JULIA BLACKBURN, THREADS, THE DELICATE LIFE OF JOHN CRASKE
(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