A tapestry tale

Kingston artist Rebecca Soudant works through the nausea and joys of her pregnacy in A Tapestry of Birth

Rebecca Soudant’s husband created the metal-scrolling device that kept her tapestry intact.
Rebecca Soudant’s husband created the metal-scrolling device that kept her tapestry intact.
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Rebecca Soudant is now pregnant with her second child and is working on another embroidery.
Rebecca Soudant is now pregnant with her second child and is working on another embroidery.
Photo: 

Most pregnant women spend the months leading up to their child’s birth decorating the nursery and getting extra sleep. Kingston artist Rebecca Soudant didn’t stop working. She documented everything from her morning sickness to her fears of a miscarriage on a 35-foot tapestry.

Soudant’s A Tapestry of Birth, on display at Union Gallery, records her pregnancy with her first child, Anna.

The turquoise background and red thread cursive detail give the tapestry an innocent feel. A witch on a broom lends to the childish appeal, while a rich floral pattern keeps the story flowing from one scene to the next.

Soudant normally works in oil paint and welding, but tapestry allowed her to work without exposing her unborn child to toxins. She sewed every stitch by hand — a seven-month project starting when Soudant was five months pregnant.

“My husband and stepson took photos of me and I took photos of them, role-playing the scenes for my tapestry,” Soudant said. “You can only imagine how many laughs we had trying to re-enact emotions after the fact. 

“It was these photos that I worked from for the tapestry scenes.” 

The most moving scene is Soudant lying in a hospital bed after having a miscarriage.

“I was going to have twins and one died, so I was set on a path of worry right from the start,” she said.

Soudant said images of burning clocks symbolize going into labour and her inability to keep track of her contractions. The scene where she’s falling documents her father’s concerns about the baby being baptized. The most clear scenes are of Soudant throwing up into a bucket, while struggling with extreme nausea in the first trimester.

Soudant said she uses images of needles to recalls the H1N1 outbreak during her pregnancy.

“I was worried about the vaccine, taking the vaccine,” Soudant said. “There was much more pressure but with little information.

“Many people asked if it was an heirloom and it was never meant to be that,” she said. “Maybe,now, with the ending so positive, I’d consider it more of a family keepsake but still, not really. It was always more meant to be informative. I’m more focused and happy with the outcome and a beautiful girl that we have then what the tapestry is.”

A Tapestry of Birth opens today in the Project Room of Union Gallery and will run until Oct. 28. A joint reception with Agnes McPhail’s CRYBABY will be held on Sept. 30 from 7 to 9 p.m.

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