This is what I wrote on my first blog Keeping It Together last year :

… in 2012 I’d love to be able to strengthen the connections I’ve made with some of the artists I’ve met; not only are they people who have social consciences and share similar values to my own, but they are people who have encouraged me and complimented my work, instilling in me the confidence to keep on doing what I do.’

So far, so good, then; I’ve nurtured those relationships and, without being particularly conscious of it when I sat down to write the last post on here, it turned out to be a kind of a celebration of that. I haven’t been through a formal art education and started out as an artist feeling pretty much on my own. Forming close, meaningful and professional relationships is a relatively new thing for me and has contributed enormously to helping me feel much more rooted as an artist. I’ve written about it on here before – how at the heart of all of us there is an innate need for compassionate understanding; I’d forgotten and underestimated the strength and impact of being around a genuinely supportive peer group – I’ve experienced it in past work placements in social work and education – I’d forgotten the positive effect it can have, both professionally and personally.

Being involved in crits with Q-Art and Engine ChatChat has also contributed positively to my overall personal and professional learning and development; they’ve increased my conversations with other artists and their informal nature means I haven’t felt intimidated and have felt able to speak and contribute. Yes, there are moments when the theory of art is being discussed that things can go totally over my head, but to find myself in environments which feel all-inclusive and non-judgmental and have allowed me to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and to respond to other artists’ queries, has felt really refreshing. And of course, blog writing on Artists Talking has furthered that even more.

I also wrote this:

as well as nurturing and maintaining relationships, I also want to just get on with making some work – this blog has contained a significant lack of discussion about any actual work for some weeks now, I’ve noticed and I’d like to feel that I’ll be able to address the balance of the two in the year ahead.

The aim of this follow- on blog was to examine the impact that writing a blog might have on any kind of creative output. Will I be able to maintain a blog at the same time as being creative in the studio? Will it help or hinder my practise as an artist? I’m not able to give a definitive answer to that question quite yet; it’s only been a short time since I restarted blog writing. What’s clear already however is that even though it’s taken up a considerable amount of my time, maintaining this blog has been an extremely useful exercise, not least because it’s encouraged me to monitor more closely what work I actually am creating and getting on with.

Getting on with the work’s been the name of the game over the past couple of weeks as I resurrected my 10×10 project and took it to Hastings as part of the Coastal Currents festival. It was the fifth time I’d presented 10×10 and as always, the days leading up to the exchange were filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Would anyone come? Would any exchanges be made? Would humanity come out of this one well – as indeed it had in every other place it’d been taken?

In the event, Hastings did itself proud. Thanks to Coastal Current’s brilliant publicity, over 100 people came along and over 40 exchanges were made in the three hour exchange period. I couldn’t have wished for more in terms of the sensitive way in which people responded; some amazingly thoughtful exchanges were made. There’s a lot to digest and summing it all up will prove difficult in terms of doing it justice. How do you sum up those small moments of wonder and magic when people share their stories? That’s the next task in hand, even though I’m also going to be turning my hand to more creating for an impending exhibition in November. More soon …





Just before I went away, I wrote about how for the first time, I felt that I’d actually earned a holiday this year. I’ve been thinking about this, intrigued about where this new train of thought has come from. I’ve had other holidays – why did this one feel more ‘deserved’ than others? What was different? What has changed?

It’s now six months since I decided to become a part of the studio hub spearheaded by the founders of Zeitgeist Arts Projects (ZAP), Rosalind Davis and Annabel Tilley. Despite its initial, obvious attractions for me, it still felt like a brave decision at the time, not least because certain aspects of the actual physical space didn’t appeal. I also had my doubts about whether as an artist, I was good enough to be a part of such a dynamic group. Doubt and anxiety – it all takes energy!

Although I’m now comfortable with the decision I made, I’m conscious that the move has affected me in ways I wasn’t quite expecting. The significance of immersing myself in an artist-led space only really struck me as I became a part of it. And the more I’ve been a part of it, the more I recognise its advantages.

Hand in hand with writing this blog, my place in it has given me far more exposure than I’d ever anticipated, not just as an artist but also as a person. I feel like I’ve flourished within a very short space of time – it’s as if being part of this new space has required me to do so; there’s no place to hide – both literally, because of the lay out of the open plan space (specifically designed for our purposes), and metaphorically, through being associated with eight other artists whose work is vibrant and essentially, happening. We’re open to each other, to debates and conversations about our work and support and encourage each other in the making of it; the energy that pervades the space is contagious.

It’s in stark contrast to the more closed off way in which I worked in the studio space I rented 15 months or so ago. My studio is now in an environment where creative work is constantly visible, both to immediate studio hub members and their visitors. And to other artists and curators who are encouraged through the doors by ZAP’s ethos of sharing, supporting and nurturing – not to mention the frequent visitors to their extensive DIY Educate programme.

