On the requirements list for the CQ Summer School workshop with Isabel Dibden-Wright, besides paper, drawing and sewing materials and black and white fabrics was a handkerchief ' for artwork' .
I thought it might be used to mount a piece of textile work but its purpose was far more intriguing.
On the Friday evening, Isabel showed us a selection of handkerchiefs ( plain, embroidered, vintage, new) and we had a brief discussion about what they're used for and memories associated with them. Our challenge was to decorate/ alter the handkerchief we'd brought with us in any way we chose with a 'grand reveal' on Sunday afternoon
The handkerchief I brought was one of those liberated when I converted Ian to tissues from revolting ' Manky Hankies' ( of course the downside is tissue lint in the washing machine... ). Apart from a dainty small hankie I use with Olbas oil, my main use of these large mens hankies is for wiping eyes when I cycle; removing smears and fingerprints from my glasses; around my hand when using a trekking pole to absorb sweat and as an impromptu paint rag. So my decoration, continuing the mark-making theme of the class and inspired by my 'Human Marks' workshop with Dorothy Caldwell involved fingerprints of ink using a piece of felt and a photo printed on fabric of my inky finger, tacked on with quilting thread. This photo was a trial run for my 'Inky Digit' quilt - I'd brought it with other black and white fabrics. Ruth had suggested I should do nostril prints but lets not go there....
The 'grand reveal' was very moving as apart from the ingenuity displayed in working with the handkerchiefs (3d origami structures, bags, hats, text , stitch), how handkerchiefs are used and who they belonged to had triggered hidden and powerful memories and honest sharing of the difficulties in caring.
At the time, my main memory was as a child buying boxes of them for my Dad as presents and finding them all intact as they were 'too good' to use. He persisted in continuing to wear a very tatty jumper and hat in the garden despite new replacements for the same reason.
Then when I got home I remembered the stories about Dandy the Delinquent Dalmation, the dog we had when I was a toddler , who besides chewing up anything in sight including heirloom silver napkin rings, used to jump up and snatch the hankies from mens jacket pockets and eat them!
Who knew that a small hemmed piece of fabric could unleash all this - thanks to Isabel for the suggestion, more than just a creative exercise.