I’m back at school on Monday.

I have to remind myself that having inset on the first day, then not seeing the children till Thursday when I’m next in, is a horrible way to start the year. This is because I am already in the “I don’t want to go back” mood, and will not be reminded why I like it until the children are in. Undoubtedly, having cleaned, cleared and prepared my room in July, all and sundry will have used it as a half way point to the skip in the holidays. Out of sight, their rubbish will be forgotten until I scream upon entering the room.

I try not to talk too much about my teaching here, because that’s not what I do this blog for. But now and again, its effects are undeniable, and need acknowledgement.

I have spent the last six weeks working towards ONE – the joint exhibition with Bo. I had to do this because October will be here before I know it, and there is little time to decide what to show, and to get the work showable! Consequently, teaching is the last thing on my mind, the artist takes over completely, I am pretty content, the trials of the artist being so much more preferable to the trials of the artist teacher. I feel totally me. To the non-artists, that might sound quite selfish, and to an extent it is I suppose. But the artists know that this is the BEST state… creativity whizzing between eyes, fingers and brain, total absorption. This is like the talk of an addict perhaps. Towards the end of this six weeks I resent totally the need to return, longing to hand in my notice, to spend all of my time in the pursuit of art.

The M word.


I am supremely fortunate, my rational brain knows this, that I can afford to only work in school two and a half days a week. I have to be reminded that what this gets me is creative freedom. I don’t have to make my work fit anyone else’s brief in order to make money. So instead of whinging about having to go back to school, I need to plan my time carefully, and use my days off to the best. I need to make my school life feel fulfilling, do it to the best of my ability, so it doesn’t become a millstone around my neck. I need to prepare work to inspire the children, get them thinking, make them laugh. Then when I leave the building, I can become the artist again. In the meantime, I can plot and plan, for that glorious day when the artist jobs and income streams become more, and the teaching income becomes less, and then perhaps eventually I can give it up.

Dream on……


Just a short blog, with a few photos, to share my excitement…

I thought it was going to take weeks to source this item for my piece to make for New York, but I found it!

It is a 1940 British Infantryman’s greatcoat. I have spoken before about how things speak to me in junk shops… well this was a risk, this was eBay, I didn’t even get the chance to sniff it before I bought it, but it is perfect. Worn, stained, tatty and torn, moth-eaten. There is so much evidence of the man who wore it, and the life he lived in it. I am quite emotional about it really.

I will need to clean it up a little bit, a brush and a sponge down here and there, and I will perhaps steam it a little so that it hangs better for exhibiting purposes.

Then the stitching will begin.

An act of love.


The work I’m doing at the moment, apart from the search for military coat, is totally focussed on the show with Bo in October. So I’ve decided that the specific stuff about the art can go in our joint blog, “pix”, but the general stuff can be here, as the issues concern everything else I do.


In recent years, I have not made work that needs framing. Methods of display have required inventive use of steel cables, bias binding and stuffing.

This stuff does require it. It is two-dimensional mostly, and requires something substantial to give it an impact/importance. Especially in the gallery it is in, in the town it is in, and especially as I would quite like to sell some of it. And there it is. I said the S word. Yes. Selling. The last few years have cost me a fortune, and I’d quite like to get something back. I don’t think I have compromised my art thought processes, but I have perhaps selected and framed and priced, according to what I think will be attractive to a buyer. And now, I have a possible trip to New York to finance. Having work that people want on their walls, as opposed to work they will be interested in in a gallery situation is different.


The gallery we are in for this exhibition is in a quite well-to-do market town in Herefordshire (publicity material to follow soon). We both have links to the town, but it is not close to either of us. This coupled with the fact the gallery has NO online presence AT ALL, means we have to do everything ourselves, apart from the very local stuff, which the gallery owner is happy to do for us. Be prepared for social media bombardment, and please if you feel so inclined, we’d be very grateful for any word spreading that goes on.


