Artist with cancer seeks help to create ‘cape of creative courage'

Louise Gardiner has been asked by Marchmont House in the Scottish Borders to make the cape.

An artist who has cancer is calling for a “loving army of helpers” to stitch a flying acorn as part of a project to create a cape celebrating hope, courage and creativity.

Louise Gardiner has been asked by Marchmont House in the Scottish Borders to create The Cape Of Creative Courage, alongside an exhibition of flying acorns contributed by people from the UK and overseas.

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

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

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

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

She said: “The cape is incredibly relevant to me now. Hugo commissioned me some time ago, six months later I was diagnosed with cancer which rather put a halt to any progress.

“It was all looking incredibly bleak until I found an immunotherapy trial for women with clear cell ovarian cancer which has, so far, saved my life. It’s shrunk the cancer all over my body. It lasts 18 months and there are six months to go.

“I’ve also been doing a lot for myself. I’ve been continuing to use my own creativity and intuition to get through what has been an incredibly frightening rollercoaster ride. It’s been a gargantuan challenge.

“I’ve had lots of symptomatic problems, one of the main things being fatigue, which is something I’m fighting with every day. So I’m going to be doing this with all my strength and courage – inspired all the way by the Oak and Acorn stories.

“And now I’m basically calling in a wonderful, loving army of helpers to rally me on and help me create the cloak.”

As part of the project, the artist is being supported by the Marchmont Makers Foundation to work with charities such as Garvald in Edinburgh and ReTweed in the Borders to lead in-person sessions showing people how to make acorns and passing on some of her skills.

People sewing
People have helped to stich flying acorns for the project (Colin Hattersley Photography/PA)

The artist, 50, added: “It’s a project about hope, courage, strength and all the qualities that we associate with the acorns and oak trees.

“It’s also about inspiration that grows from a tiny seed, about finding the courage to start something new, finding your creative voice and connecting to the community.”

The cape is due to be completed for next spring and it is hoped it will go on tour along with the accompanying acorn exhibition.

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

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

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