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By: Elena Thomas

Julie Dodd, Franny Swann and Elena Thomas started a conversation online. They have never met. They only know each other through their blogs, and the occasional email. They decided they'd like to do some sort of work together, sometime, somewhere, somehow.They still haven't made any decisions, but this blog is their continuing conversation. 

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'Lady Grey tea, no milk, no sugar. Coconut macaroons.', April 7th 2012.

'Lady Grey tea, no milk, no sugar. Coconut macaroons.', April 7th 2012.

# 1 [7 April 2012]


I’ve started this off, because the other two are so busy at the moment, I’m the one with a bit of free time, over the holiday.

We’ve spent ages discussing exactly how we should do this, but actually, in the end have come to the conclusion that we just transfer our conversation to the blog rather than email, let the readers catch up, and just get on with it. “It” may not happen, we may never get round to whatever “It” might be, but we enjoy the conversation and though it’d be interesting to read. Or not. We’ll see eh?

So, to start off, I’ll tell you just what I think of the other two… whoever they might be….


Julie’s work attracted my eye because of its careful obsessive labour intensive construction. I love to see the artist’s obsessive nature, I love to see pattern and repetitiveness. Text is a new area I’m exploring in my work, so to see someone working with books and magazines was fascinating… sometimes the text was clear, but sometimes totally masked. I liked the sense of secretiveness.

What also appealed was the use of throw away materials, using potential landfill (I never use new fabric in my work). The materials are so modest, ephemeral, but in Julie’s hands become things of beauty, tactile (although I have yet to touch them). The mundane becomes precious. Julie’s ability to make beauty from such small beginnings brings a smile to my face.


Franny’s work has a sensitivity to history which drew me in. Painstakingly skilful drawings of things long dead. Memory, and a careful respect for lives lived struck a chord with how I work. I use old clothes to evoke the long-gone people who once wore them. Franny’s insects are a metaphor for all human nature, warts and all, wasps and all. The cataloguing of a heap of dead moths, treasured and memorialised, loved. In contrast to this sadness, is a rank of gaily decorated hobby-horses. A symbol of play, youth, hope, celebration. This contrast is intriguing. We all have both sides to us, Franny expresses both eloquently. The ability to enjoy life, while enduring its sadnesses is a way of living to be envied.


This is why I want to continue speaking to them both, however far apart we are.


Here’s some cake and a cuppa. The internet doesn’t get us close enough to do that properly, so virtually will have to do for now.

Grab a macaroon then my virtual friends, and off we go...

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Comments on this post

Have heard about this from Julie, shall look forward to reading all your musings :)

posted on 2012-04-07 by Carol Ramsay

uh oh..................!! F.

posted on 2012-04-07 by Elena Thomas

just realised we are going to need to sign our posts, otherwise no one will know who to blame!

posted on 2012-04-07 by Elena Thomas

# 2 [7 April 2012]

Where to begin? I was thinking about pasting in snippets of our first conversations but I’ve decided to write about how I remember things coming together instead.

I’m not going to talk to much about what I think now about Franny and Elenas work, at least not at the moment, I’m going to talk about what I thought when we began before they became an every day part of my life. I was first attracted to Elenas Shed and quilt work, colourful, bold and fun and the shared interest of microscopic images; this was August of last year. Elena introduced me to Franny and I immediately fell in love with her drawings which I first thought were etchings. Meticulously and beautifully executed. I understood nothing of the ethos of their work and with both it was the aesthical value of their work that first attracted me. Although I continue to appreciate the beauty, technical and talented approaches it is so much more now. On reflection I have found that the things that attracted me where the things that connected with my work or the way that I work. Now above all else I admire the way both Franny and Elena meticulously work in their different ways.

I am still interested in connections within our work but it’s not that important anymore, it’s about us now…

I suppose in the very early days I wanted to find connections as an excuse so we could work together but now I don’t need them.

Julie Dodd

# 3 [7 April 2012]

Thank you for the offer of a cup of tea Elena, but may I have a coffee? I don't drink tea!

You see...we know eachother so well and then again not at all.

Well. Here we three all are at last. The private gone public. Artists in very different ways, very different people, and miles and miles apart we have discovered....

It seems such a long time ago that the others invited me to join them in thinking about what has become in my mind the PTB -  Project To Be. So, so lovely to be asked on the basis of the work I was posting at the time.

The PTB is still to be. We meander on discussing art and with our backstories slowly unfolding. The chaos of our lives is echoed in eachothers lives, as is the discipline and thought space that our work entails.

My e-mail mates have become a support, a resource, a sounding board and a crit. We look at art and see things that resonate with not just our work but theirs as well and instantly feel the need to share........

Going public does make me nervous, I feel worried for what we had, that it might not survive the glare or that the voices might change. It feels very vulnerable.

..........and exciting.


