Category Archives: Part 1 Cultural Fusions

Screen printing, Stage 1 sketchbook 08.04.2015

A nasty dose of noro virus left me unable to do much for the past few days except researching and working through my thought about my works and what steps I need to take next. I have looked at my first steps to finding a away of representing FGM as a man made landscape and found that where I had inserted text to offer an explanation of why I had produced an image really detracted from what I was doing. I have reprinted two of the images without text an I am now looking to use the insight that, I have used text as I feel my image doesn’t stand up on its  own. I need to look objectively at my work and assess if the work is of the quality I want and does it say what I want it too without resorting to text. I think two problems I have is confidence in my work and the need to be the best I can.

Initial images with text.

 

 

The same images with the text removed.

 

I feel the images have more gravity with the text removed.

I thought shhh! appropriate as it is a statement that F.G.M is something little talked about, only recently has this practice been challenged and campaigns to stop it have been started.

I don’t want the images to be salacious or offer titillation, but I do want the image to  pose a question to the viewer of what is F.G.M, and its implications on those who suffer it? I wonder if in thinking about this I subliminally decided a poster like approach was needed?

I decided to look at how the vagina/vulva had been portrayed in art in the past. I came across a number of articles on line some informative but a few were reported tongue in cheek as though the vision of a womans sex was a subject of humour or pornography. I have yet to find art depicting F.G.M in the portfolio of a renowned artist, so am I looking in the wrong places or has anyone yet to feel the need to use this as subject matter? I do not want to be obviously graphic or sensationalise the subject.

I was also looking at the work of Cornelia Parker and found her works entitled  Pornographic Drawings, fascinating and also inspiring. With these works Parker Uses ferric oxide on paper to produce images in the voice of the Rorschach tests (Ink blot tests) used  to assess any underlying psychological issues. Ferric oxide is used in pigments and metal polishes and on magnetic tapes, and for these works Parker dissolved pornographic videos in solvent and used the resulting material to produce the blots. In another series of work Parker uses Rattlesnake venom and black ink, Anti-venom and white ink to produce  similar prints called Poison and antidote drawings. I now wonder how I can use  these processes to inform my work on F.G.M?

 

 

 

Tutor report Part 1

Overall Comments

Sue, you have made a considered and very positive start to Exploring Ideas. You have worked carefully, investigating in depth historical lineage, methodically collecting and compiling a wealth of inspirational research. This body of research has led to experimenting with a variety of techniques, applications and materials to create conceptual ideas, samples and textile artworks. Sketchbooks contain testing, sketching, collage, print, research including notes and annotation. You have documented this emotional personal journey of discovery via your excellent on-­‐line learning log. Well, done.

Assessment potential (after Assignment 1)

You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Sue, you clearly used the body of research to inspire ideas and concepts, made innovative textile samples and utilised the research material within the actual work. I am particularly excited about the concept of darning and mending. Here, you darned over the faces of images that represented times in Helena’s life that she theoretically wanted to disappear. I think of darning, mending or patching as a forgotten skill. This wonderful art of mending perhaps evokes repairing of emotion or giving life to something, loving care of a worn garment. Something from a bygone era – as today we just discard or throw away. Therefore, the ‘Darning Helper’ is a really interesting tool!

You have used fabric as a medium to express the hidden aspects of Helena’s life via layering gauzes. The realities are perhaps distorted via the transparencies, as you cannot fully know the whole truth. It is great to see you really considering fabrics, material lineage as a way to convey history. Calico used because of its composition, weave and durability. You have explored drawing on fabric, embroidering text, collage (census forms & marriage certificates), photographs and printing on fabric. The constructed corset panels include darned areas evoking the period of dress during Helena’s life. You experimented with various colours via ‘word’ on the computer printing onto silk and calico.

Final selected designs ideas and concepts include:

The Victorian Mourning Cape purchased on EBay. This historic garment led you to consider using this as a vehicle to tell Helena’s story or perhaps create a 21st Century mourning piece. You created a sample including printed documents, beadwork, hand stitching and an antique clasp. This effectively conveys messages from the past in a sensory, contemporary manner. The antique cape is beautiful in its present state of wear with missing beads, faded fabric and tired lace. Perhaps you could consider thinking about this decomposition. The splendor of time ingraining and wearing imprints upon garments or artifacts, these then become transmitters of history. Perhaps the missing pieces of beadwork and lace are significant reflecting Helena’s story that has gaps. Could you consider creating an artwork that is decayed, distressed with missing pieces within it?

