My Mother wore a Corset

Four images - a photograph, needles, jewellery, drawings with French captions“It started with a consideration of the disease which caused my mother to die young: AIH Auto Immune Hepatitis. Research online left me cold so one day I gathered together the few possessions I have of hers including a very worn copy of a Larousse and a book she was writing about her time in a London hospital.

We lived in Sussex and the biography opens with Peggotty in an ambulance on a painful journey to University College Hospital on Gower Street. 10 years later I had my first child in that same red brick building, taking comfort that although mum hadn’t lived to meet Leo, Matthew or Ruby she had spent enough time in that space to write a memoir.

The book is written up by my dad on our old typewriter – thin paper with aged edges, touching memories, playing with the keys, ribbon winding – creamy well handled paper like worn cloth…

I often use corsets in my textile work and realise this stems from mum always wearing a peachy pink medical corset. Stitched panels, a zig zaggery of lacing threading through eyelets to tightly hold a velvet ‘saddle’, shaped to support the curve of her spine. She told me in her twenties she lifted a bed the wrong way and there was no going back to a back without pain.”

Susie Freeman

Materials in this installation include Peggotty’s hospital memoir, an ironing board chain, whalebone stays, French encyclopaedia.

2020