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I don't know... I was hoping that it would take over from emailing but at the moment it feels like a big responsibility to write in 'our' blog for me without consultation. I'm sure it'll get easier. We write so honest and openly in our emails this is going to be hard to put out there for everyone to read... I'm hoping the conversation will become as easy on here for me as in our emails. I'm sure it won't become an edited version of our emails, just the occasional snippets included. I don't want behind the scenes planning and I definitely want 'warts and all' but I don't know if I'll really see that through or whether I'll email the other two first!

posted on 2012-04-08 by Julie Dodd

I don't think we know ourselves yet... I sent an email to Franny and Julie telling them what I'd done, with an extra bit on that Franny felt so entertaining she posted here! There will be some things I'm sure that we'll ask each other about first... but as long as we're not revealing anything personal about each other it'll go up here... perhaps it'll be an edited memoir rather than a personal diary? What do you think F and J? I didn't anticipate blogging about the blog... interesting!

posted on 2012-04-08 by Elena Thomas

I love this idea of passing ideas between you, like mail art for the 21st Century - one question though - will there be behind the scenes planning, unseen on here? or will you be making every decision on view, 'warts and all' so to speak, as an experiment? Will it be 'the Archers', or 'Big Brother'?

posted on 2012-04-07 by Sophie Cullinan

# 4 [7 April 2012]


I see a bit of a problem... 

Franny (well I presume Franny) has just written "Fish Fingers!" on David Minton's blog. Trouble is, because she was logged in to write here, it says it's me that wrote it. Now I'm not averse to a cryptic comment, and I'm quite partial to fish fingers, but it wasn't me! honest!

This could be a test of the relationship... will Franny and Julie see it as a way of casting mischief and merriment among the bloggers, at my expense?

Could be fun...


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Gang of three-shared responsibility!

posted on 2012-04-08 by David Minton

oh dear.............hmm........... I better go back and own up. guess he will know its me............F.

posted on 2012-04-07 by Elena Thomas

# 5 [7 April 2012]


Well we still have an e-mail conversation going on behind the scenes...going to be interesting to see if we actually transfer all our conversations to the public arena. Have just received this from Elena...

'There... blog blogged, tweeted and posted on facebook, mentioned in my own blog... anything I've missed? 

Also just stitched my embroidery to my ....... trousers and it's all got to be unpicked and I'd done loads so I'm really ...... off and the air here is blue.
And I expect you will both think that is hysterically funny don't you? Everyone here is wetting themselves. Oh the hilarity of it all! Bollocks!'

And in case you're wondering - I did ask...along the lines of 'Bags I be the one to post that!'

And she said go for it.....what a woman.

That's why I love having these two great people online.

It's Life enhancing.


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Thought we might get closed down before we had even started!

posted on 2012-04-07 by Franny Swann

hahaha! I love it even more that you've censored it! My version was SO much fruitier!

posted on 2012-04-07 by Elena Thomas

# 6 [8 April 2012]

I don't think we even talked about having "ground rules" for this, and I hadn't anticipated the need, other than one for general good manners! I would feel free to say things about my own life and work, but would never presume to say anything about Julie's and Franny's unless asked! I hadn't anticipated that the blog would be about the blog at all really. Daft that... because that's what is different to the usual group blog. It's not about a project yet, it's about the conversation so far.

I don't think we should worry about following on from what the previous person has written. We'll meander and stumble along and find out what works. Julie and Franny, you don't need to ask permission from me to write anything.

Please do tell if my bad language becomes too much!

# 7 [8 April 2012]

I don’t think we have talked about ground rules either; it didn’t occur to me that we’d need to. In fact we didn’t really discuss how we would approach this thing at all. But I think a bit of trial and error is okay, we’ll soon get into the flow of it.

Last bit of  background info from me:

When this thing started I thought we might be looking at the collaboration based on something medical. It was all very vague because we couldn’t commit to anything until later this year or even into next year sometime. I don’t have any sort of medical background but I often refer to microscopic images and the idea seemed to be that we would ‘maybe’ pick a medical subject and find a way of exploring it in an artistic manner. But that’s as far as we got really.

Because it was going to be so far in the future we just chatted, discussed our practices, looked at other artists work and eventually told each other a little about ourselves.  The project itself was no longer the main focus in our emails; it just simmered away in the background.

And somewhere along the way the idea of the project has become something else… not sure what…

This way of ‘working’ is very different for me, I’m not sketching or making, the emails are my only evidence of research, note taking and the forming of ideas. I generally use my blogs to refer back too when revisiting project ideas etc so I’m hoping I can unjumble the emails when I need them. The blog is going to be a useful tool for me and in that respect I am relieved now that we’ve taken the plunge.


