Heather Burgess, Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland



[Note: Heather Burgess, of Rag Button, sent me the following text and photographs (see gallery at the bottom of the post), about Volume 1 of The Collar Series’, which follows being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. You can learn more about Heather and the series on Twitter (@ragbutton) and on Instagram (@ragbutton).]

The Collar Series

Volume 1: The Delinquent Butterfly

“Hidden like a sentence deep within”

In 2012 I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer at the age of 32 (this type of cancer effects the Thyroid gland that sits in the front of the neck). In response to this I have been developing a series of collars, an item sometimes worn on the neck for decoration. They are an expression of the above event, my therapy and my catalogue of information. The Collar Series is made up of 3 volumes containing 3 collars in each, Volume 1 – Diagnosis, Volume 2 – Treatment and Volume 3 – Recovery.

There was nothing to see before my diagnosis, everything that was happening was hidden deep inside and on the surface all seemed just fine.

The collars progress and appear altered from the first to the last. Small changes and hints are discreetly added. Text from old books and printed words will offer an insight into my feelings and the information revealed at diagnosis. The pieces are created using techniques I love and that give me comfort, patchwork, machine embroidery, hand stitching and using little bits of materials to construct the body of each collar. To those viewing the pieces they will look like nice pretty collars, decorative and aesthetically pleasing, but with an undertone of things that were to come, the darkness that is a cancer diagnosis.

I have chosen materials that give a fragile or delicate appearance, as the neck is a delicate part of the body. The stitching is a combination of both hand and digital embroidery; I employed the use of digital embroidery to stitch out the thyroid cancer cells (taken from my own pathology slides) and butterfly, these can be seen on the left hand side of the butterfly, a dusky purple colour (thyroid cancer cells are roughly this colour).

Dimensions and Materials

One collar 28cm (L) x 29cm (W) x 1.5cm (D, flat)

Blue wool fabric, linen, silk, silk crepeline, vintage fabric, embroidery thread. Machine stitching, hand stitching, digital embroidery, template patchwork, patchwork and inkjet printed fabric.