‘What percentage of this stuff really is raw material for my art work? How far is the sheer volume of it a reflection of how hard it is for me to let go?’

These questions came to my attention again recently as a memory on Facebook. They’re from a blog post, written here in November 2015 at a point when I’d finally managed to get my entire collections in one place.

Four years on … it’s a long time, but some changes are finally happening. I’ve started the process of letting go, with the question ‘what percentage of this stuff really is raw material for my art work’ in mind. New additional questions include: ‘Will I use it? If it’s not for my art, do I need to keep it? Do I even like it?’

The sorting is all part of my working process and historically, though enjoyable, has caused me a certain amount of anxiety – afraid to throw something away on the basis that it might ‘come in handy one day’ as my Nana used to say. I also often get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff. Over the years, I’ve grown increasingly aware of the difficulty of giving up things that are of sentimental value and in this respect, make allowances for myself. And yet, what do you do with all this stuff? Do you, as so many self-help books suggest, become weighed down by it, so that eventually you’re no longer able to fully exist in the present?

So many questions and so far, not too many answers. But there’s been a definite shift in my approach recently and the actual task of getting rid of things and the willingness to do so, has started to feel easier. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve managed to empty two 30 litre boxes in the studio and offload their contents to a charity shop. I now feel that I want to start reducing the amount of stuff I have in storage. That’s a very different mindset from feeling that I have to and being psychologically geared up makes the process that much easier.

This shift in my thinking is undoubtedly to do with what life has thrown at me over this past year or so. Being ill and in hospital last year, followed by a long period of recovery, is one of them. I had a lot of time to reflect and all the concerns associated with my ‘stuff’ being a burden to others resurfaced. Very little has changed since I wrote this four years ago:

‘Besides the obvious issues that come up when thinking about the end of one’s life, for me, the what happens if I die question raises, in particular, issues around the amount of stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. Selfish, unfair, inconsiderate are all descriptions that come to mind …’

Coming to terms with the death of a friend has also had an impact and nudged me towards reevaluating what I currently own. My friend David and I shared a love of collecting, would regularly bump into each other in local SE London charity shops and flea markets and compare our respective finds – ‘treasures’ as David referred to them. I found the wonky-faced ceramic cat he persuaded me to buy in my sorting last week, held it close and thought of him, acutely aware that this daft, wonky object had outlived a brilliantly vibrant man. When I heard news of David’s death, I thought about all the wonderful times I’d spent in his flat – always beautifully curated and adorned with the amazing weird and wonderful objects he’d collected over many years. We could spend hours ooh-ing and aah-ing over the latest acquisition. Such fun! But ‘you can’t take it with you’ (another Nana-ism) and David’s collections were confined to his home and didn’t include over 100 boxes stashed away in a shed!

The whole process of letting go is a fascinating one; I’ve been looking back at times in the past when it has felt more manageable to wave goodbye to certain things. Specific objects often remind me of other people and I always feel an urge to unite them with the person in question. I have at times offered these things to people as gifts – it somehow softens the blow of parting with them, knowing that certain things can go to people who might appreciate them. I’ve also offloaded things through my work, by creating various events that invite people to take something away with them. ‘Going for Gold’ for example, during the 2012 Olympics and more recently, ’30 pieces of silver’ at the Collyer Bristow Gallery and ‘102 pieces of glass’ at the OVADA Gallery in Oxford.

Some things are inevitably easier to part with than others – specifically those to which I have no real emotional attachment. There’s also the fact that there are quite a lot of objects that I don’t particularly ‘like’ any more. There was undoubtedly something that attracted me to them in the first place, but as time has passed, their appeal has diminished. I’m not the same person I was four years ago after all – let alone all those years since I first started collecting. My taste has changed as I’ve grown older and my work, largely autobiographical, is changing too. My preference is clearly for old, used objects – things that carry a patina of age and signs of being well-used. I’ve also accumulated things that people have given me – objects that were never ‘quite right’ for me, but that I’ve been too polite to refuse. Any collector will tell you that the things they collect are very personal and very specific.

This extract is from a post written four years ago. It seems as relevant and pertinent now as it did then and so it feels appropriate to include it here:

‘… all questions that I will continue to address as the cycle of sorting, re-evaluating and making decisions about what to keep/let go of persists. For now, at least, I can see more clearly what I have and while it occasionally overwhelms me, I never seem to tire of the sorting process – from writing about it, to the actual physical sifting itself; what the sorting unearths in terms of past memories and how I respond to the feelings they evoke. Some items just make me laugh, while others can stir up a whole host of deep rooted emotions.

