Through my research I have recently discovered that my great, great grandfather was a Nottingham lace designer and his brother a draughtsman. This was a surprising and unexpected revelation that chimes with me as I have always had a passion for pattern and it is integral to my art practice which includes designing and hand printing wallpaper. Having discovered these family connections to lace design I have become fascinated by the lace designing process and the draughtsman’s skills involved for making the pattern ready for the machine. Some of the patterns I have created prior to making this connection could easily be made as lace. Now I ask if it is something I have inherited or unconsciously absorbed through family history?
This correlation of generations is the starting point for an exploration of how the skills and aesthetics of our ancestors silently travel across the generations and manifest themselves within our work often without us even realising it. When we do make connections between the past and present and discover certain patterns of behaviour, what exactly is at work here? Is it biological, genetic or could this be an unconscious transmission (1), a haunting from the grave, a profane illumination (2) or a something-to-be-done?(3). It seems that the presence of my ancestors within my practice has brought to my attention not only the rapid disappearance of an industry once of great importance to the British economy but also the long kept secrets and stories from my family history leaving me with many questions about what is actually happening here? These questions are what drive my creative process, the questions that cannot necessarily be answered but explored through the process of making.
1. PROPHECY, Coles (2011). The Uninvited Guest from the Unremembered Past, London: Karnac.
2. BENJAMINE, Walter (1969). Theses on the Philosophy of History 253-64 New York.
3. AVERY, Gordon (2008). Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the sociological Imagination, University of Minnesota.