In January 2020, my husband had a very serious bike accident, needing major surgery and then months of physical rehabilitation, just when Covid and lockdowns started. The medical care he received at St Mary’s Hospital was second to none but, more than that, the kindness shown to him, and to me, by all the hospital staff in such difficult times was exceptional. I was moved to create several pieces of art as a way of expressing my overwhelming feelings of gratitude for their care.
This image “Thanks To The NHS” is one of six pieces which were displayed on London’s Oxford Street as part of the Light It Blue campaign in support of our frontline workers. The second image shows a montage of three of my pieces. The huge scale of thanks felt so appropriate. As you can see from the third image, I was also delighted to have the same piece continue to spread its message of thanks on a street billboard in North London.
Woven Hug 2.0 (or ‘Abrazo Entramado’), is a participatory textile installation seeking to embrace Portstewart with a pair of textile arms filled with scrap material and covered in designs and fabric embroidered by members of the local community.
The project facilitated by Tere Chad & Cordelia Rizzo was inspired by the resourcefulness and artistry of Chilean arpilleras from the Conflict Textiles collection, which tell stories of political resistance with repurposed scraps and burlap bags. The project invites us to reconnect with each other after years of suffering a pandemic and economic crises.
A first edition of Woven Hug happened in March 2022 at LABNL, Laboratorio Cultural Ciudadano (Cultural Lab) belonging to CONARTE (Arts Council of Nuevo León State) in Monterrey, Mexico. A volume of over 2 cbm of pieces of fabrics were recycled by Northern Ireland’s community attending Flowerfield Arts Centre, R-Space Gallery, Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast, to facilitate 3 weeks of embroidery and stitching workshops (2023) at Flowerfield Arts Centre, VAST (Victims & Survivors Trust, Belfast) and R-Space Gallery.
A group of nearly 200 participants donated over 120 embroideries to stitch to the 20 metre long Woven Hug. The participatory textile installation will hug the façade of Flowerfield Arts Centre to welcome its visitors until the end of August (weather permitting).
The workshops for the piece addressed themes like Northern Ireland society post-Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland’s textile heritage, women’s historical role in society, and the region’s beautiful landscapes, as well as the impact of climate change upon them. The activities counted special guests like Dr. Cliff Henry (National Trust), Alison Gault (Ulster University), Roberta Bacic (Conflict Textiles), Dr. Fiona Clark (Queen’s University Belfast) and Can Can Coleraine amongst others.
This project was also made in partnership with the Linen Biennale.
The experience of kindness that greatly influenced my art was being part of the ArtCan Members through the Better Together Community. As I had the opportunity to collaborate in an international network of artists, to stay updated about exhibitions and international exhibition opportunities. Which, without a doubt, it has a great impact on my artistic work.
First of all I wanted to encourage the viewer to see the kindness, love and beauty that already exists in simple things of everyday life.
Secondly, I wanted to express gratitude to my painting teacher Ayrat Khamiullin, who taught me the painting techniques of the old masters.
And finally this is the memory of my trip to the Black Sea with my husband. Beautifully served Turkish coffee with parvards, juicy fruits and melodic oriental ornaments are those small things that warmed my heart.
On Instagram, I’ve connected with Flora and her soulful ceramic pieces. Although we use different media, we have a similar sensibility in how we create. So recently, we decided on an art swap – and I was thrilled to receive one of Flora’s exquisite kintsugi pieces, while she received one of my ceramic inspired collagraph prints, in return.
The print Flora chose represents a very similar aesthetic to her own work, and echoes the rich, iron-red clay as shown in the particular piece here. Would you believe she hadn’t seen the print in the reel & I hadn’t seen her tea bowl!
I aim for elegance and subtlety in my prints, with meaningful depth, which can be time consuming to convey in 2D. The surface has such complexity – each little section evokes a different abstract texture. As you can see with the images there are such similar emotional responses to both Flora’s work and my printmaking, resonating in how the ink and glazes respond to each other.
In exchange for my print, Flora sent an exquisite Kintsugi dish and a stunning ash-glazed tea bowl. The two works resonate together beautifully. It was natural to bring them together, letting myself witness their whispered dialogue of clay, ashes, ink, pigments, and copper.
Both Flora and I celebrate the repair in our work. The way Kintsugi honours imperfection resonates deeply and this can be applied to so much more than ceramics. This original print now lives with Flora however there’s giclée versions of other pottery prints available now on my website. More coming soon too!
I have been transforming into art, plastic net bags that supermarkets continue to bag fruits and vegetables in, for the last 18 months. The communities I work with have rallied round in upcycling them and handing them in at several collection points. People are fascinated by how beautiful they become and are drawn into the web of connections I like to create with them.
I realised that this was particularly useful in bringing together communities after the pandemic and travelled with the nets reaching diverse groups of people aged 4 to 92. I have made a short video here from highlights of the workshops I did at the University College London’s speech centre.
I collaborated at UCL with Dr. Michael Dean to do some workshops with Aphasia patients to stimulate thoughts and encourage communication through drawings, writing, spoken words or gestures. There were many heart-warming moments when words trapped in their brains were rediscovered. I will always cherish the big bear hug one of the participants, gave me spontaneously when he found a lost word after a bit of a struggle. It made my day.
The best thing we can do is give each other time and space plus the respect that everyone deserves. This experience reaffirmed my belief in the transformative power of art and the need to spread kindness. I hope you enjoy the video.
This post is in collaboration with ArtCan.