Ickle Ockle




I have used this doll before in ‘Parasol”. She is a beautiful little Indian rag doll with a stitched on face. I think the fact that her face is threaded on is very poignant and full of symbolic richness. Where is her beauty: in her removable face, her clothes, or her jewellery? I decided to make a painting about her and where her fragile beauty lies. So, in this context, I was struck by a well-known nursery rhyme:

‘Ickle Ockle Blue Bockle

Fishes in the Sea

If you want a pretty maid

Please choose me.’

I used shisha embroidery to attach glass mirrors to the painting. The reflections engage the viewers in seeing themselves as they gaze at the subject of the painting and consider her plea. I used Olive’s embroidery silks in this piece (see ‘You May Call Me Olive’). For centuries, invisible women have put their stories, strength and dreams into the threads they have sewn, needles they have plied and the beads of their decorative crafts. In this painting, the combination of doll, nursery rhyme and applied decorative craft gives a context in which to consider any girl’s perceived beauty, worth or desirability.

Created December, 1997