Category Archives: the process

The end

None of this was expected. As I was charging along in my Edinburgh to Newcastle train, I was amazed at what was zipping along in my mind. The day before I had prepared myself for a difficult day. This work and I have been together for over two years and now this was it. The end. It was time to take down the sheets, take down the pillowcases, take off the clothes pegs and undo the line, take down the info boards and collect the remaining leaflets. Take all those things and tuck them away into a suitcase. Take the suitcase home and tuck it under my bed. I thought that the day would be difficult, but it was something quite different.

As the train charged along the coast, trundling along the line from Scotland to England, this little passenger was feeling elated. Free. Happy. A sense of achievement. It’s time to move on. It’s time for this to be over. All of this looking behind me at what was, all of those stories and how mine got caught up in the telling, it was time to take it, wrap it up, and put it away.

I’m happy that it’s over. I feel that I have changed in the course of this project. It isn’t that this project changed me, it’s that I was making this work whilst everything around me changed. For that reason, this work has become so much more than what I initially planned it to be. Initially, it was never going to be about me, but at this stage, at the end stage, it seems to be all about me. What an embarassing thing to admit or to realise. The plan was to tell a good story, with twists and turns and interesting facts and characters. Although all of those are there, it still somehow ended up with me. At the end. The end.

This might be my final entry. I don’t know where else to take this or what else to say about it.

Thanks to everyone that followed this story. Thanks for the encouragement and the interest. Thanks for reading through some personal details and sad truths, anecdotes and good stories. This was always going to be an honest account.

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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.

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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

How do you measure your own success?

Some quick scribblings and a few numbers listed on a scrap piece of paper have revealed to me that this project has been successful.

Just like that; I’ve deemed it so.

Seriously, I have thought a lot about what has happened in the course of the past two years and how I see my current position.  Where am I standing now and is it much different from where I started?  The view has certainly changed.  Instead of looking out on the Tyne River from my living room, I now look at a criss-cross of cobbled streets leading up to Dean Bridge in Edinburgh.  Instead of my table being covered in research into my ancestry, I’m now looking at completed commission pieces.  Instead of piles of funding paperwork decorating the outer edges of my work table, I have a tidy sum written out of money earned through funding, donations and requested works.  Somehow, I haven’t lost money on this project.  Even that fact alone is enough to make me feel incredibly proud and of the running of this project and thankful for the kind heartedness of family, friends and strangers.

What was I hoping to achieve with the Connecting Thread?  Good question.  I was hoping to engage with people on a topic that I find thrillingly interesting:  identity and finding it through the means of the people preceding you.  Good stories have been heard and shared and stored in my memory bank.  Friends have been made.  My human experience has been expanded tremendously due to the people I’ve met along this journey.  In turn, it is my hope that people have been affected in someway by the project, whether by walking through the artwork or by following the journey.  If any of this has mattered to anyone else, I would consider this work a success.

It has been important to me to do something meaningful with my life, reminding myself what it feels like to have a strong sense of purpose pulling you up out of bed every morning and making your steps through the day worth taking.  A fulfilled life is a purpose-filled life.  Don’t you think?  Although I like creating the smaller works for walls, I needed to prove to myself that I could do something with substance.  There is nothing wrong in making something for the purpose of adding colour or interest or beauty into a room, however, I needed to sink my teeth into something with depth, with soul, something with life.

So with that said, this isn’t the end.  There is still life in this project and I will continue to update this blog and write about the continuing journey of The Connecting Thread.

And also…there is always an ‘also’ because once one project starts to quiet down I feel the need to pick up something else and start running.  Once I flesh out the details I will be sure to let you know more about the Next Big Thing.  There will be another blog.  There will be another journey.  There may be a little bit of overlapping.

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Filed under a good story, research, the process

Commission works in progress

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Now that the work is living in the Bioscience Centre, I have turned my attention to creating the pieces I have been commissioned to create. Busy. Keeping busy.
There are also efforts being made to secure a big space in Edinburgh as I would really love to display the work in its entirety in this fine city.
I’ll let you know how I get on.

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Katherine reinstated

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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

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

Friday
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