There are many, many advantages to working in the arts sector. Mostly, it's the pleasure of working with artists. And sometimes, just occasionally, a special piece of work will find its way into your hand, and nestle happily in the house to be stroked (the three dimensional tapestry of Mopsa), hung from a hook (a framed sketch from a performance I supported), or gawped at in admiration over many years (a seven foot wooden sculpture of a head in profile).
Yesterday I had a strange delivery, a small but heavy parcel with a note attached warning me not to drop it on my toe. In my hand was a brick, but no ordinary brick. It had been covered in handmade unique textiles, printed and stitched with words I wrote for an old friend over a year ago.
After a (continuing) lively career in theatre, Julia turned her talents to textiles and asked people she knew to contribute to her degree show by asking for stories concerning objects from the family home that were precious in some way, however mundane or inexpensive. I shared this memory:
“It’s funny how so many precious family objects are related to the kitchen, to food, to the pleasure of eating together. I have several things from my mother’s kitchen that I could never bear to throw away, and that give me a warm feeling as I use or touch them. There’s the small, thick chopping board, barely large enough to cut a grapefruit, an off-cut from some post-war packing case, scarred and shaped by use. Then there’s the Nutbrown sandwich toaster, two rounds of hinged tin with long handles and chipped red wooden grips that lock, keeping the slices of bread and filling pressed together whilst they perch over the gas ring, bubbling butter and cheesy fat. I haven’t used it since childhood but it hangs by my cooker, just in case.
"Then there‘s the ancient Kenwood mixer that my mother nagged me for years to take and use, to give her more space in her tiny kitchen. I use it for cakes, whizzing up Thai green curry paste and best of all for making sausages. I loved using the mincer as a child, watching the trails of meaty worms emerge. Now I raise pigs and make my own sausages using the mincer and sausage attachment.
"Last of all are my Mother’s recipe books; not the ones by Marguerite Patten or Florence Greenberg, although I have several of those, but her own notebooks, covered in scrawl and bulked out by clippings from the Evening Standard. I still make her Dutch Apple Cake, covered in a Demarara, cinnamon and mixed spice crust”.
The brick is covered in dyed and digitally printed linen, with folds stitched as neatly as hospital corners. There is another piece of linen stitched on as a carrying handle. Printed onto the fabric are images of Kenwood attachments and the manufacturer's numbers for each component. A metal mincer cutter is held on tight with button thread and some of my words are printed on and stitched into the material.
So, after being exhibited alongside a host of other bricks, it's made its way to me - how lovely is that?
A brick was never as much my brick as this brick.