Hysterical Woman

The charming little coffee shop where I work tonight hosted the first of its supper clubs for the Appetite Festival (a month-long festival of food in Waltham Forest for the month of June). To coincide with this, Walthamstow Dad has created a coffee-flavoured art installation, and, thanks to a kindly customer who dropped me in it/suggested Arts and Crusts exhibited my work, I have a little window installation of my embroideries.

Carol (one half of Arts and Crusts) set the embroideries off beautifully by hand-drawing a lace design based on one of my handkerchiefs.

Work old and new is featured; pieces from The Cure for Love, my Melancholy Flowers, a pop feminist piece (which will, fingers crossed, feature in another exhibition soon), two handkerchiefs from my current project Treasures For Your Troubles, and a satirical piece on the perils of hero worshipping Sylvia Plath (as Woody Allen said, Plath was an "interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college girl mentality.")

When Carol was putting the finishing touches to the display, she asked me if I had a name for the little exhibition. As I drew a blank, she took a lead from the pop feminist embroidery featured, and dubbed the exhibition Hysterical Woman; so the display now reads Hysterical Woman Kate Elisabeth Rolison (!)

I'm chuffed with the beautiful way in which Carol has presented my work. It seems fitting to have a little exhibition at Arts and Crusts; after all, it is an arts and crafts café, and I'm always found stitching away in between serving customers!

I'm afraid to say (according to the Arts and Crusts Twitter feed) all the spaces for the supper clubs are now sold out; I'm certainly very pleased to have made it to one. The tabbouleh, baklava, and Arabic mint tea went down particularly well (though wasn't eaten/drunk all at once!) It was a little like a dinner party but with new faces; a wonderful way to meet your neighbours and socialise, all while admiring the art on the walls (and ceiling!) and sampling Middle Eastern deliciousness. Bring on next year!

News, blues, and terrifying highs

Ages after everyone else has got their results, I’ve finally handed in my dissertation. In a matter of weeks I should know whether I’ve been awarded a 2:1 or (gulp) a First.

Before embarking on the real world, I’m having a little holiday in the Scottish Highlands. That means one thing – lots of stitching!

But before I get to that, I have a couple of bits of news. Firstly, I’ve been asked by Catherine at Significant Seams to intern on an embroidery project masterminded by Oxfam and the Craftivist Collective. I’m only too happy to be on board; craft with a social message is right up my street, and I could practically be sponsored by Oxfam given the percentage of my wardrobe made up of clothes from its shops! Not entirely sure what the project involves yet, but I’m very excited.

Secondly (and possibly even more excitingly), my work is going to be shown in a professional gallery in October. Not only that, but (and here comes more boasting), it will be shown alongside work by the likes of Susan Hiller and Cecil Beaton! The exhibition is called A Curious Invitation, and has been curated to accompany the launch of a book of the same name, all about famous parties in literature. My contribution is my embroidered handkerchief The Onion Cutters’ Club, which is based on the chapter The Onion Cellar which appears in The Tin Drum. Check out my artist bio, along with those of the other artists, on the gallery website. I must say I feel incredibly inexperienced compared to them; I’m the youngest artist in the exhibition!

Thirdly, during this year’s E17 Art Trail I will be writing a couple of reviews for the Trail’s official blog. I’m very excited to see this year’s artists’ efforts, particularly an exhibition on crying which I imagine will have a nice dialogue with The Onion Cutters’ Club.

Finally, I’ve finally succumbed to Twitter! Now that I don’t have Facebook any more, where else to take my inane (t)witterings? Jokes aside, I’ve heard it’s very handy for networking. Initial discoveries include Feminist Hulk and the (genuinely witty) witticisms of my wondrous ex-uni-mate (and future poet laureate) Adam’s bear Aloysius (inherited from Sebastian Flyte, but of course).

Now that all that’s out of the way, on to the sewing! I can’t seem to stop making pieces for Psychobitches, despite the fact that it hasn’t been officially unveiled yet. This latest piece follows in the tongue-in-cheek, snarky vein of its two predecessors.

I’ve never been a Zooey Deschanel fan, and now I know why. Firstly, there’s the fact that the archetype she repeatedly plays, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, reduces female characters to two-dimensional emotional props for male leads. But I also have a bone to pick with the name of the trope itself. Anybody who’s experienced mania can tell you that there’s nothing “dreamy” about it; unless by “dreamy”, you mean “nightmarish”. Sure, there’s the initial euphoria, the sense that you can do anything. But soon this tips over into an energy that’s out of control. You become irritable (and irritating), aggressive, incomprehensible. (When I was manic, I filled an entire notebook with writing, that – looking back – made no sense.) And when you come down – boy do you come down.

This would suggest that the trope appropriates terminology referring to mental illness and applies it to a particularly nauseating brand of “quirkiness” (and this is coming from someone who's about as twee as they come).

 As “Dionne the Socialist” so eloquently puts it, “Mental disorders are medical conditions. Mental disorders are not personality quirks.”

Despite this, you can suffer from mental illness and still be a fulfilled, interesting, attractive, productive, accomplished, kind person – with the right support.

Thus, there’s an aspect to my piece that isn’t tongue in cheek at all; you can be a manic depressive and a dream girl. Whether you'd want to be anybody's dream girl is another question...