My first blog ‘Keeping It Together’ came to a natural end when I moved in to my studio. ‘Keeping It Going’ picks up where that left off. Will I be able to maintain a blog at the same time as being creative in the studio? Will it help or hinder my practice as an artist?

Follow me on Twitter: @katemurdochart

August 2016: See also my new blog, ‘Keeping It Moving’


Curtsying out of 2023 into a New Year …


I updated my website yesterday, on the last day of 2023. There’s still a bit to add, but it feels positive to have started the new year with at least some of the updates in place. It always feels good to get my work out of the studio and visible in the outside world, especially to new places for me this year – in the Channel Islands at ArtHouse, Jersey and in Athens, Greece via the brilliant H-M-S Projects. I’m grateful for the opportunities that have come my way this year, thanks particularly to hardworking curators/producers Rosalind Davis, Laura Hudson and Luke Merryweather.

I made a new piece of work for the group show in Athens but otherwise, ‘Sweet Nothings’ and 10×10 were work from the past Here’s a link to the NEWS page on my website if you’re interested in reading more about where the work’s been shown in 2023:

I’ve managed to hang onto my Creekside, Deptford studio for now, but moving – or rather, being forced out – is still on the horizon. I’ve spent a lot of time fantasising about there being some sort of glitch in the planning process that throws up a clause, stipulating that the 70 or so artists involved in this latest cull are allowed to stay there. It’s highly unlikely that this will happen, of course, and so March looks set to see us moving on – hopefully to another space in the local area.

There’s no doubt that the ongoing uncertainty has been disruptive and affected my work output. But my resolution for 2024, though very hard to do, is to be more accepting of what’s on the cards. That said, this will be the third time that I’ve been forced to make a studio move because of property developers taking over prime locations in the Deptford/New Cross area in SE London. It’s an absolute travesty that the current building, a beautiful Art Deco building housing some 70+ artists, is to be reduced to rubble to make way for yet another block of soulless, high priced flats. But there we have it – there’s little any of us can do to prevent this happening. For now, it’s a waiting game – hoping that the promise of alternative accommodation will come through for us and we can regroup as a community of artists. Another regular fantasy of mine is to imagine having a studio space on a permanent/for life basis. Imagine just how brilliant that would be!


I’ve been acutely aware for some time that the ‘latest’ page on my website has been in need of an update. My blog posts had slowly started to take over the task of updating any news and I suppose I felt I was keeping the communication going through them. But I don’t post on my blog as much as I used to, so there have been a few gaps for quite a while with regards to what I’ve been up to. Admin, whether it’s art or life, has never been my favourite thing but I know that maintaining an active, up to date website is an important part of being an artist. It’s bothered me that mine has been neglected for so long and so, I’m now on a mission to address the issue – get my entire website up to date and then try and discipline myself to do so on a regular basis.

Today, I’ve finally started the process of updating the long neglected ‘latest’ page. It includes an image of my studio by painter, Graham Crowley. It’s one of three versions he painted as part of his Workshops series. I was delighted to be contacted by Graham a while back, letting me know that he’d painted them and that the yellow version was to be included in his solo exhibition, ‘Workshops’ held over the summer of 2022 at The Printroom in Sweffling, Suffolk.

Kate Murdoch’s Studio, Graham Crowley


Like so many of Graham’s paintings, I could look at them forever – the attention to detail and the amazing way in which Graham manages to capture light in his paintings is mesmerising. I am so pleased to have such a personal record of a studio space from the past and am both delighted and flattered that it became one of the work spaces Graham chose to paint. Subsequently, Graham’s painting ‘Light Industry’ has been awarded the John Moores Painting Prize (2023). To quote Graham: ‘I have entered at least 16 times, been selected 10 times and shortlisted for the first prize three times.’

I guess the lesson is – keep going!

To see more of Graham’s work visit his website here:


The very act of bartering adds an emotional reality to the process of exchange that currency somehow lacks: ‘What is an object worth to you? How much do you want it and what are you prepared to give in return?’ is one of the questions I asked at the very start of introducing 10×10.

The concept of exchange was particularly pertinent in the year 10×10 was launched: 2008 is a year synonymous with one of the biggest financial crises in global history. In the wake of a monumental financial crash, with top banks & financial companies folding, I posed another question: how long would it be until people resorted to bartering?

