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So here we have it…

This is a slightly edited version (to protect the innocent) of my evaluation of the project to wind it all up….

 

On review and reflection, the Nine Women project has been successful in fulfilling the goals set out in my original application.

Evaluation throughout the project was both qualitative and quantitative. Footfall for events was recorded; comments book made available; peer-to-peer discussions occurred during open studio and private events; photographs and video recordings made from exhibition and private view evening; comments were collected on social media; a blog “Nine Women” was written on a-n.co.uk.

 

………(edit)

 

Photography and video made are available to view on both my website:

http://elenathomas.co.uk/work/nine-women/ 

and the photographer’s: 

www.curiousrosephotography.com

 

Comments made were mainly positive, or at least enquiring. Discussion with the public prompted new ideas, connections and ways of working, as well as establishing contact with other artists, musicians, and groups in the area.

 

………..(edit)

 

In terms of my personal learning, the project has gone beyond my plans and expectations. A selection of bras and songs as an interim exhibition travelled to the United States (unfortunately I was unable to afford to go with it) for a joint show “WORN” with Jodi S. Hopper at The 3rd on 3rd Gallery in Jamestown, New York. I was fortunate though to be able to travel to Sweden to show a selection of the bras and do a live performance at ArtMobile in Vasteras near Stockholm. 

My original application included an appearance on local radio to announce the start of the project. At the end of June, the project made an additional appearance as myself and Dave Sutherland (one of the session musicians who took part in the recordings) played two of the songs live during one of their prime time shows. 

I have bought new equipment, previously unfamiliar, that I am now using on a regular basis to record, write and produce with. Design work for marketing materials has also made use of new skills and technologies, particularly iPad and art apps.

 

I had not originally planned to perform the songs live, but as the project went on, it became more possible due to an increase in confidence, and a sense that I should take the opportunity to bring the songs to a live listening audience. This performance, alongside the songwriting circle and immersion workshops has led to my participation in writing in a band, and we have our first official performance booked for January 29th at Artists’ Workhouse near Redditch. 

My skills in recording and the practice of singing so much more than I have previously, have led to my now being able to independently record and produce recordings of a quality that is now appropriate for showing with my textile pieces. This was the main aim of the project, and has certainly been achieved. Recordings have been posted on social media and links to soundcloud recordings of several of the songs can be found on my website.

 

My future plans see the Nine Women installation travelling further, as I am keen to explore how it would sit and be received in other environments. I am beginning work on another project, directly stemming from work and discussion following Nine Women. As I will need a larger space to carry them out, I am currently searching for a new studio hopefully within a community of artists rather than on my own, as I believe this will aid my professional development further. 

 

 

 

 

 

I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Arts Council England for supporting me during this year. It has been a life-changing, brain-changing project which has propelled me into areas I could not have anticipated at the beginning of the year. I look forward to my next projects with confidence, ambition, and keen anticipation.

 

Elena Thomas

 

 

(I also thank those of you that have read the blog, followed the project, visited me, participated, made comments here and on various other platforms… it’s been a blast!)

 

 

 

 


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Right then folks, here it is!

 

I’m not going to write much, the pictures are able to say more than my words today….

Here’s the video made by Laura Rhodes for “nine women”. I think it gives a real flavour of the project, and the event we launched with, and despite the fact I will always hate what I look like, it represents me pretty well I think.

 

I hope you like it.

“nine women” – The Video


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My blogging art-sister Sonia Boué, a new twitter follower @cabformrsmutton and I have found ourselves discussing the taboo of menstruation and menopause (maybe because we are “women of a certain age”?)

We all know the mechanics of it, so those of you who find such things distasteful (why?? eh? eh?) need not panic just yet. I have a while to go before I would feel that comfortable discussing such things. But it is considered distasteful, uncomfortable and so on. I was brought up to think such things are very private. And actually the last thing I want is people knowing the derelict state of my womanly body, for fear they will use it against me. My forgetfulness, clumsiness, a propensity for walking into door jambs because suddenly I can’t figure out where my body is in relation to them, my inability to parallel park one week out of four, will all be used as an excuse for men to put up my car insurance and so on.

 

I love the “Mrs Mutton” label… but I have an excuse for dressing in the way I do. I’m not flashing my cleavage in a desperate last ditch attempt to catch myself a young man (or an old one – I already have one of those). It is because I cannot bear to be clothed around my upper chest and neck region, that being where the heat gathers and renders my skin itchy, red, scratchy, sweaty and I feel as if I might suffocate. Not for me any more the silky scarf or the artsy fucking fartsy chunky necklace… now dreadful items of torture. My hair has been chopped short too, for the first time in about forty years, for added temperature fluctuation benefits.

