Dawn Cole

Dawn Cole
Dawn Cole – Time the healer


Dawn Cole explains her proposal for the Museum our Object Research forthcoming exhibition, Time is a healer.

Time is a healer will be a body of work about healing and mending. Healing the wounds of time and memory, papering over the cracks. The work, although not entirely decided upon, is likely to include one or maybe two clock cases and a series of vintage brooches.

I have been collecting empty clock cases and broken clocks for some years. Although empty and broken in some way they still represent clocks, keepers of time, albeit in a different way to their original intent. Each one has been bought because it reminded me of something.

The first one (above) I bought because the label ‘No Guts’ reminded me of Clarice and the wounded soldiers.

The second one (below) a black slate mantle clock bought because it reminded me of the one my Nanna owned.

Dawn Cole

My Nanna lived with us from when I was 3 until she sadly had to be taken in to care when I was 15. She lived in a granny flat built onto the side of our house. Her door, across a hallway and accessed via our kitchen door, was always open, night and day. She was a constant in my early years.

Her mantle clock stood on her sideboard and as children we would be allowed to take it in tuns to wind it up. Placing the key carefully in the hole and taking care not to overwind it. The clock had chimes but Nanna never wind these as they kept her awake at night.

My Nanna, Edith Mini Smith, came from a working class family. Born in Margate in 1896, she became a maid in the household of a doctor. Her brother William was killed during WW1. She married Joseph Jackson and had a son, William Joseph, and a daughter, Eileen Edith ((my Mum). At the outbreak of WW2 her son enlisted, against his mother’s best efforts to persuade him to be a

conscientious objector. I am sure the reason from this stemmed from the experience of living through the First world War and losing her brother. William (Bill) became a Bombardier in the Royal Artillery.

Sadly I never knew my grandfather Joseph. He developed lung cancer in 1943 and was nursed at home by my Nanna and my Mum until he died in 1944. My Mum, just a teenager, recalls this time now, remembering the time her Dad tried to slit his own wrists as he was in so much pain, and how her Mum had stopped him. how he would cry and beg to be put out of his misery. What a thing to witness, let alone at a time of war with the fear of being killed by bombs and the worry of having a son and brother fighting. Joseph died in October 1944 and Bill was given compassionate leave to attend the funeral. It as to be the last time my Nanna and Mum saw him. He was killed in action on Nov 27th 1944.

So many wounds. Many, for my Mum, remain barely healed, ripping open at the slightest thing. Tearing her apart. Wounds she has lived with all her adult life. Wounds that have caused anxiety and depression and phobias. But also a strength and determination to speak about her past, to ensure it never remains buried. So much sadness through 3 generations of my family’s women – my great grandmother losing her son, my Nanna her brother; William. My Nanna losing her husband and son, my Mum her Father and Brother; Joseph.

I have very little that belonged to my Nanna. she died when I was 17 and most of her furniture and belongings were shared out amongst my older sisters who all had homes of their own. The things i have are small things contained within her jewellery box. Trinkets, nothing of monetary value, but enormously important to me. Many of the items are brooches with broken pins and stones missing. It didn’t stop her wearing them though.

And so my work will be about healing. Healing the wounds of history, of memory and of loss. Papering over the cracks.

The slate clock I will mend, using a technique similar to Japanese Kintsugi, except instead of mending the broken pieces with gold I will mend them with paper imprinted with words and rhymes my Nanna used to say to me as a child. Although not familiar with this technique I will research and experiment beforehand to learn this new skill.

The missing stones in the brooches will be replaced with tiny images overlaid with resin. Images of my Great Grandmother, my Nanna, my Mum, William, Joseph and Bill.The images made visible to the viewer using a Jewellers Loupe, a powerful magnifying glass used to ascertain the quality of a gem and the worth of a piece of jewellery. I will supply the eyeglass.

There may also be a second clock, a kind of sun dial, containing the words ‘time is healer’ etched onto the glass, and barely visible except when the shadow the etching will cast on the back of the clock becomes visible when placed in direct light (this one needs some experimentation so may not happen). Or this may end up as a film, projected into the void space of the clock case.

Knowing how I work I also envisage that it is likely that I will make a series of prints to accompany the work as this usually happens as part of the research process offering me a way in to each piece and providing the 2 dimensional version of the object which I find easier to work with when developing my ideas.