Fractures of the Heart on the loom, with maquette (design)

2020 was a hard year for all of us, but I had a particularly bad time. My mother died in March, and my soulmate, Barry, in August. Various things helped to keep me going – friends and family, my dog, the allotment (community garden) and my own tapestry practice.

I made two tapestries during this period which expressed my feelings of loss during this year of grief. The first is called Still I Rise, after the Maya Angelou poem about resilience, perseverance and endurance. It uses texture in the form of loops to suggest clouds and to engender a feeling of rising up in spite of everything.

Still I Rise, tapestry with looped texture, 142 x 114.5 cm

More recently I have created Fractures of the Heart. It is in the vague shape of an anatomical heart with two distinct fractures across the surface, representing the two losses.

I made both of these tapestries instinctively, creating the designs without deciding on their meaning until I was part way through the weaving process. Is this how the brain works when it is grieving?

There is plenty of time as one weaves to contemplate the subject matter and to decide on the theme, if that has not already become obvious. Usually I plan the subject matter at the design stage, or sometimes there is no overall theme, so the order of events was unusual with these two pieces. As I wove, the reasons I was making them and their subject matter suddenly became obvious. ‘Why didn’t I know this in the first place?’ Perhaps it too hard to explicitly start out to create a tapestry about my feelings.

Still I Rise about carrying on; Fractures of the Heart about grief. It seems that at first I had to concentrate on just keeping going, and then later I could articulate the sadness. Everyone grieves in their own way, and this was my journey.

I tend to choose themes that are universal, so it is unusual for me to focus on myself in my work. But so many people have recently suffered losses; so many have had the experience of grieving in 2020 and before. Their hearts have also been fractured, and I hope they may also eventually feel that they can endure and even rise.

This series is not over, since my grief isn’t either. I am working on ideas for a third tapestry, tentatively entitled Tears Fell Like Rain. At least with this next one, I know what the subject is. Perhaps that is progress.


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What So Special About Tapestry Weaving?: