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Writing (MA)

Sally Button

Sally is an artist and writer, amongst other things.

She lives and works in Lancaster in the north west of England. In the past, she has lived and worked in Cornwall – where she completed her BA (First Class Honours) in Drawing at Falmouth University – and London.

She tends to write (draw, print, think, speak) about textiles, bodies, time, memory, nature, place.

A scanned sketchbook page of line drawings - hands touching, hands holding feet in checked stockings - and notes on infinity.

I write and make to gather, to scatter, to weave, to hold. My practice is modelled by a drifting attention span and drifting associations. It works through different materials, mediums, processes, chronologies. Writing emerges as the constant: as the method of tying these meandering thoughts, darting compulsions, made of words or sounds or marks or movements, into a series of objects that might pin down or confuse, always examining how we translate art into life and life into art.

Scanned book page with a contents list: Dressing, Bodies, Love, Dart, Exposition, The performance, Slip, Skin, Solace
Scanned double page spread on grey background with one section of text per page. The first page of the book
Scanned thread bound double page spread on grey background. Left page has one sentence written, right page is full of text
Scanned single page spread on black background with one section of text filling half the page. Fingertips press the page down.
Scanned double page spread. The left side is peeling away into darkness, a blue knit garment on the page. Right side has text
Scanned double page spread on grey background. Left side is the end of a section of text, 4 lines. Right side is full.
Scanned double page spread on grey background, text on both sides, thread bound down the centre
Scanned thread bound single page spread. An arm is in the darkness behind, pressing the book to the scanner.Small amount of text

SLIPS (2023) was written to mark the end of my MA in Writing. Though, I will tell you, perhaps more accurately, that it was not written to conclude so much as to begin examining in closer detail the many years I have spent considering the garments we dress our bodies in. The portion of these thoughts that have been written down over the past year question how the state of the emotional mind can influence what we wear, and how what we wear too influences that mind. Using the body as an anchor, I write through memory and emotion to examine how textiles and creative practice can impact the relationship we have to ourselves and our bodies. This work is structured through nine parts made up of ramblings, reflections, distractions, obsessions.

SLIPS is a project about writing, clothing, love and bodies. In a series of vignettes, I move between seasons and places to examine how clothing operates around our ever-changing bodies, selves and environments, and how, consequently, garments become vitally tangible, intimate evidence of how we relate to the world.

Informed by women artists, writers and seminal texts on women’s experience in clothes, I try to make sense of the dichotomous experience of women’s dress, questioning the supposed triviality that often comes with having a serious interest in clothes. I write through bodies and bodies of work, interlacing literature, art, memory, conversation and sensation. Fragments are gathered, knotted, unravelled, woven and positioned in relation to each other to embody the interconnected threads of a textile garment. Each reflects and examines the ambiguities, temporalities, privacies and expositions of the clothed body and the self that sits within it.

Material shapes and reshapes us, just as we shape it. In attending closely to the temporal, emotional and sensorial connective tissue bound into fabric, SLIPS advocates for a slower, more sustainable approach to dress and to our bodies. SLIPS is a lifelong obsession with clothes, told through love, loss and solitude. It is a story of dressing and undressing. A story of dressing to escape, to renegotiate, to return to the self. SLIPS is healing through writing and dressing, and an essential meditation on both as mediums for discovery, reflection and repair.


I write in the sea between two lands. The body of water, made of both and neither, dictates the shape and communication of the two. My raw material is the composition of that water: salt, minerals, scaly silver shadows that will tell the story, giving and obscuring through glimpses of patterns of movement: that is, all that accumulates in and around the writer; every book, object, conversation, memory; every searching thought, every scrawled note, every dress and every body: those that construct the patterns of the mind are held on the page, visible or not. Writing is a comma, it is marking time, setting pace, a gathering, a hold, a pause, a pivot. It is everyone who will read the book but has not yet. It is everyone who feels and thinks with their bodies as the author does now. It is the chaos that, through writing is collected, housed, choreographed and whittled down until each passage has purpose and each word a knife edge. Slowly the shape of things emerge.