Images Layered As A Book:

Again this is a lovely conceptual idea. Could Helena’s life be transfigured into a cloth book? The gauze fabrics distort the images and text, this reflecting and how her life was transformed from relative affluence to poverty within the workhouse. Consider revisiting the tea stained samples. Stains evoke the concept of us not being able to wash away past experiences. It is often said, “It was a stain on his character”. Could this book be stained with memories that cannot be erased?

Printed Panels:

The conceptual idea of having large scale hanging panels is interesting and exciting. Again you could possibly consider extending some of your experiments. Perhaps include large darned areas, stains, embroidery, lace, layering transparencies to distort images and text.

Sue, you have a highly effective grasp of ideas and communication of those ideas. The work is presented in a professional manner showing strong judgement. I would encourage you to perhaps take a few more risks within the work. Extend experimentation & exploration of materials; push the boundaries of a technique or application. I could certainly see the darning, mending & staining go further.

Sketchbooks

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

Within Part 1, Cultural Fusions, Sketchbook 3 you have evidenced a body of work that is strongly creative, takes risks with many imaginative and successful outcomes with a clear identifiable personal voice. Here, you have evidenced a body of work incorporating many techniques and applications including: mono print, collage, hand and machine embroidery. Within this sketchbook you are free in expression, experimentation and exploration.

In particularly the fragmented collage pieces are very successful. The interpretation into cloth (squares, stitched in rows) is also very affective. I could imagine your historic photographs fragmented in such a way. The fluid spaces giving rise to the notion of lost memories.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Context

It is evident that this has been an emotional journey, as you researched your own ancestry and lineage. Firstly being drawn to your mother’s grandfather William Kitson who was a potter and came from the Romany community travelling in a traditional wooden Vardar. Looking at your ancestry led to looking at your father’s lineage. Here, you found a rich tapestry of human struggle including a great grandfather James Kinnear, who was an inventor involved in designing prosthetic limbs, his wife Helena who sadly was at one time living in the workhouse with her daughter.

You truly threw yourself into discovering as much as possible relating to the life and times of your predecessors. Including scouring sites such as ancestry.co.uk, darning & mending, the Romany Community, fashion 1870 – 1880, prosthetics, and workhouses including corresponding with Lyn Howsan who wrote about Firvale Workhouse. Here, you document study visits to: The Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds, Lynda Benglis at the Hepworth Gallery, Tabitha Moses (Moses used human bones to build a limb using cotton fabric, sawdust & hand embroidery), Investment at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool, plus visiting the grave yard where your great grandparents are buried.

Many books and articles are listed too including a paper written about the textile artist Beth Barron relating to ‘telling stories’ via textile artworks and The Corset, a Cultural History by Valarie Steele.

You have documented this voyage of discovery via in-­‐depth writing on your on-­‐line learning log. Here, you have also included personal reflection; revisiting work that you felt was relevant (the white embroidered piece – made from donated fabric – and created whilst you were in psychotherapy – navigation of life). This evidences you are highly articulate and self aware, having extensively researched, therefore demonstrating a highly developed intellectual understanding.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

Cloth and Memory Exhibition (Salt Mill) http://www.clothandmemory.com/
Lost in Lace (Curated by Gail Baxter) At the Gas Hall, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery http://lostinlace.org.uk/artists Artist
Anslem Keifer (who has an interest in materials that decay over time https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/anselms-alchemy http://www.saatchigallery.com/aipe/anselm_kiefer.htm
Anne Wilson (her series ‘Topologies’ – using deconstructed black lace) http://www.annewilsonartist.com/walkthrough.html
http://www.annewilsonartist.com/topologies-va‐credits.html
Transition & Influence (University for the Creative Arts) http://transitionandinfluence.com/gallery/home.html
Fibre Arts: (Great article) http://www.fiberarts.com/article_archive/reviews/group/throughthesurface.asp
Claire Barber (text) http://www.directdesign.co.uk/testDD/transition_gallery/clairebarber.html Louise Bourgeois – The Fabric Works
http://www.hauserwirth.com/exhibitions/743/louise‐bourgeois-the‐fabric works/view/
Mawra Tahreem (Emotions, Thoughts and Experiments)
http://www.textileartist.org/mawra-tahreem-emotions‐thoughts‐experiments/

