This amazing book by Kate Davies is a memoir like no other. In its thoughtful chapters, Kate explores and makes connections between disability and creative processes. Reclaiming disability as in itself a form of practical creativity, Handywoman is an invaluable contribution to ongoing and much-needed conversations about accessibility, disability and craft. However, the ideas it contains will be of interest to anyone interested in how we think and in how we make.
The book builds out of Kate’s own experiences of having been paralysed by a stroke at the age of 36 – an event which ended her career as a literary academic and forced her to find a new direction. Drawing on her life-long passion for craft and creativity, she found agency and a means to support herself through writing and knitwear design.
Handywoman tells this story. But it is not a book about Kate’s triumph over adversity; it is not a book about overcoming the odds. Rather, it's about the extraordinary power that comes from fashioning things with our hands, and about how experiences of disability reframe our relationship with daily tasks, with everyday things, and with one another.
From teaching the post-stroke self how to braid hair and walk again; from discovering the joy of interdependence to the dignifying and transformative effects of good design; from building a new identity as a disabled walker to expressing concepts of pacing and recovery in stranded colourwork; this book is ultimately about how the experience of brain injury allowed Kate to build a new kind of handmade life.
“Handywoman is about what it means to knit a sweater. About the idea of walking when one finds oneself in a body that no longer walks. About learning how to dance when half of your body barely moves at all. About just how difficult it is to accept the self after major physical change. About love and friendship. About a dog… It’s about living life creatively, and being supported by an extraordinary creative community. And it’s about thinking about how good design might contribute to the development of a more inclusive, a more human, public sphere.”
– Kate Davies, Handywoman
See handywomanbook.com for Kate’s galleries and thoughts behind each chapter
Watch Kate’s Handywoman TEDx talk to hear the author speaking
260 page paperback book litho-printed
Cover by Fabulous Cat Papers
First published by Makadu Press in 2018
Printed in the UK by Bell & Bain, Glasgow