Category Archives: Exeter/Ivybridge

The Project

This is a project that began on July 16th, 2009, as I drove through Nebraska during that hot summer’s day.  This is an honest account of the life of this project, from beginning to end, not just an overview of the great and wonderful things that have happened along the way.  This is the truth, in all of it’s ugliness and beauty.  Because life is not a beautiful struggle.  It is ridiculous and complicated and wonderful and amazing and disappointing and glorious.

The official blurb goes a little something like this:

“Why did we come here?”

This question was the catalyst that began a two-year journey of discovery to uncover the story behind the 200-year journey that artist Cassandra Harrison’s family made from England to America and back again.

Following the notes and photos left behind by her late grandfather (a former FBI agent), Cassandra set out to re-tell the story of her ancestors’ migration from Ivybridge to Exeter to Dudley, then on to Nebraska, following their emigration to America in 1868.  Her strand of the story brings the connecting thread back to England, in Newcastle, 2009.

The Connecting Thread uses hand-printed textile images, bedsheets and pillowcases to create a living, tactile timeline.  The exhibition is about realizing how decisions made hundreds of years ago affect who we are and where we are today.  It’s about discovering another layer to our identity, appreciating the paths travelled by the people preceding us and giving life to the names on a family tree.

To see photographs of works in progress and completed artwork, please visit the Flickr page.

About the Artist:

Cassandra Harrison trained in Nebraska, graduating with honours in Fine Art and Art Education.  In 2002, she moved to England where she continued her work as an artist, creating works for commission for private collectors, a children’s book author and a solicitors partnership.  Harrison’s work has been exhibited throughout the country and was recently on exhibit in the Visual Arts Scotland Annual Open Exhibition at The Royal Scottish Academy Upper Galleries, Edinburgh.  This is her first solo exhibition.


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Filed under a good story, Dudley, Edinburgh, Exeter/Ivybridge, Nebraska, Newcastle upon Tyne, research, the process

Final installation of The Connecting Thread

Can you believe that the final (ehem…so far….there are plans) installation of The Connecting Thread – a personal psychogeography is happening so soon?! After two years of planning and creating, it is time to string it up in the last venue, the last leg of the international tour.

Oct 2
5 – 7pm
Reception in the foyer of the Bioscience Centre (easily located off of Times Square)
There will be wine and me smiling insanely as I will be very pleased to see you there. It would be lovely if you could come along and celebrate this adventure with me.

Exhibition opening times:

Oct 3 – Dec 2

Monday – Thursday
8am – 6pm

8am – 5pm

I will be conducting collaborative Gocco workshops and a walk through of the exhibition on October 27th and 28th. Those specific times will be listed here closer to the days.

What is The Connecting Thread?

The Connecting Thread uses hand-printed textile images, bedsheets and pillowcases to create a living, tactile timeline. The exhibition is about realizing how decisions made hundreds of years ago affect who we are and where we are today. It’s about discovering another layer to our identity, appreciating the paths travelled by the people preceding us and giving life to the names on a family tree.


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Filed under a good story, Dudley, Edinburgh, Exeter/Ivybridge, Nebraska, Newcastle upon Tyne, the process

and then it owned me

I am in a very weird place.  There is a bit of calm happening and I’ve taken this calm space to sit down and consider the project so far and the project in the future.  With Exeter, Dudley and Nebraska behind me, with Edinburgh current then upcoming Newcastle, I am now living in the middle of this huge adventure.  I see what I’ve done.  I see what I’m about to do.  It’s exciting, brilliant and also a little bit sad.  Is Newcastle to be the end?  Hopefully, no.

How did this project begin?  Well, that question has been answered a zillion times, but perhaps I haven’t really addressed why I needed to do this.  After all, we have lots of ideas throughout a day: Maybe I’ll start going to that zumba class, Perhaps I’ll eat fruit more often, Think I’ll get my tyres rotated, Today I will start writing that book, I really ought to start a book/film/knitting/hoovering club.  They flit in.  They flit out.  What is it that makes you grab onto an idea and own it?  What makes you realise that to give it up, to let it slip through your attention span – going hardly noticed – would be a detriment to your life.

When this project came to mind, I was going through a significant transition.  Most of my life has been a significant transition – a transition from the states to Redhill to Crawley to Newcastle to Edinburgh from job to job to job from hoping to start growing a family to realising that’s just not in the cards for me.  Nearly nine years of transition.  All of those times of stopping then starting over with a new plan.

