Cloth Lullaby The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

This is a biographical picture book about Louise Bourgeois, a world-renowned modern artist, famous for her sculptures made of wood , steel, stone and cast rubber. Her most famous spider sculpture, Maman, stands more than 30 feet high. I remember seeing it 16 years ago, in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern, when I was 18 years old, while studying A-level art. At the time, I remember this sculpture having a profound effect on me and since then, I have often thought about that giant spider sculpture. But after reading this picture book, I now see it in a whole new light. I now feel a strange connection to this picture book.

Louise’s mother was a weaver of tapestries and Louise spent her childhood in France as her apprentice. The picture book gives us an insight into Louise’s idyllic early life, weaving and repairing tapestries with her loving mother beside the river. These experiences and the passing of her mother inspired her famous works (the spider being her mother, a weaver and repairer).


There are many things to wax lyrical about this book. The first thing that struck me was the beautiful illustrations, the patterns, the detail, the brush strokes and the colours. Then there is the typography, created by hand. Both of these elements make you feel as if you have the only copy in the world.

Then there’s the wonderful language and the power of the words, I picked out a few examples that stood out for me.

Her family lived in a big house on the water that wove like wool thread through everything.

And Louise would study the web of stars, imagine her place in the universe…

Louise’s mother, like her mother before her, repaired fabric grown threadbare with time.

Her needle rising and falling beside the lilting river…

The story demonstrates the creative process of an artist and how personal experiences, memories and emotions can inspire their works of art.

Both sad and heart warming; this is a story worth sharing.

Published by Abrams.

Release date: 1st March.


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