Heather Burgess in Conversation with Robert Martin for Lisburn's Art Space.
The exhibition was opened by Colette Dobson of Staffordshire University, a member of ComMA (Communication Medicine and Art).
In this textile-based work Heather Burgess shares information about the experience of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 32, and expresses her feelings about the diagnosis, her treatment and recovery. This cancer affects the thyroid gland that sits in the front of the neck. On the surface, all seemed well before the diagnosis in 2012, as everything that was happening was hidden deep inside the body.
The work uses sewing pattern pieces for collars, in reference to the location of the disease. Making the work has been a way for Heather to catalogue medical information and gain personal control over the situation, using techniques that she developed and that give her comfort: patchwork, machine embroidery, hand stitching and using small pieces of various materials.
At first glance, the work is delicately aesthetic, but closer inspection reveals a dark undertone of what was to come as the cancer diagnosis was received and the tumour removed. The fragility of the materials references the relative vulnerability of the neck and throat, as well was the precarious nature of the treatment journey.
Artist and designer Heather Burgess graduated from the University of Ulster in 2003 where she specialised in Textiles and then gained a Masters in Business Studies in 2005. Heather currently runs Rag Button alongside working at Ulster University in Belfast as a Textile and Knit Technician.