The night before we embark on ourcreative journey to Cold Keld. This is the only photograph I have of what to expect there. The plan is to spend four days, three nights in an old farm which has no modernisation. No hot water, no electricity,an outdoor long drop toilet, the shower is a waterfall. There is a gas stove and a solid fuel Rayburn.
I am travelling there with two other artists with a plan to immerse ourselves in the experience of being there together and of drawing, making and creating. We plan to document the experience and to continue to work on the process on our return with the hope of producing a body of work that is our comprehensive and collective response to the experience.
There is unlikely to be any wifi or mobile phone signal so the rest of the blog will be illustrated on our return.

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“ When swallows dart from cottage eves,
And farmer’s dream of barley sheaves.” Old English folk song, Anon

As a child we had singing at our small country school and this was one of the songs we learnt. There are swallows nesting in the woodshed here at Cold Keld. They bombard one if disturbed in their feeding tasks.

This is our last day on this our first residential stay at Cold Keld. Belongings packed and house tidied.
My morning is spent thinking of the domestic space and our idea of what constitutes a home. These thoughts link way back to the beginning of the MA when I was making videos of the performance of domestic tasks. I was interested in how I perform myself and if and how it relates to my gender. How much of it I learnt from my same gendered parent or other ancestors.

I thought to make shelters from things that could be found nearby. Initially using found pieces of wood nestled amongst the grass. Then I tried some stones to make tiny spaces only big enough for insects or faerie folk, and started to decorate them to make a semblance of comfort. As an aside I wondered whether the three of us could be like ‘The three little pigs’ with houses of straw, wood and stone.

I’m not sure how all of these thoughts link together to create a path. I guess I have to explore each of them, and a way forward may emerge. The whole experience of being here makes me think about the possibities of a life with fewer creature comforts and the pleasures of a communal way of life. A small time period like this gives insufficient experience upon which to base a judgment.

It is interesting that the physical environment of the house: with peeling paint and poor heating, a bit dirty and unhygienic: can become somewhere to feel comfortable and unconcerned. I think there is something about ‘not having responsibility for the physical upkeep of the place’ beyond the day-to-day tasks, which makes it easier to immerse oneself in the tasks of thinking about and making art. It is like the difference between working at home and having a studio to work in. We can always be distracted by things that need our attention at home, whereas, in a studio we are there for the specific purpose of work.

I hope to upload more visual content when I have more reliable access to wifi.


An earlier start this morning, involving filling the old bath with hot water. The solid fuel Rayburn has been on for a couple of days now and the water in the hot tank plentiful. These modern additions to this old farmhouse have been made with pipes meandering along walls and ceilings; ending in rough spigots sprouting from corners.

Another morning of secluded thoughts and effort: I took a seat near the ford over the beck in a windy spot and soon moved to the shelter of a dry-stone wall. Using watercolours I try to record the house, persevering with these alien tools, until the cold wind forced me indoors for hot coffee and oatcakes. I finished the drawing off with an ink pen but dissatisfied with the results. Holly followed me indoors and warmed herself with coffee.

Provisioning in Kirby Stevens after lunch we raked around a secondhand shop, full of postwar chic and animal skin stoles; 60’s record players and gloves suitable for garden party wear. We stuck to fulfilling basic needs for food and candles.

Staying close to ‘home’ in the afternoon, using Medium wash 4B to capture the front of the house. A little more success and thoughts of the shelter of a home within the landscape, an ideal to aspire to or a world contained within a place; somewhat like “ Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth.

Befriending cows that got close enough to stroke, memories of childhood animals trusting, warm and friendly with soft/rough coat and horn buds.

Holly cooked for us tonight. I later found her singing to the cows by moonlight and, still later, sawing notches into forked branches to use for the warp of a woven sculpture.

Cate used some brightly coloured inks today for a study of the house, reflecting the colourful and happy childhood times spent here. She found an old Soda Syphon in the ash tip and recalled that George Todd would delight them with soda drinks.

My evening spent writing notes of today and making small sketches of candleholders, wine glasses and grasses (for later identification). Our last evening of candlelight camaraderie and crochet; tomorrow we intend to work separately again working on our own emergent themes.

I am going to focus on what it means to create a shelter, a place to escape to, relax in, mossy glade, protection from the elements, cosy domesticity, an expression of one’s creativity.


Day 2 Cold Keld 22nd July 2015

Bright warm morning: turning to grey drizzle by noon. Decisions made to take our own paths today, following the things that appealed to us yesterday and drawing from our observations.


Walked down the hill immersing senses in all around me. An abundance of sights smells and sounds made me smile.

Found a spot near a spread of meadowsweet by the beck, nestling among tall grass stalks.


Imagining myself enclosed by the grasses and wild flowers, they are taller than me now as I lie low. Used my phone to make a stop motion video, their waving heads now moving very fast instead of slow and graceful in the slight breeze. Making another video of them moving at their correct speed.


Using a pen to make a contour drawing of the undergrowth, intensely looking and making the intuitive hand motions to make the marks.


Returning to the house for shared lunch we took a walk together in the afternoon, looking for Arras Close a tumble down farmhouse of Cate’s memory, dreams of a home in the landscape. No trace remained.


Walking along poorly marked paths through hay meadows, brought to mind childhood fears of farmer’s complaints of destroyed hay. As a child our parents took us on holiday to a cottage, not unlike Coldkeld we ran about freely in the fields only to be met with remonstrance on our return: for damaging the crop. Testing out the soft comfort of falling backwards into rich, thick, fragrant, meadow grass.


Returning to the house in sunshine. Holly befriended the local cows by feeding them tempting grass from our side of the gate, discovering that they have ear tags with names on them. ‘Mandy” is the most fearless and friendly.


Gentle evening spent getting to know each other better, teaching crochet, drawing and eating. It was my evening to cook and I successfully tried out cooking a whole Camembert, which was served with roasted Aubergine, Courgette and Garlic.

My eyes feel relaxed in the oil and candlelight, soothing and mellow.


Oil lamps tonight whilst we work and talk.
We arrived with supplies and took in the surroundings of this old farmhouse. Only remedial work has been done to preserve the integrity of the structure and provide some limited comfort like a hot water tap in the bathroom.
We walked, this afternoon, up behind the house to the path of the old railway line.
George Todd found this place in 1962 on a trip from Norfolk up to Gatehouse of Fleet. He took on the house as a holiday place for himself and his friends, which included Cate’s parents. George was a designer printmaker and there were some of his fabrics around the house.
We drew, collected, photographed, sketched. Thinking about making a shelter in the glade making a video of us making, collecting, just being.
Sisterly bonding, sounds of sheep and cows, fields of buttercups and rabbits. Old floorboards, proggy mats, crochet blankets, tin bath, solid fuel stove