CETG Online Talk Monday 13th December 2021
Claire Mort – Down the Rabbit Hole
Claire Mort started off her talk to CETG by expressing her pleasure and joy at being invited …… win/win from the outset!
Claire’s interest in textiles began early, loving to stitch as a young child. Several years after leaving school, Claire went to college at the age of 23, doing “the wrong course” and ending up as a graphic designer. The theft of her portfolio and the birth of her son who was quite poorly, with ongoing health issues, presented Claire with considerable challenges. She described a period when she was totally immersed in the day-to-day struggles of working and parenting, when she lost sight not only of her art, but also of herself.
Ten years ago, Claire’s life took an upward turn and with the support of therapy (and an amazing man), she began her journey back to who she was meant to be. Claire eloquently described this as a trip down the rabbit hole, asking whether we can overcome adverse experiences to become who we are! Claire realised that she could do her art through embroidery, stitching when going on frequent hospital visits with her son. Claire shared with us one of her early pieces, Happy Little Introvert, which described the difference between her outwardly confident persona and how she felt inside. Criticised by a framer as simplistic, Claire overcame her initial upset and used the experience as a starting point for another journey. Absolute Scenes was the outcome with Claire using overlaid handstitched threads to play with colour and shadows. Claire’s desire to have her own voice and to be heard is embodied in Hear My Roar. Claire was keen to show us not only the finished work and detail, but also the back of the hoop with its “energy and fire”.
An unexpected opportunity for a pop-up page in the Be Creative with Workbox magazine presented itself, which in turn led to Claire writing a regular Mort’s Thoughts column and in addition, becoming a features writer. Claire talked about her stitching community, the sharing of experiences and the many messages of support she received at this time. She also spoke of the textile artists she came into contact with and who have become well respected friends; Jenni Dutton whose Dementia Darnings so poignantly describe her mother’s decline into dementia. See also Catherine Hicks, Danielle Clough, Stacey Jones
In 2019 Claire was a Marshwood Arts Awards winner for three works in the Applied Arts category, including her Andy Warhol hand embroidered work. Almost overwhelmed at the Awards Ceremony, Claire was overjoyed – lots of hugging and clapping – no subtlety (Claire’s words!). Clearly the judges knew what they were doing; so very well deserved.
Then Lockdown happened …… all of Claire’s planned exhibitions were cancelled. In common with lots of people Claire went back to communicating by phone and email/letters and the subjects of her work were retro, the telephone, and the typewriter. Embroidery became the perfect “mindful” activity to step off the roller coaster of life and reconnect with what’s most important …
2020 was significant for Claire as an applicant for The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. The rest is history. Success for Claire with Gloria Gloria. Brilliant. See here for BBC coverage of the RA’s annual extravaganza with Kirsty Wark, featuring Claire.
Projects currently on the go for Claire include Project Woman, Bra Vo and Blossom Small. Bra Vo is an ongoing series of pieces arising out of an invitation by Jo Baring to take part in the 2021 ING Discerning Eye exhibition but with more to come!
To conclude and in Claire’s own words,
“The use of stitch helps Claire to truly connect to her subjects and become immersed for over 150 hours per piece in their story and dialogue. For centuries embroidery has been seen as women’s work and Claire continues to challenge this perception by using embroidery as the language of love, storytelling and freedom and to elevate to its true place of art.”
Text © Sue Robinson, December 2021
Photos © Claire Mort
Hear My Roar
Maya Angelou (part of Project Woman)