RSA ……

the RSA brief was completed at the end of 2011 and my boards and sketchbook have been chosen to be sent away to the Society with other amazing design work.  Its incredible how the same title can have such diverse outcomes.  I didn’t make it easy for myself choosing child abuse as the subject for my designs – a lot of soul searching and painful memories but it was also very positive – no more secrets (very important) and it got my friends talking about the subject. My aim was to highlight the fact that some women now in mid life, had a past  which made their future really difficult.  Their need to ‘survive’ and break away meant they couldn’t  always follow the dreams they  had. That mid-life could be the time to  break the hold of the memories which eat away at you and approach life a new, to try and build a confidence which has been knocked out .

I’m doing textile design but my sketchbook was full of textile art so I had to think of how I could put my work into context.  I could have done a number of pieces under the heading textile art and I would love to take my  work further and create in textiles and print more of the designs I produced and I have to say there were many!  To go on then to  exhibit this work and perhaps that of other women, my sister writes poetry as a way of healing, highlighting  that women can win over the past would be amazing and perhaps one day this will happen.  I would be willing to talk about the RSA project but perhaps this sounds self indulgent and I don’t mean it to.  I want other women to be able to do as I have done and for me it was through the medium of art.  Anyway I digress, back to the design aspect, my thoughts were to highlight child abuse and bring it into the home, into everyday, so this is what I did.  For now I wont show my completed work but I’ve included some of the other development – thanks for reading this far.

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Women survivors of child abuse – The RSA project

One of the most difficult decisions I have ever made was to go ahead with my choice of subject matter in my RSA live brief, lots and lots of “will I” “won’t I”,”do I” “don’t I” but I decided yes, I have a voice now, only a very small one but this is one way I can get the message out.  Women survivors of child abuse are like every other woman, they have dreams, they grow up, they maybe go to college, get married or not, have children or not – get on with their life but often and most of the time they carry a huge burden around with them of what happened to them as children, memories of their past encroach on the present, sometimes bringing psychological problems too.  Through personal experience I know this can prevent many women from following their ambitions whilst young because the need to survive means escaping abuse, whether sexual, emotional or physical and the memories become trapped.  Midlife can be the time to let go of these memories and break the hold and power they have -it weighs them down and affects many decisions they make – what I want is to let women know that it is ok to share their past and for those who have held back opportunity is there for the taking – so here I go…. below is my RSA presentation given in the DJCAD board room to fellow students across textiles, jewellery and IED and staff from these departments.

“Design something that challenges the traditional notion of middle age and shifts focus toward the opportunities of mid-life”

Opportunity can happen in mid-life. I only ever dreamed that I would come to Art College because until 5 years ago I let circumstances from my childhood destroy my confidence! I’m a wife and mum – have worked full time in the beauty industry and I’ve juggled child care, home and studying…like many women midlife was suddenly there and my ambition was still unfulfilled. I realised that I was the only one who could change this – so I got the help I needed to come to terms with abuse I’d suffered as a child at the same time used art as a therapy

Using textiles I will capture emotion memory and hope. I have always seen cloth as a thing of beauty here I will use it to tell a story – my story – hopefully creating a series of panels showing the stages of my journey here. My primary research will be through talking to women whose childhood was affected by abuse and have carried on living and getting through each day with that little piece of hope keeping them going.  Secondary research will be through reading, exploring my collection of “treasure”, poetry and lyrics and I will look at artists who have also covered taboo subjects. It’s to be a celebration of survival and hope, of my standing here brave enough to share it and perhaps can help others move on and that despite everything their life can begin again.

We lived in a beautiful house and were immaculately dressed but this is where the beauty ended. So this is where my research began with my two sisters. We talked and I recorded their feelings and emotions and dreams and their succesess and initially we remembered how really sad it was back then and how desperate we were. I tried to get this over in my drawings and mark making  capturing the really bad times and for a while it was my main focus

I also remembered a Japanese company called Nuno who abuse fabric by destroying it only to put it with something else and create something of beauty.

Part of my research was to see how others record memories I come across many artists – but one – Louise Borgouis created a book “Ode to the Forgotten” made of appliqué, patchwork and stitch.

Alice Kettle also intrigued me with her large textile pieces made completely of stitch –  incredible pieces of cloth here recording people.

By now my sketchbook was filling with quite dark sad pages and heading more into the realm of textile art – I needed colour. I went back to the good thing about the 60’s and 70’s they were full of vibrant fabulous colour and pattern

and explored my treasure box with my Judy Annuals and within these were the  paper dolls that I’d loved as a child –

From here I started to add colour to the pages and created a paper patchwork

which led me to my colour palette and here I started to feel more positive. Off to the dye lab to colour cloth for one of my panels.

 Using the inspiration of the paper chain dolls I used the laser cutter to create designs in fabrics, wool, organza and linen and used the design to print onto fabric too.

My next step is to develop my designs further to create the panels.  I’ve started to create textile pages, to get a feel for the cloth and will be printing and stitching into these. 

I hope to make 3 panels – the beginning – middle and the most important one now – which will be full of colour they would be approx 6 ft x 2 ft

In Australia women survivors of child abuse are encouraged to make art to help them move on and this works travels around in an exhibition – so to finish I would like to see my work as part of an exhibition maybe to raise awareness for women who still suffer because of the abuse but my hope is that women can see what I’ve done and realize that there is opportunity in so many ways in midlife.

RSA – Midlife Moment

Choosing a brief for the RSA  – Partnerships Networks and Connections module proved very thoughtful for me. I kept being drawn back to the Midlife Moment –

“Design something that challenges the traditional notion of middle age and shifts focus toward the opportunities of mid-life”  while this is thought provoking in itself I wanted to look at this from the perspective for those of us who didn’t have a great start in childhood – that you can get to mid-life and succeed.  Perhaps my work will give others the encouragement to confront  painful issues from the past so they can move forward to allow the dreams they didn’t ever think would happen  to come true!

MIDLIFE MOMENT

 The traditional notion of women in middle age is often one of a stressed mother, juggling finances and work problems with the added concerns for health and growing children.  Thank fully not all women experience this however for many women today, memories of their past encroach on the present bringing extra psychological problems.

Through the medium of textiles my aim is to document their journey from childhood, where abuse silenced and intimated, to midlife where for some the liberation of finding a voice and a freedom to discover themselves gives them extra strength to move forward and  realise what they can actually achieve.

My primary resource will be through listening to survivors and talking to charities where possible who help in this area.  For my secondary research I will look at poetry, photographs and information gained through literature, books and journals and look at artists who also highlight taboo subjects and artist who convey emotion in their art.

To record their memories and words I will use printed textiles and mixed media techniques and try to capture the emotions and feelings expressed to me with the view to create panels and layers which could be hung as an installation .

If you have any thoughts please feel free to leave a comment for me or email me at jpscott@dundee.ac.uk ~ thank you