It was a familiar sight back in the day – Pauline Gift wandering up and down the avenues, bicycle piled high with eclectic garments she had unearthed to sell in her shop. Stocking vintage treasures and trinkets long before they were cool, Pauline’s Gift Shop was loved by many, but it was the Pauline herself who had a lasting effect on her customers.
In this touching installation for Made In Hull, local artist Helga Gift works autobiographically, using found objects and materials to recreate snippets of her beloved mother’s shop and home.
Reflecting on her mother’s final years before her death in 2012, it focuses on Pauline’s interaction with those she met, where conversations were peppered with stories, humour and sound advice.
We caught up with Helga to find out more…
WHY DID YOU WANT TO GET INVOLVED WITH MADE IN HULL?
As an artist who grew up in Hull, studied here and continues to live in the city, this was an exciting opportunity to get involved in the UK City of Culture programme. I feel very strongly about Hull and its diverse people and I’ve never been involved in a project like this so it has been great to work with the team to create the installation.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR INSTALLATION IN ONE SENTENCE?
Pauline’s Gift Shop Emporium is about the different periods of one person’s life – active and inert.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR MOTHER, PAULINE, AND HER UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTER.
My mother was at the forefront of the women’s liberation movement in this country, and was very active in grassroots political groups. She strongly believed in social justice for those supported by the welfare system and worked tirelessly with the claimants’ union to improve the lives of struggling families. As a single mother of five, she always found a way to earn an income by doing something she loved.
When her involvement in political groups ended, her shop became an informal advice centre where she would offer her unlimited wisdom and support to anyone who needed it.
HOW DID THE CONCEPT DEVELOP FROM THE INITIAL NARRATIVE?
I had been thinking about recreating the space, which my mother inhabited in the last years of her life, for some time. The development of this idea came in the form of three separate pop-up shops, situated on Whitefriargate, which each tell different stories but work together to celebrate my mother’s life and the relationships formed during her time in the shop.
WHAT COULD VISITORS FEEL WHEN EXPERIENCING YOUR INSTALLATION?
For friends and the many people that knew her, there may be a sense of nostalgia, reminiscing and possibly even sadness as we explore my mother’s later years. Those that didn’t know her will recognise the demise of the archetypal old woman – a true character and a possible mother figure to the faceless high street.
HOW CAN PEOPLE GET INVOLVED WITH YOUR INSTALLATION?
The installation has been created in a disused shop, and is very much a physical and visual experience. People can come along and enjoy the show, but it would be wonderful to see comments, stories and images in the digital world through social media.
FINALLY, WHAT WAS THE GREATEST ADVICE THAT YOUR MOTHER GAVE TO YOU?
Never eat yellow snow.
Don’t miss Pauline’s Gift Shop Emporium – a Made In Hull installation taking place on Whitefriargate from 4pm-9pm on 1-7 January 2017.