I’m very happy to be included in May’s edition of Cumbria Life magazine, out now. Despite events and exhibitions being cancelled, the magazine has brought together an impressive range of features and inspirations for these unusual times. Mary Ingham, the Arts Editor, contacted me and we conducted a phone interview about my painting ‘Heartstrings’ for their new feature, The Big Picture. ‘Heartstrings’ is the first in a series of works I’m doing which explore women’s roles in society. The idea for this particular painting evolved through my own experience of struggling to combine being a mother with paid work.
‘Heartstrings’ is a painting in oils on linen canvas, and depicts a young woman wearing a white apron, the strings of which tether her to lily plants. The lilies here symbolise fertility (Greek mythology) but they could also signify anything that you are attached to- this may be something that grounds you or holds you back, it’s up to the viewer to interpret as they please. It’s a comment on how our nurturing instincts shape our lives and how we sacrifice our own desires to serve those things or people we love.
I acquired some vintage hand embroidered aprons which used to belong to Arts and Crafts Artist Phoebe Rennell, and as I added to my collection, I began to think about the different roles aprons played in women’s lives. I discovered exquisite but useless aprons, aprons to show needlework skill, aprons for mourning, aprons to denote hygiene, practical aprons, aprons for everyday and aprons for best. I even discovered discovered an apron worn as part of a burlesque routine!
Aprons often symbolise work that is not valued very highly, done for instance, by manual workers or carers. I think it’s because of the connotations with domestic service that I, and many of my friends, avoided wearing them when we were in our own homes. As feminists we didn’t want to be associated with the role of domestic drudge -of course we still looked after our families and homes, just not in the uniform our grandmothers adopted!
The painting is oil on linen canvas- I tend to do a photo shoot then work in the studio. In this case I had the model (sometimes) and the apron to refer to in the studio, and also revisited the location as the painting evolved.
p.s. In the studio, I usually wear a dirty and/or ugly apron, often worn with one of my husband’s worn out shirts!