This is an ongoing project conducted by designer maker, Harriet Poppy Speed. She first studied this topic during her dissertation, part of the BA in Furniture Design and Make at Rycotewood Furniture Centre in Oxford.

She writes, “Death is part of life. Every year the seasons take us through a cycle of death and rebirth, we are all immortal beings, and as the famous saying goes: ‘all good things must come to an end’. Yet death and the bereavement process are still considered taboo subjects within contemporary, British society. With studies showing that 73% of the public believe that people in Britain are uncomfortable discussing dying and deaths (The National Council for Palliative Care, 2016). Although counselling does exist, opportunities for therapy are not only constrained resources in our current political system, this research indicates that it is often not even a consideration of those experiencing loss or bereavement.

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I am a furniture maker with a passion for creating a wide scope of things. The catalyst for this research comes from my personal experience. Encountering death from as young an age as seven years old, craft and creativity have become something of an emotional crutch for my life; now shaping the direction of my future. As well as my own bereavement, the losses experienced by others close to me during my adolescence furthered my understanding of what it is like to lose something or someone. In spite of it all, I believe that it is my love of making that has always reassured me.

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The intention of this study, therefore, is to document the different approaches adopted during bereavement by carrying out interviews with individuals and field specific experts. The interviewees represent craftspeople, counsellors, and respondents. Through research and analysis, the aim is to determine what similarities are presented across all recorded coping methods, and therefore enhance our understanding of to what extent craft is effective as a healing process. The approach taken towards this discussion will be from the perspective of a craftswoman who has experienced significant losses during her lifetime, in order to evaluate the approaches adopted during times of bereavement, a period of time leading up to or following a loss.

This is The Maker’s Guide to Grief: an analysis of how craft provides solace during bereavement.”

The dissertation informed her final design and make project of the course; the outcome being her award winning Corkey’s Cabinet. This piece went on to inspire a collaborative film project by students from Northern Film School and Harriet Poppy Speed, entitled A Maker’s Guide to Grief.

A Maker's Guide to Grief Poster

Harriet gave a talk on her Maker’s Guide to Grief project in March 2018 at Oxford’s Old Fire Station, bringing the first This Girl Makes Exhibition to a close. She intends to continue her research on this topic, in order to expand her personal portfolio of work, and to eventually have the study published.

Her research poster was awarded first prize at the Oxford Brookes Get Published conference in 2018 and outlines the findings of this personal project.

Click here to view research poster