The Girl in the Golden Cage
How Tessa’s “golden cage” has brought extra vibrancy to her art
As someone living with MS, fine art textile artist Tessa Jane knew that the pandemic would affect her more than most. But what she hadn’t anticipated was the profound and positive changes the enforced isolation would bring to her life – and to her work.
For the first time, Tessa found herself really taking in the sights, sounds, lights and colours outside her upcycled caravan studio that sits in the corner of the garden at her home in Yelverton. The effect of this “noticing everything” as she put it, has been to breathe new life into her work: “Having all this selfish ‘me’ time re-invigorated my passion and gave me a fresh focus,” said Tessa. “I’m seeing things properly – and the result is that I am producing some of the best work I’ve ever produced, in my opinion.
“When I look at the work that I did in Lockdown 1, it’s more soft tentative watercolours. There’s also way too much in there. I’m not focusing on anything in particular; I’m not filtering anything out. And then I look at the work I’m doing now. It’s focused, and the colour has a vibrancy I’ve not had in my work before. I would never have used fluorescent oranges and pinks – I’d have thought them too garish. Now, I want them there. My heart is singing, and I want the colours to sing too.
“I revisited one of my previous works and changed it to add structure and bolder colours so that the composition is stronger. That relates to how I’m feeling about myself. I feel better, stronger. I’m seeing more, listening more and have greater understanding. If I was to think of one word to explain this, it would be depth. I feel I have more depth and consequently my work has too, because I’ve had this opportunity to stop, look and listen to the nature that’s all around me.”
Tessa had to shield throughout lockdown because of her weakened immune system. She admits this experience could have gone one of two ways; happily, it has proved not only positive, but transformative: “At the start, I found myself becoming uncontrollably anxious and depressed. But actually, if I hadn’t had MS, I would never have been able to bury myself in nature. I really feel like this has been a golden cage and that I am the girl in that golden cage, safe and happy in my garden and my studio – it’s what my current work is all about. In fact, I feel that my garden and my art saved me. And that in some way everything has come together perfectly: my MS, the lockdowns, observing nature, and how this has transformed me personally and my work. Without MS, I wouldn’t have shielded and none of this would have happened.”
written by Laura Joint freelance Journalist Photographs by Will Dax Photographer