I was really pleased to receive an email at the start of the year to say that a piece of my work had been selected for the Shape Open 2016. The work is due to be delivered at the beginning of next week and I was confident that I’d be able to put my hand to it fairly easily. ‘Bad Head Day’ had been sitting on top of a bookcase in my bedroon for some months, but in a pre-Christmas clear up, I’d obviously packed the piece away …

When it came to looking for it, however, it wasn’t where I expected it to be. A subsequent search in my studio confirmed that it wasn’t there, either – a slight panic started to set in. I went to my friend’s garage where my art, along with the objects that are the raw materials for making it, is stored in over 100 boxes. A fairly thorough search convinced me that ‘Bad Head Day’ was highly unlikely to be there. Likewise, in my garden shed where some twenty overflow boxes are stored.

I knew I had plenty of time to find it, but even so, where could it be? The slight panic turned to real panic and I started to have fantasy conversations in my head with the curator – how sorry I was, would an image of the work suffice, perhaps? I felt disappointed at the prospect of my work potentially not being a part of the show – and also disappointed in myself – ‘sorry, but I just can’t find the work I submitted’ – just how pathetic, not to mention unprofessional, would that sound!

After searching every possible place it could be in the house, I decided it was time for a new approach. It would be a massive task, but I made the decision to do what I’ve been meaning to do for years, which was to look through every single box of my collections – to see what was in them and to label the outside of the boxes with their contents. Drastic but necessary measures, in order to satisfy myself that ‘Bad Head Day’ wasn’t somewhere amidst the 125 boxes.

For seven days, I filled my car with as many boxes as it would take and brought them home – arguably better to sort through the boxes in the warmth of home, rather than in a freezing garage, I decided. A methodical approach was necessary – time and patience, too and with a positive attitude, I started to really enjoy the process, turning up all sorts of long-forgotten objects as I combed carefully through the boxes. It took me the best part of each day to sort through the fifteen or so boxes I brought home on each trip, labelling them as I went.

At the end of seven days of solid looking, there was no sign of ‘Bad Head Day’ amidst the boxes in the garage. I was now starting to feel desperate! On the plus side, of course, I now had over 100 boxes thoroughly sorted and labelled. But it didn’t take away from the fact that a piece of work I was expected to deliver for an exhibition had still not been found. More searching continued …

On Monday afternoon, when I had just about given up all hope, I finally found ‘Bad Head Day’. In the 119th box out of 125, amidst the overflow boxes in my garden shed. I have no recollection of putting it there and would never have expected to find it there. It wasn’t carefully wrapped in the way I imagined it would be, but just laying amongst assorted glass and china.

I’ve been on a bit of a high since Monday – not only about finally finding ‘Bad Head Day’ but also to have got my collections so thoroughly sorted and catalogued. I’m more aware now than I’ve ever been of exactly where things are and it feels like a real weight off my mind.

I keep thinking about the irony of this past week’s events and the nature of the piece of work that was mislaid. ‘Bad Head Day’ is so symbolic of the state of mind I was in while carrying out the search for it.

But it’s also symbolic of the way I’ve often felt over the years – about the sheer volume of stuff I have and how overwhelmed it can make me feel. A whole host of emotions were stirred up throughout this week’s sorting process – some good, some not so. But the feelings are ‘boxed up’ now – contained and protected, alongside the objects, and the boxes and their contents have taken on a more manageable feel, psychologically. I’m already feeling calmer. Now I can start looking forward to the show.


New Year’s Day, 2016 – a new start to a new year. It’s clear though that old habits, old ways of thinking die hard. However diligently I work as an artist – putting in the hours, going to the studio at every opportunity I can, staying totally committed to making work – it sometimes seems impossible to convince certain people that making art, and all the associated work that’s involved in arranging to show it, is actually work. Proper work!

It was the subject of an entire blog post I wrote here some time ago in which I wrote about my mother introducing me as someone who ‘didn’t work.’ I remember being astounded by her comment and gently but firmly challenging her on what she meant by it. And I remember the blog post resonating with other artists – particularly women artists, and particularly in relation to their own mothers’ attitude towards what they did.

A random throwaway comment today about me not ‘having work to go back to’ after the Christmas break brought it all back to the surface. I’m more sensitive probably, more tired and emotional than usual, after a late New Year Eve/early morning, but the implication that I don’t work or have a proper job was hurtful nonetheless and felt like a real put down of the amount of effort and energy I put into my creative practice. It was particularly ironic that it came on a day when I had been exchanging emails with a curator about my work being collected for an impending exhibition near Bradford in mid January. No, not a laborious task at all, I admit – it took very little time. However, it is New Year’s Day, the email exchange did require a certain degree of thinking things through and I did have to go to my friend’s garage to collect the objects I need for the show.

Yes, of course it’s not exactly backbreaking and I’m always conscious of the ‘first world problem’ scenario – the trivia we can so easily become immersed in when we take our eye off the bigger picture. As I said in a previous post, I’ve never had to experience anything remotely like the suffering many people worldwide are currently going through. Compared to their daily struggles, my moan about how unhappy I am about not being appreciated enough pales into absurd insignificance. Having said that, if the things you do – the work you do, dare I say it! – are so readily negated and overlooked, then of course it does affect you.

Presenting work in an exhibition is part of a process – it doesn’t just magically happen. There might be numerous conversations and negotiations to get through before anything even starts to materialise – biographies collated, images sent, pricing confirmed and so on. And then there’s the actual curating of the work to be discussed and decided before the exhibition opens.

I have of course, made a choice to be an artist. And though it’s not always easy juggling family demands with getting into the studio, getting work to designated galleries on time and so on, I love the flexibility it gives me. I also love making art. And I also happen to love writing this blog. But of course, that’s part of my practice as an artist too. So, in answer to the question – when am I going back to work? I’ve already started. Happy New Year!