To Be Held

It is compassion. It is embracing people. It is love.

A colleague just walked past me and read ‘To Be Held’ on my computer screen and said the exact words above before leaving the room. It feels almost as if there is nothing else left to say, but I will continue to write what I had intended.

I have been thinking a lot recently about how best to give work away to people who may not be able to take much. For homeless men and women it may be fairly unhelpful to hand them work which is delicate. I remembered making this collection of faces on the edges of small pieces of clay, referring to them as ‘whispers’. This made me think; once fired the clay is fairly solid and can withstand being bumped around in a pocket. It reminded me of when my mother gave me an extra strong mint when I was stressed before school one day. She intended it to be eaten immediately and I suspect she was a little surprised that I held onto it, loose in my blazer pocket, for the whole year. Touching it reminded me that she had given it to me to make me feel better so there was a definite placebo effect, despite the fact it was just a mint.

I made this piece called ‘To Be Held’. Similar to the other works, yet the expression is subdued: perhaps sleeping, almost certainly sensing pressure. It rested in a pleasing way against my palm, and I felt that I was ‘comforting’, and as the owner of this tiny piece I was also the carer, supporter and mother figure. Returning to what my colleague said, it puts the person holding the work into that ‘giver’. The giving is simultaneous.

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It pleases me to make these and I feel that I could make a fair number and give them away. They make me think of literally holding onto – and equally letting go of – people. The fact that you need to clench your fist quite hard to hold onto this work makes me think of the effort in terms of holding onto anything: whether it is good for us or not. But the effort is also cathartic: it is pleasing to do things for others. The face is symbolic of whatever it needs to be for the person who receives it.

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