Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Developing an idea and finding it has wings

I love it when my brain gets fired up with a new idea. I'm presently paddling in the very fertile waters of imagination, research and art, a great place to be. It's hard holding all the elements in my head at once - so not much sleep - but words and picture ideas are pouring out and I've pressed them into a project book like wild flowers, like butterflies. (I would never press real butterflies into a book, but idea butterflies are fair game. Anyway, they still get away, they refused to be limited by the thin range of words I have to play with. They are the flat ghosts of butterflies). 

I'm at a crossroads with ideas at the moment, looking for studio space in my head and maybe for real. The house is TOO SMALL to contain all the work and the living and the kids and cats and furniture. I need an overspill space, and I'm looking for somewhere else. It's that or turf Russell's beloved car out of the vast and top-lit garage and convert it.  Not his first choice.

I've been looking at research about Lorina Bulwer, This has sparked a renewed interest in patchwork - the letters are embroidered into patched fabrics, although it's not clear where she got them from. Maybe her pre-workhouse wardrobe. 

I've been looking at the text itself, and wondering whether anyone has ever tried to use a grounded theory analysis approach to it, or whether it is seen as entirely within the arts and as a medical artefact. From my brief look at it (having not studied grounded theory for a gazillion years) I can already pull out themes, just reading it every day for a few days. Fascinating stuff, and those themes could inform the book. 

I also came across a fascinating document by Elizabeth Parker, a servant girl raped and beaten by her employer, driven to the edge of suicide then taken in by a kinder woman. She wrote about her life in an amazingly complex cross stitch piece. This was from 1830, another group of women with no voice crying out in the only way acceptable to others. Samplers and stitching were used to demonstrate domestic skills and 'a proper disposition', as well as teaching a range of stitches. This one seems purely cathartic. 

Monday, 22 June 2015

The embroidered letter

I've been looking at teaching jobs, at lecturing in creative writing (which is why I studied writing in the first place). But the strange things about going on a journey like a job application is it leads to other things, wandering about touching on other things that matter. Several things have come up for me this year:

  • I will stop home educating this year after 22 years, my youngest is off to college
  • I love writing more than I expected and I'm writing easily (and stuff I like)
  • I need an adventure
  • I miss the Isle of Wight and my friends
  • All the time I've been a creative writer I've been creative in other ways e.g. textiles
  • I'm fascinated by psychology, and the social construction of 'madness'
  • Looking into a new job made me look at THIS
The embroidered letter of Lorina Bulwer

This is the rant of a middle aged woman locked up in the imbecile ward - full of dementia patients, alcoholics and mentally ill and learning disabled people - of a workhouse. She came from a middle class, well educated background,  and lived with her mother until the latter's death. Her rants reveal evidence of sexual abuse, that was not acknowledged at the time (her abuser is named and was suspected of abusing another 13 year old. He confessed to having written the child a number of explicit letters but denied touching her).Then her brother placed her in the workhouse.

I'm itching to use this amazing story in a project, so I have looked into this course. It inspires me as the sister of someone who wrestled with mental illness and had her voice taken away, as well as an artist and writer. Who knows? I'm also in the strange position of having some money to invest, so there might be a little income to spend.

I have no idea where this idea will take me, or whether it's a step in the direction of something else, but it's great to feel like we're moving forward again!