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The Life Story quilts

Originality, Technical Ability, Emotional Response  

 Life 1 - Measures of Time

Painted and pieced quilt
57″ x 42″

The quilt is about ageing, and the body has the words from a poem by Jenny Joseph called Warning, stitched onto it.

The "measures of time" are 2 tape measures which morph into snakes and have the numbers counting up from the ages of puberty and counting up from the menopause. The painting on the wall  is a reflection of the beautiful flowers, but are seedheads with the words "Fair Seed Time had my Soul".  

The quilt she is sitting on is hand pieced over papers in the English style, and then appliqued into place. The whole quilt is appliqued and then closely stitched by machine, before highlights are added with acrylic paints.

 Life 2 - Be The Change You Want
 161cms x  119cms

The words on this quilt are by Jean-Jaques Rousseau, and are from Emile (1762) – his seminal work on education. He wrote…
“Men and women are made for each other, but their mutual dependence is not equal. We could survive without them better than they could without us. They are dependent on our feelings, on the price we put on their merits, on the value we set on their attractions and on their virtues. Thus women’s entire education should be planned in relation to men. To please men, to be useful to them, to win their love and respect, to raise them as children, to care for them as adults, counsel and console them make their lives sweet and pleasant”
The imagery on the quilt is about breaking free from the chains of convention, and making choices.
 Life 3 - Switching Off
 129cms x 101cms

The words on this quilt are the poem “Twelve Songs” by W H Auden.
It’s about coping/not coping with grief.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

 Life 4 - Hello Dear, What Did You Do Today?

Life 4 has been selected by
Roxane Zand, Sotheby’s, Amy Mechowski, currently Sotheby’s Institute, previously Curator at V&A, Andrew Gwilliams, White Cube, and Len Massey, RCA, to be part of the Spirit of Womanhood Exhibition at the Oxo Tower, South Bank, London in March
If you’d like to see it if you’re in London, the Exhibition will open to the public 20th – 30th March 11.00-18.00 at galleries@OXO, South Bank, London. Other work on show will include pieces by Tracy Emin
The Exhibition Private View is 18.30 on Tuesday 25th March, Opened by Melvin Bragg and Cherie Blair.

The Story sewn onto the body: 
The husband of a busy woman returns home, and asks the question, as he does everyday, “Hello dear, what have you done today”  The words stitched on the quilt are a blistering response.
Well dear, I worried. I had coffee this morning. Coffee is the second most valuable legal commodity after oil but is largely grown by subsistence farmers and I forgot to buy Fair Trade.
Then I took our grandchildren to school. Did you know that 90% of all childcare still rests on women’s backs.
On the way to the hated supermarket to buy food, I saw that lady from the house by the park in her burkha who everyone says is lonely and abused but can’t tell the police in case her family is deported, and thought about the veiling and seclusion of women and the cult of virginity and the death penalty for women’s adultery, and tried to imagine what it was like to be killed with stones.  I thought of rape and how under Shar’ia law a rape victim needs four male witnesses to substantiate her testimony. In the west we might just say she’s making the whole thing up.  I thought how rape could end if men just stopped doing it.
Then I had my hair done and looked in the mirror and saw how old I was.  When you get old you cease to exist, people just don’t seem to see you anymore. Perhaps I should lose weight or wear high heels to make me taller and show off my legs.  Perhaps my nose needs altering or I could get my ears pierced or my teeth whitened.  This made me think of trying to look nice and how odd this was when 140 million women have been circumcised and cruelly mutilated because it reduces libido and prevents promiscuity.  No, I’ll just bleach and perm my hair and put on false eyelashes and shave my legs and pad my bra, and file and paint my toenails. I’d best skip lunch or I’ll get fat.
I pottered about the garden and planted some lettuce. I thought of the women who make up over 50% of the world’s population yet only hold the title to 1% of the land, and produce more than half its food.  They work 2/3rds of the world’s working hours but receive 10% of the world’s income.
Then I collected the grandchildren from school and took them to cubs and ballet and thought of childbearing and the way fertility can be controlled, like the 35% of all Puerto Rican woman that were sterilized by the US Agency for Development.
Then I paid a visit to that frail neighbour who The Meals On Wheels lady told me about. She’s sad and alone because her family have had to move to search for work and she’s frightened and doesn’t want to go into residential care but she’s in the system and thinks no one is listening.
Then I came home to do the cleaning and the cooking, sort out the clothes and do the washing, and remembered what the Ladybird books taught me in school.
“Here we are at home” says Daddy.
Peter helps Daddy with the car, and Jane helps Mummy get the tea.
“Good girl,” says Mummy to Jane. “You are a good girl to help me
like this.”
When I had our children I worked part time for 20 years without sick pay or a pension and tried to nurture you all in sickness and life, and help keep everyone fed and educated.  If an Englishman’s home is his castle why doesn’t he clean it.  Only 3% of PLC Directors in Britain are women and only 4% of judges.  78% of all clerical workers are women, but only 11% are managers.
Then I started to work on my quilt, and you’re reading it now.  Women artists only earn 1/3 of male artists.  So I stopped and made your tea. That’s how I spent my day, dear, how about you?

