I’m struggling with writing my proposal – it’s so much easier to find words after the fact. Often I come to see what I want to say when I look at my work, but projecting into the future from loose ideas is a challenge. How do you account for all those things that happen along the process of making, those shifts and turns?

So I’m taking a break to show you my newest foundling. Usually the starting point for a specific piece is to zoom in on a feeling, and keep distilling to some sort of (imagined, temporary) essence. I make tiny, sometimes life-size, sketches until I find a shape that interests me, choose a material and begin. A lot is worked out on the way – if it doesn’t look right I unravel and try again.

I evoke the body to speak about the psyche. Looking at my two foundlings I suddenly thought of toddlers holding out their arms to be picked up, and how children learn about the shape and outlines of their bodies through touch, being held, caressed, and what the lack thereof might do. Had the idea of limbs becoming vestigial because of under-use, a regression to something rudimentary: arm-buds. I felt compelled to try the gesture out, sitting or lying on the floor, and found myself falling back into something very old. This interests me, memories stored in the body…

Anyway, this is not something I thought about consciously when I started, it’s something I see now. Not sure how clear the images are for you, but there aren’t any openings for the arms. I make my diminutive outfits as close to ‘real’, to ‘normal’ as possible. It takes a moment, at least a second or third glance, for the shapes to become unsettling and, I hope, something will arise from the absurd, the strange physicality evoked.

Foundling (2012)
Material: Crocheted from cotton-thread
Dimensions: 24 cm x 27.5 cm


As you know I’m hungry for direct communication with other artists. Two posts ago I reported on conversations with Julia Vogl (you can listen to some of her interviews on Resonance FM tomorrow at 4.30 pm). On Friday Shelley Rae came to my house (two artists in one month!). I discovered Shelley’s work through a tweet by Rosalind Davis I just happened to see. I’m not a great tweeter as I tend to feel my little life doesn’t offer enough interesting endeavours to share with the world and mostly tweet after I’ve posted here. Nor do I try to keep up with that ever expanding tweet-scroll, so it was a piece of luck to find the mention of Shelley’s work. I followed the link to her website and was bowled over. You must have a look. Beautiful, haunting work, to do with (childhood) memory, with trauma and mourning. I keep going back, esp. to Ma vie en rose, which I can’t get out of my mind. Raw emotion rendered in such simple and sophisticated ways. Makes me hold my breath every time.

I e-mailed Shelley and a lovely little on-line exchange ensued, followed by a visit here on Friday, which I much enjoyed, although I have to say I’m a terrible hostess, getting into a flutter about offering food and out of embarrassment not even offering cookies (sorry, Shelley!). The thing is, I’m not used to many ‘strangers’ coming in, the people I see regularly in these M.E.-shaped times I’ve known for ages, don’t need to explain what I can and can’t do, where stuff is… Funny on how many levels these challenges work, but I’m learning! Thinking now along these lines: If I can’t get to other artists maybe some can come to me…

Anyway. Shelley was here. We hatched a little plan. In the mean-time I’m working on my proposal and giving the finishing touches to Foundling 2 and 3. Back soon.

Not filth, not hair (2008)
Materials: crocheted from JaggerSpun Zephyr Wool-Silk, hung from mattress needle
Dimensions: 61 cm x 90 cm


Meet the first in a new series, inspired by a visit last year of Threads of Feeling at the Foundling Museum, a moving exhibition of selected textile tokens from the 18th century, at the time the only permitted means of identification for the babies left at London Foundling Hospital’s doors.

I crocheted the piece with a thin hook as I wanted a weave of tight, dense stitches, almost unyielding to the touch, like a suit of armour, a carapace of sorts. A shape to grow into or out of… The work is deliberately flat while preserving the potential wearability of a garment. I’m drawn to between-ness – 2D/3D, outfit/image, crochet/painterly, real/imaginary, sweet/perturbing.

Much of my work is about inscribing difference in a subtle, intimate way: something missing, something in excess, something just very slightly other, that catches you unaware, stings you a little and then a little more.

Would you think that crocheting leaves (admittedly small) marks on the body? I managed to get another callus on the tip of my left middle-finger, with a wee hole at its centre… Ouch!

My Acrobat was not selected for Outside the White Cube, alas. No somersaults… In need of chocolate, kisses, spirits, in that order.

But I’m glad I’m writing here about my first foundling, it’s focused my thinking and given me another idea, a new place to take things. Yay! Somersaults after all.

Foundling (2011/12)
Material: Crocheted from cotton-thread
Dimensions: 24 cm x 28 cm


After my last post I could not help wondering if I’m shooting myself in the foot by revealing so much about the facts of life with M.E. Talked it over with a friend who can’t imagine it would hurt my prospects as an artist, but maybe she is rather idealistic? The thing is: when I see artists with whom I’ve exhibited, but not myself, selected for themed shows that might have been right up my street, by curators who know of my condition, I take out my worry beads. Is the quality of my work in question? My chosen medium? Or is it that I’m not fully (physically) available? I’m good at writing about things, handling stuff on-line, sending the work out, but maybe out of sight is out of mind when people keep meeting at private views, artists’ talks, and other occasions? Or perhaps it’s about pragmatic choices, for convenience, a simple life, the apprehension that I might need help with physical stuff? Paranoia on my part? Chip on my aching shoulder? Just the way things are? Too much food for anxious thought, so onwards!

