The way I work is very scatty, hence my seeking order.  The Lost Library project has so many angles to it, it risks being lost and totally incoherent.  There are lots of opportunities along the way and the nature of the way I work mean I speak with many people who all have their own ideas, some I take on to greater or lesser extent, some not at all.  People involved all have different expectations and I have 2 quite separate projects fumbling along inside the title of ‘Lost Library’.

  • Wheelbarrow (mobile library) influenced and based around gardening aspects Border Country by Raymond Williams
  • Lost Library – talking about the value of libraries, at a time when libraries existences feel threatened.

My problem – I am trying to please everyone and therefore what I am doing, my aims, the core of the project is becoming very messy.

Part of my problem is that I am completely dedicated to the issue of libraries and therefore, really it could turn into multiple, separate projects under the umbrella of LOST LIBRARY, the first part being LOST LIBRARY – Border Country response.  Other parts can deal with the value of libraries. Recently I went on a library crawl of libraries in my area – my impressions of these are Beautiful, Comfortable, Learning, Welcoming, things which encourage making self at home, sitting down and opening a book.  Ideas flow to setting up a living room or giant soft chair in a festival setting, playing with the contrast of the site and the installation.  Could have books being exchanged / delivered and collected from tables on the set.

Anyway – that is for another time.  Now I need to do some serious editing of what my inaugural lost library project is going to do and be.

My current work range is as messy as the wide ideas I’ve had around the lost library project. I’m starting to paint the small 254 calico words, while adding to the larger canvas’s in my studio. Some of these larger canvas’ have had writing coming into them, but these paintings are an important part of my being and doing as an artist.  The more recent larger paintings, there is no writing, just working completely freely, I am sometimes adding photos that I’d taken in November as part of the Portratit:Tachbrook collaborative project performed in Pimlico in December.  These photos I’d taken in Abegavenny to get the hang of using a disposable camera to take selfies.  They have just seemed to fit. Not sure if they will stay on the canvas, or just act as catalysts. These are the things I just do, along with beginning to draw plants from ‘The gardening year’ of my grandad’s to etch.  The larger painting and etching is almost the things I am doing because I am ‘meant’ to be doing something else.  I realise this is often when I make the most progress – when I just have to do something and can’t yet say why.  It’s why I’m an artist. There are so many things I can’t put my finger on, how I work is increasingly a way to do something so I can look out of the corner of my eye and notice something I can’t find any other way.  All the things I do do seem to converge, though the way I practice is diverse (though with a very strong affinity with paint and my love of print is also strong even though I have not recently spent much time on it), the different ways I work come together through what bubbles up, no matter how far away I start.  It’s like I am making it my profession to avoid certain subjects.  Over analysis being my nature, over sensitivity, part of my challenge is to get myself enough comfort with my work that I can be productive and let it all flow. Then stand back and see what I’ve got.  Finding my flow and structures and routines to contain my mess, yet not stifle it is coming, unfolding, slowly…

I am noticing in my painting, the things I do when being lazy – go to gestures, like the handwriting squiggle, (this was visible in Grid,  see image in 2nd row, 2nd column, click on square image for pull size ) and attempt to be on the edge, feel my way into the paint and work with the shapes that first emerge.

Back to LOST LIBRARY… so the part I am honing in to is ‘Border Country’ by Raymond Williams. Responding to the book at the Eisteddfod and Abergavenny Library is the home of the project and the starting location.

Text, gardening, wheelbarrow/s, music, librarian and seedlings.



Wheelbarrows – one made by HCA students and others, depending on participants.  Load the wheelbarrows with seedlings in card pots.  As go from library to festival home – we can hand out seedlings with a paper strip with gardening quote from book, with title and author of novel mentioned. (In Welsh and English)


At festival site:

The wheelbarrow could go from library to festival site several times a day, or just once a day, or back and forth just during one day….?  while at the festival it can load excess seedlings onto a table (or other display for seedlings and text) to be given out.



Had previously going to involve black out poetry at the library and mono-printing at community centre about the value of libraries.

This could instead be the planting of seeds in trays (session 1 at community centre) and then 2 weeks later (depending on seed used) potting up into recycled card pots ready for Eisteddfod.  The seeds used need to be seeds of plant mentioned in Border country book.  Not sure yet whether or what workshop session could happen at the library.    As I have only just figured out how to seriously edit this project, I am getting the general new planoutlined and then work the details around it.

Just found an apt quote:

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.  It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”

E. F. Schumacher


The last 24 hours have been eventful for me personally.  I finished making the small 254 calico boards, I got news of an unconditional offer to do my masters at Cheltenham, I’ve attended a – not known long – friend’s funeral, I’ve talked for the first time face-to-face with the Eisteddofod visual arts team and I have had treatment at the dentist (I find these visits hard, but it’s getting easier).

I am realising there are patterns of activity to my year – don’t necessarily get winter blues, but the way my activity lurches into action with the swallows arrival and the greening of the trees can’t be ignored.  I am environment sensitive – the wider environment and my immediate surroundings.  Now I have seen this I need to arrange things to carry me through the months between October and March, such as taking part in Art Rooms 2017 in Jan…and plan an exhibition or two to create more rhythm.

So, lots to take in, some things to celebrate and some to grieve, others to come to terms with and find ways to make the most of the way I am and where I am.


My Lost Library project started off as a wee idea – I wanted text to become movement.  I have tried figuring out where my project could fit into art council wales funding and persevered longer than I ever had before (this was all before this January) and also applied for a Community foundation of wales grant – unsuccessful.  I made (a big decision for me) a decision to go ahead and self- fund all the way through the project with my own set budget (a monthly stipend from my p/t job earnings).  This has freed me up – I choose who I work with and without a good budget it certainly has limitations, but those are more helpful than hindering at this time.  And with this being my first foray into expanded practice for my own art, rather than working for and with a group of artists – it means that my own aims come first where it really matters.

