A Good Shave

Ten years ago I received a strange email marked ‘cacklegoose’. Curious both because the author was nameless but more so due to she? he? offering ‘artistic material’ in the form of 328 razor blades. Further corresponding revealed it was from the writer and publisher Michael Raeburn of Cacklegoose Press. When his father, Walter Raeburn, died in 1972 Michael discovered a box of all the razor blades he’d used since the late 1920s along with the well worn razor in its purple velvet-lined case.

Each blade was returned to its inner and outer wrapping, marked with a date and sometimes words or a code to indicate how good a shave it had given – the last one has ‘ha ha’ written on it. I thought it important to make a work that showed the entire group and I remember doodling spiral shapes as a means to maintain a sequence and fit them all into one frame. To familiarise myself with the collection I knitted a long narrow strip of pockets, each containing an individual laminated colour reproduction of all the packets in date order from 1927 to 1971. The excessive length made it difficult to exhibit but it was shown in London and later Norway running along a low plinth. I felt dissatisfied with its presentation but size made framing awkward and unaffordable so it sat folded on a shelf for many years.

After a long and full life my father passed in 2010. He, like Walter, was always a wet shaver and I often saw his daily ritual performed at the kitchen sink. Working on biographical pieces for an exhibition in Jutland I decided the razor blade collection would fit well. I used a little of my inheritance and the expertise of Rowley Gallery to finally frame the sampler as I had originally envisaged. It required a massive piece of mounting card to pin out the spiral but the moment I started coiling and pinning the work took on a power and presence. I loved looking at this framed ammonite in my studio for the month before shipping to Denmark. As these things work out the piece I’d like to have kept was the only work to sell, but it has convinced me good framing is an investment worth making.

Susie Freeman / The Rowley Gallery

Frames of reference

One thought on “A Good Shave”

  1. What a beautiful piece – it’s alive! I love the last comment: ‘Ha! Ha!’ Reminds me of the famous suicide note: ‘All this buttoning and unbuttoning.’ Walter must have shaved an area the size of Wales in his life time (or at least a chin the size of a whale) but he obviously enjoyed it. And now we can enjoy it too. Bravo!

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