EADT Suffolk - - Books -

(Jonathan Cape, April 2015). In 1917, not long af­ter his 36th birthday, John Craske be­came se­ri­ously ill. For the rest of his days he drifted in and out of what was la­belled “a stu­porous state”. Then in 1923 he be­gan cre­at­ing paint­ings of the sea, boats and coast­line. Later, too ill to stand and paint, he took up em­broi­dery – some­thing he could do while lying in his bed. These also fea­tured the sea. His pièce de ré­sis­tance was a very large em­broi­dery of the evac­u­a­tion of Dunkirk.

There are pre­cious lit­tle facts known about John Craske, but, her in­ter­est piqued, Ju­lia Black­burn, who lives near Halesworth, went on a quest to find out what she could. Her series of jour­neys took her to a de­cay­ing ho­tel by the North Sea, fish­er­men’s cot­tages at Sher­ing­ham, to Cromer and other places linked to his life.

Judges said the sub­se­quent book Threads: The Del­i­cate Life of John Craske was “Beau­ti­fully writ­ten, beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated and beau­ti­fully pro­duced – a life of re­dis­cov­ered ge­nius”. There’s added poignancy be­hind the en­ter­prise. Ju­lia Black­burn’s hus­band – the Dutch sculp­tor Her­man Makkink – died in the au­tumn of 2013, be­fore the book was fin­ished.

Ju­lia Black­burn- Bram­field au­thor and New An­gle win­ner

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