Had some real, by which I mean person-to-person, face-to-face, art-contact this week, hey! The artist Julia Vogl came with a friend to interview me for her project HOME. She has made a conscious decision to make public art her focus of practice, away from the pristine white gallery-spaces where only a limited spectrum of the population actually venture, to more accessible, (at least temporarily) shared spaces. Art that involves people, as contributors and as audiences, in this case in Peckham, Southeast-London.

Three continents met here: Julia is from the US, Lindy, who grew up in Northern Ireland, of Ghanaian descent and I’m from Germany. Very different stories interlinked, fascinating. How lucky I was to be able to choose to settle in London, not for economic reasons or because I had to flee any kind of persecution. I came because I liked the idea of a living, breathing multicultural city. It doesn’t work quite as well as it could, but still. Made me think about communities, how they touch, share, live side by side, interlock, overlap, exclude, fight, come together, move apart. Depend on each other. In constant motion. Oh, the stories… And about my own work, the proposal I’m writing and how I’d like to open things up, but that’ll keep for now.

Julia asked to describe home in just a word or a phrase, still pondering it over, but said: the smallest place, the largest place. Enjoyed our conversations very much.

Monday I’ll take my little Acrobat in for the final selection of work for 2012 Outside the White Cube Open Exhibition. Cross your fingers!

Off to crochet a tiny armpit. Oh, and I’m going to type my name now, as advised by a-n technical staff, so that my blog can be found by searching for Marion Michell

My house of howls (2007)
Materials: crocheted from artificial hair; cardboard, polyester filling, stone for weight, red hairnet
Dimensions: 15 cm x 10.5 cm x 16 cm plus around 10 cm red


On Friday I’d arranged to go up to North London at midday to pick up a newly framed piece. This was my week’s one and only, carefully planned outing. A process of mobilization is necessary which starts about 48 hours ahead: food (incl. strategically placed glasses of water all over the flat), crockery, clothes, need to be got ready, as the actual outing usually precipitates a temporary decline – essentially the days I have to prepare for.

Thursday afternoon I got a phone-call that the work would not be ready on time. Mild frustration about the delay (three weeks after I’d brought the piece in) may be a normal reaction, but for me it became more complicated. Unfortunately the newly proposed date would have made it the day before a hospital appointment – impossible as my body doesn’t function even moderately well (within my M.E.-terms) two days in a row. A well-mannered discussion with the staff member ensued, who tried to be helpful but obviously couldn’t understand why I was so intransigent and needed the piece ready on the day specified. Even picking it up just before closing time – the compromise reached – meant that the friend who had arranged to drive me at lunch-time so I didn’t have to fork out 60 – 70 quid for the return cab-fare, was unlikely to be available.

The day(s) after tend to be a challenge. On my day out, wherever I’m going (friend’s house, exhibition, hospital, river-picnic, frame-shop), I will be bubbly, excited, greedy to take in as much as possible en-route: tree-blossom, people hurrying across streets with mobiles pressed to their ears, closed-down shops, yet more pawnbrokers, alas, and as I get nearer the city centre, new (to me) boutiques and cafés, the spectacle of a sparkling Thames, huge olympic rings hanging from Tower Bridge, and on the way home a glimpse of the tip of the Shard appearing like a mirage when we turn a corner… Although the extent of fatigue is not entirely predictable afterwards I am like a carelessly chalked out version of myself, profoundly, consummately tired in body and mind, with varying degrees of blurred vision, slurred speech, uncoordinated limbs, and flarings up of old and new pains which I call my pain-review (the worst of which are the piercing stings I can get in my skull). My standing-up periods, short at the best of times, are further curtailed and I’ll only manage the briefest of crotch-leans against a work-surface in the suddenly far-off kitchen while I pour myself a coffee, say, before I lie down again… Consider this is the edited version. It’s not called pyjama-day for nothing.

With my eyes on the plan I started writing this post right after the first phone-call. In the end I was able to pick up the piece on Friday, just before closing time, luckily with M., who at lighting speed rearranged her whole day to fit in with me, a thousand blessings on her lovely head! The work is shortlisted for 2012 Outside the White Cube Open Exhibition, for which it needs to be framed, which is why I almost bankrupted myself, but I must say, it does look glorious and hopefully it will be in the show and maybe somebody would like to buy it, please pretty please…

Acrobat (2010)
Material: crocheted from zephyr wool-silk

Dimensions: 29 cm x 69 cm (unframed)
43 x 89 cm (framed)

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