started running a project called From the Fragment to the Whole, which is ongoing, where I invite survivors of domestic abuse to share their stories through the materiality of glass, smashing it to pieces and then putting the pieces back together again, and in so doing turning the cracks into beautiful features of the works.
🧹Having signed up to participate in Richmond Open Studios, I began to panic about how on earth I was going to turn my small garden studio from a crowded working space into what felt like a spacious ‘gallery’, bearing in mind that I’m over 70 and not as mobile as I’d like to be.
Cue Maria, my lovely Pilates instructor of 13 years and a very dear friend! I didn’t even need to explain my concern – she guessed it immediately, and insisted that she’d come and help. True to her word, she came and, like a proverbial whirlwind, she cleared so much out of the studio to a temporary home in the house, including tons of art materials stacked up on a huge old table, and all sorts of other things (big and small). She even helped me decide which works to hang and how and where to hang them.
Her help that day took all the anxiety out of clearing the studio, so that I could focus on turning my safe place into a mini-gallery for two successful Open Studio weekends!
🇺🇬 I visited a womens’ refuge while doing charity work in child protection in Uganda some years ago. A beautiful young mother with few possessions gave me a banana and a bead bracelet she had made from found paper on the streets of Kampala to support herself and her baby. She would not allow me to decline, although I did try, and it would have insulted her so generous hospitality in her tiny dwelling. I later made this drawing of her and her child. I treasure the bracelet still.
🍝 I grew up in a family of six kids – full of noise, nurture and food. Dad was out working so Mum and cooking were the constants in our life – and our home always smelled of baking. During the financial challenges of the 1970’s, every day without fail we had a home cooked food prepared by my very resourceful mum. Saturday was cake baking day.
🕊️ The volunteers of Langdyke Countryside Trust look after 8 nature reserves close to where I live. Many of the reserves are brownfield sites, now supporting a huge variety of wildlife. This sculpture is a Medicine Cabinet inspired by the care, kindness and hard work that Langdyke’s volunteers lavish on those nature reserves. Their work is hugely varied, from regularly putting out supplementary food for Turtle Doves and caring for the sheep who carry out conservation grazing, to protecting Field Bindweed – the food of a very rare moth! All these things speak of their kindness and care for the wider-than-human world.
This post is in collaboration with ArtCan.