Early in 2018 I was thrilled to be granted support from the A-N Professional Bursary programme. It came at an incredibly opportune time in my practice and, as I draw to a close in my activities, I’m excited to tell whoever might be reading this about my experiences and reflect on the last 6 months.

When I received the grant, I was at a debilitating point where I was trying to hold down 5 jobs and 2 major projects, including an exhibition in South Korea. I had graduated from my Masters at the RCA in 2016 and, whilst there had been a huge amount of activity, precious little of that had revolved around my studio practice; the pressures of trying to afford London living and be creative had left me, quite frankly, knackered!

Although there had been a pause in making, this frenetic activity had afforded me a lot of thinking and reflection time (especially during 14 hour+ international flights). This also coincided with a number of personal changes – namely the death of my last remaining grandparents. My work has always been heavily process based, with a clay as a central material, but the work had begun to stretch beyond the autonomous object, towards a tentative exploration of audience-reactive making and ‘scenes’. There was a re-centring occurring, away from the material, and instead focusing on the root cause of my obsessions with the making environment itself.

The death of my grandparents, and with them the end of that generation of my family, made me realise that my experiences as a child, learning craft skills from grandparents, aunts, mother, father, formed the foundation of my interest in objects and craft as a form of communication. For me, making has always been a tool to tie me to earlier generations, whether direct or indirect: my grandmother taught me to sew, my great aunt was an artist herself and shared her studio with me when I left my BA (though complained that I made too much mess). I feel greatly privileged to have had these intimate relationships that were forged through skill and making and it was only with the passing of my last grandmother that I began to look more directly at this and other familial influences on my current work.

Which brings me to Tanya Moiseiwitsch, my grandfather’s cousin and famous theatre set designer. Knowledge of her had drawn me into work as a prop maker as a way of supporting my early art practice. It was only when the familial landscape started blurring that I was drawn back to Tanya and understood that she is another example of how making within my family has influenced my directions as an artist.

It was with this moment of clarity and potential that I applied to AN Bursary; to research Tanya and theatre set design and use her work and methods as a muse to draw out a new visual and physical language, and connect my experiences of knitting on the floor of my grandmother’s sitting room with my own creative experiences and expressions in the studio.


Scroll to the bottom and work upwards for a chronological account of my research.

Image: Tanya Moiseiwitsch


This research over the last few months has been really exciting and incredibly liberating. I’m not one for sentiment but getting to know Tanya through the archives of her practice and communications between her friends and family has been a very personal and moving experience and has allowed me to look at my own genesis as a maker in a new light. Coupled with the practical experience and skill gathering through the short course at Saint Martins, I feel I’ve been provided with a language and visual archive that will allow me more fluidity and dexterity in my thinking and future practice.



This final blog comes from Newcastle where I’ve recently moved full time from my home of 10 years in London to take on a three year post as the Norma Lipman Fellow in Ceramics at Newcastle University. The images here are from the Tyne Opera House which has a Grade 1 listed pully system for their staging. It used to be manned by out of work sailors in the 1800s as they were used to the complicated ‘rigging’. I’m continuing to delve into the histories and visual languages of theatre in terms of participation, education and the possibilities of staging when applied to body in space.

This bursary has not only been an pivotal moment of reflection and growth but has also subsequently been an important tool in establishing a new studio, a new opportunity and a new network, up in Newcastle. Being given a moment and support to research my family member and with that find a whole new method of working has been so grounding; it has allowed focus at a moment when both my practice and my life has undergone significant change.

So this began with a restructuring of my family with the death of grandparents and ends with a restructuring of geographies and methodologies. I am extremely thankful to AN for providing me with this opportunity and am positive that this experience will go on to frame and underpin my work for a long time coming.




After the drawing exercises we moved onto collage that was based around the text we’d been given. We were told to chose a passage in the text and after various text analysis processes and library research to find appropriate images, we used collage and drawing to create an impression of the environment of our chosen passage.


After this, we were introduced to the idea of Sketch Boxes. These are scale representations of the interior of a theatre where the designer experiments with staging and design. Ours were based on an imaginary theatre and made from foam board.

We spent the remainder of the course populating our sketch boxes with our designs, using scale drawings (1:25) and a variety of material to recreate scaled versions of furniture and textures. I was really happy with the use of sticky back plastic to recreate a glossed floor – my Blue Peter dreams finally come true!



Part of the short course involved drawing and image based exercises. We were given 3 images – these could be anything; cuttings from magazines, photocopies of art works, adverts, interiors etc.



We were told to focus on one element in the 1st picture and draw it in 30seconds. The idea was to be intuitive and quick, to tap into our subconscious and draw out our aesthetic and formal preferences.