We will be doing this ourselves, and roping in other people to accompany/help. Luckily I have friends who are quite willing to spend a whole day with me for nothing more than a free lunch!

All in all, this is a huge investment of effort, time, money, emotion.

All for a week of travelling to the gallery and back, in the vague hope that someone might quite like these scraps of stitched fabric enough to buy one of them. If I sell one, I cover my petrol costs. If I sell two I cover the framing. If I sell three I cover the cost of eating while I’m there. If I sell four or five I might cover materials costs. If I sell six I cover publicity/printing costs. If I sell seven, I shall buy myself a cake to celebrate! If I sell eight, I shall feel like I am famous artist! Saatchi won’t want me, but that’s ok.


When I said a couple of posts back that nothing was happening, it was a little white lie…

(“a snowball of little white lies will crush your house” Guy Garvey, of course)

The more attentive blog readers will have noticed Wendy Williams call for people interested in joining their group to go to New York. I fired off a hasty email, and I’m in! Hopefully, come April, I will be off over the pond with my work, and a shed load of other amazing artists, who quite frankly make me feel a little inexperienced and inadequate, but hey ho, got to start somewhere eh?

Anyway… my idea for this exhibition involves the use of a military greatcoat.

I had no particular thing in mind, except that I did think an RAF one might look a bit “Torchwood” so if I could get an army one that would be better. However, I went for a wander today in Wolverhampton, with a friend well versed in the vintage and second hand. We found a couple of things, but not quite right… It is through doing this though that my needs have become clearer, more specific and probably much harder to find. I don’t care about size or condition though, so that will help. What I do want though, is authenticity. British or American, with a bit of age to it.

I found a short army jacket that looked pretty good, but I wasn’t convinced really that it was genuine. I don’t know enough about these things to guess. And I would look pretty stupid if I pretended. A fake one would not say the same thing as a real one would it? I’m trying to decide if I could cope with a really good replica…

So the hunt continues…

If anyone has one that they wouldn’t mind donating or selling to me in the name of Anglo-American special artistic relations, please let me know! You can’t have it back after (unless you buy it back as art) as I am going to embroider all over it.



Yes, stuff has to sink in. The last post was a bit scary… what next? Thankfully it didn’t last long. A long hard look/read going through the last couple of sketch books. Remind myself of the path I started along, and the reasons why. And of course, another chat with my friend and collaborator, Bo. I’ll not go into details here about that work, will leave that to post on our joint blog in a few days. (www.a-n.co.uk/p/2910921)

I seem to have come up with a set of rules for myself though. Anyone else do this? The work must conform to a set of pre arranged rules that fit the concept. If I was prone to such things, I might call it a manifesto. It goes to the root of things. Yes, it has come about because of, and is specific to, this body of work, but it has sprung – no not sprung, too quick – it has oozed out from underneath my MA, finished one year ago, almost. It has taken that long. Nobody warns you about the post-MA thing. So I’m warning you, if you are doing it now, or about to undertake it… be aware. Ruth Geldard (www.a-n.co.uk/p/3134411/) and I had a brief exchange on her blog about it – how it simultaneously disassembles you, and gives you the tools to rebuild. Then you go into a state of shock. Then, hopefully, you are able to rebuild. Again, beware, it might take a while. And I’d like to say that it can be a painful and depressing process too.

The rules concern my processes, for this project, and possibly others too, time will tell. It concerns the aesthetics, and the narrative… the story I tell myself to prove the work is good… solid… dependable… strong enough for scrutiny. It concerns the message: avoid tautology. My watchword. Simplicity. Elegance. Nothing unnecessary. Pare it down.

I hope then, that if it is simple (simple doesn’t always mean easy) and I’ve done it well, there will be an unobscured truth and clarity to the work. There will be space within it, uncluttered, for the viewer to insert their own narrative.

Those who know me, will know how I detest arty bollocks. It is hard to express some things without resorting to that… but I hope I’ve done it without too many people tutting and rolling their eyes.