Books:
• Quinn, Bradley, (2009), Textile Designers The Cutting Edge. London, Laurence King Publishing, Hudson.
• Celant, Germano, (2010), Louise Bourgeois The Fabric Works. Milan, Italy, Skira Editore S.P.A.
• Impey, Sarah, (2014) Text in Textile Art. Batsford Ltd. ISBN: 9781849940429

Pointers for the next assignment:

  • Maintain your excellent working practices.
    • Consider extending the ideas & concepts of: mending, darning, staining & patching.
    • Take risks within your ideas & concepts for final samples.
    • Perhaps capture elements of your exploration & experimentation in Sketchbook 3 with the ideas you have for finished pieces.
    • Consider refining your research area to one or two elements and then pushing all the possibilities & boundaries of that inspirational material.

Well, done Sue, I look forward to your next assignment. You have a wealth of research here that I think will feed wonderful ideas for future projects.

 

Part 1 review

Do your finished samples fulfill your expectations? To what extent do they reflect the initial research that you undertook for this assignment?

The finished samples were a complete surprise to me. I had no concept of what I would produce from the outset and was pleased I was able to surrender to the process. Even when the idea of producing a corset came to me I never envisaged that I would in fact be lead to another idea for a finished item. I was thrilled with the samples especially with the hanging panels which were a complete departure from anything I would have thought up. I think they conveyed the emotional connection and empathy I had discovered during my research. I feel that because the research was mostly words as in census forms etc. thus I had no obvious vehicle for producing something visual. This helped to push me towards an outcome without preconceived ideas. It was also a tussle for me mentally to get from research to visual piece because of this. I set out to explore what my tribe and cultural background was and I do know I managed to accomplish this. The process allowed me to then look for ways of expressing the emotions the research had stirred in me.

 

Can you see a clear line of progression from source material to preliminary ideas and finished samples or did you have to change direction at any point?

I personally feel you can see clearly my progression from the source material. I will obviously welcome any constructive thoughts on this point. I am uncertain as to whether it can be seen where I have changed direction or begun to explore new ideas as they came to me. I look for advice on this. My initial thoughts are that you can, but that is me looking at it all with additional knowledge of my work. The first place I had to change direction was in researching the Kitson arm of the family, when I could not get to any museums that had items related to their life as gypsies. I found this fundamental to me knowing how their lives must be. I then had to look to other branches of ancestry to research. I do have the beginnings of work I can pick up at any time though.

 

 

Did you make the right choices and decisions when selecting and developing your ideas? If not, what would you change and how might that alter the outcome?

The choices I made in selecting ideas I wanted to work on was completely organic and came from how and where I was stimulated to record my own feelings in response to my research. I am not sure I would change anything as it has been a wonderful exercise in not only getting lost in the process, it was because I was in completely new territory as far as research goes. Ordinarily I would start from something which is visual, an artefact or image, which brings initial thoughts also visual. With the type of research I undertook, I was starved of such stimulus from the outset. I now see another way of conducting research, one which causes me to react solely to emotions which have been stirred inside me. I am overjoyed that I have the experience of listening to my reactions and beginning to find ways of expressing them.

In choosing an idea from which I could design a product I was working towards the corset making. I had come to the idea even before I had gone back to the course to see what my next moves should be. It was something that I had begun to have a passion for so I was pleased I could utilise this idea and run with it.

The conceptual piece again I had stumbled upon whilst playing around with samples and images I had collected. I would never have thought of approaching such a method for expression as the hanging panels and also the work of darning out unpleasant life experiences. This took me again deep into the emotions that had been stirred because of the research. Part of me was unsure if I had done enough as the pieces had simple darning added into the piece. Had I done enough embroidery or applied myself enough. I feel I had many questions about its adequacy because it was a new process for me. Overall I am proud of the work as I know that if I had seen the work produced by someone else, I would be moved by it.

