Last performance today. I must say I’m relieved. It has been interesting, but not a totally joyful experience performing for assessors. Compared to the feeling I have after a recording session, where I feel I’ve achieved something, and have a product to prove it, the performance has been a bit, well, flat (as my voice is, sometimes). This is interesting because I always thought I was a process person. Seems I am greedy and want the product too. Probably so that everyone appreciates how obsessive I am. Maybe it is because usually, when I have performed (on those few occasions) and have had a “proper” audience, I have an instant reaction. Assessors stand po-faced with notebooks. I won’t get their considered reaction for days.

So… in a bid to go out today feeling jolly, ready to do it all again, I shall post the recording.

Written and produced by Elena Thomas and Dan Whitehouse; vocals and sounds by Elena; guitars and percussion by Dan; Violin by Tom Bounford, who turned up and blew me away with his ideas, which added something very special, and certainly a tinge more madness than even Dan and I had managed. Thanks to both!

Keep Calm

Do ..what I say

Not ..what I do

Make do and mend

Don’t throw it all away

Darn the holes they won’t offend

Please do just what I say

Do ..what I say

Not ..what I do

Keep calm carry on

Don’t lose your temper now

Smooth the creases, iron on

Never start a row/ its not worth it now

Do ..what I say

Not ..what I do

Least said, soonest mended

Keep the peace with all

Never give up … til the end

How the mighty fall.

Keep calm carry on

Don’t lose your temper now

Smooth the creases, iron on

Never start a row/ its not worth it now

Do ..what I say

Not ..what I do

It’ll all come out

It’ll all come out in the wash

Don’ t wash your dirty linen in public

Lyrics © Elena Thomas 2012


(The piece playing in the exhibition is on a long loop, this just has one join so you can hear how it works)


Just a while ago I was panicking about what I was going to work on when the show was over, and the fat lady had sung (yes, that’s me).

Now I’m starting to wonder how all this stuff will fit!

I have an idea that I want to work with other people’s old clothes and textiles, and other people’s stories. I want to collect some tales, sew some words, write some songs. So at the end I have some sort of oral history/sound work/exhibition of a community… anyone interested? I’ve almost finished writing the proposal.

Franny and Julie and I have a few ideas up our sleeves, (see our joint blog GOING PUBLIC) and these ideas are starting to get flesh on their bones. How we coordinate ourselves between the North, the South and me smack bang in the Middle, god only knows, but I’m sure we’ll think of something!

And I’ve started talking about some sort of joint project with Bo too, as we desperately cling on to our studenthood, trying to make it last a bit longer.

In the meantime, I’m back at work on Sept 3rd, with all the small children. Trying to step back from all of this and try to make their art experience as rich as I can make it. I am only in school for 2½ days a week, and my feet don’t touch the ground much when I’m there. But it is like being two or three different people.

I am my own Venn Diagram.



Artists Talking. Yes. It really is all about the conversation for me.

I can make stuff, always have, but it’s the conversation that makes it real.

Having my work hung in the foyer is great. Better than I thought. I’ve had conversations with all sorts of people that I wouldn’t normally, about the work. Lecturers I don’t usually chat to, librarians, technicians, security people, cleaners, students I’ve never met before, visitors, nervous people waiting for interviews. Each has a different take on these gently twirling “children”. Some think they are cute, some that they are very disturbing, some interpret different “children” in different ways, some they think are being handled aggressively (by handled, I refer to the embroidered hand marks I have made on them all), violently, being abused: others are being loved and cared for.

I wonder afterwards, how much of the person has been revealed by them telling me what they think is going on.

The conversations remove layers, get down to the nitty gritty, help you articulate your thoughts. Only talking to artists is no good though, you have to talk to all sorts of people.

Making yourself talk to people can help solve problems. Sometimes you don’t know there is a problem till you start trying to explain yourself.

Arguing with Bo every week has been brilliant. He’s so good at that “throw in a hand grenade” comment that blows the doors off your idea. Then I argue back and bluster about and go “yeah, but…” but at the end of it I have clarity, and can communicate. In this very blog post I am stealing his words, but they are good words, so I don’t care, and I’m hoping he won’t. To communicate with others is what’s required. To articulate my thoughts is needed. To not be able to do these things causes some sort of emotional halt.


I thought I had finished but I hadn’t. Serves me right for being complacent. Getting organised and getting the work hung nice and early is great. But it is a double edged sword, as it also gives you time to reflect and make last minute changes. I had been very conscious of the fact that I am hanging my work in the middle of a thoroughfare, access to fire exits and such have to be maintained. I am also very conscious in this beautiful building, that I am privileged to be able to string things from it. All this caution was preventing me from seeing what the point was. Putting up as few wires as possible from these stone pillars (cushioned, to stop the metal biting into the stone) and maintaining a path to the exit, had all my “babies” snuggled up one end of the space. It was possible to mingle with them, but only if you were brave. So a change was made. Another wire was hung, so they could be spaced out a bit more, so now it is not only possible to mingle, but you have to mingle to get across the space. There is room between them to crouch down and look them in the space where their eyes would be if they had them. There is also space to race to the fire exit if needs be!

Also, in this final self appraisal, you want to say it all don’t you? On 2 pieces of A4, in 10pts? Tricky. There’s also the balance between the description of what you’ve done since last time, and the critical-without-negativity thing that I’m not sure I’m very good at. I’m never too sure if I should be stating-the-bleeding-obvious, or leaving it out.

I now think I’ve done all I can (even though I thought that last week too). But I do find myself just wanting to be in the building. These “babies” are mine, and I feel neglectful leaving them there. I cannot fight the compulsion to implore the security man “Please look after them while I’m gone” as I leave.

I’m starting to mourn the end of the course. What an amazing two years I’ve had there!


I think I’m pretty much there. All twelve babies are swinging and dancing gently in the air currents, sometimes with a bit of help from me. To be honest, I could do even more, but adding three didn’t seem to make much difference, I think I’d have to add 20 to make it different. And then I don’t think I’d need to do the embroidery, as people would see all those children as a group, and not bother with the individuals perhaps.

I like them. A couple of them have names. One of them is me – the fat frantic swirly one with bluebells and a falling hem.

If you’ve read this blog for a while you’ll be fed up with the angst over whether the sound piece should be in the same place as the garments. I’m fed up with it too. Being in this space has made this a bit of a no-brainer. The acoustics are bloody amazing. To make people sit with headphones would be criminal. The song sounds creepy and poignant… to me anyway. That violin line that Tom Bounford did just hits the spot.

I played the song there, from the balcony, quite a bit yesterday, trying out changing levels and so on. Later on in the afternoon I was up in the balcony and heard someone walk through the foyer humming it. Brilliant. Such a kick! Just what I wanted, that people carry bits of my work in their heads, and maybe wonder where it came from.

So thanks to all involved, it is a proper song, with a hook that hooks, and a waltzy feel that inanimate babies want to dance to.

That’ll do me. In my mind it’s all working. It’s be nice if the people marking it thought the same. But I find that’s it… I don’t really care if they don’t. I’m happy with it.