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Sarah Read

'Expectation vs. Reality'

'Gather between the stars | Ease in between the dots'

          - Instructions on 1970s dressmaking pattern 


Expectation vs Reality embodies my dysfunctional relationship with my body over the years. It is a mash-up of the stuff of dreams and a potato sack. Gold paint has been applied with a jeweller’s touch, as if to heal; we’re in a truce right now.  


At 10 I can draw, but not sing. I can run, but not fast. I swim carefully, to keep my glasses dry. At school I shyly watch the girly girls, thoroughbreds to my pit pony self. I’ve read The Ugly Duckling though; and when a girly girl (older, hip-boned, ethereal in home-sewn hotpants) moves in next door, I know my time has come; I pester mum to borrow the pattern so we can be twins. Oblivious to the tape measure’s death knell (28… 28…28…) I anticipate my transformation….  



I feel such compassion now for my pre-teen self, mortified before the mirror, all belly and camel toe. At the time though there was only shame, which deepened as my adult form solidified, setting the scene for long-term futile conflict. I was cruel to myself in my teens, as a young adult, and last week; despite my best efforts, and long intervals of ceasefire, self-acceptance eludes me still.  

I think about

  • the astonishing good fortune of having a healthy, working human body, one that has allowed me to breathe, see, hear, taste, smell, feel, move, grow a child, love  

  • the background of privilege that’s implicit in emotional eating  

  • the intensified challenges for those entering adulthood now, in the glare of selfie and social media culture  


I think about contemporary jewellery and feel forever lucky to have happened upon this broad field, which has the elasticity to accommodate a practice such as mine, even as physical limitations increasingly restrict my ability to use the tools, materials and techniques that are its language and traditions.  


I think about the sensory experiences of making this work:  

  • walking the neighbourhood to source my materials, flipping dressmaking patterns in op shop drawers, trundling potatoes from the fresh market  

  • occupying my home studio for the first time, cluttering then cleaning the table, observing changes in daylight, learning where things live

  • handling brown paper, fabric and tissue, their sounds and the way they cut, fold, smooth and crease  

  • applying paint to tissue, the joy of muscle memory and the magic of flow; that pure state where all other concerns fall away and you are busy with your making and all is right with the world  

  • the winter pleasure of cooking and eating the potatoes over the course of the project. For decades, potatoes and me were on a break. I’m happy to be back.  

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