lToday I'd like to welcome guest blogger Violet Shirran. I met Violet through an online creative group called Bite the Biscuit and I simply loved what she is doing and I think you will too and so I asked her if she would be a guest blogger. Above is a statement that I gave to Violet.
It was a statement often leveled at me as a child and indeed as an adult...it was a statement that made me feel strange, that I was odd, not right somehow. Only through my own mandala healing journey have I come to realise that my sensitivity is not a negative thing...it's actually my super power! It lets me be creative, empathetic, intuitive and it allows me to be open to a phenomenal dream landscape and magic in everyday life. Violet took my statement and stitched it...mended it. And it made me cry to see it there, mended. I'll let Violet take over from here! Thanks Violet for sharing your story with us.
My name is Violet Shirran. One winter’s day in 2011, the phone rang. I answered as I would have any other day. But this was no ordinary phone call. This was a phone call that ripped my life and the life of my two sisters and their families apart. This was a phone call telling me that my beautiful 22 year old niece had died suddenly in her sleep.
Our Worlds. Fell. Apart.
That first year was lived on a roller-coaster of grief, made all the more difficult by the death of my father only four months later.
So what do people do to get through grief? Grief causes a seismic shift within us, a reassessment of priorities and like any crisis, it leads to change. I surprisingly turned my attention back to creativity and in particular sewing. I was drawn to the slow meditative and repetitive nature of hand sewing and found that it grounded me in that first chaotic year of grief. I also stopped smoking when my niece died and sewing was a great use of my hands. Sewing was something that seemed to re-emerge from childhood. My mother was a dressmaker and loved hand sewing ,so I grew up surrounded by fabric. My happiest memories as a child are of my mother hand-sewing in the garden and my aunt Peg knitting and chatting with her. There was a circling happening, a returning, a comfort and a healing.
On reawakening my creativity and gradually discovering the healing nature of hand-sewing through that year, I decided to nurture my creativity and return to college to study textiles and embroidery. It was here that I discovered how healing it is to sew in groups, literally sewing in circles! I loved how people relaxed into their sewing; how they opened up, sharing their stories. Sewing is also a great stress reliever lowering blood pressure and increasing dopamine.
If sewing had this profound healing effect on me, then of course it would for others and so I decided to set up classes to promote mindfulness, getting people to take time out from busy lives, to relax over some simple sewing, to chat to others, to make connections and be creative… a nod to my mother and aunt Peg sewing, knitting and chatting in our garden.
It became inevitable that I would leave my full time teaching job and devote more time to my own art and workshops. I Invested in a little garden studio and dreamed up “The Repair Project”
Healing is such an important facet of my artwork. For The Repair Project, I asked people to give me the harmful words and statements that they carried from childhood. You know…the ones that hurt us but we would feel self-conscious about sharing, fearing people would say “Oh, get over yourself”. The statements that shape our opinion of ourselves, even as adults...often more so as adults. Words that we took onboard and believed to be truths about ourselves and not just the opinions of others. Words that impacted and indeed often shaped our realities.
My idea was to embroider and symbolically repair these statements. I saw myself in this project as a type of tailor, repairing and mending what is handed to me. My initial dilemma was how on earth do I get people to share something so deeply personal with me? Luckily, I had joined an online group of creatives called Bite the Biscuit (actually where I met Patricia!) And with the help of this gang of creatives I found the confidence to get onto Instagram and ask people to share their statements with me. I even made a video… and so The Repair Project went public.
The words and statements came pouring in. I discovered a huge amount of people are carrying these negative statements as limiting beliefs and wanted to set about repairing them. The statements were mostly from adults to young people and varied in their cruelty but all had left a lasting effect. You are too wild, Be a good girl, You’ll never amount to anything, You can’t sing, You’re too sensitive, Your sister is the smart one, You are too fat, Big ears, Big Mouth ... the list goes on.
My aim is not to rake over bad memories but rather to change the narrative in our own heads, to finally leave these words behind, repair them and choose our own narrative . “ I am creative”, “I am sensitive “, “I am courageous” “I love to sing”. The very act of stitching and repairing these words becomes part of my own healing process and recovery.
The month of June saw me at my local arts centre, Droichead, in Drogheda, Ireland as part of a residency and I sewed Repair Project statements, displaying them on the walls. People came in and chatted with me, we spoke of the harsh words which were said to them and how we have allowed them impact us. Often at the end of the day I found that they had slipped a note into my Repair Project notebook, words which decades later are still haunting them, words that are difficult to say out loud, words that need repairing.
If you’d like to be involved, why not send me your words? The words that have stuck with you and would like to release now once and for all? Simply send your statements to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for inviting me to share my work Patricia and thanks for reading!
You can follow Violet's wonderful work on Instagram or Facebook and visit her website at www.violetshirran.com.
Violet Shirran is a textile artist based in Drogheda, Ireland. Her route to her passion was circuitous as it is for many of us. She graduated from NCAD Art college with a degree in Metal sculpture and for a number of years had a studio working as a metal artist and blacksmith. The financial climate in Ireland in the 80’s meant there wasn’t a huge market for metal sculpture and Violet returned to college to train as an Art teacher and for almost 20 years taught art full time in special education. She loves to travel and long school holidays means she can travel the world seeing beautiful art and crafts from many cultures. Teaching art has to be the best job in any school, however it also meant that she put her creative energy into teaching others and allowing her own creativity to took a back seat. It was through the tragic loss of her niece, that Violet was led to a new life and passion for textiles and sewing, a modality through which she heals herself, and art that heals the artist, heals others.
Thanks so much Violet for sharing your story with us.