Experts by experience


Remember I talked about crying and making art about crying yesterday? Well, today I am reeling from doing the same; making art about crying, but not actually doing the crying itself; from laughing and smiling and making and chatting and absorbing and opening up and being receptive and empathising and oh, the list goes on and on.


You see, I attended a very special workshop today; facilitated by the brilliant Jake Spicer of Draw Brighton, it was run in participation with the also rather brilliant Daily Life Limited, set up by art hero Bobby Baker and based in Stratford (where Pip's from and a short bus ride from me, coincidentally).


I'd met Bobby very briefly once before, when my dear friend Jess and I went to see her performance Mad Gyms and Kitchens at the Barbican. I did write about my experience there, but unfortunately it has been lost in the annals of the internet. Suffice to say it was a practice (if not life) changing experience. Bobby was lovely to meet then, and she was lovely to meet today too, as was Jake, the rest of the Daily Life Limited team who were present, and the other artists participating in the workshop.


The workshop was based around the idea that people who experience mental ill health are experts by experience, and more generally, who is an expert/what makes an expert?


It was suggested (though by no means prescribed) that we consider what we were experts in/of in our drawing experiments. I drew myself as an expert at crying and an expert at eating. 

Thankfully I don't cry as much as I used to, though I'm sure my many years of unwavering service to tear-letting still qualify me as a professional weeper of some expertise.

Eating is a funny one; it would be hard not to be an expert at eating in my rather food-centric family. However, when I am unwell it's often the first thing to go out of the window. It becomes a way of punishing myself for my many perceived failings. I am happy to report that for now, however, my eating is prolific and unlikely to wane in quantity or quality.




The workshop was a particularly interesting one to undertake whilst I'm looking for work. I have a funny feeling that a lot of "expertise" is blagging anyway.




Aside from the self-portraits, I was back to portraying potions (and emergency glitter!), which I plan to bring back into my practice in a big way in the near future.




The most lovely thing about today was meeting so many like-minded individuals (in more ways than one). Even at art school, people weren't necessarily open about mental health, and my fellow workshop participants today just made sense to me. If anything, they were more sane than a lot of people I've met who haven't been through the mental health mill.








I now feel invigorated to go out into the world and make some damn art! Thank you, Bobby, Jake, and co!

Helenium: tears

The sixth and latest page of Milk Thistle is one of my favourites, possibly because it is about crying, which one could argue is my very favourite theme (see here, here, and also here).

I stitched some stanzas of Keats's Ode on Melancholy on to a handkerchief (aptly), and based the illustration to accompany the lines on this illustration from a book that I snagged from my Mum's work:



But more on that later.

The reason why tears feature prominently on this page is because it is based around a Kensitas Flowers card featuring Helenium, a flower which, in Greek mythology, grew where Helen wept.

Consequently, the text I have written and stitched for the page reads

Nobody brought me a bedside bouquet,

but everywhere I wept, flowers sprung,

until I watered a meadow




To accompany the Kensitas Flower, I stitched the following line from Keats's On Melancholy on to my handkerchief:

But when the melancholy fit shall fall

Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,

That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,

And hides the green hill in an April shroud

as I felt they were appropriate. The eye illustration that accompanies the text is the "weeping cloud" of the poem.























There are only two more pages to go now, and then I can (finally) stitch the whole thing together. It's been a long commitment but I think it will pay off.

Weeping Gold


Tonight I am putting the finishing touches to my goldwork weeping eye (mounting it so it's ready for assessment). I envision this as part of a duo; its sister goldwork will be a kid leather trophy which proclaims "You didn't cry", an idea I've employed once or twice before!


For the most part I'm happy with it, and I've really taken to goldwork; I suppose I wouldn't be planning the next one otherwise! I must be a magpie...



Golden Tears



I apologise if I've just got this naff-ly catchy little number stuck in your head; it's been in mine all day. That's because I've made a start on my goldwork module at the Royal School of Needlework. I've chosen quite a striking image for my design; an art-nouveau inspired eye with a single tear drop. One of my tutors today also thought it had quite a Sixties vibe.





I've started couching down some Japanese thread on to the upper eyelid in a brick pattern; it's very satisfying getting a smooth curve with no gaps. Hopefully I'll have that all finished by the end of the day tomorrow.

I'm really happy with the colour of silk I've used for the background fabric; in fact, it seems a very happy colour, despite the mournful subject matter! That must be why I'm enjoying the stitching so much.

