Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Letting In The Light

I very much wanted to write a post for International Women's Day, but was at a bit of a loss until I was mentioned in a lovely tweet by my friends over at Daily Life Ltd.
This decided it for me; my International Women's Day blog post will be dedicated to the women I share the stage with at Daily Life Ltd's light box installation in the square outside Stratford Library, Letting In The Light, which is on until the end of the month if you fancy taking it in (it's worth it; these photographs don't do the scale or the luminance anywhere near justice).

I have to start with Bobby Baker, of course. Several of her diary drawings, completed between 1997 - 2008 and began while she was a day patient at a mental health centre.

This illuminated illustration particularly spoke to me. It's called The Daily Stream of Life, and features Bobby's mind as a river through which life flows, and she in life, sometimes in a rowing boat, sometimes in a canoe, sometimes in a fancier vessel altogether.

After a brief blip in my mental health due to an unfortunate series of circumstances, I feel I am bouncing back to a place where I can leisurely row along on the river of life, enjoying taking in the scenery and getting fresh air as I go.

Liz Atkin is an artist, advocate and speaker who raises awareness of, and promotes recovery from, compulsive skin picking through her art. The work featured in Letting In The Light, Lavish, transforms an illness which dominated Liz's life for more than twenty years into something really quite beautiful.


My favourite piece in the exhibition involved one of my very favourite things; word play.

By Jane McCormick, the piece has a back story that is well worth reading.
Bats in the belfry

An honorary mention goes to male artist (gasp!) Anthony Woods who created a joyous ode to fashion icon Iris Apfel:

My piece is in great company:


I couldn't resist a quick selfie with my work. It was rather wind and rain swept as you may be able to tell; apologies for the quality of all the photos.


Letting In The Light is well worth the trip to a slightly unassuming corner of East London; brighten up your evening, and discover the truth behind Groucho Marx's quip, "Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light".


Sunday, 6 March 2016

Abnormal Feeling of Wellbeing

I have a huge backlog of blog posts to get through, and so I thought I would begin with a new project I am undertaking. Abnormal Feeling of Wellbeing is a lighthearted body of work about serious mental illness. Consisting of lists and mantras, illustrated infamous quotations on and historical allusions to the mind and observations on the absurdity of everyday life, it takes its title from a listed possible side effect of the antipsychotic drug Olanzapine. Reading this, it struck me that an abnormal feeling of wellbeing was precisely what I was aiming for, giving that I had been feeling abnormally unwell for half my life by that point.
The resulting works expand the notion of side effects and are hand embroidered on to vintage linens, overbearingly florid, so lovely as to be abject, naive and intricate. They are comprised of skewed self portraits and acrobatic word play, always looking at the power implicit in language; how language signifies sickness without spelling it out and can at other times imprison, but ultimately, when put into the hands of the marginalised rather than decreed to them, liberates.  

The piece below is a playful allusion to the phrase "she wouldn't say boo to a goose". 


This piece, List of Possible Side Effects, explores the other, less discussed, unusual side effects of Olanzapine; the sensation of "Walking through treacle", "Reduced dreaming" and "Unexpectedly finding oneself near cake", rounded off with the very bizarre side effect I read on that Olanzapine pamphlet. I "cheated" somewhat with this piece, as a very talented embroiderer of yesteryear has worked some incredible stem and satin stitch on to the cotton. All that was left for me to do was embroider the text in variegated blue thread, and bullet point each side effect with red gems anchored with pink beads, to pick up the tones in the roses.





Freudian Slipstitch is the third in the series, and is currently under construction, ready for its protagonist to be placed in the scene. After that, perhaps a series of handkerchiefs. Onwards and upwards!


I still believe in happy endings

About this time last month I went to the Polyester Magazine Issue Four launch. There was a soundtrack of No Scrubs and My Neck, My Back, and, amusingly, being the only person there in a suit, Pip said he felt like he was "taking his thirteen year old daughter to a Green Day concert", but those weren't the only reasons we were there; I have some work featured in the magazine this issue.

You may remember this blog post about the commission I took on for stylist Alice Whiting. Well, the pieces I embroidered for Alice were part of a stunning editorial she put together for Issue Four. You can buy the magazine here to see the excellent company I'm in.

Photographer Sacha Burrows kindly sent me all her favourite shots from the photoshoot of the dress and blouse. I think she did an absolutely stunning job, as did Alice with the styling, and the models Poppy Hanam and Ellen Jasper. The softness and timelessness of the images really captures the skewed fairytale feel I aim for in my work.

I am available for embroidery commissions for fashion, fine art, or a melding of the two, just like here. Please email katerolison@googlemail.com with your requirements and for a quote, and I will be happy to help.










Saturday, 30 January 2016

Pantone 4545

Apologies for the radio silence. I'm in a bit of a slump; too worn out to write. Too worn out to do much of anything; I have lots of ideas but no energy to put them into practice.

Luckily it's only thirteen days until I'm off to Scandinavia for what feels like a very necessary holiday (the number of days to count down feels most portentous!)

I have been able to do a little cutting and sticking in my visual diary, however; the cheat's route to creativity. There are some old drawings of mine (the first two pages) and some new ones by my friend Kat which she illustrated my birthday present wrappings with (the last two pages).

"Broken but happy" was the result I was given from one of those silly Facebook analyser/fortune teller apps which supposedly compromise your online security. It feels apt; I am a relentlessly optimistic depressive, at least, if an exhausted one. The Pantone postcard which is its neighbour, with its fetching shade of vomit blancmange, encapsulates depression for me; all is acrid and beige, the tumble weeds roll past your window, we're in Kansas forever more Toto, and there will never be any colour.

That being said, as an optimist, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am seeing a very kind and incisive CBT therapist and trying to get on with things as best I can. I think I need a big yet reachable goal to work towards to give me a sense of purpose/calling. My big goal for 2016 was to have a solo exhibition, but that feels almost unimaginable at present. Perhaps a few months down the line things will be looking a bit brighter. Here's hoping!





Wednesday, 6 January 2016

"Hypnoid States"

My favourite quotation happens to be by one of my least favourite historical figures. Sigmund Freud wrote that "Hypnoid states often grow out of the day-dreams which are so common even in healthy people and to which needlework and similar occupations render women especially prone." I am a woman, a daydreamer, and an embroiderer; I must be more "prone" to "hypnoid states" than most!

"Hypnoid states", but of course, lead to symptoms of hysteria, that peculiarly female malady.

Compare Freud's quote with this one, by a contemporary female, the writer, editor and publisher Flora Klickmann; "And after the breakdown, when I couldn't bear the sight of books or the sound of music, I found myself actually doing needlework, and liking it too; and the fascination of it grew upon me very rapidly, till now - I really don't know what I should do if I hadn't needlework to fall back upon, as a recreation, when I get over-done with the wear and tear and strain of work in our great city.

I would tend to agree with Klickmann that the meditative, contemplative act of embroidery can help suture and sooth; we can stitch our shattered psyches back together again.

As an act of (hysterical) anti-patriarchal rebellion I am hand stitching a meticulous illustration of Freud's quote, using embroidery techniques which Flora Klickmann, and possibly even Freud would have been familiar with. Here is my progress so far.