Social Distancing Stitch …Smokes and Mirrors
A little over two months ago I was exhibiting with Art Textiles Made in Britain in Japan in the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival, and whilst I saw more masks in around Tokyo than usual there is no way I could have projected then that we would be here right now. It is strange world at the moment and at times bit more than scary, in the face of the Covid 19 crisis, people all over the world are needing to rethink the way they do things. The day to day realities of life changing as is our daily social contact with friends, family and work colleagues as we accept a new way of doing things.
I swing between moments of hyper-activity, making connections and ‘doing my bit’ and down time, where the sadness sometimes seeps in. At this time I am more driven to get out in the garden or my daily exercise in the local park to connect with nature and calm. I need to re-assure myself that although the world in which I had formally operated had changed drastically, that work so carefully planned months ahead had gone, that fundamentally the people I connect to and built relationships with had not changed. Yet, as I reflect upon how I have been ‘managing the situation’ in the last few weeks I also have to recognise, we are all changed by this and we still are finding new ways of ‘being’. We can enjoy the communities that we have. As I go for my daily cycle in my local park I have been saying a quick hello and how are you doing? to people from all walks of life. I am fortunate to have the beautiful Mote Park on my doorstep, yet I am sure these fleeting exchanges are taking place in what has become a ‘global community’.
As this pandemic winds its course this a far more challenging time for those who have no home, fleeing war, or are in refugee camps , fresh drinking water and food is harder to come by and simply washing hands is much more difficult. Equally, so many in our communities who are now our valued ‘front line workers’ are keeping us fed, safe and clean. Who would have thought a little over a month ago that as a nation we would be pouring out its gratitude every week creating as much noise as we can as many sit at their machines to quietly sew a supply necessary protective clothing.
Things We Value and the Things We Miss
Social media has become a blessing of communication, and as I struggle to come to grips with Zoom, Facetime and Whats App in a new working environment, I recognise this is where the creative industries are equally proving their value in providing suggestions for activities whilst staying home. My work has always centred around using what is there and being involved is what I have always done. I have set drawing and stitch challenges wherever I can, with groups and projects based on looking at the ‘things we value’ and ‘the things we miss’, and have set up a Facebook group in the same name. Before lock down, I posted art activities to some to students on my Adult Education course who do not have access to the Internet and am even braving some distance learning with them. But, this activity is sometimes ‘smokes and mirrors’ hiding my uncertain feelings about how I am managing. Questions of how I am to be in this ‘new world’, remain. I was setting things because I perceived them to be valuable for our ‘mental well-being’, I reflect, at the same time, I was equally taking ‘care of myself’’.
The creative process has always had a role to play in society, historically, politically and socially, beyond the pleasure it gives in itself. I wonder how, what we do now creatively in response to these uncertain times will be perceived in the years to come? For me it’s about the creative process. It gets me to my work space in the garden each day. I am re-assessing the things I value and valuing the things I miss. Plants coming to life, birds sing constantly in the backgrounds and the pleasure to be found in small things from eggs passed over a the fence from a neighbour to the Japanese bowls on my window, remind me of how lucky I have been. It is not perfect and I still swing between moments of frenetic activity and quietness and sadness. Allowing ideas to seep in (and sometimes vanish) and sharing day to day discoveries is a way to connect. It is ok not to feel ok a lot of the time, staying at home need not be lonely and as we share our stories in stitch we always have friends we can contact for practical advice.
We have entered, to coin a phrase from Aldous Huxley dystopian book of the future ‘ A Brave New World’ yet I hope ours is more hopeful and you are finding your way of getting from day to day.
I have been developing new work in the last year Places, Spaces, Traces which centres around the ideas about people and place This work is currently in the touring exhibition Gypsy Maker 4 at which was due to open at the Rug Gallery in Cardiff this month and then on to the Factory in Neath. I am very proud of being part of this innovative, ground-breaking concept devised, owned and developed by the Romani Cultural and Arts Company.and supported by Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru | Arts Council of Wales
We will reschedule. #stayathome #sociallydistance #staysafe
Other pieces are also evolving in the same vein of enquiry for an exhibition I will holding in Antwerp in 2021. These current changes in how we are placed are shifting my thoughts on some of the content. There will be ways in which you can participate along the themes of ‘What We Value/Miss’ Look out for further information on my website and blog in due course. You can also use the contact form on my website for further details.
*Note: The events of the Depression in the UK in 1931, with its mass unemployment and the financial collapse, persuaded Huxley to assert that stability was the “primal and ultimate need” if civilisation was to survive the present crisis. The title Brave New World written by Huxley in 1931 derives from Miranda‘s speech in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act V, Scene I:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.
— William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I, ll. 20