Reaching back to hold the present

My grandmother Ruby Sercerchi was determined, intelligent, gifted and loving. She died of ALS when I was in middle-school. The first thing that I remember her loosing to that ruthless disease was the dexterity required of her hands to practice in her knitting.

I have talked about my grandmother before in this blog and mentioned her work numerous times (see ‘A knit timeline of my personal influences, revelations, and creations in craft’, ‘Here is the video I created as part of my talk for InSEA’, and also the piece below that I posted under New Fibre Sculptures_DHogan). Nanny and I created this piece together, Ruby did the crochet work, and I did the hooking at the center some four decades later.

As you know by now, Ruby was an avid knitter, having predominately moved on from any embroidery work before my sister Rian and I were born. However, within the past year my mother Annette Sercerchi gifted me the few pieces that she still had of Nanny’s embroidery. For a long time I wasn’t sure what, if anything, I should do with them. Last fall I decided that one of the small works could be incorporated into my ‘History of Craft’ quilt block next to images of Eleanor Roosevelt and other woman of importance. See our work below:

September 19th 2014 011Now -I realize I’m briefly repeating myself here – I am working on my Methodology Comprehensive exam, and in/through/during my reading for this exam I have -at present- made two new pieces, one of which involves my grandmother Ruby again. The first piece I made was in clay and I shared it in a post a few weeks back – the Craft Fossils – then just last week as I was working on a new embroidery piece (below) and reading about the value & importance of serendipity in the text Practice-led Research, Research-led Practice by Hazel Smith and Roger T. Dean I had a realization. I was already connecting the direction from my Literature Review exam (a look at the history/value/politics of making by hand) to the method(s) for my Methodology comprehensive exam.

The idea I had for my grandmother’s second piece;

I was cleaning up my studio when I noticed that a few photos I had of my grandparents had become dangerously faded due to their proximity to sunlight. I immediately moved them and thought to rephotograph them so as to have digital copies (why hadn’t that occurred to me sooner…). During the process of rephotographing, downloading, and editing to recapture some of the lost colour values from the photos I was struck by the prominence of my grandmother’s hands in one of the photos and began to think if our family had any other image that displayed her healthy, strong hands so prominently.. I couldn’t think of one.

This led me to make a copy of the photo – her holding my sister and I – and to crop and save that larger image of her hands around us.

That new image brought me to the idea of embroidering her hands -putting Ruby’s hands literally – back onto the pillowcase that she embroidered so many years ago. The pillow case is white, and on it Ruby had embroidered small pink wildflowers near the opening. I put her hands back on; holding, comforting, hugging it around the middle.

IMG_2645 IMG_2632(My hands, working to capture my grandmothers in embroidery. February 3rd 2015)

Published by Danielle Hogan

Visual artist, writer, curator, educator

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