Yesterday, October 10th, 2023, marked 15 years since I first brought 100 objects for exchange to the Deptford X festival, responding to the year’s call for artists to make work answering to the theme of barter and trade. On the 10th day of the 10th month from 10am to 10pm, I gave up 100 objects which were precious to me and invited people to take one, leaving an object of their own in exchange. For purity’s sake, I wish it had been 2010 but there we have it – I’d been waiting long enough as it was to make work expressing my fascination with the pack rat, a small, North American mammal, renowned for taking things but leaving something in its place.

And so, 2008 was the year 10×10 began, a year in which my twin sons turned 10 and my Nana, the grand age of 100. Fifteen years on, with numerous objects exchanged, it returned, this time as part of a second Deptford X arts festival fringe event – to the exact same place it started, at ArtHub Gallery, London.

Throughout the past fifteen years I’ve taken the 10×10 cabinet to a number of venues, including Lewisham College, Herne Bay and Whitstable museums, the Stade Hall in Hastings and the Firstsite gallery in Colchester. Participants were asked to share the stories behind the objects they left behind if they wanted to, but there was no obligation to do so. I’ve collected some amazing stories associated with some of the exchanged items over the past few years. My long term aim is to collate these stories in some sort of publication. I had an interesting conversation with a visitor/artist while chatting with her about 10×10. She talked about the beauty of zines for pulling together information – a cheaper, more funky way of relating the numerous stories, perhaps – definitely food for thought for the future. Thanks, Eldi, for a stimulating conversation.

10×10 is about letting go and exploring the powerful associations that we sometimes project onto objects and the emotional attachments we make to them. It is also about human nature and our response to being challenged away from a monetary system to one of exchange and barter.

‘Would it be people’s generosity or meanness that triumphed when it came to the value of the objects that were bartered? Would the piece be ‘worth more’ at the end of the process?’

It always feels like a risk, opening up the cabinet and relying on people to interact. What if nobody comes, nobody shows up? As it turned out, I couldn’t have wished for more during the two week run of this year’s Deptford X arts festival. It was great for 10×10 to be part of an ArtHub members group show, ‘Is This It …’ as it kept a steady flow of visitors coming through the door. I had some really good interactions with people who visited and felt heartened by their interest and, as has always been the case, people continued to interact in such caring and thoughtful ways.

I had some of the best conversations with people throughout the two weeks as well – curious about the story behind this large cabinet with its bizarre assortments of objects, displayed in the gallery – an alligator’s head, a beautifully embroidered table napkin, a broken pen, a paper hat, a squashed Tunnocks teacake in its distinctive foil wrapper – just a taste of the diverse range of objects left behind.

Such conversations about so many of the objects and their associated stories has left me feeling rejuvenated and uplifted – two people who’d been at the first launch of 10×10 were there on the first night of this year’s Deptford X, plus artist friend, Elena Thomas who has always been a big supporter of the project visited, to help and be a part of it. Another visitor who’d also been at the very first launch of 10×10 in 2008 visited towards the end of the show’s run and exchanged the very last of the original 100 objects – a ceramic pomander, decorated with heather and tartan ribbon. I’ve had my eye on that object for some time, wondering when the day would come when it would be exchanged. It was exciting to see it finally happen on the very last day of the Festival and called to mind an earlier conversation I’d had with Elena during her visit – about the 15 year run of 10×10 and my thoughts around when (if ever) I might bring the project to a close. ‘Perhaps once the final one of the original objects has been exchanged? was a question Elena asked.

Just as I had no idea how 10×10 would turn out when I started the project fifteen years ago, so I have no idea when or how I might bring it to an end – or indeed, if I want to, even. I currently have enough room to store it in my studio and I’ve just this week packed it away again. Who knows what will happen/where it might go/whether Deptford X 2023 will prove to be its last outing and so on. What I do know, however, is that it was a complete joy to be back at ArtHub London gallery at the end of September/start of October – right back to where the 10×10 journey began, presenting the cabinet and all its objects for the first time in eight years.

It’s reminded me of the importance of connecting with others and how those connections have come to be an integral part of my creative practice. I’ve said it before about 10×10 – quoted my Italian friend, Gigi, who when I told him about my project, said it would be ‘a comment on humanity.’ And I’ve said this before, too: if, as Gigi says, it is a comment on humanity, then humanity has come out of it very well indeed. At the time of writing, it feels like the perfect antidote to the most recent atrocities taking place throughout the world.

