Helen Stone: Laundresses & Char Women

Tuesday 11 June 2019 - Sunday 16 June 2019
All day

When artist Helen Stone set out to explore her maternal line, she had very little indeed. Her mother died when she was young and her mother had lost her mother while still a baby. There were no stories, no photos, no mementos – Helen admits she didn’t even know her grandmother’s name.

But using the basic tools of ancestry search, she came to discover hundreds of relatives and was surprised to find so many had lived just roads from where she was born and grew up.

The bald facts of census documentation revealed a string of laundresses and char women, along with sad, recurring tales of loss and hardship. Many were dead, widowed or institutionalised while still in their 30s – no wonder the family ties unravelled.

But Helen sees admirable strength and resilience here too, and she tells their stories through hand-stitching – a repetitive and labour-intensive process so often derided as women’s work. Yet stitches make repairs and heal wounds. They are both nurture and pain, and are instilled with the hope that they might reunite that which has fallen apart.