An Essay by Sarah Cawkwell:
The Millinery Works exhibited a range of Cawkwell's once in 2009, and again in 2013
55 Ariadne’s thread, 2009, painted relief and wool, 79 x 61cm.
Meander, loop, snake, crankle, twist and turn. One of my earliest memories is of my mother knitting and one of my earliest useful activities was to hold the yarn as she wound it into balls of wool. I don't remember when I first grasped knitting as a metaphor for a life - perhaps it was when I reflected I had difficulty in mastering the art. Sewing cloth didn't defeat me in that way. I could nimbly cut cloth, run seams, sew darts, insert zips, conceal a placket, turn hems and create clothes I actually wore. But wool, like life, seemed trickier. My patience would wear thread thin as I contemplated the endless rows that had to be knitted.
A friend once told me how her father had taught her that to turn page after page in a book is tedious but that if she read page after page the repetition of turning those pages would be as nothing to the revelation of the story. It took me many years to understand that it wasn't the stitch after stitch or the row by row of knitting that mattered but rather the shape, the texture, the colour that would emerge along the way.
18 Possessing many masks 2003, painted & gessoed relief, 79 x 62cm.
"Mankind is a weaver who from the wrong side works on the carpet of time. The day will come when he will see the right side and understand the grandeur of the pattern he with his own hands has woven through the centuries without seeing anything but a tangle of strings". (Lamartine)
27 1oz of wool 2005, mixed media, 7 x 17 x 9.5cm.
I have a pattern in my head. I set out gaily to see if it can work. But along the way, somehow I mislay that pattern, stitches get knitted ill and dropped and rows get unravelled. The pattern becomes vague and uncertain and seems to fade. I wonder what I was thinking about. But I continue, somehow, driven not to fail. I take a deep breath when I realise I have to destroy a part that is working to reach a part that has so singularly failed. I undo with a heavy heart some fine work to tackle what is so unsatisfactory. But tackle it I must until suddenly the pattern seems to be reappearing. I feel able to continue. Then the final casting off is in sight. There is a warm feeling for having overcome moments of tedium and despair not to mention the humdrum nature of life.
Sarah Cawkwell, 2009.