Inspiration behind the piece:
When deciding what to make for this project, I had a think about what it would be like for someone with cancer as they faced the long road of tests and treatment on their journey towards being cured. I have lost some close relatives and friends to cancer and currently have a good friend who is battling breast cancer. I was lucky enough to attend a “Look good feel better” workshop with this friend and as I looked around the room at all the brave women there I felt such a positive energy from them and I put it down to one thing: Faith. I believe all those women had a strong faith that they would be able to conquer this terrible disease. They had faith in the people running the workshop. They had faith in their doctors and in the people administering their treatment. They had faith that their families and friends could support them. Most of all they had faith in themselves – they had the strength within to fight.
I came away with a different perspective on cancer that day. Yes, it is a horrible disease, yes treatment is just awful (my friend with breast cancer assures me of this unfortunately), but with faith, people can find the strength within themselves to get through each day.
So I needed to find a way to portray faith. Of course faith can relate to a person’s religious beliefs or spirituality, but that is not the same for everyone. I decided that I couldn’t make this artwork for what other people believed; I had to make it for what I believed. For me, my religious beliefs support my idea of faith so I took this as a starting point. Strangely enough, it hasn’t come out as a religious piece at all! Sitting in church late one Sunday afternoon, I looked up into the dome behind the altar and got my little symbol of faith for my artwork. Circling around amongst the stained glass windows, were several swallows flitting here and there, chasing each other as they settled down for the evening. We see them often and they have little nests high up in the corners amongst the interior architecture. Those birds have not a care in the world – they are living amongst us and are making the most of their innate desire to find a place to live and be safe. They have a natural faith that no harm will come to them in this building and that all the people below them will just let them be. To me that is faith: knowing that you will be all right. The swallows have it. They don’t have to think about it. It is in them. And to me, if a person can have that sort of faith in them, they can gather the strength to be all right. And that is the reason I have created a little book of faith that is represented by the swallows I see in my church. It might not be a deep and meaningful representation of faith, but it is something that means faith to me. And aren’t swallows also a wonderful symbol of freedom and hope?
Details on the making of my piece:
Once I knew what symbol I would use to represent my idea the rest came easily. I chose some beautiful heavy weight Fabriano drawing paper and tore the six pages for my book. I wanted the edges to be torn to match the deckle edge of the paper. Each page was also scored along the top so that when the book was made it could be folded open easily.
Next I collaged on some pieces of dictionary paper (containing the definition of faith) to create a background of text. Small sections were washed over with some shellac to create an aged appearance. This was then painted over with a pastel primer to prepare my drawing surface.
The swallows have been drawn with a combination of graphite pencil and Derwent Pastel Pencils. A light spray of fixative has set the pastels.
To bind the book I created a spine from
some aluminium shim. The edges of the shim were folded to make it neat and all
the layers were sewn using my sewing machine with a very strong needle and
cotton thread. Once it was sewn together I threaded a fine gauge wire through
each hole to create a blanket stitch across the top. The cotton sewing thread
was then removed with a stencil knife. Finally I used some more wire to create
a hanging loop with a button attached to the top.