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Comments on this post I thought I should put this up here, if we're going to use the blog as some sort of research record tool. I love the wellcome images awards and I study them every year, and every year think I shall make something inspired by them. So when I saw Julie working with plant cells, and Franny looking at moth wings, I was well away! I had some sort of abstract embroidery of veins on clothing going on in my head.

posted on 2012-04-08 by Elena Thomas

# 8 [10 April 2012]

So this is the sort of thing we usually do right? we see something, we email it, we have a look, and maybe talk about it?

I don't usually buy the Guardian, usually the Independent, but they ran out, so looking at the alternatives, the picture on the front of today's Guardian was the one that drew my attention. 

Helen Pynor's Headache: Brain, threads, text. What do you think? I'm loving the combinaton myself!


I had planned to talk about Geography for my next post, but this took over. I'll leave Geography to one of the others, or come back to it another day. Today is a biology day.

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Just come across this new venture - looks intriguing & am very much looking forward to seeing how it pans out - brilliantly, I suspect as I'm familiar with your respective work - Elena & Julie's work in particular. Good luck to all three of you.

posted on 2012-04-10 by Kate Murdoch

# 9 [15 April 2012]

Only just had time to look through the Wellcome images Elena posted. There is an extrodinary photograh of a ruby tailed wasp. Its the one I got all over excited about when given a specimen to draw for my 'Memorial' piece last year.

Quite the most beautiful and un English thing. Its the Kingfisher of the wasp world...but parasitic and quite horrible.

I am just finishing off my side panels for that longer sure where discussion of my work fits. Here or on my blog?

Talking about our work in the e--mails came naturally alongside the chat didn't it? Now I am aware I am talking to the whole world and not just to you two I find I myself automatically slipping into my 'blog' voice....much more guarded and self aware.

How to square the circle?

Where are you both? I miss you.

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I'm here too, just been so busy I haven't had time to compose something that is good enough to be on 'our' blog only my own. I want to talk more about what has got us to where we are before I tell what I'm thinking or rather not thinking maybe, but I'm finding it difficult to sort through the emails we've sent. I'll give it a go later today.

posted on 2012-04-15 by Julie Dodd

Im here, Franny, lurking! I felt the need, having posted all this stuff, to sit back a while and let you two have a voice. I still have this feeling that Im going to get stood up. Here I am, with my posh frock and my lippy on, under the station clock, waiting, and youve forgotten me.. Of course its ok to talk about the work as it occurs talking about the wasps is fine because that was why we were all looking at the Wellcome stuff in the first place, there was something there for all of us.. I love the brain images. I have always been fascinated by behaviour and emotion and memory, so to see the images of this astonishing organ and our stumbling human attempts to understand what makes us work is compelling. I like the early ink drawings, and the labelling of diagrams. Im working on dissecting some clothes at the moment, and might find myself documenting them in a similar way.

posted on 2012-04-15 by Elena Thomas

# 10 [15 April 2012]




So, we three are still discussing our format, and would really like any readers to join in to help…

So what lies below is pasted straight from our email discussion, but with a couple of private/secret bits removed...

I'm sure at some point we'll sort ourselves out...



On 15 Apr 2012, at 13:28, Franny Swann wrote:



lovely to have you back in my inbox.....................

[bit removed]

Could part of this go on our blog? or not?

or should it be on yours??

Our voices sound 'real' here..............I am concerned about the blog. 

Am I the only one not sure what to put on it/ what tone to adopt/ think it sounds stilted?

Maybe we should just e-mail as before and then precis bits of our conversations back onto the blog?

It would be an original format and might work better................

[I forgot to sign my blog bit today - sorry]

love to both




I think there's room for both types of communication. There will always be some things that I will want to tell you two before telling the world... [ here a bit was removed]

I'm sure Going Public will be fine... it maybe seems stilted or edited to us because we see the rest of what isn't posted. I would like some more comments from other people, that'll be better then. I think if we for a start look at the things we have sent each other, and post them, or revisit bits of conversations we thought were interesting that's ok too. 

I do want to start talking about the geography at some point... maybe my next post... also, things like the patterns of coincidence. Our similarities and difference too maybe?

I think there's loads of material... don't panic, early days.

actually.... maybe this conversation should go up there? I don't think readers would mind if our private conversation gets edited into highlights and then "goes public" do you?

I almost feel all of the above could just be pasted in? what do you two think?

your blog spoke about wasps... who else was it going to be? hahaha!




Sounds good, but I don't mind what we do. I'm hopefully going to blog today or tomorrow, just got a few things to sort out first. 


Julie x


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Elena Thomas

Julie Dodd

I'm an installation artist mainly working with paper. Recycling materials also feature in my work and I concentrate on environmental issues.


Elena Thomas

I use clothes, stitches, sounds, text and songs bundled together to express ideas of parenting, and safety and risk in childhood.


Franny Swann

Central to my practice is the concept of artist as curator.

Collected archivings of loss are underpinned and referenced by memory and memorial.