Guest Audio Blog by artist Julia O’Connell (transcript below)
The centre in which we work is tired and worn,
rebuilt after the bombs in ’41, families and friends grew here,
they listened to stories, danced on the stage
and sung those Sunday songs, I could never believe in.
You sit by me and I admire the gold embroidery on your silver silk dress and you repeat the name of the stitch in English, ”Eyelet…Eyelet?…Eyelet stitch”
The skill of your fingers piercing and running a thread through that red cloth,
tells me you have done this before.
We work at a distance, quietly at first, then our chairs get nearer as the group gets larger and our conversation flows.
We stitch my ‘boro’ sampler.
New work on an old tradition.
I talk of my hope to travel to India, “Too much to do in 2018 but definitely I’ll be going in 2019” I say, “Yea, just got to save…” (and be brave…, I think in my head)
I say I’m going to track the route of all the textile crafts from region to region
(I’ve always wanted to do this and way before Joanna Lumley, but I leave her out of it in case you don’t know who she is).
You tell me how you travelled hundreds of miles to choose the fabric in the dress you wear, you talk of all the variations of crafts across India; block print here then up to where the beads are sewn, further along for the dyes…and how the colours and stitches change from place to place, as through the years they are handed down with tacit knowledge and Indian whispers.
You tell me of being a new bride,
how you have left everyone behind to come to Coventry,
just 4 months ago.
I gulp inside and hope Cov is all you want it to be.
I look at you, to see if you are missing ‘home’ in your eyes…
I say, “you’re brave”
and you say (SO proudly)
“no, I feel safe…with my husband”
…your eyes are shining.
As we chat more, you acknowledge my sentences with ‘Sure, sure’
and I love it…the ‘ssh’ in the ‘sure’
and I WISH, I wish I knew some of your words!
I teach you ‘couching’ stitch and you whizz across the cloth,
weaving one thread through and over another,
together we feel how the cloth has a new surface with the weight of all our stitches.
How quickly its changed…
Suddenly, its two o’clock,
the session has ended,
I pack up around me and you’ve disappeared.
I hope I see you again.
I hope Coventry is as good to you
as it has been for me,
since I came here,
over 30 years ago…
with MY husband…
Julia O’Connell July 2017