Threads between words, music and a bundle of old clothes.

(Audio versions of these posts are available upon request)


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Oh My!

Where to start?

Last night’s private view of nine women was fab.

It’s one thing to have a great night out, full of friends, music, art, humour, deep conversation and thought provoking ideas…

It is one whole world away to be in the midst of it and realise that they are my friends, it’s my music, my art… that both the humour and the thought has been provoked by my work…or some of it at least.

It could go either way… either I could be full of myself and thinking how amazing I must be…

or… as has actually happened, I am bemused, confused, flattered, and thinking that someone must be mistaken, and that I’m a huge fraud and I’ve pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes.

But this is kind of the nub of the thing isn’t it?

My statement in my last post about ordinariness. It is precisely that which is appealing, certainly to me when I look at objects, garments, art, music… that ordinary, human voice.

Over the last two and a bit years since the Arts Council gave me the money, I see enormous changes in myself. I am certainly more confident. I do see that I have something valid to say. I no longer care tooooo much if people disagree. Is that arrogant? Possibly.

….or is it the opposite?

I used to be so conscious of myself, how I looked, presented myself to other people.

I have seen some photos this morning, which I will post here. They show me to be exactly what I am: a middle aged, overweight, face pulling woman who waves her arms about. I laugh a lot.

After my mother died, I hardly had any photos of her really, she was the one who took the photos, she hated photos of herself. That is a shame, because we would have loved to have more. So part of my reaction to this is to not care. The people looking at them that love me, will carry on loving me. I don’t care about the rest.

Also, I really feel they give you a flavour of what the night was like.

Oh man I had a good time!

Thank you so much to those who came, and those who couldn’t that sent such lovely messages.

Thank you to Dawn Harris of ArtistsWorkhouse, her wonderful gallery space!

Thank you to Dan Whitehouse, without whom it wouldn’t be very musical at all! I borrow him, and steal his skills, to make me look so much better than I am!

And thank you to Matthew Rea of stinkingdaisy.co.uk who took this batch of photos… I expect there will be more from others later on…


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Actually I quite like rainy days.

And Mondays.

It wasn’t always that way though.

I really like the way Facebook pops up “On this day…” every now and again. On a rainy day such as this, I find myself probably spending too much time on a variety of social media. But the rainy days also make me contemplative, so a prompt to what has happened over the last ten years is actually beneficial. I am moaning about the usual self-imposed self-employed cash flow problem, but realise it is short term. That actually I made my choices for very good reasons. I am now time rich and cash poor. But I am not homeless, I have food and clothes. I do what I want most of the time. I have a lot of choice in my life that others don’t. I know that I am privileged and fortunate. I know that I am ordinary.

I had a brilliant job for about ten years, in which I got to spend time with other people’s children, (as well as my own) being creative, laughing, exploring, adventuring, thinking and questioning. It was a very special place to be with some very special people. For a while the three months of awfulness at the end blinded me to all this. This morning a memory from 2009 popped up:

“Elena Thomas……has had a lovely time drawing in the garden with year 5…. counting pairs of mating frogs…. and telling James it’s not sperm, it’s frog spawn…”

Joy!

Also this week I am reminded of trips around the world with my art to see amazing people and see their art, and see and hear wonderful life-changing things.

Art has the power to change things. Enabling children to think like an artist for a while is a powerful thing. Not just allowing but encouraging discussion of sperm and spawn in a place of beauty and nature and humour is something I will remember forever. Some of those children I taught hold large joyful places in my heart.

“Wow! Mrs Thomas! You’re like a REAL artist…. like….like…. Dick Van Gogh!”

It is however, also right that now I don’t do it. It is right now for me to be making things myself, saying and singing the things I want to say. Life is short. I am older. I have less energy and patience for that, but boundless energy for this.

This week I embark upon the reprise of nine women… in a real gallery space. It has been two years getting it here, almost. The work feels bigger, the songs seem more important. While women are being belittled and objectified by the “Leader of the Free World”, these women I have invented, borrowed, studied and written of become more somehow. While wrapped in tissue in boxes, these women have become more important.

My performance of the songs also is more, I am no longer apologetic, looking for an excuse to make it right to sing them. Quite the opposite. I now feel it is important to sing them… and to do it unashamedly and to the best of my ability.

I have moved on, grateful for the opportunities afforded me. So what I can’t afford a new macbook just yet. Poor me! So what we haven’t had a holiday for years – don’t need one! I’d like some new boots, but it doesn’t matter, I have old ones. I’d like a really good microphone and a new stand… so what? I have friends I can borrow from until I can. Those things are no longer important.

