Bench Press: Imprints and Traces

In desperate attempts to hold onto good times I’ve always clutched the ephemera as I fall through life – birthday cards, cinema tickets, and clothing – just to name a few things.

I have far too much, and really ought to learn to edit, but I still struggle to toss these fragments of life as I pass through it, wanting to wring every last piece out for the delicious traces of experiences they contain and devour it.

Artwork on hoardings in Brightlingsea August 2016, artist unknown

I was talking today with designer Masato Jones about his Instagram and a post in particular of a collection of threads and sewing kit – he likes items like complete sewing boxes as  they’re a cumulation of a life’s experience and have a sense of a story draws him in. It was a life. I have a similar attraction to collections of things and it takes discipline not to pick up and take home such mementoes. I have enough “things” from my own family, without absorbing more.  Masato and I also discussed legacy, which we agreed was a tricky quantity to consider, but it triggered my thought processes after the interview had ended.

In this week’s CrafStory piece about textile artist – or “crafter” as she would more likely style herself – Thora Taylor, we examined a sense of legacy left behind by people who create. Thora was prolific in her rug hooking output during her creative phase, then when she had done everything she wished to do she simply stopped and moved on. Thora was also a beloved mother and her daughter Katherine still misses her greatly and speaks of her with such love. Her home is now decorated with carefully chosen pieces from her mother’s works.

Katherine wrote to me before the story was published and after I had written the piece and said: “You may have written the article but I had a few more thought on mum’s legacy… Although she never expressed this to me directly I know her art helped her through the toughest times with the family. I know this first-hand because when I create it eases the business of my mind and my heart. Art is therapy in more ways than one. I learned this from her and she taught many, many women the same lesson.”

Tickets may tell you where I’ve been but they cannot tell you who I was.

The things I’ve collected over the years have been little more than the scurf of a life lived. Theatre programmes and plane tickets may tell you where I’ve been but they cannot tell you who I was. What I’ve realised from Katherine and Thora is that our creative works stand in themselves as legacy – not as monuments to a life – but as able to keep us very much in the room. Thora’s works are part of the fabric of a home, they remind Katherine that creating can be a vital escape, they bring colour to civic buildings, they keep Thora alive for her grandchildren, and they can make people who never met her feel.

You don’t need to be Pablo Picasso or Frida Kahlo to have a legacy – by making and leaving behind material things of who you are – you will stay in the room as if you hadn’t left.

Ruby x

If you have a story to tell about a beloved maker or artist you wish to share – get in touch here

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