Thank you to curator, Luke Merryweather for the installation of the cabinet, to Deptford X for including 10×10 as part of its fringe events and to the all the people who came along to the gallery – for your interest, your participation and for the many fascinating conversations.

In 2010, Lewisham College media students made a short film about 10×10. You can find the link here if you’re interested in finding out more about it:


‘The emotional attachment we make to any given object can determine its worth in emotional terms as opposed to its monetary value.’      Kate Murdoch, 2008

Getting prepared to bring 10×10 out into the world again has called to mind various articles I’ve written about objects over the years, and specifically, in this instance, in relation to value and worth.

Here Today…’ Kate Murdoch  

The title was: ‘Dead or Alive; the permanence of objects versus the fragility of human existence.’  It’s a piece of writing that I often refer to, memories of my late father and the chair that survived him being particularly poignant.  This is what I wrote in 2019:


One silver and turquoise Art Deco hand mirror, one blue velour Parker Knoll armchair: two random items, both of use to their owners, but of no particular significance – until you’re made aware of the history and narrative associated with them, that is.

The art work I make is often motivated by my connection and close relations with family. ‘Here Today…’  was created through assembling pieces from my late Nana’s more personal, intimate possessions and placing them on a bedside cabinet; a hand mirror, a vintage silk flower and palettes of used make up – items that she had handled and used over and over; old, well-worn objects, still in existence and now, with an even greater emotional charge, having survived my Nana by some years.

Likewise, with my late father and the continued presence of a favourite seat. How was it that my Dad’s blue armchair stood so resolutely in the living room of my parents’ home on the day of his funeral, begging the question: if the chair could survive, then why on earth couldn’t he?

Themes of loss and remembrance are present in a lot of the work I make and reflect my fascination with the permanence of objects versus the fragility of human existence – crucially, how things outlive people. The histories associated with everyday objects give the work its meaning, not solely for me, but for an audience for whom some objects will inevitably resonate.

A lot has been written on the subject of the emotional attachments made to many of the everyday things that surround us, and none more powerfully than Sylvia Plath who captured her love for objects in many of her poems, ‘Tale of a Tub’ and ‘Black Rook in Rainy Weather’ being examples.

Tisha Nemeth-Loomis in her research paper ‘Plath’s Possession Aesthetics: Visual and Object Libido’ wrote:

‘Plath employed a visual exactitude which indicated surprising states of perceptual awareness; it filled her poems and objects with curiosity and dimension. When engaged in these states of visual connection, it is possible that Plath attempted to integrate herself with images and objects. For Plath, objects surpassed the mundane; they were unique, enviable entities.’

And her late husband, Ted Hughes, noted Plath’s psychological investment in the everyday object:

‘This genius for love she certainly had, and not in the abstract. She didn’t quite know how to manage it; it possessed her. It fastened her to cups, plants, creatures, vistas, people in a steady ecstasy. As much of all that she could, she hoarded into her poems.’ (quoted in Holbrook 279)

From a completely different literary genre, I found this piece of writing by romantic novelist Erica James. In this extract from her novel ‘Precious Time’, James describes the thoughts of a character who runs a house clearance firm …

It was the bedside tables that invariably got to him. It was in those little drawers that, often, the most personal and poignant objects had been kept, and which gave the deepest insight into that person’s habits and thoughts. Today’s bedside table had revealed the usual old tubes of ointment, packets of indigestion tablets, buttons, rusting safety-pins, bent hairpins, and a string of cheap gaudy beads. There was a tiny-faced watch that didn’t work, a money-off washing powder voucher (dated October 1988), a pair of tweezers, a throat lozenge that had oozed a sticky trail across an envelope of black and white holiday snaps, a crumbling bath cube that had lost its scent, and a small trinket box containing a collection of Christmas cracker jokes, unused party hats, two plastic whistles and a key-ring. There was also a small Bible, its pages thickened with use.’ 


It’s difficult sometimes to find the words to convey the true, agonising sense of loss and the very powerful emotions that we project onto objects that are left behind. Items presented as objects of remembrance and associated with the dead, are imbued with deep sentiment and emotion.

The hand mirror bears the physical marks of a well-used object, the metal and patina worn and eroded by my Nana’s endless handling of it. My Dad’s empty, unoccupied armchair, following his death, came to symbolise his absence, heart-wrenchingly so, for those of us who loved him so dearly – his revered place within the family unit and the actual physical space he once occupied. How on earth can we ever find it in ourselves to part with such precious items?

