The Coventry Clootie Lantern
In 2021, I started an international collaborative community textile project called the 'String Of Consciousness' to unite women and girls through stitch from International Women's Day to Mental Health Awareness Week with support from Arts Council England. Over 100 participants had sent me clooties or ribbons stitched with their wishes for better days, from which I was to create a response piece.
I am always looking for ways to connect or collaborate, and an opportunity arose to participate in the 'Festival of Lights' in association with Foleshill Creates to construct abundance-inspired light pieces to be shown on the streets of Coventry. This was the first public art gathering, albeit outdoors, after the Covid lockdown.
The hand-stitched, mindfully generated ribbons offered the perfect vehicle to shine light and offer to a vast public audience. We set to work outdoors with a few people, making a co-curated willow lantern around which the ribbons would weave themselves and allow the messages to shine through. The inspiration for the lantern shape would be a lotus flower.
Lotus flowers are native to southeast Asia and would offer an acknowledgement of the carnival of lights inspired by Divali. However, I also love that they root themselves in the mud, and despite their delicate nature, these resolute plants can survive being submerged under ice and even bloom in extreme heat. With this resilience, it seemed appropriate to curate the women's work on a lantern inspired by a lotus petal as these participants had overcome COVID-19's adversity and challenges and emerged beautifully from the dark. The ribbons were stitched together and stretched over the willow foundation shaped as a single lotus petal with lights mounted centrally.
On a dark November evening, five women carried the lotus lantern through the streets of Coventry, sharing the wisdom of the stitchers with a public eager for positivity and community. Their piece was also selected as part of 'The Risers' - a collaboration of ten artists to exhibit and be internationally promoted for COVert Arts, Fargo Village, 2021.
This inspiring project shows that we can come together and create something beautiful even in the darkest times. We can find strength and resilience in each other, and through collaboration, we can shine a light on the world and spread positivity and hope.