Family Stories

After my Grandad died (aged 96) in late 2012, I cleared out a huge amount of textiles from his house, along with masses of curios and generations of junk that he had kept. His second wife’s family ran a small laundry business, and it was the ex-laundry buildings where Grandad kept all sorts of interesting stuff. They had masses of top quality cotton sheets and table linen; some abandoned at the laundry, some donated, some simply rescued from far finer houses. Grandad has been a gardener all his adult life and worked for some very wealthy people. When they upgraded their homes, he was asked to take unwanted things away, and it seems he simply took them away to his shed! He wasn’t really a hoarder, the house was very sparse , but he couldn’t bear to see good things thrown away. He wasn’t much interested in the things he kept. Maybe, subconsciously, he knew he’d have a granddaughter one day who would covet the old but fine quality linens, china cups, standard lamps and carved ebony screens that he piled up in his extensive outbuildings before I was even born.

I’d known for a long time that I wanted to do something creative using the family linens. I also wanted to make some work that reflected my modest Grandad and the incredible collections he accidentally created. Over the last 10 years or so, I realised that his house and sheds where almost like a museum to me; full of fascinating stories and interesting objects. The sheds, particularly, were a kind of representation of the man himself. Practical, unfussy, organised, down-to-earth and full of charm. I want to preserve that memory, that sense of the man, by creating work that honours and remembers him. In 2013 I created two collections of work inspired by my Grandad; the Tool Shed series and Metamorphosis. I have plans for more work too, for my forthcoming solo show at NCCD in late 2015.

For several years, I have created work inspired by historic buildings, places, objects and themes, as well as using personal experiences and emotions in my work. By creating work using my own family history, I feel the work has added depth and humanity. People connect with the work in a different way. Every viewer has their own interpretation of my work and each makes their own connections to their own family.

In my Family Stories workshop on 26th April, I aim to share some of the creative processes behind my work and explore how you can use your family history to create unique, personal textiles to commemorate your family. We will look at how to create a sense of the family by selecting colours and fabrics that have significance. I will show you how to create printed textiles using documents and photos such as letters, maps, certificates and official documents and turn these into stitched and appliqué details for your piece. You can also bring along small objects to use as silhouettes or motifs in the work, or actually incorporate them into the work itself. Personal textiles, buttons, trimmings and off-cuts are also great for personalising your work.

This workshop is also available for groups and guilds.

4 thoughts on “Family Stories

  1. I think the things that people leave behind are fascinating. I still remember helping to sort through my grandmother’s things after her death and discovering that she had about 20 pairs of sheets, all embroidered across the top, along with matching pillowcases. And since no one else was interested in sewing I suddenly acquired quite a stash of sewing cotton, tapestry wool and fabric as well as a few unfinished pieces.
    Your workshop sounds fascinating and I’d love to come, but I’ll be discovering some of my own family stories that day by meeting several family members for the first time.

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