According to family legend, Natasha Laflin was born on the 16th March 1967 during a party at her mother’s large house on Blenheim Crescent, setting the tone for the next 40 years. Being the 60’s and 70s her parents, both young and gorgeous, married and remarried and had a variety of different partners, so many different lives were lived and large extended family was created.
She began her life clad head to toe in Biba in Portobello, then it was off to the South Pacific to live in Fiji with stepfather number 1. On returning to England and Nottinghill, her relentlessly romantic mother decided to escape to the country to a sprawling, semi-derelict mansion in the Cotswolds that would fill with parties of people from London at the weekend. Then with stepfather number 2, the family went to lead a completely self-sufficient life on a smallholding in North Devon where her mother actually did spin and knit jumpers out of the dogs hair and baby lambs were butchered on the kitchen table.
As idyllic as the rural idyll they lived in was, and although she made lifelong friends at Barnstable college, Natasha couldn’t stand it. There were many trips to London to stay with her father, textile designer at Liberty fabrics and his long term girlfriend, who was head of fashion textiles at St Martins in her extraordinary house jam packed with flea market finds, or to go to rock and roll nights at the Notre Dame in Piccadilly with her aunt. Life in London was what appealed to Tash. Everyone she knew there was an artist or designer, there was style, fashion and lots of parties, dressing up and dancing. This was the life she wanted.
In 1987, she got into the Camberwell school of Art to study illustration. Whilst at college, she got pregnant with her first child Lily. With dogged determination and the support of friends and tutors, she managed to finish her degree, babe in arms. After months of sleeping on friend’s floors with a tiny baby, she was housed in Trellick Towers, the iconic Erno Goldfinger building in Golbourne Rd. In those days it was far from the fashionable residence it now is, but once she moved into her flat she came to love it, its unique design features and the surrounding area.
With a small child to support, she began to make her enamel on tin paintings at the kitchen table. Charming little boxes of vignettes and characters, with a quirky sense of humour and unique take on popular culture. A very special lady who had a small shop called Verandah in Blenheim crescent, loved them so much and wanting to help this struggling single mother, she sold them for no markup. Soon Tasha had an avid following of collectors who would come in each week to see what new gems she had produced. With 2 other mothers she met at the school gates, she took on a studio at the newly opened Great Western Studios in the old British Rail Lost Goods building. GWS, with its uniquely supportive atmosphere was to become the centre of her creative and social life , where she made great friends and became more ambitious with her work. Soon she was represented by galleries. Piers Feetham, Rebecca Hossack and the Subway gallery.
Combining the romantic and the kitsch , she snuck off to Las Vegas with her director boyfriend, Liam, and with Lily as bridesmaid, got married in the Silver Bells Chapel by a blind preacher. When their son was born, he was named Luke Vegas Kan. Sadly, the marriage didn’t last. But then she met the irrepressible Simon Dawe, at GWS of course, who fell for her and her little family, hook, line and sinker. They bought their house in Ilbert St in 2002, and had turned it into a lovely, if eccentric, family home.
On the 21st of January 2008 after a normal day… a few hours in the studios finishing off a commission, then back home to cook supper and a trip to the cinema to see her beloved Johnny Depp in Sweeny Todd… Tasha suffered a catastrophic brain haemorrhage. For weeks after she was on full life support in the National Hospital for Neurosurgery and finally she was declared brain dead by the consultants. Either in denial or with some sort of blind faith, her family refused to accept it and kept up weeks of coma stimulation.
After a while there were signs that she was slowly returning to consciousness, although initially the prognosis was terrible and the professionals felt it was likely that she would be locked in and unable to move or communicate except by blinking an eyelid or moving her right thumb. The next three years were like a sickening game of snakes and ladders. There were amazing achievements such as first words uttered and faltering steps on the parallel bars. And then dreadful setbacks that would literally send her back to square one with Tasha on life support followed by months of minimal consciousness. Then last summer came the realization that a lot of the difficulties that Natasha was having were not due too her severe brain damage as the doctors thought, but that she was having a severe adverse reaction to the anti-vomiting drug, Metoclopramide, that she had been on for 3 years. Since she came of the drug, the progress has been amazing and the Natasha we know and love has come back to us.
She is currently residing in a slow stream rehabilitation centre in Hertfordshire, After years in some fairly dismal institutions and care homes, this is a cheerful and well run place. The first thing she wanted to do when she got there was to have a party, hoping to fit in and make friends. But then sadly confided that there was no one there who could be a really good friend. But the staff love her. She is funny, sweet, headstrong and she has completely charmed them. After 3 years of barely moving a muscle, she has lots of hard work to do and difficulties to overcome. It is gruelling and dispiriting at times, but with the ultimate goal of being able to get home, she finds the determination to continue. She is now talking and can walk small distances with a zimmer frame.
Natasha needs to come home and be back with her family and friends who love her and understand her. She needs to be back in west London, where she has always found inspiration for life and work. And she needs to live a life as normal, independent and meaningful as she can in her own home.