The Mending

Sarah Montroy

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What if I’m not ready to be mended? And how do I know where to start?

The Mending is a series of ceramic wall sculptures in which I explore the messy undertaking of healing and restoration, thinking through what it means to mend a life, a situation, a family, and the difficulty – plus the great possibility of beauty – that comes with that process.

The motif of the patchwork quilt is rendered in clay as a tactile carrier of stories. A domestic object of utility, the quilt protects and warms the body, and is pieced together by its maker into a complex and beautiful patchwork. Its making process is time-consuming, and each stitch carries the thoughts, laughter, tears, and hopes of that maker. Quilts are humble vessels of healing, holders of memory, and visual representations of the multitude of parts that make up a person. In their fragmented state, these ceramic wall quilts represent a life moving towards restoration, with each piece unearthed from where it was hidden, laid out for all to see, and brought together in an effort to re-make what was broken.

Each fragment is crafted from paper clay, a mix of stoneware clay and shredded paper made from the shredded writings of myself and my family members. Participants were given the framework of trauma, brokenness, and healing, and were asked to provide writing (new words or journal pages) in a sealed envelope, that was then shredded without being read by myself. The paper shreds were then broken down in water and added to watery clay, before being left to dry and eventually formed into workable clay. In the hot kiln the paper burned out leaving us with the remaining clay that is light, and bears the porous traces of the hidden words. Small remnants of my own written words are visible on the peeled edges of the fragments.

With this series I work through some of what it takes to mend generational trauma, to collectively heal as a family, and to pursue wholeness. The patchwork quilt, memorialized in paper clay and presented as aged fragments, moves towards restoration with each pinched form, each careful stitch. You cannot begin to mend unless you first lay it all out, all the broken fragments, and you let the fractures be seen. Then you can begin the life-long process of being made whole. 

there is beauty to be found in the broken

in shards laid bare

& the space between

the gaping wound, waiting for repair 

but what if I’m not ready to be mended?

i was already a patchwork 

from before my first breath,

stitched together in the womb

pinched together, pulled together

the fragments of cells became a whole 

& entered a world of pain & joy & tears & laughter 

of anger & kindness & fear & compassion & cruelty & beauty 

so much beauty

with every breath I participate in the life-long process of being made

& unmade 

of being broken 

& mended 

of being torn

& mended again 

maybe I break easily

or maybe we are all just made to break,

so that we can find the thing that holds us together

what holds you together? 

in the waiting 

in the depths of grief & pain

in the moments between The Breaking and The Mending? 

i’m not sure I even know how to stitch it back up

there is too much seeping through,

tearing at the edges of my carefully placed stitches

the un-mended brokenness of the generations before me

the pain that surrounds the people I love, sending echoes into my own being

the expectations of the world that says we should spend all our efforts & spare no expense in pursuit of our own happiness

instead of wholeness

so I try something new & begin again,

setting up the broken parts of me as monuments 

not to be forgotten, for there is too much good intermingled with the bad 

i behold the remnants

i let them be seen

i let myself be known

the patchwork of my life, layers and layers of repair coming together in a kaleidoscope of colours and textures

i’m not sure where to start

but I pick up my needle and thread 

not for the first time, and definitely not the last

The Mending I (2024) – paper clay, underglaze, thread, journal pages, sewing needle

Part 1 of The Mending series consists of 3 separate “quilt blocks”, one for me and one for each of my parents. Like part 2, they are imbued with the collected written words that burned out in the kiln. The bottom piece is in-process, with the still-attached sewing needle piercing a journal paper with the all-important question of “what if I’m not ready to be mended?”.

Magnolia (2023) – paper clay, underglaze, antique piano stool, framed family photo

An installation engaging with 4 generations of women, exploring the loss of generational learning and what it looks like to break cycles of trauma and plant new things together. My great grandmother’s piano stool presences the absence of these women who have passed, while the framed photo, decorated by my grandmother and containing an image taken by her, informs the theme of the piece. In the image I plant a Magnolia tree, a gift from grandma, in the front garden with my mom. The ceramic “petals”, the fragments that remain of passed down traumas, are being swept up and brought together in an attempt to re-make the picture into something that keeps what is good, and leaves behind what is not.

What Remains I (2023) – paper clay, underglaze, acrylic spray

what remains?

after the pressing
the pinching
the tearing and stitching

broken shards

unearthed and exposed

pulled together and torn apart

relics of what was
a map of what could be

I behold the beautiful remains and the spaces in between

and look for the new

Quilted Vessels (2022) – paper clay, underglaze, clear glaze

One of my early experiments with the technique of “quilting” with clay, crafting the classic ceramic vessel in a surprising way. Playing with interior and exterior, I think about vulnerability, about what I choose to show and what I choose to protect. I engage with imperfection and the messy traces of my very human hands, pinching each piece together.

Various Paintings (2021-2022) – acrylic on canvas

The Marks We Weave (2022)

Vanitas for the Old Growth (2021)

Storied Scraps (2022)

Homebody (2022)

Sarah Montroy

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Sarah is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Vancouver, BC, whose work integrates textile forms and textures with clay and other mediums, engaging with themes of brokenness, generational traumas and traces, and making as a method of mending and healing. After beginning her studies in Interior Design, Sarah switched her focus to fine arts, completing a diploma at Langara College, followed by a BFA at Emily Carr University. Her current series of works explores the patchwork quilt as a cultural motif & tradition, creating wall installations of aged, fabric-like fragments crafted out of paper clay, made from her own shredded writings and the collected writings of family members. Sarah employs the quilt as a vessel of memory and multiplicity, with each clay remnant holding the laughter, tears, and hopes of the maker, bringing the pieces together in an attempt to acknowledge what is broken, and stitch together something new.

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