Artists everywhere were invited to make and donate a panel, set to a template, on the understanding that it would be stitched together with others for exhibition. The aim was to create a lasting record of the pandemic, made during the pandemic.
Now complete, The Covid Chronicle measures 36 x 1 metre and is comprised of 140 panels each measuring 50cm2, with an additional 'title page' which is 1m square. The panels submitted from 15 countries around the world were curated for colour and style and made into metre square units for ease of handling and hanging.
Initially the idea was to auction the squares in aid of MIND, but this changed as the artists made it clear they felt the work made a stronger statement together. A donation will still be made to MIND thanks to a sale of textile hearts made by the artists for Riverside Studios, but fittingly, it has been agreed that The Covid Chronicle itself will be donated to Chelsea & Westminster Hospital who would like to display it in their public foyer spaces in Fulham & Twickenham as a mark of thanks to all NHS staff who made so many personal sacrifices during the pandemic.
"Literally stitching my own story to that of others seemed like a perfect antidote to the disconnect I felt." Naomi Adams, participating artist.
"The Covid Chronicle is a stitched textile of one hundred and forty parts. It is the result of a masterpiece of vision by artist Wendy Bliss. To have recognised that this epidemic was worthy of recording by seeking an international response through interpretation of thoughts was unique in itself, but to have collated and organised the resulting testaments with needle and thread is a triumph. The work clearly demonstrates mental creativity and agility from all those who have so skillfully stitched their memories transposing them into a moving and unique work of art." Diana Springall, Art Collector, Author and Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Broderers.
This project has generated so much enthusiasm and support that if I were to list all the names I'd never stop - the list just keeps growing. I can make a solid start by thanking my husband Vaughan, who supported me when my own artistic mojo was so depleted during lockdown, February 2021, and who encouraged me to create something out of something so disruptive and destructive. I'd like to thank Maxwell Flood and Liam Murphy for securing the name The Covid Chronicle for social media and this website; also Jessica Flood-Murphy and Matilda Fox for their help navigating behind the scenes of Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/the_covid_chronicle/) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/thecovidchronicle).
Without the engagement of the amazing artists represented here, there would be no Covid Chronicle, so my heartfelt gratitude and thanks go to all those who embraced this project with their time, talents and trust, to craft and donate their personal stories so beautifully shared in images and text. Particular mention and thanks must go to Lesley Fudge and Jo Butler for making stunning title panels for The Covid Chronicle, and to Michelle Gilder for organising 15 makers in Iran. I would like to thank you all for the friendly chatter and ongoing support behind the scenes.
Without my 'Dream Seam Team' who helped me stitch together and line the panels, I may have struggled to turn around the assembly of 140 panels into lined metre-blocks in time for the first exhibition at Sunbury Embroidery Gallery in February. Help came in the shape of Elizabeth Reid, Kristin Ursell and Diane Boiling, along with Patricia Fraser, Jane Thomson, Lucy Tubbs, Deb Farmelo, Jan Hopkins, Jenny Jeffris, Jenny Myers and Manoela Grigorova; also Nick Tilt, Maxine Pringle, Diane Boiling and Debbie Stewart for their help and advice on hanging systems for textiles.
My thanks go to brand consultancy, Grotesk Studio, where The Covid Chronicle logo and website were designed and constructed; to Nick Bolt who arranged the layout of the artwork and words for the catalogue as well as dealing with the printers on my behalf; to Michael Escolme at Spode Gallery in Stoke who masterminded the production of a video interview for use in the tour venues (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm14Q53oNWY); also to Diana Springall, textile artist-collector, who visited Sunbury and wrote a much-valued, enthusiastic endorsement for the project.
Thanks go to Marcus Beale Architects for acting as poste-restante for the panels, and for their continued support and sponsorship of my community arts endeavours. I am also grateful to Peter Thomson whose enthusiasm helped build awareness and direct donations to the Crowdfunding page. Peter's practical help also introduced me to various NHS Trusts, the Lightbox, Riverside Studios, and Tinx Newton writing for Surrey Life.
My thanks also go to the artists who stepped up to make textile hearts for sale at Riverside Studios in aid of MIND, and all who so generously donated to the Crowdfunding page for the setting up and running of The Covid Chronicle tour. For their additional sponsorship of the publication of the catalogue, my gratitude goes to Chippenham Museum; the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum in Birkenhead; Studio 40 in Neath; and Sunbury Embroidery Gallery.
As the exhibition has moved around the country I'd like to extend my special thanks to: Rachel Tackley and Chris Martin at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith for hosting a wonderful launch event; to Melissa Barnett's team at Chippenham whose online shop dealt with a tsunami of requests for catalogues; to Alison Bailey-Smith for arranging for a live interview with Helen Jones on BBC Radio Merseyside; to curator Niall Hodson at the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum in Birkenhead, for especially reopening their Gallery 1 to house The Covid Chronicle; to John Hawks of Merton Priory Trust who installed a new hanging system funded by the Wandle Fortnight organisers; and to Rosemary Cassidy-Buswell who arranged for live music for the opening launch in Neath.
The final stop for The Covid Chronicle is scheduled for spring 2023 when it will be displayed for all to see in the public spaces at CHELSEA & WESTMINSTER HOSPITAL in Fulham, and the Middlesex Hospital in Twickenham, as a mark of thanks to the NHS staff for their personal sacrifices made during the pandemic.
Thank you for your interest in this very special project.