Week 1 – Part 2

We have a great team of volunteers and tuned into the work already – I knew this immediately because when I was told about the non-appearance of the main frame and the main technician, Benoit, Lyn and Genevieve saw my disappointment and started to compensate with positive ideas about what we could do with our time before the frame arrives as well as about the experiments needed to establish hanging issues. Three of the team are students at UWE on the Drawing and Applied Arts course and have had experience of hanging their work using fishing wire, which is a bonus! Time was spent till Wednesday going through all the gifts and transferring the label numbers onto them with gold pen, as well as establishing what the production line process for getting the objects up as quickly as possible would be.

Rosie, one of the two museum apprentices (the other is Casey) who have been assigned to helping me, has been helping Becky the designer finalise the proofing of the postcards and floor texts for The Gifts (1-99) so I have had to some proofing as well as final looks at the catalogue which looks beautiful and went to print on Thursday. Simon, the designer who is project managing, has started work on transferring the The Gifts (1-99) grid I supplied to the mirrored circular disc that they will drill holes in and hang objects from.

I initially thought that with 2 pairs of people we could get it all hung in 5 days. I have revised this since we spent all of Thursday and Friday hanging one row and a half. However, these are the two crucial outside rows, which determine the line of the whole piece – which I had plotted out on a graph, and we are taking the figures from that- so they were bound to be more time consuming. We have learnt a lot from the way we worked over this week and from tomorrow things will speed up and I know more surely that it will flow. The line looks good and the height works I need to focus on what is hanging already rather than what is on the ground.

I have been staying with Julia, the curator who has been a brilliant support as always, getting hands on as well as standing back to take on board where we are at. Tomorrow Rosa arrives with to start installing her work and I am curious to see how our two worlds meet and reflect, I am excited to see her work in the flesh and to see this new, temporary universe unfold …transforming the space and us.


Week 1 – Part 1

A great lesson in letting go of expectations this week. I spent a lot of last week preparing myself on many levels for this weeks installing in Bristol. I worked on visualising how it would go – I would arrive at the museum with everything in place and ready to start hanging with my team. We would have a swift, trouble –free, joyful time, with everything falling into place effortlessly…

When I did arrive on Monday I was told that, due to a major defect on the councils ordering system, the main frame from which 900 of my objects will hang had not actually been ordered and a key member of the museum installing team was off sick. I did almost burst into tears, I had such an expectation and adrenalin ready to go, it felt like a punch in the stomach. I had had to juggle so many things to be away for all this time, with two children and Leo working full time. The frame won’t get there till Thursday, which put me, four days behind in my head.

Then I reminded myself that I do believe in a broader way that the universe has its own timing which is, overall, much more effective –if less comprehensible initially – than I as an individual can control or manage. And what ensued was some invaluable time considering and focusing on detailed aspects of the installing that I had not been able to allow for. I have had this projects layout either in my head, on paper or literally all over my studio floor (see previous blogs for photos of mapping work over xmas) for such a long time and yet the gap between this and the actual hanging of the 900 pieces still contains unknowns. With the gifts 1-99, I had suspended them in my studio and know how they work in three dimensions.

But the larger piece is a different creature. David Singleton, one of the main conservation people took Julia and I up to his office on Monday morning to take a look at experiments he had been doing with different weights of fishing line and weights on smaller objects, as issues around coiling wire, safety and visibility etc were coming up. Thank god he had done these, as well as knotting tests to see how the type of knot affected the slippage of a given object. From these we decided to go with a lighter weight wire than I had planned as well as a different knot and a decision to do some hanging tests with objects to establish which is the optimum wire to use as well as how the air conditioning and door opening will affect the movement of objects. Boring but essential, so thank you council, for screwing up to allow us time to do valuable, if tedious preparation.


Last tuesday, Nathan and David came from the Museum to collect my work ….at last! It felt momentous..then, the next day, the snow came, and everything stopped.