We then repeated the exercise with the other 2 images, overlaying each response on the same piece of paper to create fill the page.


As simple as this exercise sounds, I found it really interesting – the more we did it the more it became evident our preferences – mine were for large gateways and sculptural framings!




I went on the Theatre Set Design for Performance short course at Central Saint Martins in July 2018. It was such a wonderful opportunity and one I will be forever thankful to AN Bursary for enabling me to take. As an educator, I find it so rare that I’ve had an opportunity to become a student again, especially in such a creative but unpressured environment. Stepping out of my practice and the anxieties of the studio, and trying on another discipline, was incredibly enriching and has really given me a whole wealth of tools and methodologies that I will absolutely take with me.

Artists block is something I continually struggle with and often my practice involves long stretches when I fill my time with ‘useful’ procrastination; answering emails or obsessively re-tidying my studio. This is (in my better moments) followed by a short sharp period of making, usually in response to an exhibition or commission deadline, but I have very little tools to help me find, record or explore that ‘way in’.

I refer to my practice as extended; I include writing, curating, social engagement and a whole wealth of other outputs when I describe it, and in the considerable drought of making that I have gone through this year, these elements have provided a welcome breaker. However, I am at heart a making kind of person and I’ve increasingly been looking for a way to tie these more practicable activities into the studio work.

The body in relation to objects has always held a particular poignancy for me, and my hope was that by stepping into another discipline, I would findthe tools to develop a way of working that draws from my own family history, as well as the wider contexts of theatre and participation.

Theatre Set Design for Performance promised:

An introduction to the creative process of set design for live performance: site-specific work, theatre, musical or opera. We explore the designer’s vision, creative and practical skills, effective communication and how to develop a critical eye for performance.

You will finish with a combination of practical understanding of the requirements for set design and a portfolio of project work reflecting the designer’s creative process.

Project work will include:

  • analysing a script, libretto or synopsis to establish a scenic breakdown
  • historical research
  • 2D and 3D creative interpretation and concept development,
  • storyboarding and the scaled 3D model
  • roles and responsibilities in pre-production and in production

The course did not disappoint: although in practice it has taken me a while to start assimilating the methods I was shown during this week, I’m still incredibly excited by the potential they have as a tool for visualising my thinking and drawing together the different strands of my extended practice.







Turns out Tanya is really pretty well known! Her drawings, sketches, notes, transcripts, stage directions, lists (endless lists), sketch boxes and correspondence make up over 80 boxes in the V&A theatre archive in London, as well as many of her original costume designs being held at the Bristol Theatre Archive, with still more material linked to productions at the Old Vic and National Theatre.



Because of copywrite I’m unfortunately not able to share much of the visual material I uncovered but I shared a couple of examples of her costume design in the previous post and here you can see more of her set designs and stage notes. I also spent a day wandering round Pollocks Toy Museum in London and the V&A Theatre section on their top floor – images attached!


Perhaps my favourite find was from the British Library: an old recording to her from her husband, a production manager and musician, Felix Krish. The scratchy recording is only a few minutes long, and as it was presumably recorded on record, not all of but is audible, but I found it incredibly poignant, as only 9 months after their marriage, he was killed in an RAF training exercise. She never remarried.


Here is the transcript as I could understand it:


Hello Family, this is [inaudible] in [inaudible].  If my voice sounds at all odd, then the needle on the [inaudible] I couldn’t possibly more robustiously hopeless. And if you find my [inaudible] it would mean that a census has been [inaudible]  hammer and chisel, poor man. Here’s [inaudible] Ben’s birthday [inaudible] October, I can’t send him a cable [inaudible] please use this as evidence that I wish you many happy returns for the day, on the day. [inaudible] awful [inaudible] available, wonder what the devil is [inaudible] time [inaudible] while the second flyer [inaudible] I just said what did you say or I wonder what you said or [inaudible] and the awful nonsense [inaudible] would go on forever like that [inaudible].


Umm [inaudible] failed rather, because in the first place I’ve rarely seem them and in the second place you don’t get a chance to say a word [inaudible] you leave [inaudible] all the conversation you need [inaudible] all the people who may be forced to listen to this, God help them [inaudible] um, I’m [inaudible] rather embarrassed myself [inaudible] difficult with all my own writing [inaudible] amongst themselves [inaudible] like i say aren’t added [inaudible] love to us and all that kind of thing [inaudible] I can’t [inaudible] something definitely there [inaudible] Now i think i should rather get down to the real point of this record [inaudible] remind you that I love you all very much and to take care of yourselves, God bless, and I’ll be [inaudible]