A Day in the Life of an Artist: Being Is Enough – Kate Rolison

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Continuing our series looking at the day-to-day working practices of disabled artists, Kate Rolison gives us an insight into her lockdown life with an embroidered diary.

A photograph of the artist, a white woman in her late twenties with dark hair, embroidering her rainbow cross stitch diary entry on to a large white piece of cloth. She is wearing a floral dress and is sitting on her bed, surrounded by colourful cushions.

Kate stitching the diary

I began this commission with an attempt at a “gently humorous” day in the life diary entry. By the point I decided I didn’t like that format, I’d begun embroidering a short diary entry for each day of lockdown in tiny cross-stitch, working through the colour spectrum, a range of experiences and emotions, and various fonts as I went.

Of course, embroidering each day being a timely process, I ran out of time to complete each day of lockdown so far before the submission deadline.

Rainbow gradient cross stitched diary entries on white cloth

Embroidered diary entries close up

Time is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. For many of us, time has slowed right, right down. For some of us, it’s been that way for a long time. As often as it seems that the time I’ve lost to my mental health stretches to years, I am deeply grateful that I do have time to “figure it out”. Not everyone is that lucky. For some the clock is ticking down, not suspended like it is for those of us comfortably off, through privilege and circumstance.

I will continue to embroider a diary entry for each day of lock down indefinitely – things are unlikely to ever return to as they were before. As I fall under the spectrum of neurodiversity (meaning the workings of my brain are different to what is narrowly prescribed as the norm), as I suspect all of us do in one way or another, too much sensory stimulation can be very troubling for me. The peace and quiet and the excuse to remain in the house came at a time when that was what I most needed. On the other hand, routine and purpose are largely gone for many of us.

Painstakingly stitching these words gives some structure to my days.

I’m going to read them out, and fade out when I think I, and you, have had enough.

Red

23rd March 2020 Binge watch Bob Ross all evening. Only unintentional ASMR can save us now.

24th March 2020 167 calls to the Universal Credit Helpline.

25th March 2020 Make self care box.

26th March 2020 Lie inert under blanket on sofa for an hour and a half. Odd mix of boredom and anxiety.

Orange

27th March 2020 Nutty ring for elevensies. “I’ve never had a nutty ring without a hole in the middle before” says Dad.

A drawing of a nutty ring Danish pastry with a cross through the hole in the middle

Nutty ring with a cross through the middle illustration

28th March 2020 My therapist suggests I make art about belonging in the world, as a reminder for me, and for everyone else. This makes me feel a bit vulnerable, but I agree to do it, as other artists sharing their vulnerability has made me feel less alone lately.

Yellow

29th March 2020 Stitching a snail for “belonging” artwork.

A photograph of the beginnings of a snail embroidery on an old piece of hand embroidered linen, held in an embroidery hoop. There is an old wooden bobbin on top of the embroidery, holding a reel of blue thread

Beginning of snail embroidery

30th March 2020 Aptly, snail is taking forever.

Photograph of an embroidered snail

A photograph of the snail embroidery laid out on grass, without the embroidery hoop. The embroidery is landscape, and “Just being is enough” has been embroidered at the top of the fabric in pink thread. Beneath this embroidered text, there are purple flowers printed on the fabric. The snail shell is half completed, in shades of yellow with brown bands. The snail’s body is outlined in light pink thread

Whole snail embroidery so far

Green
31st March 2020. At the start of all this, I was in desperate need of peace and quiet. But not like this! This feels like some sick wish fulfilment.

A photograph of blueish purple forget-me-nots and white daisies taken from above

Forget me nots

1st April 2020 Enjoying learning the names of spring flowers on our mandated daily exercise. Selfheal. Honesty. Forget me not. The names sound like wishful balms for the current human and political crisis.

2nd April 2020 Porridge in bed.