PHOENIX FROM THE ASHES – ART MEETS THE MENOPAUSE AT GEORGE STREET BOOKSHOP

Earlier this year, George Street Community Bookshop announced the launch of their “bookshops for all” artist residency programme, in which three artists were tasked with using the shop, the books, staff and customers to run a series of participatory events to engage the local community, 

One of the artists in residency is Lois Blackburn, who is well underway with her programme of events. Throughout November, Lois is focusing on the Menopause as her topic.

Lois says: “I started investigating the theme of the Menopause in 2019, by making a quilt entitled ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’. The making of this piece acted as a stimulus for learning and understanding about the menopause, both for me as the maker and its audience. Creating art, making quilts, has also been a lifesaving activity for me – I have used it as a way of working through problems and concerns, a distraction and a challenge. I would encourage anyone going through the peri-menopause or menopause to take time to be creative – what ever it is, painting, writing, knitting, gardening…

“Painted and stitched onto the Menopause Quilt are objects you would not normally see on an artwork, but objects familiar to many middle aged women: a box of suppositories, panty-liners, hand cream, KY Jelly, hot water bottles and so on. Written onto the objects are quotes from menopausal women, advise garnered from the internet, common and less common symptoms.  

“The theme is such a big one, I felt that I had only just touched on it creatively. I’d been doing a paper folding workshop, when it was pointed out to me that I was always using hand fans (for my hot flushes) so why not have a go at making them? With that, the project ‘Unfolding Beauty’ was born. 

“Fan making is a critically endangered craft on the Red List of endangered crafts. In my workshops, I play with and celebrate traditional historic fan techniques and methods from around the world, creating folding and fixed fans in paper, natural materials, and fabric. 

“There has been a growing interest in the menopause in the last couple of years, which is great news. However I haven’t heard many stories about the end of the menopause, about the power of the menopause and positive stories of change. My most recent collection of fans attempts to tackle that head on. I’m currently working towards a touring exhibition next year with The Textile Study Group and for that I am creating fans on the theme of the Phoenix. 

“For me, the phoenix is the perfect metaphor for the woman’s Second Spring; a bird rising from the ashes, reborn from the flames…”

We emerge from the quiet of Winter blinking in the light, wondering what the hell’s going on and as our energy builds, we start to explore who we have become. Dancing out into the world with renewed libido, we can explore new ways of being , but this time, without being smothered by the conventions of who we ‘ought’ to be.”

Author Kate Codrington

“Fans are the perfect vehicle to share stories of the menopause, they can hide, surprise and reveal. My November workshops at George Street Community Bookshop will explore these themes. On the 11th, I’m inviting women to make or decorate their own menopause fan.  On the 5th and 22nd of November I’ll bring into the Bookshop some of my own hand fans, and invite women to share their own stories. I’m hoping that some people may allow me to film them (hidden by the fans if they like) for a short film I’m planning for the exhibition.  Getting together to share your story, to feel like you have been heard, to find ways to be creative, to express the many emotions of a changing body and mind, this is where my passion lies. “

Lois’ menopause themed creative workshops and events are on throughout November:

  • Sat 5th Nov – Hot flushes and other Menopause symptoms.  Lois will bring in her collection of fans and invite women to share their stories of the menopause, with the option of being recorded as part of a short artist film
  • Fri 11th Nov – Create your own hand fan for the menopause, or just for fun
  • Tues 22nd Nov –  Hot flushes and other Menopause symptoms.. Lois will bring in her collection of fans and invite women to share their stories of the menopause, with the option of being recorded as part of a short artist film

All days 10am to 4.00pm (with short breaks).


Find out more here – https://loisblackburnartist.uk/2022/09/29/george-street-bookshop-glossop-artist-residency/