My work in the studio is potentially then, being engaged with pretty much all of the time and nothing to my mind can be more conducive to keeping up the momentum for creating work than the knowledge that an ever increasing audience is interested in seeing it. I had been wanting people to see my art for some time. I also have considerably more conversations about my work these days and am gaining confidence in speaking about my practice through them.

And despite being autonomous in terms of my own creative practice, I’m also part of a team; there’s a wealth of experience and knowledge within that team – painters, photographers, film makers – and amongst them too, a real spirit of generosity and a genuine willingness to share and exchange their areas of expertise. It’s DIY education and artistic learning and development at its best, challenging the established teaching systems of art colleges and their ever increasing tuition fees.

There’s strength in numbers and much to be gained through artists pulling together to make things happen; strength too, to be gained from connecting and collaborating with other artist-led groups and keeping alert to what’s happening in a more global sense. I feel I’m in safer hands through being associated with artists who aren’t afraid to acknowledge the truth and their position in a constantly changing political and cultural climate. As the recession continues to bite, government funding dries up and college tuition fees continue to rise, there’s so much to be gained through the knowledge sharing initiatives that artist-led spaces are able to offer.

It’s been a fascinating journey so far. But survival is very much at the core of what we do these days – and that in itself takes energy. Small wonder then, that for this year’s annual summer break, I was ready for a rest – and crucially, felt like I’d earned one.




I still seem to be playing catch up after the holiday; there’s a real sense that I’m clearing the decks in preparation for some hard work ahead. I feel in limbo with regards to 10 x 10 as there’s nothing much I can do now until the installation on September 18th. I’m grateful to Coastal Currents staff in the meantime who’ve been brilliant at getting some great publicity for 10 x 10 in the local press: http://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/local-news/… I’m hoping it will help to bring in an audience for the exchange on September 22nd.

The importance of documenting my work is something I’ve learnt from others and I’ve got better at it, the more work I produce. It feels particularly important for events that involve audience participation – catching the moments, preserving snippets of conversation. Shelley Rae kindly captured a couple of ‘Going for Gold’ moments on film when she participated in the event. They’re seconds long but nevertheless sum up the energy and enthusiasm of some of those who took part. I’ll post Shelley’s films on here just as soon as I’ve worked out how. I was also able to document the evening with a series of photographs.

So, for the recent open studios, I invited people to celebrate the Olympics in their own way. Whether feeling curmudgeonly or filled with joy about the Games, moaning about the traffic queues or feeling overwhelmed by the wealth of athletic talent worldwide, I assumed that people (surely!) had something to celebrate – either for themselves or on behalf of someone else.

As the world’s top athletes continue to celebrate winning gold medals – the amazing David Weir just last night – I invited people to celebrate personal achievements in other fields, to reward themselves or someone they knew with a piece of gold from my ‘Going for Gold’ assemblage. Made up of golden objects, some in their original state but many of them sprayed gold, giving the most mundane objects a whole new lease of life, the objects were laid out to form the numbers 2012. As visitors to my studio gradually felt more comfortable and able to reward themselves with a golden object, so the original outline of 2012 started to disappear, echoing the impending end to the Olympic and Paralympic events.

It was a simple idea – one that grew out of consciously wanting to inject some fun into whatever work I presented for the open studios. Those of you following this blog will be aware of how a negative experience had impacted on me in the previous weeks. People’s positive response to ‘Going for Gold’ felt good, then – and retrospectively, was brilliant in helping me restore my faith in humanity.

It was interesting to see people’s response to being invited to take away something for nothing – a different experience from 10 x 10 where people are asked to leave something in place of whatever they take. Exchange adds another whole dimension – all the emotional implications associated with it come to the fore, raising the question around how much you actually want an object, what it’s worth to you and ultimately, what you’d be prepared to give up to secure it? Did the objects I offered for free, immediately diminish in value on account of costing the receiver nothing? Did it make the objects more difficult to accept?

There was a bit of hesitancy amongst some who said they didn’t feel right about just taking things and there were suggestions amongst others about leaving money in place of what they’d taken. Others entered into the spirit of rewarding either themselves or someone else who they felt deserved it by simply taking away a golden object. There were a few pieces left over but the numbers 2012, just as I hoped they would be, were indecipherable at the end of the evening on Saturday, August 11th. I rushed home afterwards, just in time to witness one of the most incredible live televised evenings of athletic history ever – to see two of the world’s top athletes Mo Farah and Usain Bolt achieve their considerably more challenging attempts at ‘Going for Gold.’