It has happened a couple of times this week – once with a piece of textile work, once with a song.
The textile was a scrap of unremarkable looking printed cotton, stitched to the front of a plain cream coloured child’s dress, covering a hole. It is stitched with withdrawn threads from a different dress.
The dress is a substitute for one that my mother wore, in a drawing I had done when I was about 18, from a photograph taken when she was a small child, scuffed shoes, doll’s pram, bonnet, dolly…
The fabric scrap was from a skirt given to me by one of my mother’s friends at the time of the drawing… so… late 1970s. The skirt had been hand stitched by this close friend, in about 1950.… are you able to follow this? It is a faded raspberry sort of red, Liberty print, dandelions, blue and grey and green, not yellow. I wore the skirt until constant laundering rendered the fabric liable to tearing when I sat down, so it was put on one side. I have used the fabric carefully in various pieces of work, because it is precious to me. The friendship was precious, the photo is, the drawing is. The dress will do as a substitute, the style and fabric are right. The hole beneath is also significant. There are other holes in the dress, but this one is front and centre, for all to see. I’m not sure if my drawing attention to it in this way is defiance and disobedience… but it is certainly full of love.
What happened was a sharp remembering of my mother and her friend, laughing hysterically, I have no doubt at something rude. They were close, and always seemed “up to something”. I have found friends in my adult life like this, but not as a child I don’t think, and not as a teenager. Those younger friendships were far too self-conscious. And so it reminded me of another moment, me recently with another friend. This tangled remembering of image, work, fabric, relationships, is exactly where my work sits. The object holds it all, and pulls me back to the moments. It connects them to each other, and to me.
The song was a surprise though, as it hasn’t been so long that I’ve been writing, so the length of memory held is less likely. However, there it was. The lyrics hold a description of the Malvern Hills – I grew up looking at the weather crawling over them through my bedroom window as a child. But the description is a metaphor for a mood change. So although the song is fairly new, the image is old, and fixes a time and place. The metaphor is newer, and more raw. The music, built from a basic top-line melody hummed to my band-mates and co-writers, holds the mood. A bass guitar rumbles the dark grey cloud over the hills. The music, lyrics, image combine to form a complex picture of a hurt emotional state. I don’t feel the sting as sharp, but I have the memory of it. The end chorus pulls away from the rest of the song. Defiant. Self-sufficient. Hopeful, but a little bit scared.
After my early songwriting angst, I now find it gratifying that I find links in my working methods between the stitching and the songs. They are so close to each other, I can’t now understand why I couldn’t see it at first. Perhaps it was the cloud cover?