How was the birth?


How was the birth?
Medical screen, vintage handmade quilts, paper tags, safety pins

Installation at Spike Island
Spike Island Open Studios 2023


Sunday 30th April, 11am–5pm, Loading Bay Ellie Shipman, Spike Island Associate

This installation, by artist Ellie Shipman, explores birth experiences through collectively adding to an installation of one word answers to the almost unanswerable question: How was the birth? This artwork aims to shed light on the diversity of the birth experience, simultaneously acknowledging the impossibility of summarising it in one word alongside the vast range of possible birth experiences which we often do not hear about before our first child. The medical screen, an antique object with an unknown previous life of its own, has had its curtains replaced with vintage hand sewn quilts. These quilts - often a precious handmade gift for a new baby - draw parallels between the careful stitches created in a domestic environment alongside the stitches created in a medical environment, both hidden identifiers of women’s labour. In inviting viewers to add their own word responding to their birth experience behind the screen, the piece questions the privacy and publicness of birth and asks what is revealed, passed down and kept hidden between generations of birthing people.


If you have experienced birth (in whatever form you identify as birth for you) you are invited to contribute one word about your birth experience. All words will be completely anonymous, so be as honest as you like. Write your word on the paper tags and pin it to the back of the medical screen. Thank you for taking part - your contribution is so appreciated.

If you would like to take part in this ongoing project you can write your word on paper and upload a photo of it via this form