In times of chaos it’s all the more important to focus on the things that matter. As an artist, so much of my work revolves around this question – what should I let go of and what should I keep?


Last Thursday evening the launch for ZeitgeistAP (ZAP) took place. ZAP is a new venture created by Rosalind Davis and Annabel Tilley with the education of artists by artists at its core. It was a great night and it felt positive and uplifting to be amongst old friends and supporters of ZAP’s ventures, as well as meeting new ones.

For me personally, it was the first night of welcoming people into my new studio space and it felt good to be back, reunited with my stuff, talking about my work with those who were interested – crucially, feeling like an artist again.

Feeling like an artist again is very much at the heart of what I’ve been thinking about this past week. It’s now over three months since I started writing Keeping It Together – a relatively short time in comparison to the lifespan of some other blogs, I know – but it’s been an intense learning curve and it’s felt like I’ve covered a lot of ground. When I first took the plunge and started writing this blog, there were all sorts of questions hanging in the air: Where did I fit in, for example – both in my immediate, local artist community and in the artist community at large? Where would I re-establish my practice, I wondered, and where would I feel more at home, both within myself and in relation to others?

A lot of those questions have now been answered; I’m settling into my new studio, surrounded by a group of artists who are sensitive and respectful. It’s time to look forward, not back and most importantly for me, it’s time to rediscover the physical activity of creating, to embrace and put into motion the ideas I’ve held in my mind since the Autumn. Having been reacquainted with my collections and having the space to unwrap them, I’m aching to get back to creating something with them.

Working from home has had some advantages – not least that it enabled me to have the time and space to write this blog. First and foremost however, I’m an artist, not a writer and it’s for this reason that I’ve decided to make this the last post on Keeping It Together and to end this blog. Given that I’ve gained so much through writing it, this is not a decision I’ve taken lightly. I’ve invested a lot in it, both in terms of time and emotion. The rewards have been great – I will miss it, I’m sure.

To be honest, I’ve been astonished by the amount of people who have read it and I’ve been equally flattered that so many have taken the time to leave their personal responses to some of the things I’ve written about. Those who have commented on the Artists Talking network itself, those who have e-mailed me directly, those who have helped promote the blog and those with whom I’ve had conversations about it have all helped to make my first attempt at blog writing a very positive experience for me.

That’s why I’m sure I will return to blogging again at some point in the future. And though the time feels right to end this particular blog, my contact with other artist/bloggers will carry on. I’ll still be following and leaving comments on many of the sites on Artists Talking and continuing to contribute towards and feel a part of a wonderfully supportive and nurturing community.

Keeping It Together has been a constant in what has felt at times like a very difficult journey. On the day I lost my former studio, it was as if I was peering into a huge abyss. In the weeks that followed, the blog has been like a bridge helping me across. I’ve reached the other side now, safe and sound; many of you have played a part in helping me reach more solid ground. Thank you for helping me Keep It Together.


I’m in – the move has happened! If you’ve been following this blog you’ll have an idea of the weight behind that statement. But even I have been surprised by the depth of my feelings around moving into my new studio. I remember a friend of mine talking about how he felt on the day his first child was born – a sense of amazement that people were simply carrying on, going about their everyday business, ignoring the fact that here he was experiencing one of the most extraordinary days of his life! Surely the world should stop and take on this magnificent life-changing event with him!

It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve felt the same about my move this week. I’ve been thinking about the reasons why my feelings have been running so high. Perhaps it’s because of what I feared I’d lost when my studio was so abruptly taken away. After a long time of working in isolation, my subsequent attachment to positive, generous people had become my lifeline. I’d only just started to feel a part of a like-minded artistic community, a place where I felt understood, both personally and in terms of my work, when the rug was suddenly pulled from under my feet. At the time it felt like everything had been ripped apart and that there was nothing left to salvage. I cried when I moved into my new studio space on Monday – with sheer relief and happiness about what has been salvaged.

And there’s no doubt that having an allocated space in which to once more be an artist has also brought enormous relief. The boundary between my professional life and my personal life had started to become blurred and in the absence of proper time off and relaxation from either role, I had started to feel that I wasn’t fulfilling either of them particularly well. Working round the kitchen table felt fine to start with but I haven’t been able to maintain any regular creative practice more recently – and that’s unusual for me. Studio space for me provides a sanctuary away from the inevitable intrusions of everyday life and I cherish the moments that I can use my time in it, to be able to apply myself to my work and simply to be me.

