A few thoughts on legacy

Sadly last week I found out that one of my participants had passed away.  ‘Emily’ the rolling pin lady, whose mother worked in a bake house was one of the first people I interviewed and because of this I got very involved in how the making process for all the pieces and participants would be shaped or work.

For this piece I experimented extensively and because of this, I had many interactions with the participant.  I was even able to bring senses of taste and smell into the make by baking her mothers gingerbread recipe.

When I found out she had passed away unexpectantly I felt a great sense of loss.  One because I felt that I had made a fantastic friend through the project and enjoyed working alongside her and experiencing the process together, but also because the artefact I created feels lost.  Like it no longer has an owner.  The artefacts have never felt like they were mine when I had created them and I was beginning to think of their legacy and where they should live.  I had decided that those participants who would like them, should have the artefacts.  They belong with their storytellers.  But now the rolling pin no longer has a storyteller.

Because of the nature of Emily’s story, utilising a recipe for gingerbread and the artefact being a rolling pin I decided to use it.  I wanted to bake the gingerbread recipe and when I went to roll out the dough, I had the overwhelming urge to reach for the rolling pin artefact, rather than my own in the drawer.  The funny thing was all the time I was baking, the same stories Emily had told me, came back to me as if I was making it again.  The actions mimicking her mothers, then hers.  Maybe this was due to the nature of the object being a tool rather than an ornament.

Having made the gingerbread, I can honestly say, each time I went to eat one, I didn’t think about the process, it was only through the making.

The strange thing is, this week has been an odd one in regards to legacy and the friendships I have made for this project.  I had a phone call on Tuesday from ‘Georgia’, the Airforce cross story and her husband (the football story) wanting to go out for dinner at the end of November.  Then the next night from one of the makers who helped me learn how to turn metal, who wanted my help clearing out his loft.  I also banged into one of my participants (brass shoes) one lunchtime and we have text to meet up in the next couple of weeks.  All these people I did not know before the start of the project and now I have seen or arranged to see them all.

Today I went to help the man clear out his loft.  I took some of the gingerbread I made yesterday for him and his wife.  We had them with a cup of tea when we had a break from lifting.  It somehow felt like a circle or cycle was complete…. A recipe from one of my participants, made and passed on to one of the makers, rather than the maker helping me to make something for the participant.

Emily was a fantastic person and a friend and someone who I will dearly miss.  She taught me so much, but I feel privileged to know her story and be able to keep it alive and know that it was saved from being lost forever.

The writing up process all round

I had a fantastic meeting yesterday with my two supervisors, which was really productive.  The best thing I’ve learned on my PhD is to make sure I record my tutorials.  I love how excited I get during a tutorial and try and write stuff down, but actually I find when it’s the next day and I’m siting down again to write up what we discussed it’s all gone out my head!  Very much in line with my research, by re-listening to the tutorial I relive the event and the enthusiasm and ideas come flooding back!


So today I will be re listening to the tutorial from yesterday and scribbling down lots of notes….  then I am going to move onto trying to work out how my main bulk of evidence will fit together.  Starting with a huge mind map!

Literature Review Write Up

Again I find myself sitting at my computer being unable to get anything onto paper (digital paper).  I re looked at my chapter plan after thinking I couldn’t do it and then realised “I’ve done all this reading before”!!!!

I revisited both of my progression points and yes…there it was, all the reading I’d started when beginning this journey.  So having copied and pasted this into the relevant areas it’s not looking so daunting any more.  I do need to revisit each of these like I did within the literature review and add some depth, but also within the literature review situate myself and how I am working and how it is different to what others have done before me.

So this afternoon and the next few days I will be doing this.  I must try and stay at it.  I find it so hard to sit still whilst reading and think of so many other jobs to do!  I think I’ll be ok….after lunch 🙂

Methodology write up

I know it’s only a draft, but I eventually got into it.  Basically I needed to get my head out of the scientific approach I was trying to take and make it much more personal, which I feel like i have.  It was about re ordering information I’d started to gather.  I’ve started to identify holes in my reading so will need to start to fill these as time goes on.

Gallery Excitement

Yesterday and today I’ve been in the gallery manning the show which has been both tiring and exciting, but overall freezing!

I’ve been able to sit and reconnect with the work I made and have begun to talk about it with people who come into the gallery and ask their thoughts and opinions.  I’ve been approached about a potential new show that would expand on particular stories and pieces which would help with the deep analysis for my PhD.  It’s been quite exciting to think about focussing on one piece of the collection.

The same piece was discussed in depth at the WI talk I did this week too (see WI post).

Better hold onto the plinths after all!

Back to it….

So I’ve been struggling. Quite a lot. Trying to get my head round the fact that I am writing up my PhD. It’s all my work and I need to be the person to do it! My skills lie in the making side of things so I always feel like I struggle with the written elements. I’ve been doing a bit of self reflection and realise how much I used to like writing. I also realise I need to give myself time to do it and sit down, when I’m not tired or grumpy and get into it. I need to do it the way I think it needs doing, not other ways that I am told. Someone said that it’s me that has to defend my PhD in my viva and they are right so what I write needs to be what I believe.

So that’s what I’m going to do…

The Exhibition Launch

I was so nervous and excited on Saturday.  Having set up all the work and felt it looked OK it was now down to the public to judge.  My first conversation was with a lady who had taken one of my booklets.  She seemed to be someone who had visited a lot of gallery spaces and also suggested I try the Ropewalk gallery in Hull for an exhibition, which I presumed meant she liked my work!  She said she found it very evocative and detailed.  It fit together well in the space and showed the pieces off well.

I had invited a number of participants and some of the craftspeople that had worked with me on the items, either telling stories or passing on information and they ALL turned up!  I was so happy!  It was quite the challenge to talk to everyone, but I managed to get to speak to everyone who had come to see the show.  A number of the participants came and spoke to me.  One participant said how evocative the object was and enjoyed reading the quote.  She commented it was ectoplasmic and had a very spiritual experience.  She felt very happy to have been part of the work.  Another read the quotes and thought that one of the other participants quotes belonged to her.  She was surprised at the overlap of people’s memories. She said she felt very posh waling round an art gallery and having a glass of wine and being part of it.

The craftspeople were really happy to see the work.  They commented how beautiful it looked when the pieces were displayed in the setting.  One of the craftsmen had his picture taken next to the work he had helped me with.  He asked when I was coming back to learn more forging skills!

The two hours went so quickly, I had so many visitors including a friend who had travelled from London to surprise me.  It was a very humbling and overwhelming experience to see so many of my friends from different parts of my life looking at my work.  I think if I hadn’t have been ill it could have been more emotional as I was so pleased that people had come to see it.  I think because I was a bit tired it all just happened and then afterwards at home I began to process it.  I felt a bit sad I couldn’t have spent longer talking to people, but what it did show me was how many people I have met and made friends with over the space of the making part of the project.  Over half the people who came, I didn’t know before this started…and I have already organised to see a lot of them again on a level of friendship that has been built due to their storytelling or crafts skills they have passed on.