You Didn't Cry


Do you remember my Treasures For Your Troubles project from May last year? Well the ideas that inspired it have been bubbling away in my mind, and I've created a lino cut version of this embroidery, to remind everyone (myself included) to reward ourselves for the little things. It's also a bit of a self-deprecating in-joke, like a lot of my art.

I hadn't given lino a go since I was twelve, when I famously managed to cut away the parts that were meant to be printed rather the reverse. So you could say my expectations were fairly low, but I'm still pleasantly surprised by the results!

If anyone is interested, there will be six lino prints on calico going up in my Etsy shop, which I'm planning on opening next Saturday (drum roll!) Who knows, perhaps by then I'll have cut and printed the next design!

Rolling with the homies




Trophy Tears

When I was growing up, if I was being particularly whiney, my mum would occasionally say "I'm playing the world's smallest violin for you".

For this latest instalment of Treasures For Your Troubles, I wanted to create the world's smallest trophy, awarded for achieving precisely the opposite; for navigating the treacherous waters of life without breaking down into floods of tears (or is that mixing the water metaphors a little too much?)

For the embroidery's background, I dyed an antique linen handkerchief with onion skin, similarly to The Onion Cutters' Club.






This idea was actually suggested to me by Pip, who thought I should get the phrase engraved on to a real trophy (maybe one day, Pip). It's also a bit of a self-deprecating in-joke with myself; some days I really do feel it's a grand achievement that I've gotten through the day without bursting into tears. And now I have the world's smallest trophy and dozens of gold stars as reward!

Quite some time ago, appliquéd some felt tear drops on to spangly sparkly gold lurex material. It's a happy coincidence that this piece ties in with the colour scheme of Treasures For Your Troubles. If the project was ever exhibited, I would like to display the tears alongside the more recent works. I'm enjoying the way the naivety of these two pieces work together.


No rest for the wicked; I've got a number of summer exhibitions to submit to and/or create work for. First up, a bee crying (what else) honey over some melancholyflowers. My name is Kate Elisabeth Rolison, and I make art about crying!


Sob Stories and Stitching

After a hectic week of socialising, stitching, "arting" and performing, I have thoroughly enjoyed having a lazy Sunday.

However, although I haven't been darting about all over the place today, it has still been very productive; artist and designer-maker Hannah Hill came over and we brainstormed our upcoming collaboration, the Stitch Witches zine. We've planned out the first (bumper!) issue and I now have quite a bit of (very pleasurable) work to do.




I mentioned that I'd performed this week; well, this Thursday, Hannah (and my friend Nathan) joined me at Cella Salon in Newington Green for an evening of performance.

My friend Seb runs a monthly performance art night there, and at the very last minute asked me if I'd like to have a go. 


This was my set-up; I invited participants to chop onions and see what memories and emotions this evoked. After a chat about this, I shared a story I had collected (or experienced) about crying, and encouraged the participants to do the same (luckily for me, everyone was pretty forthcoming!)

Once we'd shared our (literal) sob stories and had a little giggle, the participants embroidered a short phrase from their story on to ribbon or a handkerchief. The ribbons were then kept in a glass jar to make a "jar of tears". I will do something with this jar full of ribbons at a later date, and will certainly be looking to perform at Cella Salon in the future.

















Cried myself out.

Here's the latest handkerchief from the series The Onion Cutters' Club. I'm not so happy with this one; the photo transfer (which is of a photograph from my family archive) warped quite a bit due to ironing.




I quite like the story itself though; my friend recounted to me something her grandmother had said to her during her weepy teenage years; "When I was young like you, I cried all the time, but now I'm old, I've cried myself out."

The Onion Cutters' Club

As promised, here are the first two pieces from my new project, The Onion Cutters' Club. As you may guess, this project is all about weeping; sad (or funny) stories of crying. The title is a reference to The Onion Cellar, a chapter from The Tin Drum by Günter Grass (a play based on the chapter, also named The Onion Cellar, was written by Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls.)

The first embroidery is a title piece for this project; an illustration of a pair of bloodshot eyes crying over an onion accompanied by the project's title.








The first (true) story I have illustrated is a very sad, yet also rather humorous one.







The text reads "I was wandering, distraught, melancholy and alone, through the city at night. A HUGE moth ambled across the street... when a bus flattened it. I burst into tears."