 Life 5 - Shall I Be Mother?
 56″ x 72″

“Shall I be mother?” is often said in England at gatherings, by the person who takes charge of pouring the tea.  There is a double meaning to the quilt, and it is caught up with the Japanese tea ceremony,  and was made to be shown at the Orientations exhibitions with sixandfriends
The Story:  There is a young woman who needs to work for a living as a geisha.  She’s not a prostitute but a respected member of a society which values things differently.  She makes her living from singing and dancing and entertaining including officiating at tea ceremonies.  Illegally, her virginity has been bought and she is with child. She doesn’t know what to do. Her instincts as a prostective mother have to be weighed against her lifestyle and the years of training she’s undertaken. Her life as a geisha would not be possible and she has to live somehow. She has an answer of course, but it’s not simple. She doesn’t know what to do. There’s a rational argument, an instinctive human response, and a spiritual one as well.
The words on the quilt are:
Shall I be Mother?  I don’t know, I really don’t know. In 2001 my mizuage was illegally sold for £20,000 which means I am now Geisha. For me the tea ceremony is a transormative practice and my belief is of “wabi sabi” and I can now be a host and earn my living.  I do not believe in an afterlife. When I die, I disappear. But I am with child and my mortality will become my immortality.
No one should have the right to say what happens to my body, because I don’t belong to anyone else.  I was given the gift of life when I was born but I find I am not free. No one is. Government and religions all dictate to us. They have given themselves the right to command what happens to our bodies and say when one person becomes two, and that one person must suffer because of the other. What is soul? Consciousness is sou;. Potential isn’t soul.  I had the potential to pass exams but didn’t. A potential person isn’t a person. Thomas Aquinas said that boys had soul at 40 days gestation and girls at 90 days, and the Catholic Church says soul exists from conception. How can that be? How can you quantify the spiritual and justify your actions by promising me an afterlife if I believe. I don’t believe in your God. BUT….
At 1 month 0.5cms
Heart pumping since 18th day. The beginnings of eyes, spinal cord and nerves, lungs, stomach, intestines, liver and kidneys.
At 2 months 2.5 to 3.5 cms
Arms and legs become distinct and tiny fingers and toes appear. All internal organs of an adult, at various stages of development, are present. The first bone cells begin to be formed. Brain waves can be detected from about the sixth week.
At 3 months. 6-8 cms
Development continues. The mother may feel the foetus kicking as it flexes its muscles. The heartbeat can be detected. The foetus now looks clearly like a human baby and can suck its thumb.
At 4 months 12-18 cms
The head has distinct human features and may have hair. The skin is pink, and the bones are closing to form joints. A baby can now be a girl or a boy.
At 5 months 25-30cms
Developing rapidly and very active
At 6 months 28-34cms.
Eyes may now open. All systems are formed and are just growing in size
At 7-9months 36-56cms
Grows in size and fat is deposited to help survival at birth. Grows fingernails.
Shall I Be Mother?

