Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Mantlepieces and mothers

Oldham 27 March 2013 Making Memories

Reet with mantlepiece drawing on acetate

There's an old phrase “hearth and home” that doesn't get used much any more, because real fires are a rarity nowadays. But "hearth and home” is still a powerful idea - warmth and shelter are at the centre of most families, it is to be hoped. Today's workshops homed in on this part of life. We brought in the kinds of little ceramic figures that people used to decorate their mantlepieces and these became a stepping stone towards talking about the home itself. Both morning and afternoon sessions were full of affectionate warmth, mixed with some sadness.

Doreen with range drawing

Doreen at The Grange built up a detailed memory-picture of the fire and mantle of her home in the 1930s. It wasn't an easy home life, because her's was a single parent family, but she tells of it with humour and gusto. Her piece of work layers the jauntiness of her own personality, with another angry undercurrent – her mum's favourite phrase - “You're such a nuisance.”

In the afternoon another of the pieces carried a similar double-edge. B's picture of a canary in a cage is told to be quiet and eat its dinner – “Let your meat stop your tongue.” The answering phrase “Canary sang a lovely little song day long day long” is upside-down. Hidden under the layers of acetate drawing, caged by them, is a delicate drawing of a yellow canary. Again, B's relationship with her mother was a conflicted one.

Below is an outline of the stages in making these drawn writings. It's a not a set of rules, just a set of beginnings...


Draw your childhood mantle-piece onto a piece of acetate paper – mum's knick-knacks, a clock, heirlooms, prized possessions.

Put another layer of acetate on top. Write one of your parents' favourite sayings onto this layer, responding to the shape of the drawing. Phrases that might come to mind: 'Cleanliness is next to godliness', 'You are a nuisance', 'Waste not want not' etc.

Add other layers of drawing/writing on more acetate as desired.

Finally, draw a fire on a piece of white paper in approximately the right place to fit into your mantle-piece drawing. Don't worry if the fire overspills, or doesn't quite fit – it's the IDEA of warmth we're after.

Useful Qs

What were your family's prized possessions?

What were you taught about niceness, neat appearance and good manners?

What do your family's ornaments 'say'. Are they showy, delicate, brassy, ugly, nostalgic, sentimental...?

No comments: