Borders, separation, repair, talks by Karen Alderson

I’ve been asked to give an artist talk, so far I’ve created three power point presentations and I’m still not clear. Do I talk about my life?  This project? How much do I tell? What do I leave out?  I recently asked  a group of artists “What do you want to know when you  listen to an artist talk about their work?” “Their starting point” one said, “What sets them off.” I begin thinking about another way to tell my story .

Identity. How have we created and continue to create our present idea of ourselves? What are the twists, the turns, the important people, the early influences, the unconscious motives, the economic context?

Time to reflect.

Last week I found myself bidding on Ebay for a vintage old Silver Cross Pram . I had plans to take it apart and rebuild it with car parts taken from vehicles that had been written off. I have shelved this idea for a future exhibition, I’ve given myself permission to not immediately follow every idea that comes into my mind as I write my morning pages. A part of me is rushing, panicking, wanting to make a big statement, not believing in the work that is already steadily emerging at its own pace. I return to it, like returning to the breath when ones mind has wandered during meditation.

The “Pram”idea came about with a vague memory that my mother had had a car accident when she was 6 months pregnant, she had never told me & when I asked she confirmed that this had actually happened. I found myself drawing newborn skulls and becoming interested in the fontanelle.

I obtained a piece of sheet metal, the sort used to repair cars and wanted to make it into the shape of a skull with a space at the top for the fontanelle. First I had to cut a depression into a log and then beat the piece of metal into shape.


This took ages and it did not turn out as I expected, I found it hard to make the fontanelle space at the top smaller than I wanted.  Panel beating was physically hard work.

However, I do like the shape and now intend to make some lace to attach to the edges of the opening. I have been learning how to tat, something my aunts did when I was a child. I find it immensely soothing and like the idea of  juxtaposing the hard metal shape with soft, intricate lace. I guess I will have to drill holes into the metal to attach it.


Sorting through my new found source of scrap metal pieces I find one and put holes in it with an awl and a hammer. Again I intend to “repair” it with lacemaking.

Returning to the earlier  wire and latex piece, I make a frame out of wood, drill holes in the sides then sew each piece of latex  to the uprights. As I sew I  listen to the abridged version of the book. “The Rule of the Land” by Garrett Carr on Radio 4.  The book is an account of the author, a mapmaker, walking the border between Northern and Southern Ireland. It is a meditation on borders and how those that live near them negotiate the imposed separation & how it moulds their identity. He describes how Barry McGuigan, who lived in Clones, a town in Southern Ireland located on the border, was able to slip into Northern Ireland thus being able to have access to greater resources. Later he took on a British identity to enable his path to becoming Boxing World Feather Weight Champion.

Carr also talks about the Peace process that led to the Good Friday Agreement & how Senator George Mitchell utilised vocabulary that encapsulated inclusive decision making in order to involve paramilitary organisations in decommissioning their weapons. It was the use of words as an initial bridge so that groups on opposing sides could choose to walk towards one another without a loss of face.  I thought a lot about how skilled Mitchell was in his sensitive consideration of honour, autonomy and choice in order to build trust & how this was essential to enable agreement and consequent peace. The ultimate goal was to use participants’ words to create the agreement, differences may still have existed but a symbolic unification had taken place.

I re read this article about reducing the sense of separation that some aspects of modern life create.

As I stitch the latex to the wooden support I think about the edges of each material & how different they are, as I handle the latex it it feels like I’m sewing skin.


My other plans are to make some small  simple weaves that will be inserted into a piece of broken fencing. These will replicate darning & will represent the act of reparation.


Moving along by Jane Pugh

Moving along

After researching the embroidery and identifying the mythical creature as a cockatrice, I have been in touch with Agecroft Hall which had been rebuilt in Richmond, Virginia, and waiting to see if they can help in my quest to link the embroidery to the Langley family. I have been inspired by this beast as described in my notes below.

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I have also been making notes about the project on my phone, then exploring these ideas in my sketchbook. The secret life, including the unfinished nature, of the embroidery has caused me to contemplate some of my own unfinished projects.

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Cassette tape, sleepy mice and willow weaving by Julie Turner

I have been very lucky recently to attend a creative workshop as part of my 50th birthday celebrations. I attended a brilliant basket making course with the fabulous tutor Joe of Creative With Nature in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. Part of the appeal to me of this particular course was the fact that we would be foraging for the materials to make the basket from a local beauty spot. Well it was amazing! The colours and materials we foraged were beautiful: hazel, dogwood, bramble, holly, rubus, birch and ivy were collected and several of them used. The basket I made reminds me of a foraging basket which has two sides and I could imagine the garden produce nestled into the sides. A nest without even planning it! The colours are vibrant now but may fade or change over time.

Joe gave me some willow to finish off the basket at home and I had a small amount left so decided to create a small nest with it. Following the instructions I created the round frame, one for the opening/rim and one for the handle/bottom, lashed them together and inserted the side pieces to complete the frame. Weaving the willow through the frame completes the basket/nest. I had intended to cut off the handle to create an open basket but as I had finished it and put it on the table it balanced perfectly on the extended willow and I decided to leave it as it was. A happy accident!

Another nest I have created was for a sleepy mouse! Don’t worry not a real one, a felted one. As part of my business I run creative woolly workshops for people and recently ran a needle felt a sleepy mouse workshop. Needle felting involves using a barbed needle to manipulate wool fibres so they attach to each other by the tiny scales on each fibre to make a dense sculpted 3D sculpture or 2D picture. Everyone made a mouse nest for their sleepy mouse too.


The last nest I made included a ‘blast from the past’ in the form of a cassette tape. Do you know people of a certain age still say ‘tape that programme, ‘young uns’ don’t know what we mean. For the ‘young uns’ it means record that programme. This old cassette tape includes music recorded for me from a French friend during a Yorkshire/Lille exchange during summer 1982 it included music that I wasn’t too keen on and never really listened to it, so I was quite happy to destroy it for the sake of this project.

I decided to crochet this nest. Crochet consists of a series of loops in a chain which in turn are interjoined to create the desired article. A crochet hook is used to create said loops. This was much harder than I anticipated as the tape was tightening too much on the hook making it hard to ensure the smooth sliding through of the loops to create the pattern required. Needless to say this nest ended up quite small but cute and dainty. I am now on the lookout for a VHS tape to destroy for the good of this project as all the ones I have kept are precious including our wedding video from 1988 – even though we don’t have a VHS recorder to watch them on!