As I am going through my systematic way of getting the canvas in front of me, pulling a word out of the bag, titling, dating and signing the back of each before painting and now setting a timer so the painting finishes at an arbitrary point.  I have a part of my shed where I stick the picked words up and at the moment my shed is quite stuffed with bags of stuff to get rid of from the house, oh – and the Lost Library 1950’s wheelbarrow – that it is a good thing I am working small scale.  (Business card sized).  The balance of mess and (sometimes hyper) organisation is a delicate one with me and it’s working at the moment, but I will have to find a way to push more space out of my shed…also, I was working alongside a decent sized spider this evening, which made me uneasy, but it was ok.

With choosing the word to work with out of a stable of words and therefore choosing the title before painting, I have been wondering what effect it has on the outcome?  I feel the word does influence the result, sometimes obviously and at others barely or maybe not at all.  How could I possible find out?

It is now just over a fortnight since the last day of Lost Library – Border Country.  I feel now I could have pared the performances down to the bare minimum of giving away of the text and the seedlings; the music could come into a separate part to the interpretation of the text into movement/dance with music inspired by the book.


Now fast approaching the culmination (Lost Library project, phase 1) of lots of work, plans, talking, meeting, emailing, designing, checking up on, decision making and days seemingly glued to a screen, daily seedling care along with further sowing, collecting adapted wheelbarrow tomorrow, mixed with snatched hours painting and dreaming in print designs, along with the burning desire to be able to start my Masters in Fine Art in the autumn (it all hinges on funding therefore I am also still doing lots of searching form filling work and letter writing).

I think I take to extreme the part of human nature which means we overestimate what we can achieve within a certain timeframe.  The tasks I set for myself are wildly optimistic.

In the midst of my Lost Library project, as I am now, I have quite a different perspective on it than I will have afterwards.  I am seeing patterns in what I am drawn to – the social nature of the project – my motivation in wanting to work with libraries.  In some ways this works both with and against my nature. The fiddly, nitty-gritty of the project (admin) – to and fro communications while entirely necessary to the way I have grown the project with others input, also detracts from my own focus and time available to make the most of the opportunity I have built for myself.  Other, wiser, artists in my position would likely have worked in partnership with an equally dedicated artist, but I did neither this, nor did I secure Arts Council funding, I did try, but the Arts Funding bubble is something I feel is a way off for me.  I cannot see where I fit anywhere within it.  I felt, after months of trying to find where my project might sit within the ACW scope, that I my project would be a round peg in a square hole and that my project would have to change so much that it would no longer be what I set out to do.  My project has changed significantly anyway since starting, but the changes I have felt where internally needed rather than forced on from outside forces.  The organic nature of the development in Lost Library keeps me on edge and I feel I have taken more risk with the project than any other previously.  I have felt that I am swimming against the current for the whole time.  (I don’t know why this is, just an observation).

Coming to the surface while I work on this library project – architecture (social spaces esp libraries) – I’ve been visiting libraries anywhere I go – I met a retired architectural university tutor in Abergavenny while giving out news sheets on the project  – Patrick Hannay and I have been reading a Welsh architecture magazine he edited ‘Touchstone’.  There is something that gets me about the designing of social spaces, the hope and aspiration within it that is really appealing.  I immediately think of Hundertwasser and the way he designed buildings with trees as an integral part and with human waste used to feed them.  Also – public spaces – the way public conveniences are so awful and so badly designed, without any consideration for the fact that female conveniences are always lacking in number.  Hundertwassers loo’s are very decorative, an absolute opposite of what we generally find.


Back in the spring of 2015 I had the notion of ‘bathe in ignorance’ on my mind and it was something I had to respond to – I wondered how I might Bathe in my own ignorance? Naturally (for me) I headed to my local library to find the biggest dictionary they had and chose a few pages to work with and from those pages I noted the words I didn’t understand. This gave me 254 words, which I projected through paper and later black plastic by pricking the words into the material in dot form. I then made the black plastic into a tepee-like tent and, luckily in May we had beautifully strong sunshine and once inside I had the form of the words projected onto me and anything within the tent. In the summer I began painting, acrylic on canvas – the starting point being one of the words, working intuitively. September found me exhibiting my work at a solo show at The Print Shed in Madley ( and as part of the show worked with the grass as my medium, this time using black plastic sheeting to write a few of the words across Jill Barnaby’s garden there. I am currently in the middle of painting all 254 words onto mini calico covered boards, picking words out of a bag.

Around this time, I began thinking about the positive impact libraries have on lives. At times in my life I have used the library a lot, at others, not so much. One way I have used the library – to find unknown words – has fed my curiosity in a way that simply wouldn’t have happened as easily without the library nearby. I wanted to find a way to shout about the library, discussions around the reduction of library services often seem so, well, quiet! Not just write about it in a blog, or another article in a newspaper, how could I make the library (and thoughts of libraries closing, opening hours reducing and staffing levels being squeezed) jump off the page and into life? Words and text are a pivot for much of my work and the possibility of turning text into movement has been forefront of my mind throughout this quest focussed on libraries (for their multi-faceted benefit to our society, including financial, which they don’t receive royalties for!)

My first thoughts for the project were to turn text into movement through dance and to take the library out of its usual building and into a festival site in the form of a mobile library. I first referred to this project as the mobile library dance. Next came the long period of contacting various organisations and festivals. So, through many months of contacting, explaining, meetings, emails, telephone and Skype conversations I came to have the shape of a performance coming together.

