Covid Amulet

At the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak there was a palpable sense of panic, people were stockpiling toilet roll, food, hand sanitiser and pain relief. We were repeatedly told to wash our hands, the best defence against catching and passing the virus on. This led me to consider how people would have managed during previous outbreaks of deadly pathogens in a time when advanced medical help was unavailable.

‘The Black Death gave impetus to hand-production of plague amulets offering divine protection and supernatural healing’[1] 

I have for years been fascinated with amulets, votives and talisman’s as assumed protection against disease and pestilence. Medicine has moved forward profoundly since the Black Death but even now, in the 21st Century, society can are still be debilitated by a ‘dreaded disease’. Had bars of soap and hand sanitiser become the modern-day protection equivalent?

As an artist I collect items of interest, I have drawers full of materials and odd objects kept ‘just in case’. I looked at what I had and begun to think about the connections with what I was witnessing, I wanted to create an artistic response and it was the idea of amulets that started to develop from a small china dolls hand that I had. By making a rubber mould of it I was able to make cast replicas in glycerine soap. These small hands cast in soap remind us of the key message of hand washing during the outbreak but have sense of precious protection. The colour of the soap resembles amber which is often carried for protection and is thought to eliminate fear.  Will this protect us? No, but Facebook wouldn’t list it for a while because they thought I was selling a cure! In this difficult time art allows us new ways to consider things and is perhaps a token to remind us of the time in years to come.
Artist Katie Taylor is a contemporary sculptural installation artist based in Oxford, UK. She has a first class degree in Textiles and an MFA from Oxford Brookes University. Fascinated with exploring our place in the world, the fragility of life and death and the precariousness of our existence, often using history and historical research as a basis within her work. You can purchase a limited edition Covid Amulet via Katie’s website.

[1] Deciphering a central European plague amulet. Blog available here