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Hand-writing the diary

Oct 1st  1915

Several cases gone to England and fresh ones in. Wounds are not very bad , but bad enough. Blue is better, but makes a terrible noise when leg is dressed, makes ones heart bleed. Off duty at 5pm and went to nurses club where there is reading and tea room downstairs and writing room upstairs. Pay 2 francs, warmth,  very comfy.

Over last few weeks I have been transcribing Clarice’s diary so that I can transfer the text to a screen for screen printing on to the pillowcases. I have been doing this by photocopying each page of the diary. I try to avoid handling the diary as much as possible as it is now very fragile. The ink is  very faded and hard to read so I have then been carefully writing over the top of the photocopies with a fountain pen. I had forgotten the pleasure of writing with fountain pen and now find myself using one all the time. The act of carefully copying over Clarice’s writing has set me thinking  – was she left-handed or right-handed? I think most probably right as being left-handed myself I have found some strokes of the letters difficult to replicate. What sort of pen did she use? What time of day did she write? What made her give her diary a title – Adventures of a VAD? All unanswerable questions but as I am writing and following the form of her letters I have found myself gradually getting a small insight in to her. Her writing is very small, and she must have used a pen with a very fine nib. Some of the letters are hurriedly formed and I find myself writing quickly to be able to accurately replicate the flow from letter to letter. I have found that writing slowly creates lines that appear too forced and unnatural.

The finished page is then re-scanned and enlarged, printed on to translucent paper and then exposed to the screen.

It is clear from the resulting piece that there are two layers to the text – hers and mine fused together and etched into the finished pillowcases.

I have been using the Devore process to etch the text into the fabric, but instead of washing out the burnt cotton fibres I have chosen to leave them to fall out over time. Eventually leaving only a trace of the written words. It feels a bit like archaeology in reverse, creating something that I know will eventually only exist as a trace and that will need some close inspection and investigation to reveal itself.

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