With so much time being consumed with schlepping boxes and bags from my sister’s attic into my car, then transporting them to my home where I slowly sort through them, it’s been more difficult to get into the studio. But I have managed to get there, even if it’s just for brief, snatched periods of time – often to match up something I’ve found in the day which I know will be ‘just right’ alongside something in the studio – I can’t tell you what a thrill this gives me! (Sad, I know – but honest, at least).

My main focus when it comes to these choices seems to be colour, prompted by the amazing range of hues and shades of things I’ve found when sorting – all so evocative of certain eras. Colour has been the main emphasis in collecting together the various items and imposing some sort of order on them. It’s been interesting to work with different types of material and the 1960s plastic doilies, table placemats and flowers have opened up a completely new colour palette for me – all very symbolic of the passing of time, changing trends and fashions and the consequent physical changes I saw in my Nana’s home, in which she lived for over 70 years.

Plastics of the 1960s have their own distinct colour range and I’ve focused on bringing together the various plastic objects I’ve found in the assorted bags and boxes. I’ve placed them on the plain walls of the studio and onto different types of formica/wood effect backgrounds and photographed them, trying to make some sort of sense and order of them, in order to fully appreciate their appeal.

Certain things have transported me right back to specific moments in time – childhood days and memories of certain rooms – in my Nana’s home, as well as my own – the pictures on the walls, the placemats on the table, the doilies on the sideboard, the plastic flowers in a jug in the front room.

Plastic is mass-produced and robust – indestructable, at the same time as being throwaway, ironically – a million miles away from the preceding days of careful preservation and the ‘make do and mend’ way of caring for worldly possessions. Working with objects made of plastic is in sharp contrast to the materials I’ve worked with more recently – in terms of colour, in terms of their availability and in terms of how I handled and treated them. The mass-produced plastic items feel so much less precious than those from the 1930s/40s era; those I used in the ‘Here Today’ assemblage, for example – the handcrafted mirror, the handmade silk velvet flowers – have a certain aura about them – of being unique, one-offs, precious and in need of being preserved, respected and tenderly looked after. This contrast has made me think yet further about the importance and value of objects – how much they represent in terms of our identities – socially and politically, and also in relation to our cultural identities. And our place – our social standing – in the world.

I’ve felt invigorated and excited by the new ideas that the sorting has introduced, leading me to an ongoing work in progress, one which I’m excited to explore further. My current working title ‘Nana’s Colours‘ has become the collective name I’ve given to the various small, simple assemblages I’ve made during these short bursts of art making. It’s felt important to keep making art amidst all the chaos and upheaval caused by this past month’s massive sorting; it’s helped ground me. And I’m pleased with some of the results that the gathering together of various bits and pieces of fabrics, objects, books and other things has created.

Now I can’t wait to see what the future brings, in terms of getting back into the studio regularly again to make art. I’m currently negotiating a chunk of time in my head when I can be there for a good few solid hours – to immerse myself and see what comes of spending time with yet more of the new material I’ve recently taken into the studio. And I’m already looking forward to reporting back – there’s a grounding effect to writing this blog, too.


Half an hour or so after publishing this post, this film came to my attention, sent by a friend: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/107292…


I’ve been itching to get back to writing here – so many things I’ve wanted to share about the past month’s serious sorting. And I do mean serious. Dozens of bags and boxes from the past – all stored in my sister’s attic, untouched for the past eight to nine years. My sister’s impending house move has forced me to make decisions about a) which items I’d like to keep from the numerous boxes of clothes, books, ceramics, etc and b) whether I have sufficient space to store them.

I’ve collected a considerable amount of stuff in my life – there is no escaping that fact. At times it’s felt like a burden, weighing me down and making me feel completely stuck. But at the back of my mind, I’ve known that there would come a day when I would need (and feel ready) to face the sheer volume of accumulated stuff – head on. Perhaps that time is now. Certainly, I’ve made the decision to fully embrace my collections – to accept the enormity of them rather than remain shy of admitting to the sheer volume of them and to stop skulking around, feeling guilty and embarrassed about them.

Sorting through this latest batch of stuff has been an emotionally as well as physically demanding time, though I’ve managed to stop myself feeling quite so overwhelmed this time round; experience has taught me that a measured and positive approach to the whole process of sorting is more beneficial. An acceptance, too that any kind of delving into the past has the potential for bringing up a whole range of emotions, not all of them welcomed – the losses, regrets, the inevitability of ageing and the passing of time and so on. Being prepared helps, to some extent.

With this shift in my thinking, I’ve started to enjoy the whole process more; to view the sifting and sorting as less of a necessary evil and more like a useful and worthwhile task in relation to my creative work – these things after all, provide the raw material for the art I make.

I’ve had moments of feeling excited about reconnecting with some of the things in my sister’s attic – books, for example, that I remember reading to my sons included a 1960s Deans fairy tale book of my own – classic, familiar tales, beautifully illustrated. In the knowledge that I can’t keep everything, I showed my now grown-up sons the book, eager to know how many of the tales they remembered. Rapunzel? Hansel and Gretel? The Princess and the Pea? Sleeping Beauty? Their reaction was matter-of-fact – they remembered some of them, but it wasn’t the momentous response that I’d thought (hoped?) it might have been. While it meant so much more to me, to them it was just a book from their past. And hard though it is, through accepting this, I’ve been able to let go of the book. It indicates a shift in my thinking – I can’t (and neither do I want) to keep everything.

But like all good fairy tales, there’s often a darker undercurrent at work and as well as joyful reunions, I’ve also had moments of feeling totally churned up about reconnecting with some of the items from my past. There’s a sad and upsetting story behind the 1980s salmon pink, silk dress I refound, for example – the emotional impact of finding it again took me quite by surprise. It’s a story I might decide to share here one of these days but for now, despite the years that have passed, it all feels too raw and in need of some careful processing. I know I don’t want the dress, but what I do with it is another matter. My strong feelings about it will no doubt subside, but my gut feeling at this moment in time, is that I’m just not able to throw it away – that it requires some sort of proper, significant letting go ceremony, whether real or symbolic. Feelings change by the day of course, so I’ll see how it all unfolds.

About a dozen more boxes and bags in the attic to sort through in the meantime – and then the joys of getting back into the studio and focusing on new work that has stemmed from this whole sorting process. I can’t wait.