I am not waiting for permission, or for months to hear about a grant. I am aware that to progress as a professional artist I really need to get funded, but now is perhaps not the time.  With this project I have reached a point for small celebration with sponsorship, new books donated and text of Border Country received from the publisher.

I think I am way too serious and often forget to mark these moments – to me it can seem like almost nothing compared to what I want to do!  But by registering these real positives only a little I am psychologically harming my attitude, progress and whole mindset.   I need to remind myself that by not waiting for permission and doing all the leg work, organising and relationship building that I have done over the last many months I have proved to myself ( and this is often important to me, an award is great, but I still have a lot of prove to myself to foster my quiet confidence) that I have the patience, persistence and stamina I need to create really complex, interwoven in the fabric of society, perceptive work, whether in community, collaborative practice or in the painting cave that is my shed.  The other thing I am re-learning, which I had been doing more of a couple of years ago – is that I need to get out there socially, art-socially and other interests socially (and there are many, I just haven’t been doing much about my other interests).  While I’ve had a gap in blogging on here regularly – (I decided to journal just for myself for a while, be more private) –  it was incubation time. Every day I am writing somewhere and last year my studio was covered in little notes about just about everything I was doing.  I am trying to cut down on the bits of paper everywhere (but you might not think this if you walked in now) and contain them and focus them and myself more on my art practice aims and the practical side of it, alongside the essential getting it out there.

I now feel a real drop off of artist contact of mentor-like artists, I have occasional contact of one who I consider a mentor, and I can see the value in going it alone for a while, but when face-to-face is the way I understand people the best, this lack of regular mentoring is a real ache.     If I apply my attitude of not waiting for a mentor, then what could I do? Do it anyway…but this is no different to what I am doing.  I could say I am simply not doing enough – as in not enough making.  If I am my own mentor, then my advice to myself is to make more of what I am currently doing, as long as it is challenging me.  Which it is, the big challenge is to make work no matter what others opinion of it is. No matter how I feel.  No matter if it is sunny or raining, light or dark.   Go out to my shed, listening, seeing the garden in all its disarray, make work while the blackbird washes itself by the doorway, splashing away.  Allow walking out at night, under the stars, to make me feel small and allow strolling out in the day to make me feel privileged to be doing this.


So, I’m not very good at describing my own work, especially recently made paintings, scruffy (I said yestoday) indeed!  That says nothing – it’s just the surface appearance. Also, I am looking from a point of view of honesty and what I think other people might see.  I put myself in others shoes far toooo much – I have that over-empathizing nature – which is a real pain sometimes.  So, when someone asks me about my work I am often second guessing, which is no good to anyone and that is not what they are wanting to hear about.  I see my recent paintings as an extension to taking writing for a walk at the print shed where I wrote on leaves, in the grass, etc.  The writing and the foliage on first glance might appear to be an extension of the many home décor items involving text and natural forms, of which there are a lot of.  Those ‘HOME’, ‘LOVE’, ‘RELAX’ etc 3D signs that have been popular for a few years now – text is a winner from the point of marketing a product. And I am not entirely sure why I intensely dislike them.  I think, where I am coming from is wanting text to influence movement and spill over into actions in the real world.   The act of placing words in the world, like those Experian adverts showing people making three-digit number 3D textile forms and the ‘HOME’ wooden signs, just feel like individuals wanting to make something more of what it already is, or to make up for some perceived lack.  Contrast a photo combining object and text in Instagram and you are far more likely to get ‘likes’ and comments, true on facebook too.

My efforts with the lost library project are showing some significant good results in the form of support.  The Library of Wales are donating 10 copies of the book Border Country by Raymond Williams to it – these – if the library will have them! – will go into stock at Abergavenny library so the books are available as and when people read and hear about the project and maybe want to read the book themselves… we’ll see!

I have now made 210 out of 254 small calico boards – within sight of the painting stage now.

Large star chart needed for marking the milestones, however small in the scheme of things, they are no less significant in my growth and progress.


Everything all at once.  I have realised I am not very good at introducing my work (currently reading ‘The Art Rules’ by Paul Klein).  One of my aims this year is to get my work into at least 6 shows/venues and I’m not going to get far with this if I can’t briefly say what kind of art I make – my answer at the moment is quite convoluted and probably unclear (like one of my favourite phrases ‘Wood for the trees’).  So I am drafting this:

Words and text are a core aspect to my practice, whether through paint, print or expanded into community involvement and collaboration.  I make art to wake myself up to see the world as clearly as I can through perceived and real complexities.

I suppose this is partly triggered by being asked what I do (often) by people I meet through my up the road convenience store p/t job as well as in private view and general life situations.

Looking into the work of Theaster Gates at the moment, I’m interested in how he talks about his work compared to how it appears without any narrative.   A good book on him would help here, hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to visit my local art college library in the next week or so.

The news sheet I mentioned yesterday is nearly drafted, I am also waiting to hear back from the printers whether they can source the light salmon pink paper I’d like it printed on.  The nature of this task, with lots of little elements, the writing and the communications and organisation to ensure the news sheet is factually correct seems vast to me now.  I am pressing myself to keep in mind the overall aim of the project and the aim of this news sheet to get the word out and the sooner the better.  I am needing it to be translated into Welsh for one side – so having to get all the text to translator by 3pm today… can I do it?

Then it’s playing with the design to get the message across as I’d like – need a graphic designer to hand really.  Need a bigger budget or favours to call in!