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Having re-formed the broken dish into a new sculpture see blog post https://davinakirkpatrick.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/transformation/

I also wanted to make Julie a replacement dish, with the new mould I made from the trees in her garden, the ones she painted whilst on her MA and in the early grieving for Peter her husband.

 

From PhD Thesis:

Forms Re-formed – ritual and memorial object creation and recreation, Tonbridge, Kent with Julie Frampton.

Many years ago I created a stained glass window for Julie and Peter Frampton’s house in Tonbridge, Kent. We stayed in touch. One summer she visited me in Cornwall with her son, unbeknownst to them her husband was dead back at their home in Kent.

In the subsequent months, we talked of her experience of his ongoing presence – doors opening when the piano was played, the constant appearance of feathers inside and outside the house, and decided to create a memorial object for him. He loved trees and Julie was creating a series of paintings for her MA Fine Art of the trees at the bottom of their garden, which were as much to do with her grappling with the presence of his absence as a representation of the trees.

We created a cast from a clay impression of a tree trunk and then cast a glass bowl with some of his cremated remains encased within and had a pilgrimage visit to Derek Jarman’s garden in Dungeness after I delivered and installed the piece in her garden. Some years passed and then she called to say she had cracked it accidentally whilst cleaning and putting it away for the winter.

We talked about what to do with an object imbued with significance that is no longer fit for purpose; I suggested re-firing it in the kiln but was aware there would always be an inherent weakness in the structure, it was a dilemma. Incorporating this dilemma within the practice element of the PhD felt like an opportune moment to revisit. We talked further and I suggested that I carefully smash it up collect up any ash that loosened from the glass and re-fire it into a completely different form, not trying to replicate or mend something that already existed but create a new object. She gave permission for it to be transformed.

One afternoon I spread a white sheet on my workshop floor, put on Mozart’s Requiem Mass, wrapped the dish pieces in paper and smashed them with a hammer. Carefully gathering up the shards and the dust I placed them into the pod shaped mould that had a rose in relief on the underside and carefully packed it with a spacer running from bottom edge to the centre so a metal rod could later be placed inside the form allowing it to stand.

The resulting object was more opaque then the original form, from the glass having been fired twice now, and the cremated remains had migrated to the outside surface appearing in a sweep across the pod and rose form. Julie was particularly taken with this bit of serendipity that had occurred in the firing process;

“it’s like he is trying to escape the form, take flight” she remarked, when I placed the object in her hands and she ran her fingers over the surface. The ash is he and not he and is resonant with this ambiguity, as Murray (2012) said: “Is that my father or not? How much is in that dust?”[1]

Julie and I re-sited the glass in her garden in Tonbridge, Kent next to Peter’s last gift to her a rose bush, it threw an unexpected and unplanned shadow on the fence, which could be read as a profile. We also created a new clay impression from a favorite tree at the bottom of the garden, which I turned into a new mould and then glass dish, back in my studio, similar but different from the original. The process enabled further conversations about both of our experiences of grief and loss and the effect of time.

I am reminded of an undertaker who told me how they have a cupboard full of uncollected full urns, we ruminated on why people don’t return to collect them, forgotten or maybe a decision they don’t want to take, of where and how to let go of them? But I remain touched by her comment that she sometimes goes into the cupboard and talks to them, these abandoned remains, they are more than an inanimate object.

[1]            Murray, S. (2012) Around the world in 20 death rituals (panel session at Death Southbank’s Festival for the living), Southbank, London 27-29 January.

 

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