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



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A wibbly wobbly amorphous Venn diagram encompasses my thoughts… It’s animated, so the overlapping portion(s) expand and contract. I often think about the whole of it, the drawing, the stitching, the songs… but it is difficult to do this in writing, so end up having a post that enters the “Now for something completely different…” arena.

Now for something completely different:
Sound and music and songs…
I am about to embark on something solo (ish)… This may eventually include solo performance. Initially though I need to research and collect more ingredients.
When it comes to drawing or textiles I’m pretty much set up. I have a wide variety of materials and equipment to choose from. When it comes to sound I do not. I don’t have enough to play with here. I can’t reach up onto the shelf and select the sound equivalent of silk and gingham, or watercolour and charcoal…

I have on a data stick (unsatisfactorily unvisual) a collection which includes song ideas, lyric sheets, writing and odd bits of recordings. They have an underlying vague theme that (I think) is a working title…
But there aren’t enough ingredients yet to draw them together into something that represents what I want to hear. The library shelves are empty, the shop needs stocking…
My intention over the next couple of months is to NOT write a “song” but to sketch. I will of course note down ideas as they come, but I’m going to delay gratification purposefully until I have amassed the bits and pieces that will enable me to say what I want in the way I want it. I’m also delaying playing and sharing these bits and pieces until I know what I want them to be. The solo thing here is important to me: I know I have people around me that can make these things into perfectly respectable songs right now… But it would be like putting a raw salad into a bowl, when actually what I want is something slow-cooked and developed by me, at least up to the point where I know what I’d like other people to contribute.

I want this to fester a while within me before it bursts out onto the page and/or the recording and onto anyone else…

So I plan to venture out with my iPad and record the world… Well, at least the small world I inhabit… I want to fill the shelves with interesting materials, so I can do plenty of experimental play before pinning anything down into the structure of a something like a song…


I grub about in the dirt searching for something. I know that what I’m looking for is a nugget of something to do with how people relate to each other – always. It might be parents and children (often), it might be lovers, friends, boys and girls, women and men, strangers, blah blah blah… but I’m always looking for the nugget that illustrates a point, my thoughts about the connectedness of everything.

My friend and fellow artist and erstwhile teacher Jill Hedges told me a tale connected to my recent feminist ramblings and postings on Facebook about the use of language (my connectedness with Jill is spooky and is a comfort and a joy!)

She told me of two boys who were buying toys with Christmas money. They were aged about 6 and 9. The youngest brother was having trouble getting his change sorted, so Jill asked him if he would like help with his purse. The older brother immediately and stridently stated “It’s NOT an purse, it’s a wallet!” Now this is a very small incident, everyday words, everyday situation that might pass unnoticed, unregarded… one might apologise for the “mistake” and move on and think no more of it.


This small difference in word usage is significant. Purse is feminine, wallet is masculine. “How dare you imply my brother uses GIRL things!” I’m putting words in his mouth for dramatic effect, but here is the crux of the matter: purse, actress, knickers, hairdresser, male nurse, lady doctor, and most recently, female drummer and female bass player. The distinction is unnecessary.

I have been accused of making a fuss, being aggressive, or at the least, assertive over such small things in everyday language… but here is the thing… it occurred to me, after hearing Jill’s story that actually I am attempting to be the firewall against the worm:

A computer worm is a standalone malware computer program that replicates itself in order to spread to other computers. Often, it uses a computer network to spread itself, relying on security failures on the target computer to access it. Worms almost always cause at least some harm to the network, even if only by consuming bandwidth, whereas viruses almost always corrupt or modify files on a targeted computer.


So by letting in the small thing, the seemingly insignificant, we are saying it’s ok for the female/feminine version to be lesser. I might not always notice this happening (because I’m getting on a bit and I’ve been conditioned too) but if I do, you can pretty much guarantee I will draw attention to it and call it out. He is a nurse, she is a bass player. Get over it. Both probably have enough shit to deal with and neither have enough money in their purse/wallet.

All of this musing brings me back to my drawings. They are doodle-like, mindful/mindless… one thing infects the next. The worm wriggles across the page connecting and changing the shapes. What has gone before is altered and the mutation repeated. At first I was unaware, but now I am I can’t unsee it. In the drawings (I think) I am in control of what goes unchecked and spreads, how the mutations occur. Sometimes though, I don’t see the connections until I start to use colour, sometimes not until a few days later, and I’m sure there are some I won’t see at all, but perhaps others might?

This is my nugget then: The small and insignificant touches us and in doing so, takes root, grows, spreads and BECOMES significant.

Tell me then, is this too far a stretch from a boy spending his pocket money to where I’ve used pink in my drawing? Am I seeing connections where there aren’t any?


Someone on Facebook asked me what these drawings were about. This is always a good way to consolidate and clarify my thoughts, trying to explain them to someone else:

“Tricky… They’ve emerged from work about family, connections, touch…. How one person has an affect on another… Physically or emotionally, or psychologically… Or perhaps inherited traits, memory…. But the abstraction of those thoughts has come up with drawings that are visually like botanical drawings, or cells, nerves… Organic shapes that connect and effect each other…ripen, mature, mutate….

These are all themes that I was working on with my textile pieces, but the drawings seem to be getting me to places the stitches couldn’t….

