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Cancer artist seeks help to create “head of creative courage”

An artist who has cancer asks for a “loving army of helpers” to sew a flying acorn as part of a project to create a cape that celebrates hope, courage and creativity.

Louise Gardiner was invited by Marchmont House in the Scottish Borders to create The Cape Of Creative Courage, along with an exhibition of flying acorns provided by people from the UK and overseas.

She said the cloak is now “incredibly relevant” to her as she was diagnosed with stage four clear cell ovarian cancer about 18 months ago after she was commissioned to create the artwork.

The artist, who lives in Bristol, hopes people will send letters, write poetry or share photos explaining their stories of healing and courage, to accompany their flying acorns.

Louise Gardiner
Artist Louise Gardiner with a previous cloak she made (Colin Hattersley Photography / PA)

The flying acorn is the symbol of Marchmont House, a 1750 Palladian mansion near Greenlaw that is now a home for artists and creators, with Hugo Burge as director.

He said: “The cloak is incredibly important to me now. Hugo commissioned it to me some time ago, six months later I was diagnosed with cancer which rather stopped all progress.

“It all seemed incredibly depressing until I found an immunotherapy test for women with clear cell ovarian cancer that, so far, has saved my life. It reduced the cancer in my whole body. It lasts 18 months and there are six months left.

“I’ve also done a lot for myself. I continued to use my creativity and intuition to overcome what was an incredibly scary roller coaster ride. It was a gigantic challenge.

“I’ve had a lot of symptomatic problems, one of the main things was fatigue, which is something I struggle with every day. So I will do it with all my strength and courage, inspired in all respects by the stories of Oak and Acorn.

“And now I’m practically calling a wonderful and loving army of helpers to gather me and help me create the cloak.”

As part of the project, the artist is supported by the Marchmont Makers Foundation to partner with charities such as Garvald in Edinburgh and ReTweed in the Borders to conduct in-person sessions that show people how to make acorns and pass on some of her skills.

People who sew
People helped stich flying acorns for the project (Colin Hattersley Photography / PA)

The 50-year-old artist added: “It is a project about hope, courage, strength and all the qualities we associate with acorns and oaks.

“It’s also about inspiration growing from a small seed, finding the courage to start something new, find your creative voice and connect with the community.”

The cloak is expected to be completed by next spring and will hopefully go on tour along with the accompanying acorn show.

Lucy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of the Marchmont Makers Foundation, said: “Louise’s creative energy is the driving force behind this commission for Marchmont and the Marchmont Makers Foundation is delighted to help bring that energy to our local community here in the Scottish. Borders, as well as engaging with groups of social enterprises that share our approach to cultivate creativity ”.

Anyone wishing to contribute can find out more on Facebook @Louisegardinerembroidery, Twitter @loulougardiner and on Instagram @lou_gardiner_embroidery.

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