Alice Whish: Promise garden

This project is about my promise to a couple of keen gardeners in their dying years. The promise was made to my father, aged 88 at the time. I promised him a garden when he moved to Sydney and then to a nursing home. I also promised to look after and engage with my mother, his lifelong partner, after his death.

How do you make that promise?
It has been made through gesture, repetition, perseverance, making and doing and honesty.

The Gesture: (Actual or Digital)
In person: by a casual gift of a flower picked from a garden.
As digital: A digital image sent by text message to my father. Images of flowers or plants came from: my parents garden, my garden, the gardens of his children and his grandchildren; a friends garden or a day in the suburbs, a day on holiday, a day at work.

Outcome: This project is in two parts; the collection of images as a backdrop and the resulting objects, a series of brooches and a kit for sale.

The family photographed images of flowers and plants on their mobile phones.  One image a day, sometimes more, were sent to my father’s phone for viewing. All arrived with a message. As a series, they reflect the seasons and the time of year known to a gardener.

The second part is a series of brooches constructed from the images that are laminated and attached to the specifically designed brooch pin. My mother, who now lives in a dementia unit, wears the brooches. The images have been made into ephemeral wearable jewels able to be worn briefly touched and disposed of. They may last a day or weeks. I have engaged my mother in the transformation of the image into a jewel when possible or, I complete the jewel while talking to her, or I take it to her as a gift to discuss and wear depending on the day.

In addition to these objects, there is a kit for sale so that others may experience with their loved one the pleasure in doing, making, giving, engaging and wearing something familiar yet new.

Kit “The Promise Garden” (make a flower brooch and engage) Two brooch fittings, 5 images all laminated, 1 cut and ready to attach, 4 uncut.
10% of sale going to Dementia Australia; price $24.99 and available from