College has broken up for the Easter holidays so I have been back in my studio carrying on with work.

Although having a studio is a big commitment  I’m so glad to have it. It’s my bolt hole and my space to work freely. I recommend putting studio space high up on your list of priorities after graduating. It really does pay off.

Not only do you have dedicated space to make and store work, potentially you also have other artists working along  side you. This network of creatives is going to be vital once we leave the comfort of our college friends around us.

If you are looking at potential studio spaces my top tips would be – make sure the space can be well lit – it doesn’t have to be natural light;  if you are sharing the building with other artists make sure you meet everyone first and see if you get on. Artists are each others assets! The artists in my building  work in very different mediums using different processes and have varying levels of experience but we all value the importance of creativity and really do support each other . So this covers a kind of giving that artists do – giving to each other in support, encouragement and kindness. (There are more advantages to having a studio of course such as having a place for people to come and look at your work and a sense of your own legitimacy. Having a studio also brings opportunities for exhibitions and open studios.)

My work today demanded that I give of myself emotionally –  its work that is personal, it concerns memory and how  memories shape our identity and behavior. The subjects of memory, collective memories and history are very much intertwined and I’m interested in how artists respond to ideas around these subjects.

Today I finished a painting about my twin. The painting is based on a photograph taken when we were about 9. On the face of it I could have made this painting at the beginning of this project – made a painting from a photograph in a simple responsive way. But its taken me a year to get to this point and so the thoughts and ideas behind the work are quite considerable. But is this evident in the work? Does it make any difference?

For me there is a huge difference – making this painting has left me drained – I really feel that I have ‘given’ to it. Sensations of returning to that time and place and to the close relationship I had with my twin as a child have been vivid and intense. I still have a great sense of longing for the freedom and contentment I experienced as a child and the fantastic companionship I shared with my twin. Thinking about it now I would say I experienced life as if we were one person. So I feel as if I have given of myself but I’m not sure if this extends to giving to others. Is autobiographical work self-indulgent? Does it give to others in some way – does it need to ?

The reality is that all work gives something. I guess I’m caught between feelings of near embarrassment –  opening a personal and usually private side of myself – and the vulnerability that openness can bring. I’ll get over it!

My twin has no idea at this point that I am making work about us! I probably should tell him about it….again it goes back to being so close – its actually hard for us to articulate how close we are and as adults we don’t talk about our relationship in this way. I wonder what he will think?  How does he perceive this time in our childhood?

So I have given of myself creatively today – just like thousands of other creative people have  – driven by the need to express ideas, respond to situations, connect with others. We can’t be exactly sure where these acts of creatively will take us to next,  that’s the magic of it all  ‘the unknown’  nature of it. How will we see our work, how will others see it (if we share it) and what will this cause us to do next?


How do we present history? In museums and through art in galleries? In archives inaccessible to most of us? What ‘truths’ are contained in these  curated and archived versions of history? Joan Gibbons looks at how artists challenge conventional forms of presenting histories in her chapter The Ordering of Knowledge from her book Contemporary Art and Memory (Tauris, London and New York, 2007).

She looks at Mark Dion’s work The Delirium of Alfred Russel Wallace in which Dion creates an imaginary expedition campsite of Alfred Wallace.  Wallace was a natural scientist and a contemporary of Charles Darwin. He was said to have formulated ideas about natural selection before Darwin. His research was not so heavily scientifically recorded and more intuitive than Darwin’s – in fact his ideas about natural selection were said to have been based on a delirious insight whilst suffering from malaria. Dion proposes that “Darwin gains the authority (for the theory of natural selection) because of his rigorous methodologies, which clearly reflected the work ethos of the nineteenth century”. Gibbons says of the artist “Dion reminds us that there is not only more than one way of knowing but more than one way of remembering knowledge.”(p125.pp1)

Gibbons poses the question “who controls the knowledge to be passed from generation to generation….(and) who is authorised to do it”. (p125.pp1)

This gives me a feeling of ‘history’ as something intuitive and that history is evident in non-spoken ‘silent’ form in the shape of objects. I’m considering embarking on a period of research after graduation that explores the tangible weight of history that lies within the object.