When the idea for this project came to mind, I had to hold onto it and make it happen as there just seemed to be no other option.  It was something I had a certain amount of control over.  If I failed at this, it would be my fault and my fault only.  If I made it happen, then that would be my success.  The project was monumental and I needed to prove to myself that I could at least succeed at this. I may have failed to put down roots or carry a job for more than 2 years, to have children, but this would prove to myself that if I believed in it enough, I could make it happen.  And it’s happened.  It is happening.  And I do feel that I have wrestled this beast to the ground and shown it whose boss.  Life, that is.

What does success for this look like and how do I know I’ve achieved it?  To be honest, if I had only gotten as far as Exeter, I would have felt that this was a success.  I finished the work on time.  I’ve learned things.  My eyes have been wide open and I have met so many interesting people along the way.  My life feels fuller and richer.  Because I took a chance.

Which was scary.

But I did it, anyway.


Filed under a good story, Edinburgh, Exeter/Ivybridge, Nebraska, Newcastle upon Tyne, the process

Videos of Exeter exhibition at Friernhay


Filed under Exeter/Ivybridge, the process, videos

And then we packed up and left

Two years of hard work crammed into this tiny case

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Filed under Edinburgh, Exeter/Ivybridge, the process

Wind and rain




Today had all the promise of a gorgeous start and high, bright skies. When we stepped out of the hotel lobby and into the fresh air, a gust a wind slammed into me and my heart sank. Possibly, the weather was forcefully against us.
We pitched up in Friernhay, anyway. The artwork billowed out, swooped up to heights I couldn’t reach, then would settle down again for a spell of stillness.

My very good friend Hillary arrived on the scene, first thing. I met her during my research visit to Exeter back in September, 2010, and have been keeping in touch ever since. She was very helpful to me, helping me to track down specific information for my project. She is a teacher of history and her enthusiasm for her local history is catchy. She reminded me of a fact I had forgotten about Friernhay, something we both learned during an Historical Walking Tour.

Some years ago, the council had wanted to build a road right through the middle of that green space. There had once been a church in the middle of Friernhay, but that had been destroyed around the time of World War II. There is a grave in the corner of the land, and it was the deceased’s family that held out and did not give the council their blessing to interrupt that graveyard by digging a road through it. Well done to you family, for preserving such a pretty little pocket of Exeter.

The exhibit was visited by three Swiss tourists. Of course I was excited to talk about my own connection to their gorgeous country, after all, I secured for myself a husband in that mountainous land.

One man suggested I read “1,000 Acres” by Jane Smiley as my Nebraska sheet reminded him of this story about Iowa (our neighbour to the East).

A fine young couple saw the article about the exhibit in the local paper and came along to see the work. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to speak to them as I was in conversation with someone else. The first couple of hours seemed non-stop with visitors, which was brilliant.

I met a nice young lady that was interested in interviewing me on live radio (gasp) tomorrow morning.

I’m not so sure this last statement is a possibility now as the forecast is threatening to rain. Although the artwork can get wet, it’s a downpour I need to avoid. So with a very sad and heavy heart, I may have to make the decision tomorrow to not hang out the work. It was a risk. An outdoor display submitting to the elements.


Filed under Exeter/Ivybridge, struggling here, the process

Sunshine and sheets



This morning the artwork went up without a hitch. To think I have wasted all those many hours of my life worrying. The day has been hot, kicking up a feisty gust here and there, causing us to have to scramble to set stuff right on the line.

People have not been visiting in droves and the ones that have walked through the park have been a bit shy. I’ve handed out flyers and leaflets, striking up a conversation if they’re willing. I have gotten into some lovely conversations with people that have crossed the 3 metres from the path to see the work.

‘My family came from Eastern Europe, about 100 years ago. It makes you wonder what it means to be English.’ This was said by a lovely woman that had been strolling through the park with her charge. I liked the implied question: Am I English? Are you? The subject of how we decide our identity is always fascinating.

Overall, I am very pleased. Photos have been taken; the day has been enjoyed.

Plus, two very nice gentlemen across the road have sent over their work colleagues to view the scenes. Thanks nice gentlemen. Here’s a fact: one of them has been descended from Buffalo Bill! There was a Frank Green in my family line that worked for Mr Buffalo Bill. How fantastic is all that?!

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Filed under Exeter/Ivybridge, the process