Small wonder then, that I have a tendency to flit from one piece of work to another, the butterfly approach to it being as much about survival as it is about maintaining a keen interest in what’s going on around me; not getting too bogged down in the past, especially the sad parts – and maintaining a keen interest in the present; what’s here, right now, in front of me. A couple of weeks ago, I rediscovered a pair of my late Father’s pyjamas, carefully packed away, momentarily forgotten. They will be the subject of a future blog post here one of these days, I’m sure – once I’ve allowed myself time to properly digest and process the impact of finding them again, that is …’

Back to the present, and the memory of the rediscovery of my late father’s pyjamas is as pertinent still and I feel comforted by the fact that such significant moments and finds are recorded here. Even objects of such huge sentimental value can get ‘lost’ in the midst of so much stuff and so it feels important to stop and take stock from time to time – stay on top of what’s what and where it is – and to keep listing the individual items in order to have easier access to them when I want to use them in my work. If I manage to get rid of just a fraction of my collection, I’m confident that I will still have a lifetime of materials and ideas to work with. And while the general cost of living and specifically, studio rentals in London continue to increase, the fact that my raw materials cost me nothing is a very comforting thought … my hope for the future is that I’ll never be short of ideas or raw materials.

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Yesterday was Sylvia Plath’s birthday. I picked up this information from social media somewhere and it played on my mind while in at the studio. Being reminded of Plath at this particular point feels pertinent as I’ve been thinking about motherhood a lot recently, both in personal and universal terms. Plath’s ‘Morning Song‘ poem must surely be one of the most powerful ever written on the very real experience of becoming a new mother. For me, re-reading it is a timely reminder of the massively complex nature of the mother/child union.

It’s now approaching the 7th week since my sons left for their respective university towns and I’m starting to feel the pull of wanting to see them again. It’s momentary and completely unpredictable, but when it comes, the yearning can be powerful and visceral. And of course, it’s all tangled up with the knowledge that both sons have been ready to leave the proverbial nest for some time and I’m keen to respect their wish for independence and autonomy. But that’s not to say that I have to deny how much I miss them at times.

The subconscious is a powerful thing – no surprise then, that the objects and images I’ve gravitated towards in the studio these past few weeks are associated with motherhood. A new body of work, ‘Babes in Arms’ has been developing gradually and as well as assembling objects together, I’ve been making short films on my phone of vintage photos of babies in the arms of adults.

Working with mother themed objects has also arisen in response to a beautiful ‘Mother’ brooch which was left by artist Paula Fenwick Lucas amid the 102 glass objects when she visited the ‘Neither Use Nor Ornament’ (NUNO) exhibition in Oxford in spring of this year. At the point Paula left it, I was getting excited about visiting both my sons, following on from a brief visit to Oxford for the launch of the NUNO exhibition.

Being ill last year significantly affected my role as their Mum: I was in hospital when my sons went to their respective new shared student accommodation and for several months, though I had their addresses on paper, I had no sense of where they were actually living. This year was different and I’m so grateful that I was able to be with them as they settled into their new homes and come away with a picture in mind of where they are.

I’m not sure where this latest work will take me but for now, I’m enjoying the process of making it, consciously slowing down the pace at which I would normally work and doing everything I can to ensure I stay as well as can be.

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But in the darkness of the night, what haunts us are not broken systems but the faces of the broken girls. So, so many. All the time.’  Suzanne Moore, The Guardian, 2015


I looked back on my blog posts recently and realised that it’s four and a half years since I wrote about the ceramic figurines that make up the work of  ‘Sweet Nothings.’ My intervention was to gag the mouths of the figurines with Elastoplast, demonstrating the way in which young girls and women are so often silenced and made to feel powerless. What struck me upon re-reading this post from 2015 is how pertinent it is – still.


The ‘Sweet Nothings’ ceramic figurines are set to make it back into the public eye again shortly. It seems pointless to write another blog post about them – nothing sums up the sentiments and high emotions around the subject of unsolicited exploitation of girls and young women more than the Suzanne Moore article, I feel. It coincided with making the work and Moore’s observations ring as true now, as they did then – a sad and uncomfortable truth.