In my first post on this blog I wrote this:

Keeping It Together is the start of my journey as a studio-less artist. Where do I go from here? Where do I and my ‘stuff’, both literally and metaphorically, fit in? Where will I re-establish my practice and where will I feel more at home, both within myself and in relation to others?

In terms of actual weeks, I’ve only been without a studio for a short time but in emotional terms, it’s felt much longer – so many emotions have been tied up in the whole process of moving on. I’m not able to work effectively in a random environment; I need my things around me and the space I create in my studio is in many ways an extension of my work. There’s as much thought and care put into how the studio’s arranged as there is into the actual work that is created within it.

I’ve missed the whole process of creating more than I realised I would; it’s what sustains me. I’ve known that intellectually for a while but I hadn’t realised until the past few weeks just how much my creative practice safeguards my emotional well-being and nourishes a part of me.

My time in the studio since Monday has felt a lot like playing house – trying out different ways of arranging the various items of furniture and the many cardboard boxes crammed full of stuff. I feel I need the studio to be ‘just so’ before I can get down to the basics of making and creating again. This is the fun part – the nesting! I’ve missed the pottering – it’s all part of the process for me. And at last, that process has started; I’m already beginning to feel at home.


So, this is it. I’m rested and ready for the big move on Monday. This will be my fourth studio move in five years, quite a lot considering the amount of stuff I have to move each time. The second move was within the same studio complex in Deptford, the third, just across the road. This one, though not that much further away, is nevertheless to a less familiar area for me. I’ve come to think of myself as a Deptford-based artist and now that’s going to change.

Each move has been symbolic in defining the different phases of my journey as an artist. It was easy to hide away in the first place I moved into – there wasn’t a strong sense of community amongst the artists there at that time, and so there was little room for discussion or dialogue, no questioning of the work that I was creating. Head down, getting on with the work was the order of many long, solitary days – not surprising then that the blogs I gravitated towards at that time were Jane Boyer’s Working in Isolation and Becoming Part of Something by Rosalind Davis, the titles themselves speaking volumes.

It was a productive phase initially but I started to feel a bit stuck after a while and as my connections with other artists in the surrounding community grew, I realised there was so much more to gain from sharing ideas. Elizabeth Murton’s Engine ChatChat in this respect was instrumental for me in moving my practice forward and I realised that I wanted more than just to be ‘getting on with it.’

Past work experience with supportive and generous colleagues had always meant working as part of a team where I felt valued for the work I put in; I wanted to recreate that as an artist – to feel a part of a community where I could think about my work in the context of a larger art world, have conversations about it and be offered guidance by other artists about ways to improve it, make my work ‘good enough’ for presentation to open submissions, for example.

Subsequent attendance at other events led by DIY Educate confirmed that this was a great way of making connections, getting feedback on my art work from other professional artists and through it, gaining self-confidence. And at its most basic level, given its supportive and nurturing environment, it’s where I learned not just to say with confidence ‘I am an artist’ but also, to believe it.

The past three months of writing this blog has been brilliant in terms of giving me a space to reflect upon the past and to think about what parts of it I’d like to preserve in the future. It’s helped me stop and take stock of where this newly chosen career path might be heading, the financial sustainability of it and whether or not the time restraints imposed by family commitments and so on make it a feasible option.

Gravitating towards and sticking with those who share the same morals and values has been an integral part of keeping me on track and these new relationships have in turn been a real asset both in a personal and professional sense; it’s something I’ve said more than once in this blog:

there’s a vulnerability within all of us, a deep desire to be accepted – to be heard, to feel needed and to feel included. Encouragement and empathetic understanding from like-minded artists is invaluable; it’s what all of us at some point or other crave and need in order to flourish as creative people.

For me, personal integrity, professionalism and the freedom to be honest are key. So roll on Monday, back to being a part of an artistic community – one which puts a greater value on the soul of artists than the sold sign on a piece of work in a commercially driven gallery. I can’t wait!


I started this blog in November 2011 primarily as a way of documenting my journey from losing a studio to the hope of re-establishing myself in another. Scroll on three months and I’ve just this week signed for and made a first visit to a new studio. It’s an amazing space and my initial reservations about it having no windows have been temporarily put to one side – the fact that I’ll once again be a part of an artistic community has far outweighed any potential fears about claustrophobia. I feel lucky to be associated with so many of the dynamic artists attached to this new studio complex and can’t wait now to move in and start creating again. I’ve said on more than one occasion in this blog how important a sense of belonging is to me – I’m looking forward immensely to being there. And besides, windows or not, the new studio is bright, secure and – virtually unheard of for a studio in winter – warm!