I like to think I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m fat, 56 (just), and I don’t look as good as I think I do, but that’s the kind of body dysmorphia that works for me. It means I am happy to post pictures of myself as exactly that. I’m happy to post youtube video of me singing in a pub in the Black Country. It isn’t all about me. It’s about doing it because I am able to. I was the only woman doing it that night. There should be more. Maybe doing it as fat and 56 and not as good as I think I am is the way to encourage other women?

Maybe ditching one life in order to become something new is a way to show other women that it’s ok? That waiting to be thinner and prettier and less spotty and less wrinkly and more elegant is never going to happen. Do it now. Do it in an ordinary way. Ordinary is great. Ordinary is fine. Ordinary is powerful. We are all ordinary.

We are so privileged in the UK, even post brexit, post truth, post Trump and post May… Acknowledge the privilege and do something ordinary with it I say. Most of us can manage ordinary. Imagine the results if we all just got up one day and decided to do something manageably ordinary? It would be revolutionary!

So get out there, look at frog spawn with children. Teach. Write songs. Bake. Draw. Sew. Make something. Talk. Laugh. Sing. Be the most ordinary you can and rejoice in it. Ordinary can change the world.


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You learn all the time, as you go along don’t you?
The things you learn this time get absorbed and used more easily next time… And next time throws up a whole new set of problems….

When I got the funding to record the songs for the nine women installation two years ago I had no idea what might happen to them after… Had I known, I might have thought more carefully beforehand and taken certain things into consideration when trying to balance the budget…
I ended up self funding a publication run after the money ran out, because I wanted a lyric book… And I part self funded Laura Rhodes to do my video.

Two years on, in the process of getting ready for the second launch of nine women, other costs are incurred that wouldn’t have occurred to me before… In this case, some of the incidental/accidental obstacles have proved useful in that they delayed me from making potentially expensive mistakes…

I, as a self employed person, as usual, am owed a lump of money. Nothing new there except I was going to use some of it for a run of 200 CDs of the 9w soundtrack. The delay in payment and the bloody awful nature of the 3 company websites I looked at meant I couldn’t order them. But then subsequently decided not to anyway, that it would be silly to get 200 CDs to sell ten if I’m lucky, to have them stuck in the loft. So online was the next thing… But not knowing anything about the process, panicked a bit…. Then in my usual fashion asked Dan a stupid question… Not that I knew it was stupid until after I’d asked it!
The thing is, we realised in conversation, this isn’t really a music cd… Well not in the traditional sense… So the iTunes route may not be appropriate… We don’t quite know what is yet, so we will holdback on that and think about it.

In the meantime, for the exhibition, Dan suggested I do a small, DIY limited edition run of CDs … Signed and numbered as art duplication usually is! Genius!

Then, as he says, we can think about the online thing slowly and carefully and do it properly, because you can only do it once… You can’t take it back once it’s out there… This is in effect my first solo release. It’s good work, and deserves to be treated well.

It will also, if we get it right, pave the way for the next sound work I do… Establish my own, unique, unusual selling point pathway. This work isn’t like anyone else’s. So let’s see what we can come up with….
Watch this space as they say….
www.elenathomas.co.uk


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AUDIOBLOG – Please click here

The Curious Narrative

Hints.
Secrets.
Tales of foreboding.
Keeping the secret in plain sight.

Heredity.
Genetics.
Memory.
Family histories.
Family hysteria.
Everyone knew about Aunty Margaret didn’t they?
No.

Remnants of stories.
The beginning.
The middle.
The end.
But never all three.
Pick ’n’ mix ’n’ match.

Huge assumptions.
It’s obvious!
No it’s not.

Whispers.
Hand-me-downs.
Itching and scratching and never quite fitting.
A child among adults
Never understanding…

Until…

That moment in adulthood when at last the penny drops.
The shoe falls.
The switch is flicked.
Can never now be unseen.

 


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AUDIOBLOG – Please click here

Ok I’ll admit it, there is a bit of a Goldilocks Vibe going on here. But that isn’t totally out of whack with the thinking… maybe.

But this isn’t yet nasty enough for me to like what is going on.
At the moment we have odd chairs, stitching, fabric scraps. Its getting somewhere, but not quite as I want. Yet.

I’m not sure if the streaks of stitches are too abstract. I know what they are, but does anyone else?
Do I care?

well… sort of… because I hate that whole the-artist-has-to-explain-it-before-you-can-possibly-understand-it thing. That is elitist and leaves no room for the viewer. I like to leave room for the viewer. I like the stories I get told… they weave themselves in too.

Is the fact that these are recognisable, familiar, but slightly peculiar chairs with stitches on enough?

Where am I going to get the nasty from? Maybe the song. The song is coming along…

I have the mantra “Avoid Tautology” in my head again… I must remember to keep my touch light…

I do have another oddly shaped chair at home … four… that would take Goldilocks out of the picture… or maybe let her stay?


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