A former Mayor of Berkhamsted, Freda Earl, is one of three local artists showcasing their work at a special exhibition, supported by The Hospice of St Francis that explores bereavement and loss.
The exhibition, entitled Material Legacies, will run from 22nd November to 8th December 2017, at the new community and creative space, The Open Door Gallery at 360-364 High Street in Berkhamsted.
The exhibition will include artworks created during a five-year research project by Greenwich University PHD candidate Stacey Pitsillides in collaboration with The Hospice of St Francis.
The project aimed to explore how art and craft can help process grief and loss. The three artists, who have all been bereaved, will share their personal stories of loss and self-discovery through their own creativity.
The artists all worked with an artist mentor to create their works, which reflect not only their own feelings of loss and grief but also represent their loved ones.
Freda’s work is a clay sculpture that tells the story of her late husband Victor’s life-long love of trains. The sculpture, made of cylinders connected by bridges and viaducts, depicts scenes throughout Victor’s life that have involved the railways.
Both Freda and Victor were supported by the Hospice’s carers and clinical support team.
Freda, 79, from Berkhamsted, said: “I became involved in the project shortly after Victor died in 2014. It gave me something to think about and something to concentrate on. Victor was always interested in trains and the railways, where they went and how they ran, so I decided that my artwork would represent his life and what trains have meant to him.”
Freda, who previously ran the Making Place in Berkhamsted and taught ceramics at West Herts College, said the project was the first time she had made anything out of clay since Victor became ill with multiple system atrophy – a rare neurological disorder – eight years earlier.
“It made sense to me to go back into making after taking such a long break from it,” she said. “After I lost Victor, rather than immersing myself in activities that he would have shared with me and that would have been a constant reminder of my loss, I tried to do things that he wouldn’t have been involved in. Pottery and making wasn’t something that I would have expected him to be involved with.”
The other artists who are exhibiting their work are Ann Marshall, also from Berkhamsted, who has created a collection of works in memory of her late husband Tim, who died at the Hospice, and Sam Docherty, a former Children’s Support Worker at the Hospice who now works at Keech Hospice Care in Luton, whose textile installation reflects childhood memories of a school friend who has since died.
Hospice Art Therapist, Annalie Ashwell, said: “The significance of this project is that it demonstrates the capacity for the arts to enable a deeper level of thinking and reflection. It shows how art can be used to support us through the challenges we experience after a significant loss, to reminisce on our past, to commemorate our loved ones, and to find new meaning and reconfigure our sense of self.”
On Wednesday 6th December, as part of the exhibition, the Hospice will be showcasing the support available at its health and wellbeing Spring Centre, including its creative therapies.
Throughout the day there will be the chance to take part in a community art project and enjoy mini complementary therapies.
For more information about The Hospice of St Francis’ creative therapies visit www.stfrancis.org.uk