So what of this blog I wonder? Will I continue with it now that a new studio space has been found? Or will it be put on the back burner now that I have the opportunity to get back into creating again? Can I write about and create work at the same time? Can the two go hand in hand? Time will tell, but whatever happens, the significance of this blog in terms of my role as an artist feels important for me to acknowledge.

I’m very pleased about how well the blog has been received and so far, writing it has been a really positive experience; not just as an outlet for a lot of the emotions associated with the studio loss but for the discovery of a new accessible community here, online at Artists Talking. My thanks are due to many of the artist/bloggers who inspired me to get started in the first place and introduced me to what has been a totally new way of communicating. And to those who have continued to read my blog and those who have generously posted their comments – it’s all positive confirmation that you really are talking to other artists and not just posting into a large empty void.

I’ve been in the habit of reading other artists’ blogs and occasionally leaving comments on here for some time, but only through starting my own do I feel that I’ve truly started to benefit from its real community spirit. It’s introduced me to artists who I might well never have known about and the mutual exchange of ideas and sentiments has frequently buoyed me up and encouraged me to keep writing. I received a heart warming response from Elena Thomas recently in which she quoted statements from my blog – ‘rural upbringing’ – snap! ‘working class parents’ – snap! It’s been uplifting to realise how closely some contemporaries are able to relate to what you’re saying and I’ve felt encouraged by the comments I’ve received – even the short, one-liners let you know that your blog is being read.

In terms of producing any actual art work over the past month or so I had been thinking that I hadn’t been doing so well. That said, however there’s recently been a change in my thinking about how ‘work’ as an artist is qualified. Hayley Harrison’s statement in her blog Something’s Happening springs to mind here: ‘I am starting to realise I am an artist even when I am not in my studio.’ Hayley’s statement sums up perfectly for me my own increasing understanding about what being an artist involves – the many aspects of it and the many skills required to be one and to keep being one.

But having said that, I’ve undoubtedly missed the actual hands-on creative process and I’m very much hoping that once I’m in my new studio, I’ll get back to that!


It’s Burns Night and my thoughts are turning again to Robbie Burn’s poem, ‘To A Mouse.’ It’s one of my favourites and I’ve quoted it here before because of its uncanny relevance to what’s been happening in my life. The poem describes how a mouse, having made its plans for the winter, suddenly finds its nest destroyed by a plough. The best laid plans of mice and artists do indeed go ‘aft agley’. Not just a studio in my case but, as I wrote about in my last entry, a sketchbook too.

I’m still a bit surprised by how much the disappearance of my sketchbook unsettled me. It all feels a bit trivial in comparison to the very real issues I had to deal with in my past employment – life and death situations in some cases. Responses from fellow bloggers Elena Thomas and Stuart Mayes, artists/collectors themselves, however showed true empathy and a real understanding of how it feels to lose something precious. They made me feel okay about having such a strong reaction and prompted me to think a bit more about my attachment to the things I own. After all, by making a decision to retain something, I’m committing myself to looking after it and being responsible for it. I need to care enough about it to want to take on that responsibility, hence an immediate bond is formed.

I miss having my things around me! They are what define me as an artist – and indeed a person. They contribute towards helping me feel in control of my life; they also crucially provide the raw material for my creative practice. Given that the studio was the space where so much of that emotional processing went on, I’m starting to get a more keen understanding of the true impact of not having had such a space over the past three months or so. It was a place which allowed me the necessary head space to process a lot of the emotions associated with my collections of assorted people’s lifetimes, my own included.

There’s been some good news about the new studios I’ve been hoping for – they’re very near to completion and a small group of us from the former gallery space are all looking forward to being re-united. This is largely thanks to the dynamic duo Rosalind Davis & Annabel Tilley, the founders of ZeitgeistAP an artist collaboration, who essentially get things done. By the end of February at the latest, I hope to be in a new studio – more spacious than the last – and reconnected on so many different levels with my things. There might even be enough space for me to have all my scattered possessions in one place, probably for the first time ever. That really would be Keeping It Together.

I’ll raise a glass to that – and have another read of that wonderful poem…

To A Mouse