Scanned single page spread of a book cover that reads TEND / SALLY BUTTON. Thread tails that bind the book sit on the left
Scanned double page spread of a handmade book on white background. All blank apart from a short contents list
Scanned double page spread of a handmade book on white background. Short text on the left, long narrow poem on the right
Scanned double page spread of a handmade book on white background. Large italic text on the left about a body.

TEND (2021) is an essay written about thinking less. Using writing as method to pay very close attention to my body, I examine memory, movement and the mind's associations that are born out of that attention on tangible matter. TEND is a work on care and on coming to terms with trauma. On time spent alone, on movement and comfort and where the value of close attention might be found. How can knowledge, research, feeling, gaze, fold into a description? Why am I sharing this with you?

Your body makes / curves / contorts / stretches / swells / tactile / bodies / sense / touch / laugh / flesh / adore / adorn / lump / flirt / fat / protrusion / mouth / hips / frame / hollow / gaping / material / skeletal / soma / hull / fleeting / sternum / pain / ribs / cavity / grief / wing / breadth / breath / gasp / full / sweep / belly / closer / cluster / weight / dense / mass / solidity / soft / viscous / heart / impenetrable / box / vessel / collection / collect / broad / sticky / remember / repulsive / leak / bleed / cry /

The belly is a microcosm of the body, and the body is always in relation to other things: heat, air, other bodies, food, love, bacteria, loss, water, tides, time etc. Things do not just exist, they move through us. The paths between things and belly or body mean that, just as the belly is always in relation to the body, the body is not alone but in relation to the rest. Which means to say, not only the individual body but the collective body: moving through one another. Like silt, our bodies move with past bodies. Layering and relating. Time is continuous yet repeats itself in every single moment. 




2750 words
Double page scan of a pamphlet, yellow and white with black and gold text. The word LOST repeats and spills down the page
Single page scan of a pamphlet on a black background, the word SHELL repeats and spills down a yellow page, a white text overlay
A single A5 page of text with line drawings interacting with the words. The first sentence reads: Time is no longer mine.
A single A5 page of text with line drawings. A third of the page is text and then larger letters & drawings spill down the page

ALIVE BORDER (2022) is a risograph printed pamphlet, written collaboratively with Rita Chamberlain, Jordan Chan, Flo Josephine Goodliffe, Mads Kirk and Chris Hayes. The publication is made out of a series of anonymous and co-written texts, transcripts, notes and feedback on the process of making and writing. It does not emphasise a particular theme or content. Instead, the work experiments with co-written texts to examine the mechanics of a collective editorial approach and to question the borders of ownership.

Everything about myself feels foreign. It requires nothing. As if my personality was thought out by one person, composed by another, written by a third, edited by a fourth, and read through by a fifth: these people all inhabit the same body. Mine. Ours. It is all the same. No, no text ever feels like me, like mine. I do not even know what that would mean. I have only ever recognised something unrecognisable in my writings. Like lost children. Returned, but different.

My body is in tiny pieces.

Fuck knows / A fever dream of words, making a life lived and to be lived. The days seem to be hitting me hard. Sad things happen in chaos. Ropey thoughts and buckled feelings are like bodies inside my head, but they are not bodies. No, they have no body, they just inhabit some kind of breath, a ribcage filled with air that moves and grows and twists and wraps and contorts around the strangeness of feeling, the numbness, the lack of words, the quiet quiet inability of emotion to explain itself. They are not me, but they grow inside me. Small bodies feel big.

My sentence is in tiny pieces. There is a sentence only I see. Some forgotten place between the blurred and the infinite. Fragments of a sentence. A destroyed sentence. Bloody as a roadside victim. Bitter as a drop of lemon. But words nonetheless. My words… or are they yours? The echo of your ballet steps still rings hollow in my haunted thoughts. But there is this sentence. Words strung like a string of pearls – pale, but shiny. Sparkly. A sentence alone in the shadows. Perpetuated in a prison of solitude. Whispering a desperate wish among the city’s empty noise to witness the end of the world.