The reality is, of course, that we can’t keep everything and for practical reasons, some things in our lives just have to go. House moves, house clearances, downsizing, relationship break-ups and other life-changing events inevitably lead to a serious rethink and overhaul about what we can and can’t keep.

William Morris stated that we should have nothing in our houses that we did not ‘know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’ While I understand this sentiment, I know that peoples’ homes sometimes also contain things they positively hate but find hard to throw away – unwanted gifts from long deceased relatives, for example – the hideous ceramic owl inherited from Auntie Elsie who loved it and thought you would, too.

There’s no doubt that the bonds we form with certain objects are stronger than others and that our decision making about what we keep in our homes is often determined by the depth and strength of the emotional attachments we make to them. As time passes, these objects get handed down through the generations; their condition might become more battered and fragile, but their significance and sentimental value continues to grow – living on, immortal and becoming increasingly robust as they accumulate and carry with them, layer upon layer of their ancestors’ histories and narratives.

Kate Murdoch 2019

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‘What is an object worth? How much do you want it and what are you prepared to give in return? ‘ 

‘The very act of bartering adds an emotional reality to the process of exchange that currency somehow lacks.’ 

Kate Murdoch, 2008

10×10 explores the theme of value and worth. An ongoing project, it was launched in 2008, a year fraught with financial challenges as the stock market crashed spectacularly, the worst market fall since 1929.

The 10×10 project consists of an ever-changing display of 100 objects. Wherever it goes, people are asked to take one item and leave something in its place. To date, only one of the original objects has stayed in the cabinet – others have been exchanged over and over again and the overall appearance of the cabinet has changed dramatically since I first put up my own 100 objects for exchange, fifteen years ago.

The last exchange event was at the Firstsite gallery in Colchester in 2015.  Eight years on and in just eight days time, I’ll be reintroducing 10×10 as part of the Deptford X Arts Festival in London, SE8. Given that ill health prevented me from presenting it in 2018, I am very excited to be a part of this year’s Deptford X fringe festival, with 10×10 being included as part of a group show in the ArtHub, London gallery.

I’ve written a lot about 10×10 in this blog since it was first launched. I’ve also had a lot of conversations with people about the many different aspects of the project over the past fifteen years. As well as ‘a comment on humanity’ a phrase given to me by a friend at the very start, the theme of value and worth is ever present in 10×10. I’ve been  reminded of a conversation I had with artist/curator, Jane Boyer way back in 2012, in relation to this.

‘What is an object worth to you?’ is a question I ask in text I’ve written about 10×10 – the narrative around the candle exchange sums up the question of value and worth perfectly, I think.

Below is an extract from my conversation with Jane in 2012, a conversation that came about in response to the ‘This Me of Mine’ ACE funded group exhibition:

JB: In your blog Keeping it Going on a-n Artists Talking, you speak about value, both the perceived value of an object which you have made available for your audience to take (Going for Gold) or the associated value to exchange with something of similar value (10 x 10). It could be said the value we associate with an object is in relation to the depth of emotion we experience in any given situation.  Do you feel this to be true and what have you observed about this relationship through the interactive aspect of your work?

KM: I’m not sure there’s a definitive answer to this question but in terms of my observations of how the majority of people have interacted with 10×10 so far, then yes, I would say it is true. The emotional attachment we make to any given object can determine its worth in emotional terms as opposed to its monetary value. The very act of bartering adds an emotional reality to the process of exchange that currency somehow lacks. ‘What is an object worth to you?’ is one of the main questions posed by 10×10. ‘How much do you want it and what are you prepared to give in exchange?’

I can give you many good examples of the varying degrees of value and worth; they are contained in the stories people leave behind when they give their objects up for exchange. The woman who gave up a genuine diamond bracelet at the launch of 10×10 for instance demonstrates a really good example of value and worth. On the face of it, the value of a real diamond was high; from her story however, it was clear that the bracelet, in spite of its monetary worth, had become of little personal value to her.

An exchange made by an international student at Lewisham College has an equally poignant ring to it. He exchanged a small candle stub for a larger, unused candle. Living on a very tight budget in order to afford college fees, this student told me that he was doing his best to avoid having to pay for electricity. It was a practical exchange, then on one level – a used-up candle for one with many burning hours – but in terms of value in this case, the new candle represented a kind of life-saver for him.