This week I was deeply affected by the news story of the killings in Santa Barbara, California – another human tragedy for six young, innocent people and their families and friends and for the US and their gun laws. How did a gun and over 400 rounds of ammunition come to be in the hands of a young person who both the press and his immediate family have described as vulnerable? More recent reports from US authorities state that he had three legally-owned handguns with him at the time of carrying out the drive-by shootings.

As well as showing us a heart- wrenching display of a father’s pain in response to losing his son, this piece of video is a sad indictment of the US gun laws in the state of California. This is what the father of one of the victims, Christopher Martinez, had to say about the recent shooting incident which claimed the life of his son:


There’s nothing much I can add to that – a grieving father of one of the victims says it all for me.

‘Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA.’

I started this blog over 18 months ago, wondering whether it was possible (or not) to maintain it at the same time as managing to continue to create work. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how important it feels to me as an artist to maintain an interest in the world around me. Can I maintain a blog and continue to create art at the same time as being aware of what’s going on socially and politically?

My Nana often used to say to me, ‘You can’t take on the responsibilities of the world.’ But you can, if you choose, be aware of what’s going on in it. If my creative work is to continue to concern itself with celebrating and reflecting the wonders of life and humanity, then I have to confront the human condition in all its varying states. Bad things happen; tragedies such as the above are sadly, not unique and point to a real need for ongoing campaigns for change in the world around us.

RIP All the victims of yet another senseless act of gun violence, Santa Barbara, CA. May 2014


continued from #49

But it hasn’t just been about mementoes from my late Nana – it’s also about the things that I’ve held onto from my own past. Sorting through this vast lifelong collection has involved having to think about the human condition at large – both my own inner personal issues and the more universal issues of life and death – and love and loss – and other people and my relationship to them, theirs to me. Like so many people before me, I have been let down and hurt by others at various points in my life; I have lost loved ones, too – both through death and circumstances. Certain items of clothing, individual pieces of jewellery, the sound of specific music, the scent of particular perfumes – all these reminders have the ability to stir up vivid memories and bear testament to those hurts and scars from the past. Remember that dress I mentioned a few posts ago …

Someone made a comment about my work recently that struck a deep chord; he suggested that my inability to let go of things might perhaps, relate to an attempt to hold things together – ‘in order to stop things falling apart.’ It’s a fascinating point and one that’s certainly crossed my mind – a sense of exerting control over the present, in response to an inability to control circumstances of the past – it’s a common trait amongst collectors.

But what we are aware of intellectually doesn’t necessarily always equate with how we feel emotionally – nothing prepared me for how challenging this sorting process would be. Revisiting so much of my past through encountering the physical objects from it, has been about needing to process, accept and put to bed a lot of the associative painful memories. An emotionally tiring time – but necessary and cathartic nevertheless. I am feeling lighter as a result of unloading a lot of physical and emotional baggage.

And the added bonus, of course is to to have found a new body of work emerging in such a positive and unexpected way. It feels great to have Nana’s Colours to bear in mind while I’m in the process of sorting, ever more aware of how certain items connect and relate to each other – whether it’s through materials or colour, it’s the grouping together of related items that steers and creates the work for me.

With a less heavy and weighed down heart, then – an empty attic for my sister and a slightly less cluttered studio for me, the sorting continues …


‘Some things are clearly too precious to let go of.’

I’ve been so immersed in sorting things recently that it’s come as a pleasant and welcome surprise to find a new body of work spontaneously developing. Nana’s Colours (current working title) has emerged in the midst of this recent sorting process and has been growing and developing, hand in hand with the sorting – hardly surprising considering the emotional attachment I have made to so many of my late Nana’s belongings. Some things evoke a strong emotional response and are clearly too precious to let go of …

It’s reminiscent of the work It’s The Little Things, work composed of just that – the little things I rescued from the home my Nana left after some 70 years of living in it. Small, seemingly insignificant, tiny mementoes. But from little acorns, big things grow as the saying goes – and as each tiny piece is set aside, so the work develops and grows – one plastic doily, one small scrap of fabric and one plastic flower; one ochre coloured lampshade, one Mills & Boon paperback and one silk flower – slowly brought together over a period of time to create an entirely new assemblage.

Both in and outside of the studio, I’ve found myself thinking quite obsessively about all the different colours associated with my Nana’s life – the colours she, herself wore – the peaches, creams and pinks, mauves and lavenders – and the colours in which she furnished her home, constantly changing according to the various trends and fashions. I have vivid recollections of the deep crimson and olive green colours of the chenille curtain hanging at the back of her living room door, for example – and the deep mustard tone of the painted kitchen walls, contrasting with 1960s geometric design red, black and white curtains.

Likewise, recent sorting through of some of the dresses, hats, scarves and handbags I kept from my Nana’s wardrobe; it’s made me appreciate the true quality of so many of the things she owned and the huge range of diverse colours that faded in and out of her life, according to fashion and the passing of time. It’s like unveiling a history of a life in fabric – from the sensuous feel of very fine 1930/40s silk scarves to the crisp cotton frocks of the 1950s, to the rather coarse feel of 1960s Crimplene.

It calls to mind my The Fabric of Life work and reminds me of the ongoing, never quite resolved nature of this piece. There are all sorts of reasons for so much of it being left, unresolved (a whole new blog piece in itself), but it’s my own closeness and intimacy to so many of the included fabrics (not to mention my dear late Nana’s actual physical association with them) that undeniably makes it difficult for me to truly consider The Fabric of Life finished. There is clearly still more to process – the work itself drawing on the strong parallel between the fragility of cloth and the ultimate fragility of our own and others’ lives.