Mother Young, cyanotype by Frances Earnshaw, 2013
Mother Young, cyanotype by Frances Earnshaw, 2013


Hide, cyanotype by Frances Earnshaw, 2013
Hide, cyanotype by Frances Earnshaw, 2013

Kaysha had a bang on the head and I had to take her to A&E. Arose from my ‘flu bed, spent a scary amount of money on a taxi to go and get her from school and go to Calderdale Royal. She has tunnel vision, concussion. We had to get a bus home, and I had my eyes closed all the way home.

She is brave but not brave, and so am I.

I forgot about and missed two important meetings at the Arts Mill. I am unreliable, I know.

Last week I got in to the studio, and printed six cyanotypes, images of my mother. There were no images of her pre-dating when she had my sister. There she is, holding Ruth aloft, home-made curls, floral dress, underneath which you can see me in her high, rounded belly. You would swear she was overjoyed. She was only twenty one.

My Uncle David found two photographs showing my mother in late childhood. He got them out last Christmas. They where in a biscuit tin my Uncle Patrick gave him, something which had survived angry purges of the past. I was fascinated. I spirited them away, knowing that the one portrait had the quality which draws me in to cyanotype and I saw it reproduced in that blue. (Copies will go to my sister).

It is all so complicated.

The other picture showed my mother in a belted gabardine coat, with two of her elder brothers and the father, walking grimly along in the street. My mother looks deeply angry. They all do. I will have to talk about the grandmother another time, because that is a task.

About Frances Earnshaw

Frances Earnshaw graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1985 with a Master of Arts degree.

She had a solo show at Gallery 286, Earls Court, London in November 2012. She has shown work at The Freud Museum, London, The V&A Museum of Childhood, London and at the Museum of Folk and Fai…Read more

One Response to “Being ill together”

  1. Helen Sargeant

    Dear Frances,

    I think you are very brave and not at all unreliable. Artsmill meetings are not that important are they, if you or your child are unwell. Health always should come first. I hope that you and Kaysha are feeling better now.

    These cynanotype images are so beautiful and intriguing. Mother Young looks like a film strip. The woman depicted in Hide looks to be in pain, and it makes me wonder what it is she is hiding ?

    I have some images of my mother when she was a young woman. My favourite is one of her sitting on a beach in a bikini in the 60’s with two of her friends. She is so so beautiful as she is now. I adore her face, her strong, thick red hair. Everything about her face says home and security to me. I love her. No image ever replaces the amount of pleasure that I find in spending with her.

    Yesterday we went to see my friend Teresa Wilson in Manchester and saw her exhibition The Yellow Bed based on a favourite fairy tale that Teresa’s mother used to tell to her when she was a child. We had some lovely discussion’s the three of us, about all our children and being mothers.


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