 

 How important was the choice of material in terms of determining the qualities that you achieved?

I feel that the choice of the loosely woven cotton, which had a transparency and delicacy to it was the best for both projects. It alluded to the fragility of life and also allowed me to work with the idea of having images or text beneath it to express the thoughts of secrecy and hidden taboos. I was able to use calico to give the cotton a firm basis for the corset but also to present a fabric that was basic a utilitarian again, I saw this as introducing the idea of being stripped to the basic needs in life’s circumstances with regards to Helena’s demise to the workhouse and into servitude.

 

 How did your choice of colours contribute to the overall results?

I chose the plain white fabric as not only did it prove the base vehicle for printing on but it also had the traditional thought of purity. Helena’s life was full of highs and lows and, the fact that she spent time in the workhouse through circumstances out of her control I felt the white expressed her innocence through her trials.

 

 

Did you try the brainstorming exercise? If so, did you find it useful?

I did try the brainstorming idea. I reached a point in my research when I was awash with words, facts and many printed documents and yet I had no ideas of any way I could create a piece of work from it. I then took a piece of paper and noted down all the information I had on Helena and kept reducing it until I got a few bullet points I wanted to express somehow. I would definitely use this method again if I found I was lost in the research or in fact stuck at any point.

Exploring ideas Stage 4 Selecting designs for a specified outcome. 27.02.2015

So, weeks of research and also developing, sample making and then what to do with all this? I had a number of ideas I wanted to note down if not for now but for future use. The main question I kept focusing on was ‘How can I tell Helena’s story?’. I had made samples of fabric printing and wanted to think about making a corset from it. I then through sampling wanted to use the images I had depicting stages in her life into initially some kind of book made from fabric but then saw the potential of a larger piece of work that would be hung somewhere.

Further samples of how to present these ideas.

images layered as in a book fastened at the corner with an antique button.

images layered as in a book fastened at the corner with an antique button.

buttoned in one corner and stitched spine on the other

buttoned in one corner and stitched spine on the other

sketch of panels suspended from the ceiling allowing the drafts around the room to move each piece

sketch of panels suspended from the ceiling allowing the drafts around the room to move each piece

I particularly like this idea. I can see it being quite imposing. I would see the prints being around 5-6 foot tall printed on fine cotton as I have done with my samples, and with the faces being darned over again as in my samples.

Whilst I have been working on the printed panels I also have been working on an idea based on the Victorian mourning cape I purchased. I was thinking about hidden taboos again and wondered if I could create a mourning cape and use the fabric samples I had to line it?

I began by sketching the cape I bought which gave me time to really look at how it was made. I love the idea how every inch is hand stitched and wonder if it was the Woman who was to wear it who made it? It is a simple design, in no way elaborate so I can easily imagine it was.  I eventually settled on a crisp cotton mix fabric for the outer payer of the sample, with the printed fabric I had which detailed census forms, marriage certificate and photographic images. I patched the images onto the back ground fabric, darned the areas I needed to and then stitched both together. I also found beads that I would use to edge the cape section and an antique clasp the same as the one on my bought cape. the sample worked well I thought.

lace detail on the Victorian mourning cape

beautiful lace detail on the Victorian mourning cape

cape section sample

cape section sample

 

Textiles 1 Exploring Ideas Stage 2 – Developing source material and Stage 3 Creating a portfolio

After getting myself lost in all the research I began to see what I should do to begin interpreting all the information I had. I had become interested in the silent partner in James’s life, Helena. I had begun to wonder what her life entailed and how here story had gone from having a seemingly affluent life with James to moving into the workhouse after he died and her life in service after then. I looked to focus on what may tell her story. I pondered something that was personal and private to her. I came across the idea of working her story onto a corset. This clothing was closest to her and most personal. I could see how this would turn into a nice piece of work. I looked at what corsets were around for her and found a book online about the history of corsets. The Corset A cultural history by Valerie Steele, published by Yale University Press. The book held a wealth of information in written and illustrated form. I also remembered I had in the loft a pattern for a corset that I had in the hope of one day making one. The time had come I felt. I also used this opportunity to attempt a vision board. I didn’t find it as helpful as my usual pages in the workbook.

