Friday, 25 March 2011

Antique Inspiration

Rather fortuitously this Sunday, 27th March is the official 2011 UK Census day, but lets be honest I’m sure some of you will have already filled out the form. I’ve only glanced at it so far, but it certainly looks long and detailed enough to take a good few hours, no doubt with a few head scratching moments. Despite the hassle I do feel a strange connection with the whole process, all those old census records that have played such an important part in my genealogy research and in turn my art. Part of me can’t help thinking how much more juicy those old documents would have been if our ancestors had been asked half the questions we are. Throughout this blog I shall be continually trying to encourage and cajole as many of you as possible to start your own family quest. It just so happens that Ancestry are giving free access to their UK Census returns on the 27th, I dare you to find a more perfect opportunity......hint...hint.

It isn’t only old documents that can be a great source of inspiration, photographs can and have sparked my creative exploration. After the amazing discoveries I told you about in my previous post I started experimenting with the photograph of Ellen Rose Violet Heyes and the first kernels of the visual side of ‘Lost Voices’ sprung to life. But it wasn’t until a while later that certain events propelled my project forward and it became a fully formed entity.

Often it’s those chance encounters or events that can provide you with the most clarity and make things really start to click. One such occasion was a long desired family outing to Ardingly
antique fair, years in the planning and getting round to, the day became quite an occasion, even seeing Bargain Hunt (the original daytime antique experience) being filmed. My fabulous sister and I trekked off with our spending pennies to see what wonders we could throw our money at, I left all the wheeler dealing to her, a very wise decision on my part! My sister has an infectious confidence and strength that has helped me endlessly when I start to feel those dreadful artist doubts! So it’s no surprise that by just stopping at a stall she inadvertently moved my project forward, if she hadn’t who knows where I would be now.

It was at the most amazing stall, absolutely heaving with old postcards that the cliché
lightbulb moment struck, I saw written on a piece of card ‘Children’ amongst a sea of tabs. Drawn to it straight away I went to investigate and found the most moving selection of photographs and postcards, all showing the most wonderful characters whose voices deserved to be heard. The idea that these children have lost their connection to their family and are just floating out their in the ether really struck a chord with me and chimed with my work. Thus the idea for my own photographic archive of lost voices was born. Growing in ever increasing size it provides me with endless inspiration and source material for my work.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Who do you think you are?

I have always been a keen amateur genealogist. The introduction of programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? and the ever increasing availability of historical records online, has just added fuel to the fire. It wasn’t long before this passion began to feed into my textile art.  (BA hons Winchester School of Art).

The past and the secrets it holds have long been a fascination to me and have fueled a lot of my creative exploration. It was through this process that my current project ‘Lost Voices’ was born. While researching my Grandad’s family I discovered that he had four sisters that he knew nothing about. These four young girls had been lost to history and their voices silenced in the family. The rediscovery of the girls spurred in me the desire to reclaim their place in history through my art and started my journey to discover ‘Lost Voices’.

My newly discovered great aunts shall now, with the help of this blog, be able to reclaim their identity. They were Ellen Rose Violet, Maud Alice Gertrude, Rose Beatrice and Gertrude Selina Heyes. Both Rose Beatrice and Gertrude Selina died within the first two years of their birth, Ellen died aged 8 and Maud at age 4. To say it was a shock to find these little girls is an understatement to say the least, something even more surprising was yet to come.

One of the great things about the internet in recent years, well for genealogy nuts like me anyway, has been the online availability of those records that used to be stored away in archives gathering dust and small familys of spiders. The world of genealogy has opened up to those of us who don’t have the time or the resources to trek the country searching for those very personal links with the past. For those of you reading this who are yet to venture into the murky and glorious depths of your own family tree, I can’t recommend it highly enough. A good first step to test the waters is by going to or .com, depending on your location, and it was through this website I made a fantastic connection to a fellow enthusiast and member of my family, fantastic discoveries and startling realisations followed in quick succession. My new found friend and relative had a glorious collection of photographs that my little twig of the family tree had never seen, one of which showed one of my great aunts, these little girls, slowly were coming alive again and being brought back into the family.

What was even more remarkable was the realisation that an old family photo that my family had had for years actually contained the image of another of my great aunts, Ellen Rose Violet Heyes. This mystery girl in the photograph whose identity had never been known, suddenly came to life, with all I had found out. These girls whose voices had been stolen could now speak to me and would never be lost again. These revelations inspired me to start on a journey to reclaim the children lost through time and give them a voice with my work.