Helen Clara Hemsley

My two wearable works are not that far away from my regular practice, but their focus was definitely determined by the COVID-19 experience and everything that came with it. I generally work conceptually and with a focus on the everyday and how I/we perceive life around us. ’Making the most of it’ came out of an increased focus on recycling and using what I already had in the house, plus the idea that I planned to knit a lot of new washcloths during lockdown, which I never got round to. Instead I decided to darn this old washcloth, which was one of the first I knitted a few years ago. By so doing I have transformed it into something else with a different focus and status. I used gold crochet yarn to enhance the concept of making the most of something that had been rendered less useful/useless. I could have of course just darned it and used it as a washcloth again, but when you are in the business of making jewellery out of readymades making it into a necklace seemed like the right thing to do. ‘Rest easy’ is made out of an old airline sleeping mask and is a direct reference to one of the aspects of COVID-19 that impacted my ‘normal’ life the most - suddenly not being able to travel. The number on the mask refers to the approximate amount of CO2 that I have saved this year due to cancelled trips (all work related). The title tries to reassure me and helps make me feel a bit better about it all.

My pieces relate to the COVID-19 experience in the way in which I was impacted and the thoughts and actions that arose out of lockdown, and an increased awareness of the world and my immediate situation. When you work from home and pretty much decide your own schedule and working hours, a lockdown situation impacts in different ways compared to people who could not go to work. I worked just as much as usual, and possibly more. My dreams of knitting more washcloths, sorting out all those old photos or redecorating a room or two were not realized (I did however throw out some blurry baby photos). Not being able to go to meetings, visit galleries or museums or travel meant that all that time could be spent on making. And making helps me understand and explore the things that are hard. I watched the news and read ‘the paper’ (online) more that I have done in years and checked statistics and guidelines, and felt more informed than usual. I let out my frustration and disbelief through stitches and process. My thoughts turned to the necessities of life, the closeness of home schooling and having more time with my boys. And to how much I fly and my fairly large CO2 footprint thanks to that (even the thought of not using the tumble dryer that often or not eating meat could cancel this out). I could have made these two pieces outside of the COVID-19 experience, as the topics they embrace are regularly on my mind anyway. But, the experience of isolation and lockdown made them jump to the forefront of my thoughts and practice.

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