A Roomful of Stories; in winter colours (performance detail), 2017, Jill Sampson.

A Roomful of Stories; in winter colours

A Roomful of Stories; in winter colours
2017 – ongoing.
performance and installation with Horse Stories audio
Vintage hand made horse rugs (circa 1970), bamboo, hay string, horse tails (collected from own horses and ponies), dressmaker dummy, eco-dyed wool blankets, silk thread, needle, yarn.
Duration: 15 minutes of multiple performances until cloak is complete.
Installation size: variable

A Room Full of Stories: in winter colours, is inspired by the horses and ponies that I have shared my life with. Feisty, troubled, unruly, gentle, determined, sometimes dangerous, more than 25 horses have lived on the family farm. Most lived out their lives on the farm; their bones after death lay slowly exposed and over time scattered across a paddock we now call The Bones Paddock, their tails collected and stored after death.

This installation evokes stories about Corker, my childhood pony who played in the evenings with the orphaned dingo pup or Jinksie who tried every trick you can imagine to keep from being ridden. Champ who rarely walked, but jogged everywhere, ready to run, Hee Haw, who looked less like a donkey as he grew older. There is also Dandy, my Father’s horse, quick on his feet, who would rear on a given signal and Granite who had been a buck jumper on the rodeo circuit before coming to the Sampson’s.

A Room Full of Stories: in winter colours, is a performance, within an installation.

In the performance, a mythic horse shaman sews a horsetail cloak with the tails of the many horses who have lived on the family farm. This cloak will carry the stories of these much loved souls. When the cloak is finished the shaman wears the cloak to both embody the essence of these horses and to carry their stories forward. The Shaman becomes both the horses and their memory keeper.

A Room Full of Stories: in winter colours, is also about the objects and people who made and mended them. Two of these rugs were made for the race horses trained by a man that we once knew. His family were poor but race horses were his passion. When they left the house that they rented, on land that my Father leased for farming, these rugs were left behind. You can see where the grey wool blankets that once lined these rugs have been cut away from the potato sacking, so the most valuable part of these rugs can be reused. This man, George, who made these rugs, shot himself at his next home. It took him three days to die. His daughter and I were friends. My Father kept the discarded rugs and they have been used over many years to cover a sick cow that is down and unable to rise, or a horse in need of some extra protection against the cold.

My parents made the smaller rug for Mabel, my Mother’s pony. When my Mother came to Australia, Mabel carried her to and from the bush primary school. Down the mountain side deep into the valley and back up the steep slope again at the end of the day. I remember Mabel wearing this rug, she was very old by then and the winters could be extremely tough.

These rugs come from a past when a make-do ethic was prevalent and the repurposing of materials, such as potato sacks, into something essential, was commonplace. When most could not afford to buy horse rugs. These are objects with a purpose that were kept, mended and reused as required, accreting mending materials and stories along the way.

Playing dress ups with Mabel.
In this photo Mabel is wearing her potato sack rug that now forms part of the installation A Roomful of Stories; in winter colours. Mabel stands patiently dozing while I dress her up in ribbons, beads and artificial flowers. I would have brushed her mane and coat first as the horse brush lies discarded at my feet.