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Do other artists make rules for themselves?

I do it all the time… I can only use this pile of fabric… I can only do running stitch… I can’t use brown (this is more of a phobia than a rule).

The piece of work in progress at the moment is a case in point… but I think I have started cheating…

For a start, I began with a ready made pair of baby trousers – cheat!… and I want to “armour plate” them with loads of layers of extra fabric on the bottom and knees. Ideally, I would like them to stand up on their own. I could sneakily use milliners’ wire to help, but that is another cheat.

But the biggest one is, I am hand stitching, and now up to about 5 layers over the knees, I have made a hole in the end of my finger. It has now become physically impossible to stitch by hand without my trusty, but cheaty, leather thimble. The trouble is, I can’t build up enough layers using my bare fingers, to allow the stand alone thing to happen.

So what I have to do then, is decide which cheat I can live with, and which is a step too far.

I think I can live with the thimble being used, as then at least the final piece of work will have that structural integrity (if it works). Milliners’ wire is not allowed, because I could use that now and they would stand up. Also, there will be less blood stains on the work. Last night I had to sponge a stain out. Now some of my work has previously used stains… and some has definitely been blood… but the blood of some anonymous historical fabric user, not me in the making of the work. That would be a different work completely.

I’m taking this work with me to America, but by the sound of things won’t have time to sit down long enough to do any!

Hope to blog through my experiences over there, as I go, and tweet and facebook etc… but you know what? I might just save it all up and splurge it all out while recovering from the jet lag and waiting for the adrenalin rush to subside!


Getting ready to go to Jamestown… lists… I make lots of lists…

I’m almost ready I think…

I have my clothes sorted, including posh frock, and New York Haircut/colour, a few pieces of work, my passport, tickets, insurance etc.

I will probably need some dollars.

And one of those foreign pluggy in thingies so I can use my laptop and keep it charged… I may have time to blog…

Trying to whip up a bit of a social media whirl so that the show goes out with a bang… if any of these things come across your radar, please feel free to retweet, share and so on…

This time next week I’ll be there.

And by the end of the month I’ll be home again.


When I started this blog, I hardly ever talked about my teaching. I think I wanted to establish the Artist Identity first, before letting out my shameful secret!

I think I sort of managed it. I think I do have an Artist Identity.

The Teacher identity is a struggle. I’m not denying its existence, but it wrestles power from the Artist. Since re-establishing myself as the Artist, the Teacher isn’t happy. There has been a permanent wrangling between them. I feel the two have overlapping time-share rights.

At the moment, the Teacher has been temporarily evicted from her home. The Artist is cock-a-hoop!

On occasion, I have been asked questions such as “How do you integrate your art practice in your classroom?” and my answer has most often been “I don’t”

But as I reassess and look around me for new opportunities and ways to change my life and work, some of the most attractive opportunities are those which could be loosely called educational. I think the key word here is LOOSELY.

The Artist is fed up with the Teacher being hide-bound by prescription, inspection and on no account deviation.

I think the reason the Artist has denied the Teacher is that the Teacher had become a bit of a fuddy-duddy. The Teacher hasn’t been happy with the Teacher for quite a while either.

I think I am probably a teacher by nature. It is in me. Can’t deny it.

BUT… I think I’ve been doing the wrong sort of teaching…

I’ve used the word “think” about 7 times in this short blog.

Been thinking a lot lately.


Strangely, middle aged women tend to get a little bit frosty when you ask if you can have their discarded underwear…

Can’t imagine why!

I have been thinking about this a lot. And while I wait around for Bo, money, and my flight to New York, this is a good time to tackle it perhaps.

I was also asked today to state, in one sentence, why I choose to use discarded clothing in my work. I came up with two sentences…

“Discarded clothing brings its own history that I can use as a short cut to memory – mine and the viewers’. Stains, wear and tear, and its style and vintage all add to the narrative that I can interfere with for my own purposes.”

Up until recently, children’s clothes have been the thing. I love them, and they will continue to be used, I’m sure. They are also accessible to a wide audience. It can be difficult to engage some people with contemporary art can’t it? But I find that a little girl’s dress or a romper suit with a train on the front, if nothing else prompts the “awww cute” initial response. My interferences* with this cute factor make it easy for me to engage people in conversation. I think the work is strong. But this accessibility factor makes it fascinating to me as an artist-teacher… another point for later discussion maybe?