I now needed to look at fabrics to use? I was taken with the idea that Helena would have perhaps had to keep her feelings private as to her demise into the workhouse, as to be an inmate held great stigma. I liked the idea of using images I had found of her and her life with James but thought if they were partially hidden, say as a fabric with a finer gauze like fabric over, so the images could be glimpsed beneath this would allude to secrets. I wondered about colours too. I knew that any personal clothes she may have had would have been removed and the workhouse uniform worn in its stead. When being released form the workhouse her old clothes would have been returned if they were at all wearable. Her clothes would no doubt be stained and worn. How could I, or should I use this information? I tried staining calico using tea and coffee. I chose calico as a base fabric simply as it is a good utility fabric and would also be firm enough for the corset to be made of. I also found I had a fine cotton fabric which enabled any images beneath it to show enough to see there was something beneath.

tea and coffee stained calico

tea and coffee stained calico

I took the calico and drew the components of James and Helena’s marriage certificate upon it and then laying the fine cotton over this I embroidered certain words over. I wasn’t overly impressed with how it looked and needed to explore other ways of producing a fabric to use. I decided to make a collage of the census forms and marriage certificate to form a pattern in order to possibly print onto the fabric.

collage on paper

collage on paper

I then printed onto some silk fabric that was ready attached to baking parchment I had bought from the Crafty computer company. I liked the result but wanted to try on other fabrics. I printed on the cotton fabric I had used earlier by ironing it onto baking parchment and using my home printer. I liked the feel and effect on the cotton.

silk fabric

silk fabric

Using this design of fabric I made a mock-up of the front and side of the corset, including darning features.

front and side panel of corset along with calico lining.

front and side panel of corset along with calico lining.

I also worked on adding images to the existing collage to create an other option for the fabric.

front and side panel cut from alternative fabric

front and side panel cut from alternative fabric

I also wanted to try other images to see which I preferred. I used cotton fabric ironed onto baking parchment and printed newspaper reports as well as pictures.

images and newspaper article

images and newspaper article

I have a habit of pasting images onto a word page and printing from there. I found whilst doing this a section on the editing bar that would allow me to change colours and add styles. I had never noticed this before and wondered if it could produce something I hadn’t thought of? it did, so I did a range of samples to see which would work best.

newspaper article adapted using editing in word

newspaper article adapted using editing in word

I preferred the effect called sepia.

I wondered what Helena’s clothes would be like I had decided worn and stained and experimented with these but then I thought about them being darned. I had never darned before I am ashamed to say and decided first to see if I could do it before I confessed to wanting to include it in the piece. I had a couple of years ago bought a curiosity from ebay which was a darning helper. I liked it as a collected item but wondered how it worked. I gave it a go and at first it was tricky to hold but then I got into the swing of it.

darning helper

darning helper

with cotton attached and ready to go.

with cotton attached and ready to go.

darning samples

darning samples

One thing I have found is that the act of sewing usually allows my thoughts to form order and also explore using my imagination. I whilst darning was thinking about Helena and how she may have felt about her changing circumstances. I thought that at times she must have wished she could delete the difficult aspects of her life, and how I could show this by darning over images which portray difficult times. I printed off images that related to her time in the work house and in service. I darned over the face of a woman there in. This new thought took me completely away from the corset idea and led me down a road of exploration. I in the process of darning images relating to Helena, thought about my own life and times I wish I could delete. I then looked for royalty free images on the internet to use in this way. I was on a roll. One thing I did realise whilst working like this was, that on the front of the fabric the face was obliterated by the darning yet on the reverse the face had become encircled by the stitches, highlighting it even more almost creating a halo around the head. I saw this as a wonderful metaphor, you can try and erase periods of distress out of your life, but underneath the impact of that time has shown how resilient you are and how you actually triumphed. It celebrates who you are.

representing Helena's time in servitude

representing Helena’s time in servitude

I worked on images representing periods in my life. I celebrated my achievements.

representing my first marriage. only noted later as a mistake, i survived it

representing my first marriage. only noted later as a mistake i survived it

Whilst darning one image I thought how wonderful it would be if we could simply patch into it what we really wished for? I was working on a family image and was darning out my Father and wanted to patch my step fathers face in his place. This took me to another place of thought all together.