 Life 6 - Still Life (with orange)
 185cms x 122cms

 The Story:  Imagine a warm day in summer; you’ve done your chores and the house is clean and tidy. You decided to go out and do some shopping and see some friends for a coffee and chat.  You’ve rushed around and had a fabulous time. You’re back at home and are having a quiet 5 minutes. The washing is on and the dinner is in the oven.  You’re thinking about the things that happened and the laughs you’ve had; the sun is shining in through the window and you feel warm and contented.  Your eyes begin to droop and you smile gently.

Life 7 - On The Shelf 

The wallpaper stripes say:
Mood swings: chocolate, cats, wine, Black cohosh, divorce
Weight gain: diet, exercise, bigger clothes
Hot Flushes: fan, soya, exercise, light clothes, HRT, diet, evening primrose oil
Insomnia: Remove clocks, no caffeine
Depression: clonidine, gabapentin, toy boy, acupuncture, venlafaxine
Osteoporosis: tibelene, calcium, jumping 13 times a day
Low self-esteem: testosterone
Irritability: diet, cannabis, citalopram
Loss of libido: HRT, champagne, abstinence, testosterone
Tearfulness: friends, food, sleep

The words on the body are:
Keep young and beautiful
It’s your duty to be beautiful
Keep young and beautiful
If you want to be loved.
Ah sod off.  So what if I’m on the shelf, I’m very happy here. Last year the man I’d lived with for over 20 years told me he wanted a divorce because he didn’t love me any more. The truth was that he’d found someone younger to flatter his ego. He didn’t like the way I’d started to sag and pucker, and grow moles and hair . He said I was grey and miserable.   I was desperate and cried so hard but I couldn’t stop him. I was so lonely, dependent, insecure, ageing and invisible.
But slowly, slowly, I began to feel better. Each day I got stronger and realised that if you are unwanted, then you are also free.   I guess I took stock and evaluated my life. I was frightened at first to go out on my own and make friends. When I was younger I used to trade on my appearance and get attention because of the way I looked, but suddenly everyone just stopped looking.  A friend told me I needed a make over, with a new hair do, and visits to the gym, maybe get my nose straightened at last, but they were wrong.  Over 17 million cosmetic procedures were done in the world in 2011 but It’s silly to pretend that I can be young forever like those stupid celebrities.  17% of the UK population are women over the age of 50 but they seem faceless and  without a defined role. Why? Getting old is interesting. I think I care less about things than I used to but I have more power and serenity.   I may not be an attractive young woman any more, but I don’t need men to make me feel good about myself.  I’ve adjusted, and I think I’m ok.  Do you know, life is good and I like the shelf.
The Imagery
I’m basing the still life part on the old dutch paintings such as the Harmen Steenwyck’s Still Life: An Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life.Skulls are a universal symbol of death and this together with the tablets mark the length and passing of life.The eggs, are a symbol of birth and fertility.The books represent human knowledge. My sketchbook is there of course, as is a Germain Greer. The piece is about menopause so I felt “The Change” had earned a place!The fabric is an expensive commercial piece. That and the teapot and cup and saucer represent life’s luxuries and indulgences.There is a trug with a rose. Pinky roses mean desire, passion, joy of life, youth, energy- which is perhaps why the bloom is fading and drooping slightly.  Burgundy roses mean unconscious beauty.
The pearls are for femininity. The tablets as well as indicating mortality, show a degree of control over life.There’s also an electric hand held fan.  I expect you can work out the symbolism of that one yourself!

