A few months ago I visited the Foundling Hospital in London, established in 1739 to receive and care for abandoned children. It was a deeply emotional experience, not least because of the tokens left by mothers with their babies as a means of identifying them both as parent and child. More often than not, these tokens were pieces of fabric (they now comprise Britain’s largest collection of 18th century textiles amounting to over 5000 items) pinned to sheets of paper on which a few basic facts about the child were recorded.
These pieces of fabric ultimately speak of the missing mother and in such small, seemingly insignificant objects one is faced with the remnants of an overwhelming sorrow. Perhaps, somewhere, the mother would have carried a similar piece which spoke to her of her absent child?
With my latest stitched works, I wanted to convey not only the contrast between the times I have my children and when I don’t, but also the sense of absence I carry around when they’re away, and so, inspired by the tokens, I made a cut in the work I’d recently completed.
Almost at once, these smaller pieces began to articulate what I often feel; that sense of absence which comes again and again, with more and more ‘tokens’ cut from the cloth.