More patchwork

It has been a stitch-heavy couple of months this Spring, making a larger version of the ‘quilt’ that has been part of My Mother’s Daughter. I am pleased to reveal this new work – Role play (woman with cushion). This large-scale piece is made of digital C-types stitched together, then painted with inks. I embellished many of the images with needle-marks, additionally painting over the top. A border is hand-stitched at the bottom, with hand-pierced sides. The work is suspended on a gold wooden baton. To see the work please come to FIX Photo Festival at the Bargehouse, Oxo Wharf, London. It is open May 12th – 21st, with slightly varied opening times depending on the day. Please see the website for details.

Role Play (woman with cushion)

More patchwork

A full heart and a patchwork quilt

Role Play (woman with cushion)

Earlier this week we had our opening for My Mothers Daughter – a group show with Celine Marchbank and Paloma Tendero about what it means to be a daughter when the maternal line behind you has been fractured. Each of us in the exhibition have lost our mothers and we all explore different aspects of what this means for us as adult women.

For me, it was very emotional. It was the first time I had shown this particular set of work. Although I had taken the pictures during the same time as I was making Conversations with my mother I did not know what to do with them. They made me very sad, because I was right in the middle of treatments for fertility. It was all a bit – well, raw.

When I got the email from Celine about making a show together, I didn’t know I was going to show them. It kind of just happened, and I didn’t have time to think about it too deeply. That was a good thing. Sometimes you just have to almost “not think” about it, because if you did maybe you wouldn’t do it.

It was immediately apparent after our first group Skype that we had a deep understanding of showing together, and were sensitive to the subject beyond just saying so. When we hung the work it looked so right together.

I love sewing. I love sewing photographs. I love paint and making things. My mother taught me to knit when I was about 6 years old – it’s just plain and purl, and that’s it. I probably learned sewing about the same time – I can’t actually remember. But I do remember making my own clothes a lot – from the age of around 8 or 9. So I must have been sewing before then.

My mother made a patchwork quilt that she really loved when I was a teenager, but about 8 years ago she took it to the dry cleaners and lost the ticket and it disappeared, sadly. I have another one she made, but the first one definitely has gone. Even now when I walk past the dry cleaners I look hopefully through the window, despite knowing it went to a charity shop and will belong to someone else. I have been making a patchwork quilt of my own since I was about 19, thanks to inspiration from a friend at university who even made patchwork shower caps! It’s got fabric in the middle which I bought from Dingles (anyone remember that department store?) when I was –  well, about 9 or 10 I think. So that’s the back story to this work: Role Play (woman with cushion). I hope you can see the show – it’s on weekdays, 9:00 am – 6:30 pm upstairs in the Health Centre on Bartholemew Road, Kentish Town, London NW5. More info about Free Space Gallery here.

A full heart and a patchwork quilt

Woman with cushion

Role Play (how to be be a mother I)

Earlier this year I was invited to show some work with Celine Marchbank and Paloma Tendero. The result is My mother’s daughter, opening on March 9th at Free Space Gallery in London.

When we started discussing what it was that we were exploring it became apparent we were all trying to make sense of what it was to be a daughter with a gaping hole in the maternal line preceding us. For me, the opportunity to show work together has been about looking in more depth at pictures I made that consider my experiences with miscarriage and fertility treatment.

When things had become initially difficult for me it coincided with my mother dying. I tried making pictures for a ‘performance of pregnancy’. I was continuing my attempts to make work despite having no space to think, trying to articulate everything that was happening. I acted out shapes of a swollen stomach with a cushion, wearing my grandmother’s blue dress. But I found it all a bit too sad….so I stopped.

Later, after my mother died, I found some beautiful pictures of her pregnant with me – two 5×4 transparencies, glowing like tiny Dutch paintings, taken by my father in 1975. Even though they had been in my possession for years since his own death more than a decade before I had never looked in this particular box, only opening it less than a month after her funeral instead.

I have always been fascinated by children’s role-playing… imagination propelling their games of dress -up. I did it myself, putting on my mother’s platform shoes as a little three-  or four-year-old girl, tromping about the garden as a ‘grown up’.

In my first months and years as an adult orphan I started to perform this role again. Only this time I was grown up – I was just still pretending to be a mummy.

 

 

 

Woman with cushion

Armour studies (regarding skin)

I am delighted to be showing a collection of new works in a solo show at the Vittoria Street Gallery in Birmingham. The show opened on the 16th January and runs until the 17th February 2017.

Armour studies (regarding skin) employs the body as both vessel and surface. It continues to explore my interest in experience manifesting itself upon the shell of the physical exterior, inscribing it with markings reminiscent of armour, lace and industrious hands.

On the 2nd February I’ll be doing “In Conversation” with Sian Hindle, as part of the series Talking Practice. The event runs 5 – 6, followed by a Private View of the exhibition.

The event is free but you need to book – link here.

e-vite-jessa-fairbrother

 

Armour studies (regarding skin)

Fishbar

Just before the end of 2016 I was delighted to show my work at Fishbar’s Christmas market – a great place to hang out and meet people engaging with and supporting photography. It was a really lovely event. Here are a few of my pieces on display, along with the dummy for Conversations with my mother.

We hung my work in the window – although I wouldn’t do that permanently because it’s not archival perspex I think it helps you see how the perforations do go all the way through. Putting it in a frame with a permanently illuminated light source is completely possible – but a little complicated and needs discussion.

Armour Studies

Fishbar

Endings/beginnings and Radical Softness

Conversations with my motherIn November I did a talk for Redeye’s Hothouse event in Birmingham – part of their association with Grain – sharing my work Conversations with my mother. As I was given a slot that had a modest 10-minute length I wanted to experiment with doing my introduction as a semi-performance piece. My idea was to speak the words, which are very powerful for me, in time with a sequence.

I wasn’t sure if it was going to work, but I practised and took a risk.

I had spoken the words many times in preparation but found it very difficult in the actual speaking, pausing and letting silence happen as part of the work.

I was very moved by the event and had lovely messages afterwards. Someone in the audience tweeted “Feeling is what makes us human’ really admire your tears during ; there is power in vulnerability, thank you

I take this as a huge compliment. I have found it so hard to put this work together and in the beginning, when people said “….it’s a bit personal” it was almost like that was a negative thing. It made me really think about it for a long time…was anyone else going to care…What was the point of it… Would it make meaning for anyone else. Thank you @InesElsaDalal for identifying this as “radical softness”, which probably summed up what I aim for more succinctly than ever.

A result of this talk led to me doing an interview with Photograd. You can read the whole piece here.

(I later did some research on the term Radical Softness. As far as I know it’s origin is Lora Mathis – I got in touch with her and asked to link up. You can read her blog post here: http://loramathis.com/post/140474165618/on-radical-softness).

Endings/beginnings and Radical Softness