I’m making myself write this blog post.

I have nothing to write about, because ironically, nothing kills art quite as quickly and thoroughly as applying for funding for art.

The chair in the previous post hasn’t yet made it to the studio because I haven’t yet made it to the studio. There’s no wifi there, so “Going Up The Portal” with Sonia Boué means doing so from home.

We are, frankly, sick of The Portal.

The sooner the damn submit button gets pressed the better!

(Any minute now…)

When the button is pressed, we will have six glorious weeks of peace before we hear yay or nay… during which time I will have: a solo exhibition of nine women, complete with two workshops and a performance; A CD to master, do art work for and get reproduced; A recording session with The Sitting Room;  several rehearsals……..

But, although this is all art, it isn’t making new work, it isn’t getting to grips with the thoughts swimming around in my head, that have been hastily scribbled into my sketchbook, just in case they get forgotten.

Sometimes, by the time I get round to it, the things hastily scribbled are no longer relevant… my mind has moved on…


In another part of my working life, I discover I am learning things that I should have learned years ago. I’m learning in a deep and meaningful way about how other people work, think, learn. I have taught for over 25 years. I don’t do so much now, but the things I have learned over the last six months would have come in really handy and would undoubtedly have made me a better teacher.

I’m also learning that some really excellent art and design teachers I know are leaving the profession, or are close to collapse. This cannot go on, and I don’t know how to help, or what to do. I managed to escape it, and did so with my mental health barely intact. I have recovered, although certain sorts of stress get me too close to that edge again.

And I have discovered that some of us have a thing in common – Survivor Guilt.

This is totally wrong, it isn’t our fault, but we feel it anyway. We have deserted the children when they needed us, and our colleagues who needed support.


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To the casual onlooker it is a fairly ordinary looking chair.

It has a story though, like any object that has hung around for a while.

This ordinary looking chair sits in our hall and is rarely sat upon, but is a receptacle for coats and bags in passing through to the sitting room. I’ve cleared them off to take this photo. It isn’t sat on very often because it isn’t comfortable. While all the comfortable chairs have worn out, got saggy bottoms and broken arms, and stained covers and tears in the fabric, this one remains untouched by time. I know that it was probably made in the 50s or 60s. It sat in my mother-in-law’s house before ours. It didn’t get sat on there either, but was an occasional corner-of-the-dining-room chair. Extra visitors were given it, as they are here. Just Christmas then. It has had various covers, most of which still exist under this William Morris remnant. A triumph of style over substance. It is an imposter. It looks ok, but it isn’t. Even the cat won’t sit on it.

It has, in my head at least, the personality of a frosty Aunt. It looks respectable. It is undoubtedly middle class, middle aged and white. It doesn’t know how to relate to the rest of the family, doesn’t know what to do with itself. But we feel duty bound to keep it. The Last Chair.

But… I’m thinking that all of this might make it into something else. It might just become art. In my head, I think it already has. I have spoken to my husband about this, and I think he was fairly noncommittal about it being something else. I think, if I take it to the studio to do something to it, he might miss it. Just like the frosty Aunt, who, after her death, you realise was far more interesting than you thought… and you miss her.


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The last few years as an artist have provided little signposts and milestones along the way. Small moments of clarity or change that have propelled me to the next level, next challenge…

I remember when I first started calling myself an Artist.

I remember when I put “Artist” on my passport application.

I remember when I put Artist on my car insurance form, then changed it back to Educator (Art) because the premium shot up! Apparently knackered, strung-out, depressed and overworked teachers are a better bet than a content self-employed artist behind the wheel… are we really that flaky?

I remember when I started writing songs it was an add on, and I was apologetic, and had a hard time trying to explain to myself, let alone other people, why I was writing songs. And a harder time working out how singing them was part of my practice.
I remember when I got over myself and stopped apologising.

That was only about 18 months ago.

The songwriting and singing is now part of my practice and I am comfortable with it. It just is. I don’t give a shit about explaining it to anyone. You don’t have to listen, and you don’t have to like it.

Last night, at a friend’s new event, the No Covers Club in Moseley, we did a couple of songs and my friend said “Plug your event!” “What event?” “Your exhibition!” “Oh that! Really?” “YES!”
So I did. I said to the crowd, that as well as being a singer-songwriter, I am a visual artist, I make installations with music, and that Nine Women included a performance with Dan Whitehouse (was there a small hum of approval? I think so..…) I also said if people wanted more info I had a few cards. I ran out of cards and ended up telling people to search on Facebook!

So now I have decided that my Facebook artist page, which for the last eight years or so has been titled Elena Thomas – Art and Textiles, should now be titled Elena Thomas – Art and Songs.

Self-acknowledgement of the shift, and that the division is now more equal.
That feels like a milestone worth celebrating don’t you think?


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It seems I’ve only blogged twice in the last month. I’m not surprised really. My brain, at least the wordy part of my brain, has been used up and sucked dry by the Arts Council application process… more on that if we get it!

It is the least artistic thing an artist can do. It’s relentlessly stressful. It takes weeks. Days and days of unpaid work, speculating basically, betting on yourself that you can do it and they’ll give you the money to do it. I can’t imagine any artist who works full time at another job being able to do it… that search for numbers, information, statistics… that construction of the clear and concise narrative is a real knack. It takes dedication and hard work, concentration and time. Most of all time. It is made worse by the process and platform you have to navigate, but I’ll not go into that here. I’m too tired.

Now, I don’t want this to be moany really. I do get a certain masochistic pleasure out of getting it right. Time will tell if we have got this one right. The Arts Council are a marvellous institution, and I’ve already had a fair bit of money from them for various things. I’m just saying that when they say yes, you’ve probably already worked loads of hours unpaid in order to reach that point.

I get quite nerdy about words… definitely “archive” rather than “bank”… and “critically” rather than “purposefully”. And, despite the fact that I usually can’t work out the Indian restaurant bill, the balancing of the Arts Council budget does give me a bit of a thrill. I know.

The application platform is not good for the visual mind… imagine trying to type your application on an old typewriter through someone else’s letterbox using two bamboo canes. You can only see two lines at a time, and you can’t compare one part of the form to the other unless you print the damn thing off at regular intervals. I said I wasn’t going to moan, sorry.

Anyway, my point is that I’m knackered. I can’t make work, although desperate to. I have the words of a verse whizzing round my head, but can’t seem to pin it down. I’ve not done any housework, or much cooking. I’m having trouble making conversation even on a very basic “hasn’t the weather been cold?” level.

I can’t wait to press the submit button, just so I can get six weeks peace before the result comes in!

In that six weeks, I have a few gigs, the nine women exhibition and performance at the end of March, so a fair few rehearsals. The songs are developing, and I want to work on them more.

So just as a bit of light relief, I post a link to The Sitting Room performing “Five Words” at Arena Theatre Wolverhampton. In honour of Arts Council England, I feel I should rename the song “33 Characters (Including Spaces)”