I have a thing about words, there’s no denying it.

It’s always been a bit of a problem for me really, because I like writing almost as much as I like drawing or painting or working with fabrics, and to move between words and images is a complicated thing. I think it was Betty Edwards in her book Drawing on the Right side of the Brain who describes the strange sensation she had when trying to talk to students about drawing while actually in the process of doing it, and finding herself weirdly and uncharacteristically inarticulate. Drawing and writing really are polar opposites.

Trying to put words into a piece of visual work and make the two things work together is even more complicated, and risky, because anything legible in a known alphabet tends immediately to draw attention away from everything else – but inevitably it’s something I find myself trying to do.

I’ve stitched together fabric and paper with hand written texts, and embroidered over the top. And I’ve written on paper that I’ve then stitched and painted and screwed up and torn and practically destroyed, before attempting to put it back together in a way that makes sense (not a comfortable thing to do, to make yourself deliberately tear up something that you’ve spent time carefully crafting). All this was appropriate in these pieces of work, because I was preoccupied with the way buildings – and landscape – are worn away over time, are eroded by sun and rain and wind and frost, finally collapse or disintegrate and then are rearranged into something else. During all of this, the history of the process is built into the structure itself and so in a way all kinds of stories are embedded in the material, whether it’s rock or mud or timber or brick or stone.

Prayer Panels 758 mm x 580 mm

Then I had the idea of doing the same thing with jewellery, and this is more complicated still, because if you’re wearing something with words on it you’re making a statement. For me, the text has always needed an element of mystery about it, so that it’s a story that is possible to understand only in part, in the same way that a book with pages missing or a letter that’s damaged and illegible is more fascinating because it’s incomplete.

In the end, it’s hard to be sure whether words aren’t better left where they belong, on the page (or nowadays on the screen)…… I think for the time being anyway, I’m happy to leave it that way, but who knows?