Under The Influence

Over the summer of 2013 I was part of a collaborative project between Studio Manifold and Siobhan Davies Dance Studio. We were invited to take over the space by the 60|40 group. We started with an introductory exhibition Under The Influence, a collection of objects, artworks and photographs relating to the people who have influenced us, creatively and personally. My influences were my Grandma, Evelyn Todd and artist Colette Dobson.

Grandma’s Patchwork Blanket, 1975 – 1988

Grandma's Patchwork Blanket

The blanket was stored in a bag underneath my parents’ bed and had been there for a number of years. I had obviously looked at it before, I knew it wasn’t finished but I had never really studied the contents, perhaps when I was younger there wasn’t so much meaning in the objects the bag contained. When I looked closely at what was inside, I felt as if I had uncovered something that had been frozen in time. A work in progress, as if Grandma had just popped into the scullery to make a cup of tea and would be back to pick up the stitch she had dropped once it was brewed.

In the bag alongside the blanket was the making of a patchwork quilt at every stage, every part of the process holds a little bit of family history. The patch backings or ‘oaktags’ are made from the envelops that were delivered to my parents freelance news agency ‘Chester News Service’ that they ran from my Grandparents spare bedroom, the template for the patch is a Cheshire County Show press badge from 1971. Perhaps most poignant for me is that the patches are made from my Grandma’s clothes and mine.

My Grandma passed away when I was thirteen. She was my father’s mother and my mum’s best friend. I was now old enough to take on the close friendship role that my mother and I still hold. My grandparents brought my dad, his brother and sister up on the grounds of Ashworth Hospital (Then called Moss-Side Hospital), they were both psychiatric nurses and lived on the hospital estate grounds. Ashworth is a secure mental hospital for people who have dangerous, violent or criminal tendencies; Ian Brady is a current inmate at Ashworth. Grandma insisted that the patients were no crazier than the people who worked there, and blamed their illnesses on the lack of nature in their lives. Ashworth was a rural setting with it’s own orchard and farm and so she felt at ease that it was helping with their recovery. I remember her being a strong and forward thinking woman, she had no time for sentiment. “She was not sentimental and always discouraged ‘looking back’ and reminiscing as ‘soft.’ She always discouraged your great granddad from talking about his exploits in the First World War.” Sentimentality has never been a dominant factor in my family, we have always been focused on pushing our lives and ourselves forward, never getting the chance to reflect, or worse still stagnate. I am always striving to push myself forward, to better myself and to learn and experience as much as I can in life. So finding this unfinished blanket, although giving me a chance to research, reflect and reminisce (but not too much), only urges me to push on and continue my journey, perhaps to pick up the stitches and continue the cycle, but I feel that it will never, and should never come to completion.

Grandma's Patchwork Blanket
Grandma’s Patchwork Blanket

I decided to change my life. After years of forgetting to be creative and wondering what was missing, I suddenly decided to go back and study. Colette Dobson took a chance on me. She offered me a place to do a BA when I had no work to show for myself.

Colette Dobson

Colette made me see things in a different way. Made me analyse my thoughts and develop my ideas so that I discovered what was missing. Without her I would never have been where I am today. I left University with a first class degree, an award for academic excellence and a place at the Royal College of Art. Colette’s work is thought provoking, intelligent, occasionally humorous and makes me feel like I’m at home.

Colette Dobson The Consumption of Utility
Colette Dobson The Consumption of Utility
Colette Dobson The Consumption of Utility detail
Colette Dobson The Consumption of Utility Detail