September has been a month I tell you...
One month ago today, I rushed to our father's hospital room and a week
ago he died.
In amongst all of that was The World of WearableArt
Normally each year I blog, facebook and tweet about WOW because I have
something in show and I am generally asked to speak or give an interview about
it all. This year was different. A few months ago I got asked to do a corporate
gig for the opening night at a private
function but turned it down for a variety of reasons. I'm no psychic, but I'm
so glad I had said no, because two months later, that was the night the nurse from the hospice
called and said 'If you want to gather family now, this is a good time.' At that
stage he had maybe a couple of days to live, and 400 hundred miles
between us. There is no way I could have talked chattily and inspirationally
about my work that night. The following night, the awards night, whilst my
sister held his hand in the hospice, I watched the show with, my phone tucked
down my bra, barely seeing the wonders before me, waiting for 'the call'.
In the days that followed, I had time to reflect upon my
father's decline, life and art. At his funeral, family paid tribute to this
man we all loved so much and as always happens at such an event, people said
'I never knew that about him,' as past history of a life well lived comes
together in the memories of those who knew a person at different stages of
In the hospital and the hospice that followed, he was
shrunken and incoherent; a frail shell of the man he had once been. To an onlooker-
just another wrinkled dying 83 year old man. But to us, he had been so much
more. He had done stuff, he stood for something, he had a story and a presence
and years of work and goddammit, investment in life. He affected people and the
effect on us was remarkable.
Later, someone asked me about my WOW entries and I barely
had the energy to think about them. They wanted to know how long it took, what
they were made out of, was I excited about the show and all the usual curiosity. I tiredly showed
them pictures and explained the process and then, the backstory... and they were
amazed. These were not just fancy costumes; they had a reason to be.
And it occurred to me that my wearable art pieces were kind
of like my father. On the outside, just something to observe - with little understanding
of what was inside; what made up the whole, what the history was. Because story
is everything. Without it, there is just wallpaper, or the husk of a person
with no empathy or meaning.
Firstly 'Mighty Acorns'
- not so much to say about this
except that little people are nurtured from breast milk and so become strong. I
chose to make my babies into elfin folk. The acorns were made out of plastic bowls with felt detail and Fimo nipples. The babies were dolls I repurposed with new ears, colour and clothing.
|Mighty Acorns- Photo courtesy WOW|
|Mighty Acorns- inside|
And then, then there is this:
|London Missionary Church|
Whilst in Samoa last year we went and saw the lava fields on
Savaii, and I was awed by the forms and the history:
In 1905, Mt
Matavanu's lava poured through the London Missionary Church of Saleaula,
|The Virgin's Grave|
The 1905 lava
fields of Savaii are a moonscape of textural delights. Through tunnel like
tubes, which now house moss and tiny cave swallows, lava continued down and
right through the London Missionary Church, in Saleaula capturing the arches and walls forever in volcanic rock. The
lava poured down to the sea; along the molten journey was the Virgin's Grave; a
girl buried some years before. A bubble formed over the tomb and created a
natural cave. Spared from the mountain's outpour, the grave became a holy
shrine, and the only place that seems to grow flowers in the whole barren
30 meters of plastic backed painters drop cloth felt from Bunnings, my most ironic moment was painting the fabric with a
I made the
archway from MDF board, and carved Styrofoam. It attached to a custom made trolley
with castors. The basis of the corset was made at a specialist corset making
class the previous year and I made the palm fronds from painted fabric- it took
me ages to get the plaiting right. I handmade the shirt from sheer fabric and
satin and all the other components were made from the painters drop felt with
other details- like the cave swallows. LEDs lit up the front 'lava tube' and a
light in the virgins cave at the back.
It took me
months and left me with terrible OOS. My finger is clawed every morning and I
have to heat it to make it work again. And work it will, because doing this
stuff gives me joy.
Lava' was one of the best pieces I have ever achieved and I'm pretty proud of
that. Next year will be my 20th year of entering with the 23rd piece. I have an idea for it, and it has plenty to do
with those final days of my father's life. When I have finished it, don't say
'good luck, hope you win' because that's not why I did it. Say instead 'What is
the story?' Look beyond the materials and the glamour of showtime. Beyond the
facade. Look for my father. He will be there.
|Talofa Lava front|
|Talofa Lava back|
|Talofa Lava side views|
|Talofa Lava details|