Memory Canvas



Back in the late spring/early summer I was debating what I wanted to get my nan for her 79th birthday. Whenever you ask her what she wants, whether it be birthday or Christmas, she will always respond the same “nuffing” (thats the London girl in her – the accent that is). We always joke with her that she would be upset if it came to her birthday and we didn’t get her anything, but she insists there is nothing that she wants.

This year I thought I would make her something special and personal, and one Sunday morning while I was waking up I suddenly thought of an idea: I would make her a memory canvas. You see, my nan has suffered from Alzheimer’s for a few years now, and while her long term memory is still sharp and it’s just her short term memory that suffers, I wanted to make her something which was all about her, her life in pictures if you will. I thought it would be a nice idea to paint a canvas, and fill it with decorations and photos, so if she ever forgets in the future, she can refer to her canvas.


I started with a rectangular canvas, which I picked up in The Range. I decided I was going to use the colour theme Lilac and Sage Green, my nan is a great lover of all things purple and I knew she would love it. So I set about painting the canvas. It took a good 4 coats before all the white was hidden and I had a good base to work with, thankfully it was a sunny day and the acrylic paint was drying very quickly, so I managed to paint up the canvas on the very first day.


I had decided I would put the word “Nanny” in large letters across the canvas, starting quite close to the left hand side, so that I could use the right hand side to decorate. I wanted it to stand out, not just a plain word. I started by drawing and cutting out the letters in card, and then I looked for how I would cover them. One of my first bright ideas was to cover the card in glitter – this was an idea which didn’t pay off! I distinctly remember it working quite well when I was in nursery school – however the glitter only stuck in patches, blew up the garden, ruined my pritt stick and generally got on my nerves. I soon discarded that letter, re-cut it out of card and started again!

I found different papers with different colours (that fitted with the theme), with different textures and added a small amount of decorations, without overdoing it. Then I stuck these to the canvas.


Next I planned a little mini family tree-type thing that ran along the bottom of the canvas, under the ‘Nanny’. I started with her, her name on the front, and inside the envelope it had her date of birth on a piece of card, and on the other side a picture of her face. The next envelope had the word parents, and inside had their names and a picture of the on the back. Next was ‘Brothers’ and the same names and photos. Next was her children, and had mums name and my uncles name, with some very flattering photos on the back. Then came when she married my grandad and her surname changed, then along came her granddaughter, Me! In each envelope I put a little information such as names and dates of birth, with a photo of the person/people on the back. Attached to the card inside the envelope I attached purple or green thread, and threaded onto these were letter beads. For example, on the one that said Granddaughter it had the letters ARW which are my initials. These served a further purpose to give nan something to hold onto when she pulls them out.


The next part was deciding on photos, I wanted the photos to be of the family and to represent who she was. She is a Daughter, a Sister, a Mum, a Wife and a Nan. I found pictures of her Mum & Dad and her brothers and stuck them together and edged them with a border. I found some silver embellishments one that said sister and one that said daughter, and stuck these next to the photo. This shows she is a Daughter and a Sister. Next I found pictures of mum and her brother, I grouped these together and put a border round them and finished it with the word ‘Mum’. Then below I put pictures of her with Grandad, bordered them and added the word ‘Wife’. Last but not least I found pictures of me and nan throught the years, put a border round and finished it with the word ‘Nan’. She is all these things to us all.

Next, at the end of her family tree, I went onto and make a collage of four photos of us all, as a family, I put a label in the middle that said family and printed this off and stuck it on the canvas.


Now it was onto the final decorations. I found some beautiful glitter flowers which I stuck across the canvas randomly. I covered a heart with a serviette of Lily of the Valley – her favourite flower – using servietten technique. I added a music note for her love of music and she used to be a bell ringer. Next I added a tag that said ‘Happy Birthday’ and finished it with a rose.

Finally in the bottom of the ‘A’ I put 2013, the year she received it.

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I am pleased to report she loved it, we sat with her at her birthday dinner and explained what it was for and what all the different bits were, she loved looking at it, and its now sitting proudly on her living room wall.

This is a great idea for people who suffer from forms of dementia/memory loss, it makes a wonderful gift and can help them remember things when they have forgotten without having to ask.


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