I have been collecting fabrics for a year now, knowing that one day l would make another quilt. I still haven’t finished the random plank top, but I made the Trans-ally quilt back in the summer [ see here https://singingbirdartist.wordpress.com/2015/05/16/flag-waving/ ] and that feeling of enjoying what I was making, while wanting to break away into a new project was hovering then. Working to such a tight [self imposed] deadline tired me out of course, but everything comes round, and while I have been thinking a lot about mandalas over autumn, the idea of a crazy/crazed quilt crept back in too.

What has surprised me is that as I looked through all my fabrics, and chose colour sequences, ideas for elements of a story quilt have suggested themselves… The medication situation and this stage of chronic illness seem to be pushing me to a re-evaluation, so I’m choosing to go with it, and trust the process. I’m making 30cm/12″ squares on calico backing and may make a wall hanging, book or just keep them in a box for me, but having a project is helping me deal with the meds ‘side’ effects until I can come off them and go back on Citalopram, fingers crossed!

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This block is called Spin, and I had plenty of flowers and mandalas to choose from, but the matrioschkas demanded some attention… I like the idea and beautiful objects that matrioschkas are, but I also find something sinister/anxiety provoking about them, the little daughters trapped inside the mother unless she allows them out…that’s maybe not a thought you’ve had about them, unless your mother was very controlling. My mother wanted me to go to the same University college and study the same course, living in the same residential halls… omg! Apart from some pretty obvious problems with this, it really screwed up my final years at school, as I wasn’t allowed to do the subjects I wanted, Art and Sociology, because they ‘didn’t fit’… WHOM?! I was allowed to do English with French and German, though my parents put me under a lot of pressure to take a science, or maths…

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I’m 51, and was brought up in a small, rural, conservative country town, and my parents were actually quite radical, ran events for Anti-Apartheid and my father supported Palestinian rights…but the family dysfunction meant that my ability to stand up for myself and my vision of being an artist was really dented. So, I consciously chose overall survival, dropped art [partly because I wasn’t good at drawing, which back in the 70s was where art in schools was at 😦 ] and worked hard at getting to University as a way of leaving home that would be sanctioned and even supported by my parents. I think I was attracted to all the fans in the Cache Cache fabric [main disc] because of all the hiding I’ve done in my life… it’s a very odd thought as though I wasn’t a tomboy, I was a feminist and have never played those ‘female’ [read society imposed] role games, so the thought of me fanning myself with demure downcast eyes is outlandishly amusing! The peacocks from Pousse Pousse stand for family pride and keeping a good face up [a fault I still have, one of the odd things about this med is how it makes me very ‘loose lipped’ and open, I can imagine some people on it end up in real trouble!]

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Hiding my need to leave by doing what was approved, was a strange stepping out of myself – unfortunately aided by being good enough at languages to be accepted at University – though fortunately not the one my mother wanted! I wanted to apply for English in the School of African Studies at Brighton, but of course that was squashed, and I was grudgingly allowed to apply for the School of European Studies. I was interviewed on my 18th birthday, by a tutor who informed me ‘everyone’ had studied Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, so my context would be on that – when I explained that not in Suffolk, they didn’t and could I have an extra 5 minutes to read the excerpt through, he sighed and said it wasn’t really fair on the other candidates [!!!] but let me, and I was given a BCC offer, which was low for Brighton.

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The tutor and the huge empty caverns of drained pools with no warning rails in the snow had left me rather unimpressed, so I chose otherwise, but the turnaround, the ‘spinning on a sixpence’ that hypervigilance has made me so good at, really came out around this time… It has served me well, but all that turning to have the right face to the light, to be able to cope, to initially escape my family home and not rock their boat too much, to then keep on to the point where I could make freely, has been a strange skill for someone who prides herself on authenticity and integrity… but then, perhaps that’s why…

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