I do have a wide ranging practice if you just look at what I make with: Paper, pencil, paint, textile and stitch, twigs, collections, words, sounds, music and songs… I work on my own, and I work in collaboration with a small group of trusted people who know how to do it properly (in my experience, so many don’t)

I used to worry about this, and even now, occasionally, usually after an exhibition, or the end of a particular project, I do again. That is the period when I can flail about a bit, playing, experimenting, reading, talking to other artists and musicians… like I’m looking for the next loose end. What I have learned to do is trust this process. I do whatever I fancy doing, with whoever I fancy… if you know what I mean. The work done in this period is a bit scattered, and I’m a bit all over the place. And then something sticks, and I pursue it…

I have rediscovered reading though. This might seem odd, but after my MA, now 11 years ago, I just didn’t read, it was like the reading-love part of my brain was burned out. I had forgotten what it was for maybe, other than to fulfil an assignment brief. But just recently I have discovered the essay form of writing, and these works have eased me back in. Other people’s ideas on how the world works are really useful. The latest joy is a tiny thing called The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K Le Guin. I recommend it. You can read it twice in an afternoon, I know this, because I did. On two consecutive afternoons. There is much in this small volume that helps the way I think about my work. That all I bring with me to my work, be that art, writing, or songs, comes out of my own personal, metaphorical carrier bag. My life is carried in it, metaphorically: memories, knowledge, skills, stories… alongside physical materials in a physical bag. The history of generations of women gathering things backs me up on this. I can put what I want in my bag, and it then becomes a resource for me to pick over. Your carrier bag is not like mine, your work is not like mine. So even if someone’s work superficially looks similar to mine, it is really not. They couldn’t make what I have made, because they haven’t got in their bag what I have got in mine. But they might have in their bag the urge to copy the physical properties of other people’s work. And lying. That is really not my problem. My business lies in sifting through my own bag, and using the stories contained in it, to tell other stories.

Today I have spent a few hours in the company of Helen Garbett (look up The Limpetarium). In talking about our work, and what we are both reading, over our last few meetings we have the beginnings of an idea for a collaborative project. I am really excited by this. It was the talking about bags and vessels that did it. We can see a way of making objects that we can then both use, in different circumstances, to evoke different meaning and elicit different responses. This combines the contents of our metaphorical carrier bags, and I am seeing it as an interesting way to explore the semiotics angle… can we make these objects mean different things by putting them in different contexts and environments?

We are busy making, and we need LOTS to play with, but watch this space…


This week I was reminded that I should never take for granted the autonomous nature of my current situation. I have a small but independent income, a studio, a house and I can do whatever I want. I surround myself with people I like and admire and respect, and hopefully I get the same back from them. Life is good.

However, a while ago I encountered a situation where I was not in control, I had in some ways allowed control to be in someone else’s hands. And it was a sharp reminder that I shouldn’t work like this. It’s not good for me. I must not allow myself to be flattered or bamboozled into things I don’t want to do, or work in ways that don’t suit me. And certainly not for nothing. Just because I have the skills to do something doesn’t mean I should say yes.

For about a day afterwards I had a knot in my stomach that was familiar. so much so I actually said to myself, out loud, under my breath and through gritted teeth “Hello old friend”. This feeling was why I stopped working for other people and vowed never to do so again. The fact that it turned up unannounced in a situation where I’m not employed or paid, shocked me. I’m not as healed or as strong as I thought I was. Turns out I can’t stand the heat, so I’m gently backing out of the kitchen before anyone notices I’m even there!

Timing and serendipity are everything in the life I lead now though, no timetables, few deadlines, no 9-5, no bells…

On Monday night we (The Sitting Room) played a gig at an event called The Crescent Unplugged, in the Crescent Theatre bar. Managed/curated by Francis Mallon, it is joyful, eclectic and superb. I have to pinch myself that we are part of it. Surrounded by good- very good- live music, and beautiful people, my heart flew! Not least because for the first time since Drawing Songs I find myself in the same room as my producer and co-writer of that project, Mike Clarke. He’s one of those people that you know you’ll have a good time with, and the music will be great, you leave the room with a big grin on your face, and feel good about the world and yourself.

The fact this event followed the other made me realise that it’s all about the people. One person can make a difference, one way or the other. The trick is to be vigilant, not take the absence/presence of either for granted. I have the power to take myself away from the negativity and make sure I spend as much of my time with the likes of Mike C, my band mates, the artists who I can work with happily, not too seriously, and those who facilitate these events. That, balanced with good solid chunks of solo studio time, means I can keep that stomach knotting at bay, as long as I remember this lesson, for the rest of my life!



I find myself ready to show this series of drawings. Happily, they will be shown as my Candidate’s submission for the RBSA exhibition to decide whether or not I can become a full member of this historic society. (I’ve been an Associate Member for the required three years)

In the past, an exhibition has often been the point at which I depart, and seek the next idea. But I do feel with this lot, that I’m not anywhere near done yet. I’ve not answered the question yet: Can the unsettling feelings of rootlessness be conveyed through the subversion of traditional observational drawings?

I think, through an exploration of scale, composition, and manipulating the relationships between these natural objects, extracted from their original environments, that I am starting to get somewhere. I’m finding that little bit of weirdness that makes my skin prickle a bit… but there’s more to be done.

A few posts ago I mentioned the Assembled Utterances idea. I think that’s what I need to remember. I am gathering objects and ideas and metaphors and meaning, straining at the semiotics of the work to find something new… in order to express it.

By continuing to observe and record these found natural objects I examine and record, I am seeking common properties, to try to link them as families. I’m looking for the inherited qualities that make them (and then as signifiers of me, the signified)… family.

It all comes back to family in the end. Or whatever word you want to use for those connections we hold with each other.


I’ve decided that this year I am not going to do any “pay to enter” exhibitions. I did quite a few last year, cost me a small fortune and got me nowhere. I’m not sure it’s the right place for me, and I’m not sure that the money is going in the right direction. I don’t know what the ideal model is, but it sure isn’t this. So I’m not doing it. I’m not going to say never again, but for now, I am going to concentrate on doing things differently.

Last year was so busy I have decided to limit myself. I am an Associate Member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, and this year I am up for full membership. So I am, for the first four months of the year, concentrating on that. The work is done, so I am now preparing it for the show, writing my statement, taking photos etc. The exhibition is in April. By the end of that I should know if I have achieved my goal. Fingers crossed tightly!

In addition to that, I do want to go to Sweden to visit Stuart Mayes and talk about how we might do a joint show, and explore where that could be.

That should take me up to the end of June. Then I will reassess and think about the later part of the year.

I think, really, this year, I just want to concentrate on the work, do some reading, talk to people, do something collaborative with Helen and Bill again…(and Stuart) and keep my options open. A period of consolidation is required I think. I need to go over what I have discovered over the last year or so, let it settle, bed down, and maybe it can inform what happens next.

I decided the applying for things merry-go-round was exhausting, and ultimately disappointing. Getting rejections, however well you steel yourself, is demoralising. So this year the thing to do is to counteract that by only undertaking those activities which uplift!

The Swedish lessons are going well I think, but I am still looking for a conversation partner… if you speak Swedish, or know someone who does, and you are vaguely in the Midlands, let me know! The coffee is on me… Fika is the way forward!