|Artist: Victoria Secomb
Title: Kindred Spirit
Dimensions: 2500mm X 2000mm
Why did you choose to work on a shroud rather than a coffin?
I chose to work on a shroud because I knew there was an endless amount of possibilities; I could immediately picture what I could do with a shroud, whereas I couldn’t see what I wanted to do with a coffin. Maybe a coffin felt fixed and a shroud fluid, I’m not sure. I hope to continue adding to my shroud for the rest of my life. In saying that I intend to build a coffin alongside my family in 2024, the coffin will become an extension of the shroud and what it represents to me and my family.
What materials have you used for your artwork?
My shroud is made from seeded calico. I first dyed my shroud in a mixture of ground coffee beans and Tumeric. Felt forms the base of the tree and I have hand painted each of the leaves using water colour paints. The tree itself is made of paperbark from a tree near our home. I have collected it as it has fallen from the tree over the months since I began working on the shroud.
What is the story behind your artwork. What does it represent about you and your life story?
I’ve found trees a great source of inspiration throughout my life. The way in which they assist one another through their underground root systems. The firm foundation on which they rest, the beauty and depth of colours they create upon our landscape and the fragility of the leaves and the strength they endure against the elements such as the wind. Then one day the leaves simply let go, fluttering to the ground with such grace, breaking down upon the earth providing nutrients to the earth and the microorganisms that reside there. The tree is a provider of life, a home and a place to rest. The girth of the tree is a representation of its strength and the height of the tree a representation of its age, each unique and each containing beauty. The tree embraces the changes and develops systems to overcome. I can learn from the tree, and wish to wrap myself in the tree and give thanks to the trees for grounding me when I lose myself in my thoughts. My shroud has 52 leaves to represent each year of my life. I shall add a leaf for every year of my life.
What are 3 things you have learned from being part of the eco coffin project?
I discovered I have control over how my death can look and feel and my children can feel empowered at the time of my death knowing they have an understanding of my wishes. For example, if I can die at home that would be wonderful. I would like a death Doula present to ease the burden on my family and to assist in the process for them and I.
What is one thing you will do (or have done already) differently as a result from being part of the project?
I have learnt to be kinder to myself, to accept myself for who I am now, so that I can be open to being braver, doing more of the things I hope to do in my life and to stop doing things I no longer want to do. Procrastination has held me back, but no more. It’s time to live a fuller life, love deeper and accept easier.
Any other thoughts or comments you would like to add?
I hope to see the project expand for younger people, adding an art component as a workshop on natural dyeing.
I encourage you, future participants in this project, to invite your children, your parents, your friends to join you on this journey. A journey that has provided me with so many fulfilling moments beyond the workshops. I have gone through photos, watched my children find a new found interest in their family tree and shared stories and fears without fear of prejudice around death and dying with those I’m closest to, that is a real gift.