Nan's living room was riotous in it’s décor, of course. No home for taste, but a welcome nursing home for tired plastic. Where white elephants went to die. But it was all loved first.
Greeting cards were lovingly cut and the pretty bits sellotaped onto everything. Along the curtain pelmits, flower pots, books, cookie jars, all decorated. After a while, the strips criss-crossing the pretty cuttings went brown. Everything went a bit stripey.
The clumsily patterned brown and mustard carpet oozing with spilled booze and boiled sweets. Chintzy sofa and chairs clashed awfully and gaudily. The china cabinet full of tat. I want to remember antimacassars, doilies and sparkling crystal, but it wasn’t like that. There were some fantastic flowery antimacassars on hers and Grandad’s chairs, but the rest was just plain, cheap, fairground tacky stuff. (By the way, antimacassars are those fabric things that go on the back of sofas and on chair arms etc to protect them from Brylcream.)
The magic and sprinkles of glitter came from her simple embellishments, the atmosphere from their intriguing relationship and lifestyle, her mesmerising, exuberant personality.
It was always way too hot in there. The fire was nearly always on and the orange glow from it added to the whole heady mix.
On the bright red windowsills were plastic flower pots displaying plastic flowers, with bits of greeting cards or photos dutifully stuck on. Even the photos with people’s heads chopped off. To Nan they were all fair game. The photos I'm showing here are all her very own lovingly made artwork.
When we (my cousins and I) went for Sunday lunch, Nan would give us a glass of sherry. Because we were only 8 or 9, 10 or 11 years old, we’d pour it into the flower pots. Geraniums seem to survive anything. But these little trinkets – a sweet jar for after dinner, next to the fireplace – would then be imbued with special memories and connections from whatever token she’d stuck onto it. Precious treasure then. How very optimistic of her.
For my 2nd year show at college (in the nineties) I did some sheets of graphics about Nan & Grandad and covered them in strips of sellotape, just like she’d done. It was interesting to try and protect the images I’d made in this way. Everything about it was a bit cock-eyed really. I was sticking stuff straight across precious images, which couldn’t be a good move, could it? Then rather than protecting them, the sellotape went brown and looked stripey. It was almost meditative applying the tape lovingly, strip by strip. But crap to look at!
But then again, totally unique and almost ‘organic’ in it’s way. Certainly tugs my heartstrings now to think about it. Hmm, so… that makes it very effective and graphic then?