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Student work: Accidental lessons - sourced through higher learning - The Open College of the Arts
Student work: Accidental lessons – sourced through higher learning thumb

Student work: Accidental lessons – sourced through higher learning

Art is restoration: the idea is to repair the damages inflicted in life to make something that is fragmented which is what fear and anxiety do to a person – into something whole

Louise Bourgeois, 1992

I agree with Bourgeois’ sentiment, I believe that through our own act of making, a form of emotional repair can be sought and found. Through my BA in Textiles, I have visually discussed this in many forms. Some of you may remember my Pieced together dresses:

Though fabric, a message can be conveyed. Here, the cutting up and repositioning of personal and treasured items, fashioning them into a new piece, create a sense of reconciliation for myself. They bring together memories, good and bad, hidden away for a while, then re-experienced through the patching and piecing embroidery technique.

Coming to the latter end of my BA, I am now using the focus of ‘repair’ in new ways. First, I began to question how to heal emotionally after trauma. The image above was one documentation of this. During an early tutorial, my tutor told me that if I found a word to work from, with meaning, it would anchor my subsequent practice.
Months later, I discovered the Japanese tradition of Kintsugi quite by accident (in short, this is to repair a broken item with gold filling, to highlight the part repaired, rather than hide the fact it had needed restoration, historically this would have been a broken pot or similar item, which would have been repaired with gold lacquer). In recent years, Kintsugi has a wider context and can be woven into themes surrounding our emotional wellbeing or own personal scars, physical or mental.
Kintsugi is employed when we embrace the damage caused via these negative life experiences. This word has become a massive part of me, my identity. It was something I practiced without the knowledge of, yet now I have been opened up to it, it will be carried with me even more. In line with this, during my research and specialism, I focused on what it meant to me. I found myself coming up with the word OK. In other words, is the need for emotional repair something we can live with? Something that can be made OK? The fact we continue and carry on, can be the most obvious sign of repair or Kintsugi.

The above image illustrates a key piece from my own personal specialism. This life size sculpture becomes a displacement image of myself. Its name I am 5ft 2 and 3/4 relates to my own height. At times in life, we all may find ourselves in a state of disrepair, yet in making, the visible evidence we are continuing, assimilated via the thing made, can evoke a sense of dignity for ourselves. Thus the I am in my sculptures name. We ‘are’ and that is a thing to celebrate in itself.
Returning to Bourgeois, one reviewer said of her work: By weaving, stitching and sewing Bourgeois gave meaning and shape to frustration and suffering. (Dr Marcus Bunyan, 2013)
Bringing this up to date, in her lecture for the symposium What do I need to make in OK? Freddie Robins stated:

Knitting can make everything OK, or at least bearable. I am constantly trying to make the object OK again, which in turn will make the situation OK. I have often wondered where the innate desire to repair comes from.

Through my BA, I have personally observed how within art, the physical act of creating, we can find our own version of OK. This was not something I set out to discover or had any prior inkling of; yet it is a topic I now feel so strongly about, that it has become deeply embedded within my practice.
Now it is your turn, I encourage you to question: What is my repair? What is my OK?
A solo gallery, documenting my research on this subject will be shown at The Spring Knitting and Stitching Show at Olympia, London from the 28 February –  3 March 2019.

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Posted by author: Ailish Henderson

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