I haven’t written this blog for over a month. The teaching term started, and I’ve been sucked into a vortex of emails, admin, studio teaching, not to mention childcare problems, and other juggling acts.

We just got back from Barcelona which was a conference trip  plus student field trip with my partner and Abie in tow. One of the things I’m learning about parenthood is that what sounds fine on paper is in reality a lot more challenging. Travelling with a 16 month old, a buggy, 2 suitcases and several bags (not to mention a partner too) requires a lot of patience and not to be in a rush. Arriving in a flat in an unfamiliar  city, the first thing we do is try to find the nearest playground and a shop selling nappies, having thought it a good plan not to bring any.

The conference presentation about the project I’ve been doing in Ealing goes well, and its really fascinating to sit and listen to geographers talking about art and artists talking about geography.

Later that day we meet the students and take them to see some Barcelona buildings, and while at the Foundation Joan Miro me and Abie sneak off to the roof and enjoy playing with the sculptures. The next day though I think we drag him around one too many architectural masterpieces because he has definitely had enough and runs off trouserless onto the nicely sloped concrete patio of the Vila Casas Foundation Can Framis Museum. Travelling longer distances with a baby/toddler in tow makes me aware both of the limitations of motherhood but also the way it completely alters your experience of a place. Everywhere becomes a potential place of play.

The final day, we do a transect walk across Badalona with the students, getting them to record maintenance and lack of maintenance. This reminds me that I’ve kitted out the pushchair at home with a portable playground maintenance kit, including dustpan and brush, squeegee, bin bags, rubber gloves and duster. So far its mainly been used on slides (see picture) but I plan to open up further possibilities of acts of maintenance. Although I thought of this as an artistic intervention, ironically I got a survey from the Council asking us to recommend how they could save money on the parks of Brighton. Options included local park users carrying out the maintenance themselves.



In the last couple of weeks I’ve been back in West London working on the textiles project, and the group have produced some wonderful work. On the last day everyone brought cakes and sweets to share from all over the world (well all over Ealing).


I feel sad to not continue that space of making and talking but I’ve begun to create an installation in the studio, which is exciting.   One of the things I keep thinking about is how much the project embodies care, a kind of shared care, and as a socially engaged artist whether it is possible (or important) to make work that both embodies care, but can also be provocative, and ask questions.


As a parent there definitely seems to be a balance of care and challenge, as I discovered today. I bought Abie a banana milkshake thinking he would really like it but he thought it was more interesting to make a drawing with it. I had to say no as the cafe staff were looking at us askance. We then went on to Hove Museum where we could make marks more officially in the children’s area and I tried to draw Abie whilst he made his first attempt at a drawing.

It’s the end of the summer and the start of term, so its back to work for me. I start teaching again next week. Its going to be more difficult to make time for my residency but I’m going to try in little moments. I did some more buggy psychogeography, in the rain, going for a walk along the seafront to look for sites for the students projects.  Pushing a buggy is a good camouflage for nosing around. Sometimes the invisibility of motherhood is a protective cloak.



Whilst I try to write up a chapter of my phd, I have been reading about mobility.In the introduction to Life Between Borders: The Nomadic Life of Curators and Artists. one of the editors asserts that “you have to be mobile to ‘make it’ in the art world.”

I can see this is going to cause me problems. Mobility with a 1 year old is not impossible, but it can be tricky. We have recently been travelling to visit relatives and friends and I decided to use this as a start to think about mobility in parenthood. Wherever we go we have to find some swings, as that is my son’s favourite activity, so I’ve started to photograph swings in different locations we visit. We’ve also been testing the childrens activities on offer at various galleries, in Yorkshire,  Nottingham, and Eastbourne so far.

Being a parent you can be mobile but it isn’t as easy to jump on a plane and go on a residency for a few weeks. It’s a different kind of mobility, where you can spend a day wandering about with no fixed destination and visit charity shops, parks, etc.

I was thinking about other differences between this residency (so far) and other residencies I’ve been on:

  1. Not a good idea to get drunk and stay up late.
  2. Not around a group of other artists.
  3. Not a lot of dancing involved.
  4. Foreign travel not involved.
  5. Having to cater for self and others food needs.
  6. Having to do cleaning, housework and laundry.
  7. More difficult to be spontaneous.

