Category Archives: Newcastle upon Tyne

A video of the final installation

This is a short video of the work in situ at the Bioscience Centre at the Centre for Life in Newcastle.  The final exhibition space is particular poignant for this work due to the nature of the work carried out at the centre.  Research into issues of infertility as well as treatments are carried out in this building (among lots of other things, of course).  As this project is about the family line, it seemed particularly apt to show the piece in this venue.  The little worker bees in this place are aiming to help keep family lines going, going, going.  Sometimes there is success and sometimes there isn’t.  It’s amazing to think how fragile our family lines are. How they can charge through the past, push through amazing odds and yet, for some of us, we become the end of the line.

This is where my tour ended.



Filed under Newcastle upon Tyne, the process, videos

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

Workshop and Artist Talk schedule at Bioscience Centre

October 27-28

11-12:30 and 2-3:30

Join in the fun of helping to create a collaborative artwork made by using Gocco printing techniques. Learn about the small printing machine of amazement and wonder. You can drop in anytime during these time slots; there is no need to sign up. This workshop is available to those that have paid for a ticket to visit the amazing exhibits at The Centre for Life. Participants helping to create the large artwork will get the opportunity to win the completed artwork. Open to ages 5 to 105.

12:30 – 1 and 3:30-4

Artist Talk
Want to know more about The Connecting Thread, how it was created and its journey? Please join me for a walk through of the installation. Questions encouraged and feedback welcome. Meet at the entrance of the Bioscience Centre. If you have any questions or comments relating to this talk, please write a response here or email me at



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The blank pillowcase




I am… hesitant. There are things that need to be written, things that I don’t necessarily feel like writing but know I should. The blog for this project is to tell an honest account of the life of The Connecting Thread. To stay true to that promise to myself and to anyone following the journey, to maintain authenticity and honesty, I really ought to write about Sunday.

Sunday was the day I packed up the artwork and drove it down to Newcastle. The gallery space was ready with necessary wall structures in place. Hooks needed to be added, as well as the string, sheets, pillowcases, information boards and information pamphlets on the side. A beautiful vinyl with the project name and my name in black lettering had been created. My good friend Ian and I, along with two helpful and delightful men at the Bioscience Centre, put everything in place and that was that. The artwork was set out in its new home. (The two worker men reminded me of Fraggle Rock’s Doozers as they seemed to come out from nowhere, quickly did their work, then mysteriously disappeared).

The reception was low key and celebrated with Cava in hand. The Lady Boys of Bangkok provided us with thumping tunes as their tent is set up just outside the doors of the Bioscience Centre. Oh, Centre for Life, you are so varied in your entertainments. Good conversations were had, but honestly, by the end of it I was completely shattered and just wanted to find my bed, wrap up in warm blankets and put the day behind me.

Throughout this project, it has been interesting to hear people’s reactions to the last pillowcase – the blank pillowcase. You start with big, swooping, green hills, stone bridges then move to Georgian houses then a house made of mud. Vibrant and deep greens, golden yellows and touches of blue take up the visual space and then of course there are the details of the stitched words. You walk along and follow the story, you finally arrive at Newcastle and see the Bioscience Centre. You shuffle passed that big sheet and end up staring at an empty pillowcase. Most people have seen this as something positive. “Oh. There’s nothing on this one. Oh! I see. It’s the future. It has yet to be written.” This is the usual reaction and one that I am pleased with because the viewer is ending on a high. One girl that viewed the artwork on Sunday said that she felt sad about the last piece; it had brought a tear to her eye.

Initially, I had seen that last blank canvas as something positive and hopeful. Now, I see it as a big, empty expanse. And it, too, bothers me in a way that I had not anticipated.

Because the thing is, and this is the thing, when this project began we were living in a lot of hope. It was my final attempt at IVF and you have to live in hope that it’s going to work for you. This time. This is the time when things will happen because you think you deserve it, because you’ve suffered enough really and it would be nice for life to shine down and smile on you and your happy dreams. Well. We know how that ended. It took 9 months for me to process that kind of loss and to be honest, it will never be fully ‘gotten over, ‘ it will be something I carry with me through all my days.

After awhile, we took the steps to apply for adoption. Again, there was hope in something good, in a nice sunny outcome, something to look forward to. A difficult step, but a choice met with excitement and anxiety, sometimes in equal measure. That blank pillowcase would be filled with a different outcome, but something wonderful and shiny and brilliant. Unfortunately, the much hoped for and anticipated outcome has resulted in something quite the opposite. I have somehow ended with less than what I started out with. Instead of a family of two and a dog, it is just now me and a dog.

I found Sunday difficult. I found it difficult because all of my emotions were pushing their way to the surface and I couldn’t contain them. I found it difficult because now when I look at that blank pillowcase, it makes me feel raw and broken. It’s a feeling of being stared at by the nothing that is a result of dreams that haven’t turned into anything tangible.

“Isn’t it common for artists to suffer for their work?” a friend of mine asked. Or was it “because of their work”? I can’t quite remember the wording. I suppose it would be ridiculous to think that I could make this and be unaffected by it.





Filed under Newcastle upon Tyne, struggling here

Katherine reinstated

Today I’ve been recreating a sentence I painfully removed before heading out to Nebraska. My mother’s name linked to my father’s name, held together by 1975. Their wedding day photo has been used in this blog and also occupies a space on the information boards. Removing her from my artwork, removing my mother, made my heart ache and I still haven’t forgiven myself.
So, why did I do it? I did it because life is messy. Untidy. Ended marriage and new parents added to the scenario. As the work was to be displayed at my dad and step mom’s house (I never refer to her as step mom, she is every bit as much my mother as Kathy), I didn’t want the work to offend. A former wife’s name flapping around in the current wife’s yard didn’t seem very nice. Out of respect, I took out the sentence, but by doing so I feel that I have disrespected my mother.
So, there you go. One of those decisions to be made where either answer is the wrong answer.
Now that Katherine is back in place, my mind is at peace with this sheet, this part of the story.
I hear that the setting up of the exhibition space at the Bioscience Centre is going swimmingly. Walls have been built, signs made. This is going to be something.

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Filed under Newcastle upon Tyne, the process


It has taken three days to stitch this sign. Oh for the love of details…

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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