Ailish Henderson- OCA Online Degree Show Maker: Mended. 14th September 2020

Example of kintsugi…Roughly translated as ‘joining with gold’, kintsugi is the process by which broken ceramic pieces are repaired using seams of tree-sap lacquer (urushi) often dusted with powdered gold or other precious materials. The craft is underpinned by a philosophy of finding beauty in the flawed or imperfect: treating cracks and damage as part of the history of an object, and as something to celebrate rather than to disguise.

Despite viewing this artist’s online degree show during an impromptu break from work I enjoyed hearing and seeing her creative process and work centred around emotional repair. I liked her use of self, of questioning her identity, worth and place in the world through making, of evidencing how life events have affected her through her creative process and work. There was acknowledgement of the need for emotional repair to encapsulate what can and cannot be seen through the process of Kintsugi, the Japanese form of mending. As stated by Stefano Carnazzi (2016) by repairing broken ceramics it is possible to give a new lease of life to pottery that becomes even more refined thanks to its “scars”. The Japanese art of kintsugi teaches that broken objects are not something to hide but to display with pride. This use of Kintsugi really resonated with me as both a person and psychologist of the ongoing human process of lifelong experiencing and repair and ultimately the added strength and resilience that stems from such emotional work on self. The work of Helene Guggenheim and her use of gold on human scars reverberated through my own scars and physical ill-health, of the use of relatable key concepts of letting go, drawing a line under such experiencing after emotionally processed to start afresh.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. Every break is unique and instead of repairing an item like new, the 400-year-old technique highlights the “scars” as a part of the design. Using this as a metaphor for healing ourselves teaches us an important lesson: Sometimes in the process of repairing things that have broken, we create something more unique, beautiful, and resilient.

Ailish Henderson acknowledged that making with her own hands was an intrinsic part of mending herself emotionally, of making something with tangible outcomes had cathartic effects on improving self-esteem which acted as core underpinning themes for her making.

Ailish Henderson (2020) Part of online degree show presentation to evidence her creative process and use of materials as part of her emotional repair and recovery.

The themes of ritual and performance were interwoven throughout the presentation with the use of materials like polymorph which is a medium which can be repeatedly remoulded and repaired to represent loss and change- emotional repair and recovery in the person.

Ailish Stated that she questions the impact events experienced have on our ongoing narrative line.  The textile artist noted that strong memories built in childhood may only come to light decades later, where they can take on new meaning and finally be understood. Her practice researches the connection between Emotional Repair x Making – It is her belief founded on evidence based investigations that across creative disciplines, there can be a form of restoration for the author of works, brought about via the act of making, not the outcome itself – Maker: Mended. Thematically this vocalises the embracement of damage through the outworking of one’s hands. This evidences itself in both written and practical forms. Her largest works are Humanised Sculptures which empathetically portray a personal narrative of amelioration; recent investigative work sits on the edge of the Textiles genre, creating bridging outcomes which connect familiar fabrics with substances not generally associated with this medium, such as Jesmonite.

Ailish Henderson (2020) Part of online degree show presentation to evidence her creative process, of using imprints to hold memories in mind, of utilising materials for emotional content.

Ailish Henderson questioned where do imprints lie including their emotional resonance and reconsolidation of memory. It was interesting and intriguing how the artist articulated her story through her creative process. I have used imprints within my own screen-printing processes for a while to represent what has gone before so I can relate to the artists narrative. The imprints from used screens and through materials using a range of techniques often produced effects which reflected experience, wear and tear which more accurately conveyed and communicated what I was trying to say through my own creative process with various materials including sheer muslin. I like this visceral connection with making, of being immersed emotionally with materials which evoke emotional relating and responding.

Ailish Henderson (2020) Part of online degree show presentation to evidence her creative process and use of materials with placement as part of her journey towards emotional repair and recovery.

There was an emphasis on rituals, performance with placement and prose. Ailish Henderson often spoke about placement and how this can affect one’s relationship with the object in mind to help evoke mood and response. For me I have experimented and worked with printed 2D materials to enable them to envelop a 3D space to alter how I and others relate with them.

Ailish Henderson (2020) Part of online degree show presentation to evidence her creative process through use of hand-made sketch books.

I really appreciated the artists acknowledgement of her sketch books as someone who has copious notes, sketches and drawings pulled together into hand compiled collections. I feel more confident to evidence such workings as personal appendages-attachments of me and my own creative process. I am also fully appreciative of the information gleaned from the online degree presentation itself, of the level of expectation, of the mix of PowerPoint and video, of making oneself more known through live narrative and emotional content.

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