Worn, grey, elastic perished and useless, wires missing, some with mends and alterations…

I have been given a bag of them from someone who helps in a clothing bank. These would never be offered to anyone else. I was having trouble getting bras tatty enough for my use and interest. Of course no one I knew would dare give me such an item, with me knowing it to be theirs! The confession is shaming.

But I knew they existed… how? Because I have worn them myself. There’s a confession for you!

The tatty bra is a clear indication of how a woman feels about herself. (One has to disregard those fashioned to fit and put up with out of economic necessity)

On the outside all is respectable. The outside shows how the woman wants to be seen by the world, the outside is the mask, the performance. I am becoming a little obsessed with respectability, reputation, maintaining standards…

It hits in that cloudy, edgeless era of middle age… children had, tended to, brought up… work done… either career or just a job to pay the bills… housework, caring for elderly parents, cooking, cleaning, all those stereotypically feminine roles.

Due to lack of time, and pushing yourself further down the list of things that need dealing with, the bra is the last thing on your mind. Nobody sees it. Sometimes, sadly, really nobody. It becomes the thing you couldn’t possibly NOT wear, but also, often, the thing taken off at the first opportunity. It smacks of personal neglect and lack of self esteem.

Does the tatty old bra have a connection to the libido of the wearer?



A new bra dawns!

The beautiful, expensive, effective, lacy, silky, sexy thing right next to your skin…

It makes you walk differently… pushes your shoulders back… chin held high.

Suddenly, what is worn underneath shows on the outside! The return of self esteem, confidence and personal pride.

This is why I am drawing old bras. I think I want to start a sort of second wave of feminism burning old bras, and getting a bloody good new one, and strutting about in it!

*interference: I have been told this word isn’t the right one to use. It has unsavoury connotations. It has been suggested that I find another. No. I like it. It has lots of different meanings, and most of them at one time or another refer to the things I do to discarded clothing.


A bit of a catch up post perhaps?

Lots of bits and pieces… and a Big Thing…

Big Thing first: The Greatcoat (Title: “Blown Away”) has been installed in the Dykeman-Young Gallery in Jamestown, New York, and the Private View for this gallery and the other one the group are inhabiting – the 3rd on 3rd Gallery – happens tonight! I am told there will be youtube video of this event, so I’ll attach it below, or to the next post when it appears.

I’m very excited, and have been wishing I could be there for the hang and the PV, rather than the close. But hey-ho and all that! If you want to follow progress, there are links below.

I’m pleased some of Bo’s work is there too. We’ve spent the last couple of years hanging work together, so it seems right a sample of his work should venture across with me.

We await results of a funding application we made, to allow us to work together for a change, instead of not-quite-collaboration by email and misconstrued texting. If this one doesn’t happen, there are other pots we can apply to but I want to do it NOW! I am impatient. Bo is calm and philosophical. I am headless chicken. The two of us in the same studio could, quite honestly, be a bloody nightmare! But we are willing to risk it, because, also, the work produced could be really amazing and fly us both off in any direction. We have an exhibition proposal in the pipelines too. If I could get my act together and write something.

I have applied for a couple of competitions, and now I have extra time at the moment, regard the act of looking for funding as a necessary and useful way to spend my time. Before, it was time spent away from making, and I resented it.

My school situation is still unresolved, and I think it will be so for a little while yet. The trip to NY will be a catalyst for change I feel. When I come back, and see everything laid before me, I will know what needs to be done, and how to do it. Hopefully. We will see.

I am making happily… no photos yet, as the end is not in sight, and won’t be for a bit. I am armour plating some protective children’s clothing… sort of…

I’m also still singing and recording. I have about 3 songs almost there, and I have one being formulated in my head still, that will sit alongside the protective clothing.

I’m also drawing. Bras… as mentioned a while back… I have several thin paper ink drawings, and a large layered drawing on my studio wall… a bit of collage here and there. Those ideas are slopping about in my brain, I visit them, and then carry on with something else… flitting about joyously in this new space of mine.

I think this small room with a view of farmfoods, the bus station and the castle, could well hold the solution…