Life 8 - Motherland

60″ x 40″
The story is one of reflection, thinking about what might have been, but being happy anyway.
Once again, although my father did say these exact words to me, it is a work of fiction….I have never varnished my toe nails and am a dreadful cook.
The words are:
“When I was 10, I asked my father what subjects I should take at school and what I should be when I grew up.He said it didn’t matter because I would be a wife and mother and my husband would look after me.He said it was important for me to learn to cook and to look pretty.My brothers were furious at my escape from supposed drudgery and toil.
So I made sure I fulfilled my parents expectations and married at 16 to the first man who’d have me. I made a really good sponge cake, and varnished my toe nails.
My brothers were stupid. What could be more demanding and time consuming than being a mother.It’s the ultimate career and every other career exists to support it.I did the work of 20 for free, and lived in heaven and hell at the same time.I was racked with self-doubt, panic, insecurity, tiredness and indignity. I found strengths I didn’t know I had and suffered fears I didn’t know existed. I found that happiness is made up of tiny moments and wasn’t an ultimate destination.I learned how unselfish I could be, and forged chains of flesh and blood.
I often used to wonder what would have happened if my father had expectations beyond a wife and mother for me, say, an astronaut.Now I’m older, I wonder if he chose the hardest career of all.

Life 9 - Fighting Back
160cms high  x 130 cms wide

The wording on the body:  (written for Life 9 by Deborah Henderson – Black Cat writing)
“You just need to think positively, like I do.”/“You always dwell on the negative. You’re just making it worse for yourself.”/“Pretend you’re happy and then people will want to be around you again.”/“There’s nothing wrong with your life. Just snap out of it.”

Yeah, it’s true. You’re right. You who live in a world where depression is something to be sneered at or pitied. You who lives in a world free of this. There is nothing wrong with my life. I shouldn’t wake up feeling like I’m caught in a vice. I shouldn’t stumble through each day a second away from tears, with a knot of tension in my stomach that never eases, afraid of everything and everyone.

I am alive, not destitute, not in severe pain every day, I can move my limbs, I am cognisant, I am smart. I’m a middle class, white, privileged English woman. What the hell do I have to be depressed about?

But on a semi-regular basis my world fades to black. And it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what you say to me. It doesn’t matter that you think I’m pathetic, or self-pitying or hysterical or overly dramatic or selfish or self-pitying or wanting attention or boring or needy or any of those things I’ve been called and told over the years. My world remains black, whatever you think of me.

I’m good at hiding it, for the most part. Some people only see me as short tempered and moody and all the rest of that hilarious stuff. What they don’t know is that I spend days at a time choking back tears, that my amusingly low tolerance for teasing and banter makes me cry till I choke when I’m in private, that the simplest noise, like someone talking loudly or the phone ringing, can make me jump out of my skin because I am so tense, that I wake up in the morning with my heart racing and my limbs aching from clenching muscles, even in my sleep, that I wake up and cry, that I cry myself to sleep, that I can only see, hear, think and feel black and dark and despair and blank terror at the pointlessness of existence. That during the bad times I feel rudderless, so that I am floating, untethered through uncertainty and fear and every face I see is blank and every person I meet wants to hurt me and every path I choose is blocked.

My depression traps me, it smothers me, it makes it hard to breathe, it makes it hard to think, it makes it hard for me to look at my own face in the mirror, to talk to my own mother, to set foot outside my door. I want to crawl away from the world. And not stop. Just keep going until I die or the world ends. Whichever comes first.

Depression is insidious, it is without logic, it is without charm and it is without romance. It twists everything you see, you feel and you do. Depression has robbed me of relationships, friends, jobs and opportunities. As the years go by, the web of despair may flex and change – sometimes it’s way in the horizon and I can breathe and live, and sometimes it is clinging to my very skin, a damp, stultifying gauze between me and the world – but it never leaves me. And it most likely never will.

