Anna Ray has been working with mothers in Ashford on the Artist Commission: Home. The group is made up of migrant mothers from Syria and long-term resident mothers from Ashford. In this blog Anna shares some of the ways they have been working with embroidery to explore the theme.
Home Blog: The Home Within Ourselves
Everything about the ‘Home’ project has surprised and inspired me. We have invited the women to make artwork from their own ideas and tell stories about themselves. As we near the close of this project, with just three more workshop sessions to go, I will encourage the group to look back at what we have achieved, to reflect on this experience and how it makes us feel about our community and our sense of being at home. Each week we have new participants join us; we are a community that is growing and evolving. Recently there have been tearful farewells as two of the Syrian women have relocated away from Ashford with their families. But the good news is that we can all still keep in touch on WhatsApp.
Each workshop has been based on a different theme relating to home: ‘The Colours of Home’, ‘Rituals and Celebrations’, ‘People and Places’, ‘The Home Within Ourselves’, ‘Toys and Games’, ‘Songs, Poems and Sayings’. We have explored different techniques: painting, printing, stamp-making, drawing, collage, felt-making, embroidery and weaving. Some of the participants have taken the ‘Home’ project home with them and have made artwork in their own time.
In April, early on in the project, I began a hand embroidery of Ruba’s pencil drawing of her home town in Syria, unbeknown to her. Long term resident Sally-Ann then offered to finish sewing the scene; she ably and seamlessly replicated my punctuated stitches. Weeks later, when I introduced the two women for the first time, I was able to show Ruba the embroidery that Sally-Ann and I had made for her and she was absolutely delighted. Inspired by Ruba’s reaction, I then invited the group to try hand-embroidery. Anyone keen was given a small piece of white cotton fabric, a wooden embroidery hoop, a needle and a box of embroidery silks to choose colours from.
I traced a selection of the participants’ drawings from previous workshops onto pieces of fabric in blue pen. Some of the women adopted an image that they related to or chose their own work, while others simply took the drawing that they felt they could manage to sew. Valerie stitched Mayhde’s image of home in Syria, Melissa stitched Charlotte’s tree, bunting and table, Ellie stitched a memory of her grandparent’s home by the sea in the Philippines.
‘It was where my grandparents lived in one of the many islands in the Philippines. We used to spend our summer holidays there, with my siblings and cousins. There was no electricity then and we’d swim in the river during the day and play traditional games under the stars at night’. Ellie
Deborah stitched over houses that she generated in stamped paint, adding her daughters name and key words relating to her perception of home. This embroidery work is ongoing, it has been thrilling and moving to be presented with these beautifully stitched textiles.
September 2018, Anna Ray
Home was commissioned by People United, the Diocese of Canterbury and Ashford Borough Council in 2018, and funded by Arts Council England.