Laura Kenins writes about how a residency is often seen as a place to escape the constraints of everyday life. My residency is all about everyday life. I can’t escape it, but perhaps I can make it part of the residency. Or maybe I need to find ways to add some of these ‘residency’ aspects I’m missing to my residency/life. Hmmmm.

Last week I watched with Baby Boom with Diane Keaton trying to juggle a career as an executive and a baby. In the end she jacks in her job, telling her sexist boss (‘You can’t have it all’) to shove it and moves to Vermont where she is so bored she spends an entire winter making applesauce. However, the constraints of this lead to success manifesting itself in a new way. A lesson learnt, although the end message (move to country, set up successful gourmet organic baby food business, swap modernist furniture for floral chintz) does seem to involve a bit of a compromise (not to mention an all-American rabid capitalism).

On a positive note I just read about a new project in London that offers ‘flexible childcare’ for artist- mothers. although it is temporary.


Maybe we’ll go on a residency excursion and pay them a visit.





Life Between Borders: The Nomadic Life of Curators and Artists. Edited by Steven Rand and Heather Felty
published by apexart. 2014

Laura Kenins: Esapists and Jetsetters: Residencies and Sustainability. C Magazine, August 2013



(I started writing this a week ago but only just had time to finish.)

I am sitting in my new studio. It is lovely and spacious, and noisy! I look over a busy junction below. Since I arrived today I have swept, hoovered, mopped, cleaned and tided the space. As I was carrying out this work I was thinking about a manifesto by the artist Merle Laderman Ukeles which I read in this week.

Here is an extract:

“I am an artist. I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a mother. (Random order).
I do a hell of a lot of washing, cleaning, cooking, renewing, supporting, preserving, etc. Also, up to now separately I “do” Art.
Now, I will simply do these maintenance everyday things, and flush them up to consciousness, exhibit them, as Art.
I will live in the museum and I customarily do at home with my husband and my baby, for the duration of the exhibition. (Right? or if you don’t want me around at night I would come in every day) and do all these things as public Art activities: I will sweep and wax the floors, dust everything, wash the walls (i.e. “floor paintings, dust works, soap- sculpture, wall-paintings”) cook, invite people to eat, make agglomerations and dispositions of all functional refuse.
The exhibition area might look “empty” of art, but it will be maintained in full public view.

A lot of what I do at the moment is maintenance. It’s the everyday, repetitive, unseen tasks that need to happen. I’m wondering how this might also become part of my art practice.

One thing I do a lot is walk (whilst pushing the pushchair). I started thinking how the walking could become part of my art practice.

I’ve been trying out a bit of buggy psychogeography. We walked around Brighton marina on a grey morning as abie slept, and noticed the flatness of the architecture, watched the lock gates opening to allow sailing boats through, and spied on the back of ASDA at the maintenance and distribution yards. It’s Interesting how modern buildings and places try to hide or cover up maintenance, refuse and the ‘back-end’ of the functions of the building. A bit like motherhood, so much work going on unseen.

This week I have also carried an ironing board, and a lot of plants, on the pushchair. I thought about working out how much I could carry on the pushchair, and making a special frame that extends capacity. Walking with a pushchair changes how you negotiate the city and the street.

I also found a lost lion by a water fountain.

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I haven’t made it into the studio for 2 weeks, and it’s been difficult to find time to write. I keep starting this and then stopping again.

I’ve mostly been working from home in bits of time during naps and after bedtime, doing bits of work which I start and stop, then come back to and try and remember what I was thinking.

I took Abie to London to meet a fellow artist-mother, who is leaving London and moving back to South Africa. We met at Tate Modern and visited the new building, taking the boys up to the 10th floor to see the amazing views. Then we saw Louise Borgeois and Mona Hatoum. She said she’d had to stop making work because of the pressures of time, childcare costs and cost of living in London. So she’s moving away.

I also saw a friend who has an 8 year old and talked about how her career in the art world has been pretty much stuck, treading water since having a child. Another friend who is thinking of having a child said she’s considering putting her practice on hold for a while once she has the baby. She was concerned that she would lose focus if trying to do both.

Parenting seems to bring more compromises for women artists, but I could be biased. I’ve heard quite a few stories of women having to totally stop making art and get ‘a proper job’ to pay for childcare. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of support available for women with young children to continue having an art practice.

Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing small everyday art works.

I photographed another abandoned toy (in a pub garden)

I’ve been casting objects on the kitchen table

And I’ve been working on my ‘mother and child’ embroidery.

Small acts are much easier to start and finish.