1) the wording behind the panels which is only barely visible and is in mixed fonts:
The funny thing about depression is that when I’m not depressed I find it really hard to describe what it’s like. Some say it’s like a fog, others like their body is full of lead. For me, it feels like being dead: You’re conscious of breathing, smelling and you see people walking about, but to all intents and purposes you’re completely dead inside. You wouldn’t ask why someone got cancer or diabetes or asthma like it was their fault. You wouldn’t say: ‘What have you got to get cancerous about?’“There comes a time when the blankness of future is so extreme. It is such a black wall of nothingness. Not even of bad things.- it’s not like it’s a cave full of monsters that you’re afraid of entering, it is just nothingness. ‘Néant’  as the French would say: the void, the emptiness. And it is just horrible.”“Cumulatively, therapy had a massive effect. I mean like not washing my hands thirty times a day, I’ve actually gained years of my life that I would have spent cleaning and washing. It was so energy-consuming and so depressing and so I not only had time, I had hope and energy.”Suicidal feelings can be terrifying.If you can no longer see why you should go on living, your distress will seem unbearable. You may hate yourself and believe that you are useless and unneeded. You may feel rage, shame and guilt.Repeated painful experiences, particularly losses, can lead you to blame yourself and feel that you haven’t lived up to your own standards. Faced with an unbearable situation, unsolvable difficulties, overpowering feelings of guilt, failures or conflicts, you may start to think that death is your only option.Sometimes everything gets on top of me. I get tired of fighting and wish I wasn’t here anymore.You may feel suicidal for no apparent reason. You may think that you have no reason to want to kill yourself. This can trigger feelings of deep guilt and shame and you may find it difficult to tell others what you are going through.People kept telling me that I should be grateful because I had a lovely husband, a nice house, and two perfect children. This just made me feel more terrible and guilty for thinking about killing myself.Whether you are aware of a cause or not, it can be difficult to relate to others at this time, so you are likely to feel withdrawn or irritable. Even if you have family and friends around, you may find it impossible to tell them how bad you feel. If you have been badly hurt by someone close to you, you may be thinking of suicide as a way of getting back at them. It is understandable to be angry with people who have hurt us, but suicide turns that anger in on ourselves.What you may experience: sleeping badly and waking early change in appetite weight loss or gain feeling cut off from your body or physically numb a loss of energy you may have stopped taking care of yourself e.g. neglecting your physical appearance. Mixed feelings You may be very clear that you want to die; you may simply not care if you live or die; you may be thinking of death as a release. If you feel powerless to influence circumstances that are distressing you, the idea of suicide may give you a sense of being in control again. Depending on your beliefs, you could be looking forward to ‘nothingness’ or to being reunited with loved ones or to reincarnation.If you feel low and suicidal for no apparent reason, this can also make you feel powerless: if you can’t find a cause for your difficult feelings, you may find it hard to believe that there might be a solution.You may be harming yourself by cutting, biting or burning your body. Perhaps you are getting into fights or taking extreme risks. You may also be overdosing on drugs, binging on alcohol or have developed anorexia or bulimia. However, even when you are not sure why you are self-harming, it is usually a means of trying to stay alive – trying to kill the pain you are feeling inside rather than a wish to actually kill yourself. For most people, suicidal thoughts are confusing. As much as you want to die, you may also want a solution to your difficulties in life and you may want others to understand how you “If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, liketheweather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” “Choking with dry tears and raging, raging, raging at the absolute indifference of nature and the world to the death of love, the death of hope and the death of beauty, I remember sitting on the end of my bed, collecting these pills and capsules together and wondering why, why when I felt I had so much to offer, so much love, such outpourings of love and energy to spend on the world, I was incapable of being offered love, giving it or summoning the energy with which I knew I could transform myself and everything around me.”Certainly the most destructive vice if you like, that a person can have. More than pride, which is supposedly the number one of the cardinal sins – is self pity. Self pity is the worst possible emotion anyone can have. And the most destructive. It is, to slightly paraphrase what Wilde said about hatred, and I think actually hatred’s a subset of self pity and not the other way around – ‘ It destroys everything around it, except itself Self pity will destroy relationships, it’ll destroy anything that’s good, it will fulfill all the prophecies it makes and leave only itself. And it’s so simple to imagine that one is hard done by, and that things are unfair, and that one is underappreciated, and that if only one had had a chance at this, only one had had a chance at that, things would have gone better, you would be happier if only this, that one is unlucky.

