Eda Scheurer had one eye and smoked a pipe

My great great grandmother Eda Scheurer had one eye, smoked a pipe and had fights with men. Who wouldn't want to investigate that?

Coming from a long line of washer women was no surprise to me but learning about Eda, a Victorian scrapping curmudgeon with a penchant for a hot beer, conjured up many images that I wanted to explore.

I embarked on a very detailed illustration project which involved speaking to near and distant relatives, connecting people and story and is something that I'd like to pursue further in future work

Eda was born exactly 100 years before me. I felt a connection to her though I'm not sure I'd have liked her very much at all from all accounts. She was rough, gruff and easy to anger. She had a hard life exasperated by losing children and then losing her eye. She interested me greatly. So I set about asking all the relatives I could find, what she was like, what she did, and how she behaved.

This project was the culmination of all the calls, the diving into people's family archives, researching endless records online and finally visiting her unmarked pauper's grave in Sutton Cemetery.

This is the only known picture of her.

I created a lot of initial drawings in a work book. Pasted images of all her family, all her children, her ne'er-do-well 'husband' and reference of events that happened around this time.

She was known to like a fight, hitting people with her walking stick, starting fights in the street, on the bus, in the pub.

I put together a family tree, located distant relatives via Ancestry. I produced a large fact map where I put the key information about her.

She had 8 children, one died at birth, 7 survived and had ordinary but colourful lives of their own.

The process of researching and collecting ideas in the book helped me form the narrative for the final work. I wanted to tell her story through physical objects. I decided to make a laundry box, the type that she would have dealt with every day. It would contain items that represented her children and her story.

I built the box, illustrated and waxed it. I made a laundry book, the sort that would have kept tabs on the number of items washed and monies due to the laundry for the service. The laundry book I took wooden clothes pegs and wrote the names of her children on each.