From my blog post, March 2015:

‘Sweet Nothings‘ is a piece of work made up of small china female figurines. The figurines are of girls, not women – all bows & frills, sweet & subservient-looking in their stance; placed on a dressing table, faces turned to the mirror. It’s not obvious at a first glance, but all the mouths of the young girls are taped up – gagged and silenced by a strip of Elastoplast. Just like the girls and women Suzanne Moore discusses in her article, they have no voice.’


To read the entire post on my ‘Keeping It Going’ blog, click on link below:


And to read Suzanne Moore’s full article, click here:



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Split – definition:  divide, disunite, separate, sever, bisect, partition, tear asunder, cleave, rend

Last week I checked on the current state of ‘Bread and Roses’ , an ongoing piece of work which is encased and protected in a plastic box in my back garden.

I first laid fresh bread and roses on a wooden platter in 2015, in response to the election result of May that year. As the months and years have passed, and the effects of austerity have increasingly been felt, the bread has now completely disintegrated and the roses have all but gone, though their stalks are still intact.

More recently, a small crack that had formed on the side of the wooden platter has got bigger and developed into a definite split in the wood.

Just as the deterioration of the bread and roses reflects the shameful & neglectful impact of austerity, the split for me is symbolic of the deep economic, social and political divides that have worsened in this country over the past few years. Disagreements over Brexit are at the forefront of a great deal of the overall dissent felt by many, while cracks and divisions have grown deeper within the various political parties.

‘Bread and Roses’ has acted as a visual reminder of the consequences of neglect over the past four years and it’s been a fascinating process documenting its gradual decay and disintegration. I’m curious to see what will eventually happen to it and while there’s sufficient space in the garden, I’ll hold onto it – continue to monitor the changes and keep an eye on the split, too.


A personal response to Refugee Week, June 2019 …

‘Refugee Week takes place every year across the world in the week around World Refugee Day on the 20 June. In the UK, Refugee Week is a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourages a better understanding between communities.

Refugee Week started in 1998 as a direct reaction to hostility in the media and society in general towards refugees and asylum seekers. An established part of the UK’s cultural calendar, Refugee Week is now one of the leading national initiatives working to counter this negative climate, defending the importance of sanctuary and the benefits it can bring to both refugees and host communities.’

(from the International Awareness Events website)

‘WELCOME’  by Kate Murdoch 2019

I made a new piece of work at the weekend, in response to World Refugee Day and Refugee Week which ended this year, on Sunday, June 23rd.

I headed for a specific piece of coastline, Winchelsea Beach, in East Sussex which is significant to me for more than one reason.

It’s a place I’m very familiar with as my parents bought a caravan close to the beach some 30 years or so ago. I’ve been a frequent visitor to the area ever since and love the remote bleakness of this particular stretch of coast.

Two summers ago, I had a short exchange with a man I met on a morning walk, close to the caravan site where I stay. I commented on seeing a police car making its way down a fairly inaccessible lane, towards the beach, in the direction we were both walking. I said what an unusual sight it was, in what is a relatively crime-free corner of the world. The man simply replied: ‘immigrants.’ His aggression took me by surprise and when I asked what he meant, he went into a tirade about immigrants landing in boats ‘all along the East Sussex coast’ – ‘coming here, living off our land, claiming our benefits, etc etc’. He was full of anger and certainly very sure of his opinion, to the point that I was slightly nervous about voicing mine. But I felt I needed to speak out for what I believed in and told him how sad I thought it was; how utterly desperate people must be to put themselves and their children at such risk and how, crucially, after experiencing such trauma in their lives, they should be welcomed with open arms. The conversation ended there, thankfully and the man grunted and sloped off – we were clearly at complete odds with our opinions.

Albeit brief, this conversation stayed with me for a long time. I’d seen opinions like this expressed on TV, but had never actually been face to face with someone who felt so strongly about ‘his’ land, ‘his’ taxes and so full of fear about ‘the immigrants taking over’ and getting their hands on anything that belonged to him. The idea of laying down WELCOME mats to welcome refugees arriving in boats on the shoreline came to me at the point of being confronted with this seething ball of anger. This week, I finally managed to make the work that’s been buzzing around for such a long time.

Ironically, one of the things that spurred me into action was a recent news report that a small group of refugees did actually land on the very stretch of coast I know so well. I only wish the WELCOME mats had been there to greet them.

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