Life 10 - Leaf Mould

157 cms wide by 135 cms high
Applique, designed and digitally printed fabrics, stitch, and paint.

Life 10 is about the futility of war.  It started when I read a bit in a magazine about the blitz on Coventry and how bombing almost entirely destroyed the city.  It was called operation Moonlight Sonata and happened during the evening of 14th November 1940.  My research into people’s stories of course just led on and on, and my thoughts became distilled into Leaf Mould, which is about all wars.
Readers to the blog and facebook pages, have kindly sent me images of their families in uniform and during WW2 and these have been printed onto fabric for me by Laura Kemshall.   The leaves form a carpet which is of course beginning to break down, forming leaf mould. My words:
People are born, and they die. Fleeting memories are all that are left. They are absorbed into the earth, but their experiences nourish and change us. Sometimes they help us to grow. 
From the Poetry of the Second World War which can be seen here: http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/2nd_WW.html
“Bloody War  –  The Cause
Tom Walker, now almost 90 (June 2010), served in the Royal Navy in World War Two. He wrote many poems and is particularly proud of this one since few war poems address the causes of war.
When greed sups with the devil
And principles are shed
When power is corrupted
And truth stands on its head
When fear pervades the confused mind
And fools are easy led
When reason is a prisoner
The bell tolls for the dead.
Tom Walker

Life 11 - Trolls

48″ x 59″

Stitched and painted cloth

The Story: Women outperform men at GCSE, A levels, Undergrad, and Postgrad qualifications to the ratio of 1 to 1.6.  The current UK gender pay gap stands at 15%. Why? Lots of reasons, but one surely has to be discrimination.  Discrimination is a form of mysogyny.
So the glass ceiling is in place, partly kept there by mysogyny and we stay below. Do we unsettle you? Are you frightened of us?  Are we the trolls under your bridge?

The Glass Ceiling (on band across quilt)
(nb The stitched words are taken from Government stats and World Health Stats as well as articles in the Independent and Guardian. Most of the cementing text is my own though. I have had people in the past saying I should state my sources, but I’ve refrained thank you.  It’s a piece of art work and my voice not a GCSE history essay!!)
Leg 1 “Silly Girl, Silly Girl, you’re only good for one thing” My God says that it is a woman’s place to have babies and look after them and obey her husband. It’s the mans job to protect woman by marrying her. In 10 countries around the world women are legally bound to obey their husbands. 99.3% of women and girls in Egypt have been subjected to sexual harassment. 38% of all murders of women worldwide are committed by a woman’s intimate partner.
Leg 2 Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women and sexual objectification of women.
Leg 3 In the UK the gender pay gap is 15 percent  On average women earn £5,000 less a year than their male colleagues. For part time work it rises to 35 per cent. Globally only 24 percent of senior management roles are filled by women. In 1997 9 out of 10 senior civil servants in Northern Ireland were men.
Leg 4 The Equalities and Human Rights Commission have said it will take at least 70 years at the current rate of progress to see an equal number of male and female directors in the FTSE 100 companies. Closing the gender gap in agriculture and using the skills of women, we could reduce the worlds hungry by 12 to 17 percent.
Leg 5 There are as many men in the cabinet who went to Eton as there are women MPs in the whole of Westminster.
Leg 6 If the skills and qualifications of those women currently out of work in the UK were fully utilised the UK would have an extra £15 to 20 BILLION, which is double the value of the UK exports to China.  Females out perform males at 0 level and A level, and undergrad and post grad qualifications by approximately 1.6 to 1.0. There are 1705 male and 1090 female staff in higher education establishments.
Leg 7 73% of the Police force are male and 82% are male above the rank of Chief Inspector.  There are 10,100 male barristers and 5,300 female.  77% of UK parochial clergy are male and 89% of senior clergy are male. The UK is rated at 59th in the world for numbers of women in Parliament under Rwanda, Andorra, Cuba, Senegal and Nicaragua.