My brother Robb has been collecting agricultural implements and machinery for forty years. The hundreds of objects that he has amassed have been carefully curated and hang in an old farm building and sit  outside in the yard. The objects do not gleam with new paint and are not adorned with explanations – they rust and gather cobwebs as my brother works on his tractors. Stepping into his shed feels like a spiritual experience – this seems to be a shrine to toil and the land now changed. I wonder what triggered his fascination and his need to collect? There are lots of conversations I need to have with him. Unlike the labelled museum artifact that has been detached from its roots these objects are full of their history – unspoken, unwritten but palpable – tools made by hand for hands to use; names stamped deep into metal; wooden handles worn with use.

This feels to me like a very liberated, authentic collection that speaks for itself, gathered and kept alive by my brother. ( I wonder how many more collectors and personal collections there are like this?). There is so much about the land and agriculture in this country that is misunderstood and overlooked, being a farmer’s daughter I feel a strong need to bring some of this life to view.

My late father practiced husbandry – his physical and emotional attachments to the land and to his livestock were profound. He didn’t appreciate my brother’s fascination with ‘old’ implements as he remembered using some of them as a young man and the hard toil that this involved. A farming life is often a quiet one but not without its joys and tragedies. If this does become my next area of work I will endeavor  to show it the respect it deserves.



I haven’t written for a couple of weeks. College work has felt disjointed and unproductive, combined with a busy timetable of artists talks and seminars, I feel that I have been unsuccessfully trying to absorb lots of information (brain not working very well). In addition I’m anxious about my own expectations of my work and the inevitable changes that are about to take place – will I produce the work I really want to make in the run up to the degree show? Will I find paid work and manage to strike a balance between family life, studio time and work commitments? Trying to pre-empt things like this really doesn’t help though does it. I can only do what I think is right for me – I will have to be patient and accept this period of transition willingly and calmly (aghh!).

Today ‘stillness’ has been thrust upon me – my son is off school feeling really grotty and snuggled up under his duvet on the sofa! So I’m sitting here beside him (having first administered TLC and medicine of course!) and am at last feeling contemplative rather than anxious about my progress.

I’m thinking about the work I want to do once I have graduated. I’m telling myself that I must make it clear to those around me that part of my weekly routine will be spent involved with my practice –  not earning money or making meals or cleaning up. Perhaps I’m writing this an insurance policy against letting my time get eroded by the daily demands of life. But there’s something more important at stake here for me and its about integrity.

I have always been a people pleaser – and I’m really good at it! Taught by my mother – who excelled in the art when she was looking after the family.

One of the problems of  this role however is that you never get quite what you want out of life – the needs and wants of others always seeming more compelling and important than your own. Whilst its very satisfying in some ways, people-pleasing also makes so much of what you do feel superficial. Some years ago after having a ‘challenging time’ I went to see a counselor who said that my people pleasing had turned me into a performing seal! She was right you know – doing this and that at each command but never really doing anything for myself. This I realise is the next challenge for me  – to recoginise that the things I want to talk about in my practice are the antithesis of superficiality; and that in order to be taken seriously I need to take myself and my work seriously (no more performing seal business). Keeping my integrity.



‘Work as if there is no end, fail, reflect, get back into the studio and make more work and fail again, don’t limit your thinking by focusing on the final show because then you will also limit your work. Work as if your brain is divided in two – one half making work with no limitations the other aware that there is a deadline and that you will have to get your work ready for the show at some point.’

This advice was given to us by our tutor Alli Neal back at the beginning of the year and I things its great because it acknowledges the need to focus and work to a deadline as well as understanding that to work creatively we have to move limitations out of the way. This is the precarious balancing act that creatives deal with all the time and its important that we are learning this right now.

I have taking Allis’ advice to the extreme  making loads of work that explores a range of outcomes  I’m loving it and importantly am bringing previously separate ways of working together in a multidisciplinary way. This is a huge step for me – my work feels more versatile and responsive.

But I have to now think about pulling things together as I acknowledge words from ‘the other half of my brain’ which is telling me that time is running out. I’m stubbornly giving myself a few more weeks of working expansively before I have to recap on my work and focus my ideas. Just don’t want this wonderful ‘play-time’ to end!

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