More on the project now:

This is the first part of a series under the umbrella title of LOST LIBRARY and Abergavenny Library is the fulcrum.

Border Country is the inaugural part which (or uses the text from) puts the locally set novel in the limelight (Further parts of the project will look at other aspects of libraries). The book is by Raymond Williams (1921–1988), who was a Welsh academic, novelist and critic. Raymond Williams started writing Border Country in the late 1940’s and completed it in 1958; with a railway signalman based in Pandy and his son being the central characters. Issues the novel touch on are economic change, the closure of the railways, the concepts of community and belonging, migration and the place of (and respect for) education in south Wales. Gardening features in the novel and so the performance involves a converted 1950’s wheelbarrow being pushed by a librarian to the festival site. We’ll be giving away seedlings of plants featured in Border Country and some of the text from the novel along the route to the Monmouthshire and District National Eisteddfod festival site.

To take place on the following days in the morning:

Fri 29th Jul
Sat 30th Jul
Tue 2nd Aug
Wed 3rd Aug
Thu 4th Aug
Fri 5th Aug
Sat 6th Aug

Who’s involved?

Abergavenny Librarians and the Friends of Abergavenny Library Service (F.O.A.L.S.) have been enthusiastic about this performance right from our first discussion. Students including Jasper Cousins on the Extended Diploma Art and Design course at Hereford College of Arts have been working on the concept, design and building of the converted wheelbarrow. Popular Music degree student Mary Tolhurst is composing a piece of music inspired by Border Country, this will be played from the Wheelbarrow during the performance. Mary is interested in the subtle transformative effects of music and how it can influence what we are feeling. The Library of Wales have given permission for the text of Border Country to be used in this performance and have donated ten copies of the novel to Abergavenny library.

I am now in the middle of sowing many seeds and some of the Chrysanthemums have germinated! Many seeds left to sow – aiming for 50 to give away each day.

Back in November I wrote this and it feels right to quote it here (although it is not particularly a dance now):

What is the library dance for?
Absorbed in words.
Where will they take you?
Around in circles,
Or somewhere new?
Something short,
Or a great big tome?
What is it for?
These characters we see?
Looking for info
Seeking solace
Wanting to be social
Fighting your case
Setting out to be a part
Or something small or grand
A seat, a shelf, a face, a screen
By day, by night, by winter and summer
A solid form in the town,
A refuge for the mind,
Now fun, then work, escape and keeping you current,
A place where paths are crossed,
And sometimes, forever altered.

The pages only live when planted in your mind


As I said in conversation earlier today, the practice of writing, even just a sentence of reflection or a question to self helps in progress and awareness of own work and way of working over-time.  Once started and a habit is made, it is greatly missed on those days its missed. I’ve been unable to do much catching up since the weekend as I’ve worked Tues and Weds with only enough time to do some essential art maintenance..this has been cutting out a rubber in shape of a seedling in pot to use to stamp my business cards (for tomorrow’s 12 artist one day show in Hereford ‘Should we have stayed at home?’) where I’m showing paintings and reading my Border country speech.

A paperwork pile (a real mountain of folders and paper) I’d almost got through on Monday has remained where I left it and I’m nearly through it, but why do I stop when it’s nearly done?  Why does watching an old Red Dwarf episode with my son come first?  (actually I think the laughter has been more important, but I’m sure I’ve wasted time some other way!!)  It will probably only take another half an hour to get it all sorted and out of the way.

So – first day in a few days I’ve got back in shed for more than 20 minutes…I always feel a bit out of sorts and I need to re-ground myself.  Just painted one of my mini calico boards and that is what is pulling me now.   Managing being excited by new things, offers, discoveries is a massive energy drain, the only way I know of handling it well is to delay my reaction/decision on exciting things by booking them in at a later date to do or consider doing. Often, by the time comes round I have moved on and think about it in an entirely different way.  I am constantly trying to handle wanting to do everything RIGHT NOW! I am not sure why I am like this…awareness of mortality?  A feeling like I am constantly on the edge of something?  … I would like to know if anyone else experiences this or if this is particular to me.

One time wasting activity I know I do is reading about how to gets things done – other people can’t really help with this, some techniques help, but really you’ve got to start with how you are, and how you work.  I have stamina over the long term, but my way of working is intensive and a 7/8 hour day at work, though I am not working any harder or better than any of my colleagues, I think I am far more exhausted by it. Maybe it’s the holding myself in (not physically!) – though I am not really doing that, I think it is the matter of hours in a row of concentration and listening out for people.  I find I am constantly having difficulty understanding what people say, sometimes it is not understanding the accent, but others it is that I am focussed so hard that I simply can’t hear them, it’s like the sound of their voice has gone through a distortion filter.  It is weird, really unhelpful, and embarrassing at times.  I often don’t understand the simplest of phrases.  How can this be?

I saw the Lost Library – Border country wheelbarrow today at Hereford College of Arts, it’s wonderfully rusty and I love the front wheel.  Took a few more photos – the students are going to start on it later this month.

Popped in to the college library and came away with lovely large book full with Clare Woods paintings. Title’Clare Woods Strange Meetings’.  It is fascinating reading and perusing. I first came across Clare as a speaker at my degree first year, first month I think, at the Drawing Symposium and was fascinated by her imagery and technique of working in gloss and later oils on aluminium. She is prolific and her work is both bold and subtle, she generally works at a large scale, scaled up from photographs.