Life 12 - Murder

175cms x 122cms

Applique, stitch, paint.  The words on this quilt are “And The Crows Came To The Feast and Laid Waste To The Beauty

Life 13 - Mitochondrial Roots

148cms x 136cms

The “story” is about male primogeniture.  It was only 2 years ago that the UK government agreed that a first born, even if it was female, could take the throne. It’s only 2014 and we are supposed to be civilised and living in a country with equal opportunities legislation! Throughout history male primogeniture has meant “keeping it in the family”, but recent discoveries about mitochondrial dna, mean that we can all trace ourselves back to one ancestor…who was female.  To “keep it in the family” perhaps we should have had female primogeniture.  
No matter what colour our skin is, or our language, or our culture, we all share ancestors from the people who built Stonehenge, or who rode with Genghis Khan, or set sail across the oceans in canoes, or who planted papyrus on the banks of the Nile. Everyone alive today can trace their lineage back over 2 hundred thousand years to one woman, Mitochondrial Eve.
The following names are stitched onto the roots shown above.
Artimisia Gentileschi, Catalina de Erauso, Catherine de Medici, Flora Sandes, Judith Leyster, Laura Bassi, Lucrezia Borgia, Madam de Staet, Maria Montessori, Maria Theresa, Properzia Ross, Mary Queen of Scots, Barbara Hepworth, Indira Gandhi, George Eliot, Lady Jane Grey, Jenny Joseph, Wendy Cope Anne Bronte, Sappho, Clepatra, Hildegard of Bingen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc, Mirabai, Elizabeth 1, Catherine the Great, Margaret Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Florence Nightingale, Susan B Anthony, Emily Dickinson, Marie Curie, Emily Murphy, Helen Keller, Annie Besant, Simone de Beauvioir, Mother Teresa, Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Seacole, Rosalind Franklin, Jocelyn Bell Burnett, Esther Lederberg, Chien-Shiung Wu, Lise Meitner, Nettie Stevens, Emmeline Pankhurst, Boudicca, Nancy Astor, Dorothy Hodgkin,Millicent Fawcett, Billie Holiday, Eva Peron, Betty Friedon, Marie Stopes, Anne Frank, Germaine Greer, Wangari Maathai, Shirin Ebadi, Malala Yousafzai, Marie Antoinette, Amelia Earhart, Amy Johnson, Aung San Suu Kyi, Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Caroline Norton, Elizabeth Gaskell, Virginia Woolf, Edith Cavell,Elsie Inglis, Ellen Isabel Jones, Grace Kimmins, Lady Constance Lytton, Christabel Pankhurst, Sylvia Pankhurst, Queen Isabella of Spain, Pocahontas, Frances E Willard, Lucy Stone, Dorothea Dix, Sojourner Truth, Edith Cavell, Virginia Apgar, Christine de Pizan, Hrotsvitha, Theodora, Maria Agnesi, Mary Anning, Florence Merriam Bailey,Laura Maria Caterina Bassi, Ruth Benedit, Elizabeth Gaskell, Elizabeth Blackwell, Annie Jump Cannon, Emilie du Chatelet, Cleopatra the Alchemist, Gerty T Cori, Eva Crane, Artemesia, Gertrude Bell Elion, Alice Evans, Sophie Germain, Maria Geoppert-Mayor, Elena Conrnaro Piscopia, Mary Fairfax Somerville, Ada Lovelace, Sofia Kovalevskaya, Alicia Stott, Amalie Emmy Noether, Anna Maria Von Schurman, Anne of Austria, Tanni Grey Thompson, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Naomi Anderson, Annie Arniel, Gertrude Ansell, Olympe de Gouge, Mary Sophie Allen, Louisa Garrett Anderson, Frances Balfour, Mary Gawthorpe, Lydia Becker, Ethel Bentham, Teresa Billington Greig, Margaret Bondfield, Mary Crudelius, Emily Davison, Nellie Hall, Mrs Beeton, Rosa Parks, Lady Caroline Lamb, Irene Sendler, Ealizabeth Eames, Alexandra Kollantai, Julia Bentley, Abigail Adams, Eudora Welty, Ada Lovelance, Margaret Macdonald, Queen Victoria, Mrs Siddons, Elizabeth 2, Kathryn Bigelow, and Anne Boleyn. 

