Seaworthy Vessel – a metaphor for resilience


Letty McHugh shares a selection of images of paper boats made in response to her Seaworthy Vessel origami workshop on instagram.

I once saw a row of large anchors in a scrapyard from the window of a train. For the rest of the journey I couldn’t stop thinking about these anchors and the ships they came from. The parts of a ship wind up in a scrapyard because the ship they once made up has been deemed unseaworthy. The question came to mind was this, what would happen if we applied the idea of seaworthiness to people? Who would pass the test?

The idea of seaworthiness as a metaphor for resilience became the inspiration behind my project Seaworthy Vessel. I was particularly interested in exploring the relationship between my Great Grandad who was injured while sailing with the Merchant Navy in WWII, and my experiences with an MS relapse that affected my hands.

When Grandad Billy was learning to use his hands again after his accident he learnt to knit and made dozens of pairs of slippers for his children that took on almost legendary status in my family history. I wanted to try a similar repetitive activity to regain confidence in my hands, so I began folding origami boats, with the ultimate aim of folding 1000.

Over the life of the project I’ve been on a literal journey to Oslo and an emotional one, redefining my definition of worthiness in ships and in people, but that’s all explained in the video, and if you still feel like you want to know more there’s the project book ‘Some Days I Am The Sea’.

The participatory part of the project encouraged people to reflect on and celebrate their own resilience, by writing a personal message and submitting their boat to an online fleet. I am still collecting images on Instagram so if people reading this want to take part, please tag @ukuletty with hashtags #SeaworthyVessel or #IamSeaworthy.

The submissions to the project have been wonderful, for me reading other people’s stories has really brought this piece of work to life. I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has taken part so far, or has followed the story of the project since I first started working on it in 2019.