I began to look at how I would present this work? I decided a book maybe, the pages showing periods in Helena’s life. We use the term  ‘beginning another chapter’ when describing times of change. I noticed that whilst working on the darning, if a breeze blew past the fabric pieces would flutter and often turn over on the table. I liked this effect. It showed a delicacy within the fabric, it made me think of how life’s ups and downs move over and through our lives. How in the end they become faded memories. I wanted to also look at how I could suspend the images, allowing for drafts in the room to move them. How could I suspend them? I printed off miniature images to make mock ups in my workbook.

I as part of my research been reading about Victorian mourning clothes. There is an etiquette involved in wearing mourning clothes. First the widow would wear full mourning clothing during  the first two years of mourning. Then half mourning during which the lady may start to wear decorative jewellery.   I came across THIS website amongst others which details the stages of mourning.

I was able to buy a Victorian mourning cape from eBay. As you would expect it is worn in places, a few holes and lots of beading is missing. It is made from a moire fabric. Some of the photographs I have taken of it appear washed out, and I think this is only because of the early evening light was reflecting off it. In life the jacket is as dark a black as it could have originally been.

reverse

reverse

front edge

front edge

reverse with lace

reverse with lace

beading detail

beading detail 1

beading detail 2

beading detail 2

beading detail 3

beading detail 3

While it shows its age with its tears and missing beads, I adore it. I am amazed a piece of clothing could last over 100 years and still be as in tact as it is. I could let my imagination run wild as to the story it has but for now I am looking at using it as inspiration for a piece which can tell Helena’s story. I have initial thoughts of re lining it using images and text from Helena’s past. I am conscious that I do not want to add to its decay so I need to think creatively about how I take it into this possible next stage of life. Alternatively I am thinking about how I can produce something completely new that could be used as a present day mourning item.

https://uk.pinterest.com/Suekburgess/victorian-mourning-dress/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds. 02.02.15

Today I visited the Thackray Museum in Leeds. I was welcomed by Alan who is the archivist there. Alan has worked there since before it was a museum, cataloging all the artifacts. The Museum has it’s home in part of the old Workhouse, which also has a resonance with my research.

Alan was prepared for my visit as we had a brief telephone conversation last week to arrange my seeing him. Alan’s knowledge of historical medical artifacts is encyclopedic, and for an hour and a half he talked to me about the history of prosthetics and amputation surgery. He helped me piece together some of the information I had about James Kinnear and his work. Alan found My Great-grandfather in his records of artificial limb makers and was interested in my stories of James. I was shown some of the catalogues he had in his possession which had illustrations and explanations of the various appliances from the period my Great- grand Father was working in that field. I was also shown the various crafts that went into producing a limb. Alan had photographs of people working in their workshops who included, metal workers, wood workers, leather workers, engineers and more depending on the prosthetic and its needed components. Most of the design was unchanged from the 1700’s to the early 20th Century. Only as materials became available and processes developed do you see the many changes over the past 50 years in production and functions of the limbs. Hooks replacing digits for hands were used until the 1970’s and robotics began to increase the functions and abilities of a five digit usable appliance which worked on reactions from the nerves in the remaining arm or leg. I was also shown small cases that held a variety of tools that could be interchanged within the wrist mechanism in the 20th century prosthetic arms. Anything from brushes to hammers, pliers and gripping aids were available.

There was also an exhibition in the main galleries relating to the first world war and how casualties would be rehabilitated and in comparison the casualties of recent conflicts. There were 2 videos on a loop showing film taken at Roehampton where the main rehabilitation services were for soldiers who were war casualties in and after WWI, and also 2 young soldiers who had been injured in Afghanistan,  losing limbs and how prosthetics had been fitted and worked for them.  The display cabinets also showed examples from the early 1900’s and present day prosthetics with life-like hands along side the more futuristic looking prosthetic blades which are available. I was allowed to take lots of photographs from the exhibition and use them on my blog with Alan’s permission on behalf of the museum. The virtual tour with the images I took is below. Some of the camera angles are not ideal as I had to work with the lighting in the museum reflecting on the display cases.