Grainy risograph printed paper with a small section of text in pink. A title and name curving down at the top and bottom in blue
Five brown-gold risograph dots on a page, randomly spaced, with a short sentence of text overlayed on a wobbly three lines
Launch Project

MORNING (2022) is a slow essay and animation about a time of day, written and spoken for a project made in association with The Warburg Institute named AN ENGINE FOR THINKING. It was made in response to a chosen item(s) from their collections – their collections being one of the worlds leading archives for the study of the interaction of ideas, images and society, arranged by methods of thematic or iconographic association. How does a writer find their own way of working with familiar and unfamiliar cultural material?

The warm half of my attention lands on a loose-paper file – Times of day / cycles. Morning for the Warburg means air, figure, landscape, limb, slip, stir. Images of art depicting bodies, mostly women, are still or dancing through and with the seas or hills. Some are bleak, lost in their morning, lost in their mourning.

Colour is used sparingly, although a painting by Henri Lebasque does, in clustered bodies of paint, hold the clarity of morning light. And there are bodies breaking out of the sea, their flesh filling the waves and the air as they gaze up at soldiers in the sky. And a seated porcelain statue of a woman, alone but not lonely. She folds peacefully over her own body; she reaches down towards her bare feet. The body in the morning must be a desirable one, and I find the intimacy of this moment disrupted by the gaze that has her cast in marble. Morning is a rare secret, and I have intruded on this one.

Morning here means bodies of water, bodies of land, bodies of pillowing flesh. I think of drapery – of gravity pulling the fabric corners of these bodies down to earth, through stars and cycles of time.


text, sound, animation


750 words, 5.08 minutes
A scanned double page spread of an essay, text is small, background is black, fingertips hold the paper
A scanned double page spread of an essay, text is small, background is black, fingertips hold the paper
A scanned double page spread of an essay, text is small, background is black, fingertips hold the paper
A scanned double page spread of an essay, text is small, background is black, fingertips hold the paper

WHAT ONCE WAS LOST (2022) is a research project that experiments with form and narrative to uncover details and experiences of Louise Bourgeois’s little recorded or acknowledged performance work She Lost It, created at a pivotal time in her career. This essay explores the transformative potential of art as well as the conditions of memory and conversation, in order to examine what is left behind after a moment or a body is gone. Includes interviews with Robert Storr and Virgil Marti.

Watching a dusty, unfocused video, I gaze through my laptop screen into this 1 minute and 32 seconds that occurred 30 years ago. Rhythm is a Dancer, a Eurodance hit by Snap!, released the same year, beats ferociously into the room, dark shadows framing an elliptical throw of white light, illuminating a small stage and the controlled, unmelodic movements of six or so performers, their faces lit up and their bodies dressed in the same white – nightwear, tunics, skirts and bodysuits; embroidered words in red – as they work together, the shape of their arms are links on a chain, a conveyor belt of hands, carefully unravelling a banner towards a woman and a man who are stood tightly, embraced, face to face, and this banner slowly draws across the stage and around them, cocooning their bodies together. Revealed to the audience by consequence of these careful movements are the hot red widely spaced letters of She Lost It.

Title page of essay, large image in the centre of a woman leaning on her hand staring at the camera in a deep red knit bonnet
Scan of essay with 3 images. A woman stares into the camera in a wool jumper, and hands scrub a jumper with soapy water

CONVERSATIONAL (2022) was written after a conversation with knitwear designer Ilana Blumberg where we discussed the practicalities of knitting, her forward-moving practice and her relationship to the city.

Ilana’s studio is a tight L–shape. There’s a small table, holding a kettle and half a tub of hummus, a mirror on the left–hand wall, a window, a knitting machine, and lots of yarn. Spools of it, piled in a corner. Hats are hung on a washing line, snow white and deep red. These hats are a staple for Ilana — angular, inflated, almost–berets, with two knitted straps for tying under the chin. Asking if I want tea, she opens the window and pulls in half a pint of whole milk that was hanging on a string outside. She sniffs it. I tell her I’m okay.




2470 words