 

I have never been a girly girl, or a feminine sort of woman. This is possibly because my body image has always been a bit rubbish. I was always the biggest girl in primary school. I was the one who started periods first. I am the woman it seems to me, who is the last to finish them too. Have I not given enough? I felt embarrassed, fat, frumpy. So I decided that (also having been advised by my wonderful mother never to wear shoes you can’t run away in!) I should be the girl in the boiler suit (albeit home-dyed pink) and the doc marten’s (winter) or converse (summer), the baggy shirt and the long jumper… and I’m still doing it to a certain extent now. Except, in the last three years or so I have started wearing dresses again …I haven’t worn dresses for about thirty years! I find myself saying “Look! I’ve bought some girl shoes!” (although, still the sort I could run away in, if my knees weren’t shot to hell).

 

So what is this all about then? Having looked at and listened to other women, and invented all those stories for “nine women” it occurs to me there’s a lot going on. I’m fatter than I’ve ever been probably, and wrinklier, and my hair is getting greyer by the week. But what I find is I have accepted, at last, at the age of 54, that how I look now is better than I will ever look again. I can’t wait to be slimmer in order to start living my life. I can’t wait for the spots to go. I can’t wait for the miracle pseudo-scientific cream to get rid of the wrinkles. This is as good as it gets. I live life now, or be miserable and regretful and might as well die now.

 

I have a lot to do. I have a lot to say, make, write, and I’d better do it now then. Acceptance is sexy. Acceptance and confidence go hand-in-hand. Confidence is sexy. If I want to do something, I just bloody do it. I am excited by life, my work, the people I meet and talk to online and in the real world. At least, I am when I’m not being miserable and anti-social and hot and sticky. That’s cyclical too.

 

I have a theory that women are closer to the rest of the world and other people because of this cyclical nature of their lives. We are tied to the planet in ways men can never understand. When this messy, inconvenient, expensive lark that is menstruation is finally over, I will not bemoan the lack of blood in my life. I will however, miss that tie to my sisters. I suspect I might grieve, not for my lost youth, because as I have stated, my youth was a self-conscious embarrassment a lot of the time: I might grieve for that lost link to the other women, and the movement of the world beneath my feet.

 

so….

 

The art that I make reflects the woman that I am. It reflects the woman that my mother was. Of course the art that I make is feminist and feminine.

At the moment, I am making work that is almost about death, but not quite. It is still about women. So maybe it is about the menopause. About grief before death. I’d better get a move on then.


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Ahh…

I thought I had escaped it this time. How naïve of me!

In the middle of yesterday afternoon it hit me – Thump – The Slump.

Ridiculous. I know it will pass, thank goodness. But oh how I hate it.

That sense of loss, unworthiness, thankfully not depression, but a definite sadness. Accompanied by sloth, biscuits and the same cd, over and over again (Tunng “Good Arrows”).

The nine women have come down, and the vinyl letters off the wall. The music is unplugged, the speakers removed from the gallery. Textiles wrapped in tissue, boxed, sealed and labelled.

I had thought the new work ideas would see me over the slump. Apparently not. So, accept, and sluggishly crawl on until something unfathomable sparks the energies again. It needs to happen, I have stuff to do, people to follow up, opportunity not to be missed. But I have also learned that to write to people, or phone them in this state is counter-productive “You’re not interested in my work are you? No I didn’t think you would be. I apologise, I’ll not trouble you again, goodbye”

So I will leave it a while.

I nearly have video, I have great photos, I’m contemplating a new website launch. With vibrant media to show people, I can approach with confidence and a certain joie de vivre which is, at the moment, hiding in the cupboard under the stairs.

So, I leave you with a selection of those gorgeous photos taken by the talented and wonderful Laura Rhodes at curiousrosephotography.com

The last photo is of my two sons… discovering that one has cheered me up considerably!

See you when I find the key to that cupboard under the stairs…

 


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I’ve been listening to the songs a lot, obviously, as they are playing into the gallery. I’ve also been reflecting on live performance of the same songs.
The differences in process fascinate me, and I’ve come up with an analogy that helps the visualisation of this process. Imagine sculpture… For a recorded song you have a lump of rock containing everything. It’s got trumpets all the way through, vocals and backing all the way through, guitars…. You name it. Then in the production process you pare it back until you have what you want. You can often go quite a long way… Less is more…(the analogy stops here because in the recording studio you can always stick the legs back on again if you change your mind).
In a live performance it’s the other way around… You can only put up what you want, and can’t take it back. The thinking process is hot and fast. For most of the songs I did, Dan and I rehearsed so we knew what we were going to put in. One of the songs- Reputation- we decided to be a little more playful… We rehearsed the process, I have to say Dan did all the clever stuff with the looper (I neeeed one) and we both sang. It was really good fun in a seat of your pants kind of a way… Well…. My pants… Dan’s pants, I’m sure (we didn’t discuss it) were fine!
I really like both versions, and enjoyed them for very different reasons. I put both up for you to hear the differences.

“REPUTATION” (LIVE VERSION)

“REPUTATION” (RECORDED VERSION)


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