Life 15 - The UnProfessional Wife

60″ x 44″ (152cms x 112cms)

The story for Life 15
It’s easy to think that if someone was being abused within a marital relationship, that they could leave easily. We tend to think that people are stupid or are failures because they don’t take charge or leave. I don’t know any of the answers but research has bought up a number of reasons: Denial, hope, shame, guilt, financial worries, practical reasons such as the children, or even fear of reprisals. It must be very difficult, but imagine how much more difficult it was when divorce was frowned upon and women had nowhere else to go and were more financially dependent on a spouse.
The Words stitched onto the body are:
I had an arranged marriage. I know this because I arranged it. It took 20 years of expectations and careful training by my parents, and was achieved through the process of unnatural selection. I could have been an air hostess, or a model, a secretary or a nurse or a teacher, but I became a professional wife and chose you.
When I was young, beauty and status mattered more to my family than brains , so I developed a tightly clipped accent to go with my tightly clipped figure. I weighed myself each day and kept control of fat by putting my fingers down my throat and throwing up now and then like my mother did. It was important to stay in control.
With your ring I thee wed and agreed to provide personal sexual and emotional services, free domestic labour, and become a nurse and teacher. I love our children with all my heart, but I never loved you. You were all so demanding, and I was ground down by overwork, and lack of sleep, and was caught because I was dependent on you. Then suddenly things got worse and I didn’t know why but I blamed myself. You started to get angry and you broke my flesh with your teeth and bruised my soul. I pretended nothing was wrong and I carried on. You changed jobs and we moved to the other side of the world, and I hated to leave my children behind in boarding school, but I carried on. You made me be quiet and walk in bare feet and only speak when spoken to, and I cried, but I carried on. You made me keep your secrets, and broke my nose when I questioned, and I carried on. You made me pray each night on my knees for forgiveness for being a bad wife, but I carried on. You were jealous and stopped me talking to anyone or going out, and I was isolated and frightened, but I carried on. I don’t know why I carried on.
I’m 78 and that was many years ago, and then recently your past caught up with you and you were put in prison. I don’t do much. I sit and drink gin and think, but I don’t cry. I’m relieved to be an unProfessional wife and I shall carry on.

Life 16 - Poisonous Plant

Life 17 -Unfinished

Self worth is connected to how we (sighted people) fear, or hope, others see us. The things we say, and people say about us also feature, but this part of the quilt also has a lot to do with eyes, looking, and seeing.

Life 18 - Self Portrait in the 3rd Person

62 inches x 58 inches.

A look at identity and what makes me who I am through the things that have inspired me and that I value. The objects you see have personal meanings and remembrances, and the words stitched onto the quilt list various events that have happened since I was born – everything from politics to the first fish finger.

This marks the end of the Life Quilts series.


  1. I saw "Shall I Be Mother?" on display in Llanidloes in about 2013 (?) and was blown away by it. I just found the photos on my computer and looked you up. What an amazing talent.

    1. Ah, how lovely to hear from you, and such kind words too! Many thanks for your comment. 😊

  2. I saw your works at the FoQ back in 2017 (I think) and I so regret not bringing home more than your business card - picturing the beautiful Life 10 - Leaf Mould. ❤️

    1. Thank you Nemo. Lovely to hear from you and so delighted you liked Leaf Mould! ❤️😊😊