Embossing Fatigue

Embossing kits were packaged up and send to participants through the post in Lockdown 2020.

In a time of interaction through computer screens, it felt important that we do something tangible and real. One exercise which Sofie uses a lot is embossing. With the help of the Royal Mail, this was possible even within the strict constraints of the U.K’s first national lockdown in 2020.

Sofie carefully packaged up embossing kits for us all. These consisted of pieces of aluminium sheet printed with images of the brain, little embossing tools (that look a bit like a dental tool) and pieces of leather to press into as we worked the metal sheets). Sending and receiving these packages through the Royal Mail felt like a real act of care and connection in a time when a sense of connection was hard to come by.

Yeah, there was something about I received things through the post from Sophie as well. And, and I sort of suddenly felt far more bought in, because everything online, you connect to it to a point, but then when you switch off your computer, it seems to vanish from my brain. But having a real solid material thing. always reminds me, I’ve got to do that.’

‘thought it was a good idea to actually receive something like we received the metal plates and then have to really work on it and think about it. Yeah, it made you sort of focus more than if you were just drawing your own drawing.’

Then through a series of workshops, Sofie talked through participant’s metaphors for fatigue and how they might like to depict these in our embossings. Participants could then try to fit a little bit of embossing time around their fatigue for the following session when they would share their creations.

‘The collection process of the embossing, it’s as much about me having something that I feel that’s therapeutic for me because I know that process so well. And I know that it’s a comfortable process for somebody to do, and I, and I know that something interesting, even if it’s just a very sort of simple set of marks.’ – Sofie Layton

Some participants fell in love with the activity and the medium and found the embossing action in itself something beneficial to them: ‘It was a real surprise and shock for me because I hated art when I was at school and I sort of hated that side of it and never got into it. And I was sort of dreading these arriving in the post. And, you can ask Sophie, I’ve gotten so addicted, I’ve even asked for more, I find it really therapeutic to express myself in this way.’

‘It was so nice, poststroke, to use my right arm again. And working with that sort of intricacy again. It was just a real pleasure.’

‘It was really fun. I’m a bit addicted, I’ve not stopped doodling. Excellent, excellent feeling of, of pressing into it.’

‘I probably thought about things a lot more through doing that piece than just writing and drawing things. It gives you a point of focus. And, it somehow makes it more tangible, doesn’t it? It is a physical thing.’

Sofie created three big panels that combine a lot of the metaphors, embossings and embroideries that we created through the series of online workshops. These panels are then both a legacy of the project but also, in Sofie’s words, ‘samplers or notebooks’. The gathering of all the

 words and imagery that we shared through our workshop series for Sofie to be inspired by and reference as she moves into her own art-making.

‘I tried to draw drizzle, and because that’s how it sort of makes me feel, but it’s like this is constant, wet heavy drizzle, and I ended up just being soaked and soaked all the way through to my core, and I can’t shake it off or lift it.’

‘I looked at locks on vaults, because they’re actually really beautiful when you start to look at them. And so that was just some abstract sort of patterns from a vault lock. My lightning strike started to look a lot like blood vessels in the brain, and a DNA helix that randomly came in from the top. I ended up with this vacuum, like this void space in the middle, which kind of was pertinent. Because, you know, it started to feel a little bit like an actual brain map inspired by my MRI scans. It was interesting how that one without me realising it went from trying to depict lightning, and clouds to looking like something else.’

‘I was trying to sort of focus on the eyes of the sparrowhawk and its feather pattern. The eyes sort of stare, I guess fatigue is always sort of there waiting in the background.’