But of course, as the viewer, they’re whatever you want them to be, there’s room for everyone… Which is also part of the work… Effect and influence… Goes both ways…”

Circumstances forced me to work differently. In doing so I was able to see the “stuckness” of my stitched work. The last few stitched pieces were saying nothin new really… I was grasping… Poking… Trying to find something.
Working in a different medium pushed different buttons. I questioned whether this would be another point of abandonment… But I think I’m starting to see how I might continue with the textile work now… I think I was being (had become) a bit safe and reverential with the found textiles, particularly the garments… I think I might have to get a bit more destructive with them in order to create what I need. They need to be abstracted in order to push at the edges.

The drawings have come up with representations and devices that relate and pull and push. I was unable to see this with the garments and chairs. Having identified with these objects, I needed to let them go. They were holding my thoughts too greedily. I’m not ready to pick up my needle again just yet… But I can see the time ahead when I might be ripping sleeves out….

I think the drawings are maps…

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Boxing Day is the best!

No prep, no cooking, no housework. Everyone is instructed to help themselves to whatever they want to eat.

My sons are game players so there will be an almost ceremonious clearing of the table to set out boards and cards and pieces. It can get noisy and competitive. There’s new music in the house to be listened to, and possibly films to be watched. But at some point we will all retreat, probably late afternoon, into new books… And there will be silence other than page rustling and tea slurping. This I think is my favourite bit. It might last a couple of hours, we will all five of us be in the same room as each other, but isolated and connected by our reading.

Isolated but connected.

I’m planning to draw. I have been given new crayons in new colours, so I have new combinations and connections to try out.

My eldest son and I had a conversation about my work that was quite philosophical … A late night wandering and wondering about the connectedness of all things:
How one establishes a strong position…
How one establishes other strong positions… Isolated motifs that work…
But then you have to find ways to connect that work…
The connections have to be logical and graceful…

We talked about the connections that work as if they were physical, bodily positions in a dance, or exercise… The transitions between one position and the next should be a smooth movement. The same with a song. The chorus can be very different to the verse, but the transition that takes us from one to the other should “feel right”… And there are many ways to achieve that.

My motifs/objects are neither animal nor vegetable nor mineral, but they are organic. If I veer too close to the vegetable/animal/mineral the drawings are rejected. If they hover between or encompass all, they stay.
In my sketch book I have a selection of new, acceptably ambiguous motifs, waiting to be used. Their positions are strong, but they don’t yet have the right connections. Abortive drawings experiment… And are accepted or rejected depending on the grace of their growth and mutation from what already exists.

There are family relationships and common characteristics.
Some shapes move from one state to another, they ripen… Mature… Mutate… Develop… Reproduce… Decay… Infect… Affect… But each change has a logic to it.

I keep my rejected drawings in one pile. They are more informative than successful compositions. Because if it works, it works. It’s natural and obvious. But the rejects are obviously wrong too…. Showing that shape A could never grow from shape B…. Or maybe it could but not with that connection…

Examples of rejected connections:

I’ve proved that my trains of thought are complex. This is why I can’t do the inking when tired: all of these decisions about strength, and grace, and the choreography of growth and movement are nuanced and fine.

I am newly fascinated by my process here. My brain, while seemingly on automatic as I watch the pen glide across the paper, is firing on all cylinders…
These are absolutely NOT automatic drawings. These are purposeful abstractions from concept to composition.

The connections considered while I was stitching have been simultaneously simplified, and yet made more complex. This is the right way to go then. Deeper and broader than my needle could get to… At least at the moment….


In some respects it’s been a difficult year…
If you are that interested you can read back over it, as I just have. I seem to have apologised for not blogging several times…

There’s a metaphor I shall borrow, again, and pin to this page in order to remind me. I shall probably still forget… But making the effort. I think it came originally from Bruce Springsteen (I know! I lurch easily from Merleau Ponty to Springsteen, Deleuze to Homer Simpson, Bachelard to Terry Pratchett…. Seamless!!)
Anyway…. I’m in this car… Maybe a bus…. Every person I have ever been is in this car with me, telling me what to do. That’s great. But I must always make sure that the person I am now is the one that’s driving.
A useful metaphor that I have often used with students. Mature students get it. Younger ones don’t…usually.
This year I have been affected and influenced by others. I have learned much in the process. But now, as I review, I remember that I am driving the bus.
I must remember how to say no.
And gracefully accept when people say no to me… Even when it’s through gritted teeth…

The year has been a real patchwork of personal and professional overlappings. Someone else once said that it’ll all be ok in the end, and so, if it isn’t ok, it isn’t the end.
There have been several moments of not-ok throughout the year. And now I see them in perfect focus in retrospect. And now I can also see I’m heading for ok.
We have studios for the new year I’m reliably informed… My husband appears to be steadily recovering from illness, my sons are settling into new jobs and new homes… The band has some exciting prospects in the new year… And my work continues. It continues to be affected by others, including the rabble of Elenas in the back of the bus. Occasionally one of them gets too rowdy, but that’s ok too.

I have discovered that I’m rubbish at some things, and pretty good at others. I stand by myself. I am the Tenth Woman, and the other nine.
I have discovered what means the most. I have a small but beautifully formed band of friends who I love so very dearly… They know who they are because they love me dearly too, I know this because they show me and tell me frequently. My husband and I hold each other’s hands round Sainsbury’s. It’s not just for physical support either. It’s to remind each other we are still there. We are still affecting each other. I have discovered that some things take up lots of space, make lots of noise, but are actually, in the scheme of things, largely irrelevant. They have a purpose, they might be the B that gets you from A to C, but once you’re at P, you see that more clearly.

So thanks 2017 for the shit that will fertilise growth. And thanks for all the beauty too….
…. Moving on….