Cornish textile artist and illustrator Elizabeth Loveday delights in the weird and wonderful and admits she’s generally attracted to dark, slightly odd or disturbing subjects. She makes surreal, often bizarre pictorial textiles inspired by local folk tales and her work ranges from images of mad-looking clowns, mournful performing half human beasts and real life, political activists. ‘I don’t want my work to be cute or beautiful,’ she says, adding, ‘I like things to be a bit dangerous and I want to challenge people’s ideas about what textiles should depict.’
It is unsurprising that Loveday’s Suffragette series, a group of textile portraits of some of the movement’s key figures, is a long way away from the group’s conventional depictions. The images are not direct copies of photographs but rather show Loveday’s imaginative interpretation of the Suffragette experience (both emotional and physical). In the process she turns this pantheon of political heroines into a series of real-life women.
For example, instead of showing figures such as the formidable Millicent Fawcett as calm and heroic in the face of masculine intransigence, she pictures her as tired and vulnerable, her hair a bird’s nest of grey and her mouth bruised. Loveday’s cameo of Flora Stevenson is haggard with violet shadows under her eyes – possibly an incipient black eye - and her image of Frances Buss shows the great advocate of women's education with a gaping hole where her mouth should be, perhaps in recognition of the way women's voices were silenced at the time.