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.