Michelle Stewart

Counting Blues reflects how much time counting has been spent over this past year. Not just me. Counting numbers of people infected, number of deaths, the people recovered, how many countries it has spread to, counting cancelled exhibitions, counting that one hour of precious exercise time, counting dolphins in waterways, goats in the town square, counting the people in the queue at the supermarket, keeping count of the distance, counting days in lockdown, counting toilet paper rolls, counting how long till you have to go out to the shops again, counting bike trails discovered, counting cancelled flights, fees going up, counting the number of times you rang the airlines, counting your blessings that you are fit and healthy, counting the cars on the road on the way to Heathrow, counting hotels waiting for a flight, counting the number of people at the airport, counting how many masks you have, counting how often you should change them, counting down the hours to the reality of take-off, counting down the hours till landing, new count starting for quarantine, counting the meals, counting the flights you can see from your window, counting on the negative test result, counting how many terrible movies you have watched, counting the hours till you are home, counting the hugs to catch up on, counting weeks till the cafés open, months till we can catch up for dinner, till we can get together and celebrate Mum and Dads 50th wedding anniversary, till we can celebrate everyone’s birthday since March, counting the video calls, the zoom meetings, counting on social media to connect with friends, counting too much time looking at screens, counting the reasons why we will change when this is ‘all over’, counting little things that I said I would do if I ever had the time…

The glass beads in this piece were made from a gin bottle and a dark blue vodka bottle. Usually a way for many people to catch up with each other, the quiet drink with friends is not an option at the moment. The social isolation is something that I worry about for some people and I feel that the numbers that are used to evaluate this pandemic seem to be disconnected from our emotional well-being. I have seen countdowns, cancellations, tallies and countless statements of defiance and strength and many of fear and sadness. I wanted to make a piece that represents all the counting that is going on. I work predominantly with recycled glass in my practice and I think beads are a comforting form, although this method of making is a little different to the shiny lamp-worked beads most people are familiar with. These beads are made with my hands and kiln fired. Glass was once a precious material and blue glass especially so. For me, finding blue bottles is a treat and I think of them as gems for my work. The blue is also calming. And listening to ‘the blues’ is a way of working through the troubles. I think there are a lot of people ‘feeling blue’ at the moment and who are counting down the days till…

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