With less than a month before the opening of Significant Figures to go, I’m frantically drawing together all the loose ends, and making lists of what still needs to be done. It’s been a long journey, with the initial ideas being conceived in 2013.
Early on, I mentioned the work I was doing at a number of talks to different groups. It was met with interest, but also raised eyebrows and smiles at what I was proposing to make – in particular a series of seventy seven motifs each representing a year of my Grandmother’s life and her act of remembrance for her boyfriend Cecil, killed in action in 1916, until her death in 1992.
Each motif consists of twenty six bent strips of twisted Bible paper. Each strip being cut from a plain sheet and patterned with handwritten text, as recorded by my Grandmother. The bent strips are arranged in a circle to form a ring with fifty two open ends. The ring is then held with twining, (a weave using two active elements that form a twisted line of threads). Every day marked as a single ‘twine’. Each year has seven complete turns of the ring, plus one twine for three hundred and sixty five days (7×52+1=365) or plus two for a leap year (7×52+2=366).
To begin with, making over seventy motifs seemed achievable, but as my task progressed, I realised the enormity of it. The cutting, writing folding and twisting of paper being the preparation, followed by the small scale weaving of each year. It became a topic of conversation. Where have you got to now? How many more have you got to make? At times my hands hurt, I was tired of the repetition, the counting. Half way was a milestone, each decade marked another ten closer to the end.
With the finishing of the last motif, I felt relief. I had done it.
However my task was not yet done. Each motif had to be labelled and strung. The motifs packed and stored flat in boxes needed to be mounted on a backing fabric, for display as a grid, with decades arranged in horizontal rows. Two days of careful measurement, pinning, pressing and stitching followed before the motifs could finally be hung on the fabric.
My reaction to seeing the work, hanging as a whole, was not what I expected. I thought I would feel overjoyed. Instead I suddenly found myself standing in front of something that I didn’t recognise. The flat motifs took on their own forms, curling and moving as they hung in order.
For now, it is returned to boxes and the fabric rolled around the tube. But what have I learnt? That making is not just about what you make, but the journey you take whilst making, be that creative or personal. I’ve never seen myself as a batch maker, and I can lose interest in a task if not challenged, but with the making of over seventy objects I could see the value in repetition, as I refined and honed my skills. For a piece marking the passing of time, it seems fitting that I have placed such value on the time taken in the making.
‘I will remember him’ will be on display as part of Significant Figures, showing at the Oxmarket Gallery, Chichester 25.09.18-07.10.18.