For a few hours. Then came a snowstorm of emails, requests for opinions and feedback on the Exhibition, Catalogue, the gallery texts, the posters design, the labelling…so many choices to make so quickly, which i like as i don’t work well with too much time to deliberate, after such a long run on this project, the choices seem straightforward. somehow. Have also been editing my own Gift List , 1-99, which will appear on the floor and it begins to read like a strange poem –come-shopping list. They need to order the vinyls for the floor for that one so have Monday as a deadline. As fro the 100-999 text labels for the other objects, I still have some editing to do before they can begin formatting that and getting it ordered to print. I am trying to get as much done as I can late at night when the children are asleep, after a day’s sledging…

We are meeting on tuesday re catalogue design, David Hyde the designer has already come up with some beautiful cover design options and seems to be working very intuitively and sensitively which I appreciate. It’s exciting for me and a new experience as no-one has ever published anything on my work as yet, bar an article in Textile Journal which hasn’t yet come out and which I put together mainly myself, with some direction from Janis Jefferies. She has also written an essay for this show on my work, which i think is excellent and provides insightful perspectives and threads of meaning on my work and its context which I have learnt a lot from. It all feels like being at a water fountain and really delighting in it’s fresh cool taste..

In the meantime, I have been editing several thousand metre of poetry scrolls from my installation project for South Bank Centre last year called The Bibliomancer’s Dream, which I worked on with Willow and which is happening again this year, alongside an additional installation at QEH. During the Imagine Festival. Crazily, both shows open on February 5th! I am not going to complain, but I do wish I had access to temporary cloning pinned down. I am travelling to Bristol on 18 jan to start installing, and planning to finish by feb 2nd at the latest (I will blog about the process) as am due to be installing at Southbank on feb 3 and 4th. Then back up to Bristol on 5th…..


I finally finished the floor design , mapping and packing up of all 900 gifts last night at midnight…it took a lot longer and a lot more excruciating patience than i had planned for… i am too exhausted to write anything coherent but wanted to post up these images from my phone as i liked the pattern the number made on the floor…and it gives a sense of the scale of the final main piece..

now for a couple of days revelling the resting before the final push to make everything ready for the 5th, when the work gets collected from my studio.

happy new year etc


It’s been an extraordinary month in terms of physical work in the studio on the gifts. I now have all 999 objects, and some of the most moving came in the final few weeks …I made a decision a while ago not to disclose much about the objects submitted in any detail ,as it feels like the gallery space will be the legitimate place for proper disclosure, but the poetic and moving nature of some of the final items make it hard for me to do this…so I may post up something soon with a few pointers as to the emotional scope of some of the items given.

The objects are now all laid out on a paper grid on the studio floor. (see image) The museum apprentices, Rosie and Casey, have been logging all the cards and we have been trying to locate stray numbers with displaced objects for the last few weeks. I became totally obsessed with getting the database of objects to numbers accurate, it felt like an injustice to mismatch anything as inevitable a few things had lost labels etc. But this has eaten up a lot of time and I will be spending most of this week finalising the design on the floor grid done by raphaell, then turning the grid into a map for the installing process, with outlines on objects and their numbers and position marked out carefully. Then into 50 bags, one for each line , ready for collection on January 5th when they go into a special museum deep -freeze in Birmingham for a week, to kill off any bugs and make them eligible for exhibition.

It feels like a lot of this whole year has been taken up with not just the physical but the emotional processes surrounding this project,.others and my own. I first had the seed idea for this 7 years ago. Today is the 5th anniversary of the death of my mother in the Asian tsunami and it’s the only day in a long time when I have felt completely unable to tap into the creative power of what came from living through that experience and ride its energy. I realise that it’s the art have made from it that has kept me in balance. Today I decided to just lie low –no big rituals or hosting like I have done in the past to mark the event. And yet I feel totally vulnerable and unable to function, very much ‘in my child’ (and unwilling to mother my own children today with any degree of effectiveness..). I guess this blog entry is the most creative thing I will do today (I wrote from my bed) and that, in fact, it’s important to fall apart occasionally, with no idea of how to manage or channel what is arising. To feel the deep sadness, the intense flashes of grief and anger, then let go as much as is possible until calm seas return.