Special Occasion and Everyday – Pat Harvey

Home and family are for most of us at the core of our sense of ourselves. If we are fortunate they are secure enough that we can hold onto them and grow, but even in good times we have an awareness and fear of the threat of their loss. I have been a politically engaged person all my adult life and whilst my first response to the Grenfell fire and to so many deaths was one of anger about its social and economic context (and that perspective has not diminished) I have thought more and more about the many personal losses of the bereaved survivors.

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The idea of the Keepsake project made me  think about those things we might value and want to hang onto because they memorialise how we came to be who we are. I decided that one of my images would relate to a special family event. For such events there is often the one-off ceremonial garment. I still have fragments of my mother’s wedding veil from the 1930s, but for this project the loss of children’s lives made me think in particular of a baby’s baptism bonnet. Baptism is essentially a denominating event which marks the newcomer formally entering their cultural group.

I wanted my second image to depict an ordinary household object which could be elevated in a particular family to a special status. My image is of a glass sugar basin and sugar spoon. This particular basin was my mother’s, I saw it every day a child, as did my children who went to their school from her home. It is probably nearly 100  years old. I showed the image to my son, now in his forties and settled in the USA for more than 20 years and asked him if he knew what it was and he answered instantly “Nanna’s sugar bowl”. How fortunate are we that this ordinary item I took with me when my mother died is still our sugar bowl. I have recently wondered what seemingly ordinary items make their way in the backpacks of refugees across continents and what will be the stories told about them.

As a printmaker I usually use a combination of different printing techniques with hand finished drawing and additional colour.  My images for Keepsake have a surface print background using embossed wallpaper. Memories of the past and of childhood often involve a remembered wallpaper pattern on a bedroom wall. The sugar bowl is depicted by a drypoint on plastic plate. Other parts of the images are created with marker pen.

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