“Da Bees” commission is the bee’s knees!

A recently completed commission with a very special story, “Da Bees” commemorates a little boy who died, encapsulating a special memory of him. Fibre art was chosen to weave his story into the family fabric, and to express joy at the birth of a new baby in the family. (Names have been changed to preserve the family’s privacy.)

“Da Bees” was a commission from the grandmother of a little boy who died suddenly, aged almost two years, in December 2020. One of his great enjoyments were bees—”Da Bees” as he called them—and purple was his favourite colour.

The work was intended as a memorial: a gift to his parents on the arrival of their second child later in the year, to have a joyful thing to share and touch and share his story with later siblings. The thought behind it was a particular recollection of him, and weaving him into the new family in his absence, hence the preference for textile.

In her first of many emails, his grandmother – I’ll call her Elizabeth – wrote: “In my mind, I picture an image of lavender, in the foreground, with a… soft sky in the background. I have been lucky to source from Jewel Beetle (a silver artisan jewellery collective in Nelson), a beautiful silver bee, and would pin this subtly in the image somewhere.” Other desired elements were “the light of heaven and the tree of life”, but these ideas (accompanied by sketches and collage) came with the encouraging assurance, “Whatever works, Bronwyn, which you can enjoy creating, with the combination of skills you have demonstrated, I feel all will be fine.”

Two-thirds of the way through the original canvas, I stalled, and emailed Elizabeth: ‘Because I usually work organically and “find” the picture within the evolving work, I’m not sure I captured the suggested elements in a very natural way in the [first attempt], so I’m going to just begin stitching with the idea of “lavender”, and let the River and Tree of Life emerge, rather than trying to create them as specific elements.’

This proved effective.

In the end, inspired by the story and the colour scheme, I presented three fibre artworks for her to choose from, and Elizabeth chose the “go with the flow” artwork, which is tactile enough for careful exploration by little hands, and will be archive framed once the silver bee is added.

As I prepared to post the artwork, Elizabeth sent a joyful message: a new grandson had been born. It was lovely of her to include a photo of him for me to see. I look forward to hearing in the future about the little one’s reaction to the image and story of the brother he never met.

Loving the colours of the lavender themed works, I’m now working on a new “Luscious Lavender” range: four works to date (including “Da Bees”) and a cushion cover on the go—which I hope to finish in time for an exhibition in December.

Text and images © Bronwyn Angela White (2021)