 

 

 

roehampton film

roehampton film

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

aluminium arm

aluminium arm WWI

latex cover that fits over a prosthetic which looks incredibly life like

latex cover that fits over a prosthetic which looks incredibly life like

 

individual digits

individual digits

 

the metal forks of a modern day prostheric to which realistic silicone feet can be fitted

the metal forks of a modern day prosthetic to which realistic silicone feet can be fitted

modern prosthetic leg beside a victorian 'peg leg'

modern prosthetic leg beside a victorian ‘peg leg’

 

 

Whilst the visit was incredibly interesting and informative I am not sure how this will inform the next stage of my work which will see me developing my initial research?

Gathering histories 31.01.15

I have become lost. Lost in the research into my family’s history. I have become so entrenched in paperwork I have lost my confidence in producing designs. In bed last night I started to think about where I was going with the project, what outcomes I may begin to look for. I was blank. I could produce a design on an artificial limb, embroider a life jacket or cradle wrappings but none stimulate me or feel that I would be telling a story. I also began to realise that I had been so taken with JamesKinnears inventions that I had completely disregarded his wife Helena. What was there to tell her story? Nothing but references on census forms and a newspaper advertisement stating a female attendant was available. This led me to imagine what input she had in their journey from Aberdeen to Sheffield. I knew James was born in Aberdeen and Helena was born in Edinburgh, though I know not why she moved to Aberdeen. Maybe she was instrumental in deciding the move to Sheffield or maybe she followed where James took her. I have no idea of how I would find the answers to these questions so all I can do is imagine what the move would entail for her. She had children and also worked in the shop selling and fitting limbs. I have found no evidence that she already had family in Sheffield so it would have been a move, lock, stock and barrel for them all. The one thing that does sit in my mind is the photograph I have of her shows her to be quite refined in her clothes and her hair is elaborately dressed. Her fate of  being admitted to the work house with her daughter and then the role of servant to others would I feel be a great leap form where she had come from. I am reminded of a quote in an email I received from Lyn Howsam who has written a book about the Firvale workhouse and is th ecurator of the small exhibition still held at the now named Northern General Hospital (formally the Firvale Workhouse) it says;

‘I got a shock when I saw mum; they cut her hair short and she was dressed the same as the other women. A big dark skirt, a large blue and white checked apron and a greyish sort of a blouse.’ My heart broke to think Helena would have suffered such an indignity. By the time I was tired and ready to sleep I wondered if I could tell Helena’s story probably better than James’s, as a woman surely I could empathise with her plight?

When I awoke I still had no idea what direction I could take. I decided after being prompted by a friend to look at old copies of embroidery magazine to see if I could find some stimulus. I came across one article In Embroidery magazine, July/August 2004 called Gathering Histories An insight into the work of american textile artist, Beth Barron by Jessica Hemmings. The first paragraph got me; ‘Gathering histories and memories of the past has long been the work of textile art. In fact textiles have long expressed words that tongues have failed to speak or forgotten to record.’ It brought together my scattered thoughts on what I was hoping to do. I not only wanted to find aspects of my identity from my ancestors but more than that I wanted to tell their story. I became even more interested in telling Helena’s story. But how? I only had her image and written evidence in the form of census forms. I had the addresses she lived at which were no longer standing, I had no oral history of her as my Mother did not have a good relationship with Elizabeth my paternal Grand-Mother so has no stories to tell. I was truly ‘ expressing words that tongues had failed to speak, and had been forgotten to record’.

Listing what I have

  • Photograph of Helena,
  • Census forms from 1881 to 1911

Scant evidence on their own yet I feel more from her. I have no sketches or first hand evidence as yet and have an appointment at Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds on Monday to see their archived examples of artificial limbs from the mid to late 1800’s. I now wonder what use they will be, do I wish to record them? My first thoughts are that I feel I should, they may not be something I use or they may be. At this stage it’s too early to tell.

I decided to look at what Helena would wear as I could see some of her dress on the photograph. I googled fashion in the 1800’s and came across this site http://vintagefashionguild.org/fashion-timeline/1870-to-1880/ one of the illustrations had a square collar like Helena’s. Looking at fashions a little later from 1880 – 1910 the necklines are rounder and leg o mutton sleeves are en vogue. Helena also looks quite young in the photograph so I do think we have the right era for her. I need to know more about her clothes. Here goes the next aspect of the research.

Helena Kinnear

Helena Kinnear