Assignment 4 – Initial Thoughts

Words and Memories

Since my mother died, I have found that I have surprisingly few memories of her from my childhood. There are the occasional snippets; walking to the top of The Trundle, overlooking Goodwood Race Course wearing an orange fluffy jacket (but that might be because I have a photograph from that occasion), going on holiday to London where she bought a very expensive umbrella from Harrodsburg and promptly lost it, searching rubbish tips with my her and my stepfather for a piece to fix his broken refrigerator (another photo), her burning one of my dolls in the furnace because it was tatty and I was too old for it, Christmases in bed with bronchitis. There are a few from my teenage years; bringing stray kittens home and attempting to hide them under my bed, writing long letters from boarding school (which I recently found in the bottom of a drawer when we were emptying her house, time in Spain for my stepfather to take photographs, and being sent home early to get back to school. There are more as an adult, but they are unclear; having lunch in her dining room, telling her she should sell my stepfather’s car after he had died (she had one of her own), being told I needed to lose weight (that was a repeated theme). And, of course, there are the recent ones of her illness; hospital visits, arguments about living alone, her telling us she loved us. Very little in total from more than sixty years.

We now have some of her words telling us about her memories, some of which I have made into a short video (see Exercise 4.5 – My Mother’s Memories). I wanted to make another half to that story, using the memories of people who were close to her – but using those memories in a more sideways, elusive fashion.


  • I asked the six people who were closest to her (my husband, three grandchildren, a niece and her best friend) to give me two sets of words. For the first set I just asked them to give me three words/thoughts that came into their minds immediately they thought of her and then after two week I explained why and asked them to give me another set of three words. I added my own six words to these, making a total of forty-two. There were a mixture of emotions, items and places. Several of the words were repeated.
  • I then randomised the words, so they lost the connection with any particular person. I did this very simply by printing them out in a grid, using a varied selection of fonts, cutting them up, putting all the words into a bowl and pulling them out without looking.
  • Unlike my normal way of doing things I didn’t draw lines or take measurement to cut along, I wanted the final words to feel more organic, random, less formal.
  • I then stuck the words onto paper in the order I drew them out, creating another 6 x 7 grid of unevenly spaced words.


  • I now need to make images that come in some ways from these words.
  • I have thought of several options
    • Use the places that are mentioned and go and take photos there (difficult at present practically)
    • Set up still life arrangements that echo the way she has been described – a gardener, a cook, social
    • Still life images that show the more factual items – flowers (lily and hydrangeas), jewellery, food
    • Find old images from my and her extensive photo archives that echo some of the feelings
    • Look for images of her that come to mind when I see the words – family, fashion conscious

I am going to put the words aside for a little while at allow some thoughts to simmer and to play with some trial ideas.

Initial word list:

Family Memories Sadness Beach Sleepovers Castle
Difficult Jewellery Pagham Rolladen Sarcastic Flowers
Supportive Articulate Pragmatic Articulate Pragmatic Social
Determined Caring Appearance conscious Good cook Gardener Eye for fashion
Conceited 2-faced Charming Family Prejudice WWII
Plums Hydrangeas Determined Lily Beach Tent *of sheets
Independent Proud Social Supportive Independent Black sands

Randomising process:


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4 thoughts on “Assignment 4 – Initial Thoughts”

  1. Really liking this as a starting point – I can’t wait to see how you get on! How literal are you going to be in your interpretation of the words? Are you going to use your own (or other people’s) archives? Excellent!


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