I went to listen to artist Matt Stokes speak two Wednesdays ago at the Arnolfini, and came away really inspired! The inspiration has lingered all week and has fueled some new thinking. As a recent graduate, I also found it really interesting and refreshing to hear him speak briefly about his own experiences after graduating and how his work changed and developed during those first few years… This past Wednesday was another Arnolfini talk by S Mark Gubb, which was also brilliant. It’s really been interesting to hear both of them speak about the kinds of things that interest them and why they make the work they do.

During my degree I often felt pangs of “but can I actually make work about that?” Questioning my interests and motivations for making the work I wanted to make was a regular thing for the last two years of my degree studies. It must have been for some of the other students, although I don’t really remember having that sort of specific conversation with many others. Trying to figure out how to create things that had a certain distance from the personal motivations driving my work, yet was still somehow connected wasn’t easy, but somewhere in the middle of my third year I felt that aspect of my work clicked into place.. I guess the more distance I have from studying, the more heavily I am able to reflect. Doing the degree really was incredibly cathartic for me…

I just really love that human connection to creating art, what’s underneath it all, where it comes from, what motivates and inspires, moments that really click and change the course of everything you’re doing…Creating art is such a personal thing for everyone, and there’s often really fascinating stories, interests and motivations that drive an artist’s practice, but you often don’t see any of that when just viewing something. Artist’s talks can sometimes (although not always, by any means) give brilliant insight into some of those things and make you walk away inspired, motivated and ready to go out and forge your own path with confidence. These last two talks I attended really resonated with me and left me feeling really inspired. Of course, it helps that they were both great speakers. Often a very hard thing for an artist to do!!!

On another note…

UPDATES: The cardboard traffic cones are still in the shop window. Paper collages of city council members are not, haha. Had a feeling that might happen.

Also, Polly Kelsall and I were supposed to sign contracts a few weeks ago for the temporary empty shop project we have been planning for this spring. Two days before our scheduled meeting, we had an email postponing the contract signing because there was some “movement” on the shopfront we are interested in, but that the project should still be able to go forward if we moved the original intended dates. Agreeing to this in reply, we have yet to hear any response. We have since heard through various people/sources that there are certain things the city council is changing in April that will affect the creative use/empty shops projects in the city, so I am guessing this might be why it’s at a standstill at the moment. How frustrating! I guess in the meantime we just have to carry on looking for other potential opportunities and see what happens…

I will soon have a temporary studio! I am going to be subletting Jo Lathwood’s studio at The Motorcycle Showroom for 3-ish months starting in a few weeks, while she completes a residency at the Stapleton Road Tavern project. The Motorcycle Showroom is a great artist led space here in Bristol. I’ve become familiar with some of the people there from doing my micro residency/exhibition with Matt Robbins at the BacksideBlackhole project space, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know some of them a little better. It’s only temporary, so I decided I’m going to use it as a little experiment. How does having a studio (compared with not having one since graduating, until now) affect my practice in regards to production, output, process and engagement with others? We shall see. All in all, I’m excited about being involved and helping out with things where I can…





Today I am exhausted. My son finally recovered from chickenpox, only to develop conjunctivitis and to top it off last week was half term. I had to go to work through all this as well, and with a horrible nasty cold myself and some other stressful things the family has been dealing with, it has not been an ideal 3 weeks. But he’s back in school this week, and today I have the day off so I am doing nothing…except, apparently, burning my lentil soup.

In the midst of all this, I have somehow managed to have some great art conversations with some new and old friends, some talking about projects, plans and proposals we hope to collaborate on in the near future and some talking about inspirations, ideas and what the future holds for us generally. I’ve applied for a few things and have a few others to apply for in the next couple of weeks. It feels like a time where things are bubbling up underneath the surface, a time to get the ‘house in order’ before good things start to happen, because they will happen soon. Whatever these ‘things’ are. Contrary to the whole ‘2012 end of the Mayan calender doomsday state of the world economy disasters and riots left and right scenario’ , it feels like it’s going to be a good year… for me personally anyway, and a lot of my close family and friends seem to feel the same way. I’m actually excited about the future. Finally. Because, let me tell you, it’s been a long 7 years. Now lets hope I haven’t jinxed it.

This week I have been thinking a lot about space.

I went to two exhibition openings one night after work last week, couldn’t stay for long because of said previous chaos, but I did manage to get out. It was really interesting because they were two very different shows in two very different spaces. I’ve seen many shows in both spaces before and exhibited in both as well and one in particular is always much more difficult to exhibit in, to curate…Comparing the two installs has really left me thinking a lot about the nature of a space, about the relationship of a group of works, the relationship a work has to the space that surrounds it, and how to successfully manouvre through all of that and create an exhibition that looks well thought out, finished, somewhat resolved. It wasn’t until I saw the second group show that I realized how much less successful the first one had been, and how much more difficult the process is when using an unconventional space. It felt like a real eye opening moment.

At work for the last few weeks some of us having been making things for the window display in response to the horrendous roadworks and loss of parking spaces directly outside the shop. It’s been really fun actually, how many people can say that they spent thier work day making gigantic orange and white traffic cones out of cardboard? The week before it was a cardboard city bus, This week it’s ripped paper collage portraits of certain city council members complete with email addresses! It’s odd, these window display items are not a part of my personal practice because of the context they are being made and shown in, yet there are still a lot of similarities involved…especially because I tend to garner inspiration from window displays to then filter and use in a contemporary art context, and now it feels as though I (with the others I work with of course) am filtering those ideas back around into an actual window display for a shop, a specific space, with a specific purpose and a specific message. There seems to be something within this exercise that actually might help me develop some new thinking surrounding my work and the spaces or context it’s show in….

On another note, I will be having a small solo exhibition at HERE Gallery in Bristol, in October 2012. I will be creating a room installation in their amazing bunker-like basement gallery, underneath the bookshop! Something to look forward to!

Unfortunetly, I’ve just heard my dog barf all over the carpet in the other room, so I guess it’s back to the real world for now…



So, lately I have been thinking a lot about process in regards to my practice.

In August of last year, artists Christine Sullivan and Rob Flint did a residency at Motorcade/Flashparade and gave an artist’s talk for the Spike Associates. One of the things they spoke about that really resonated with me was their idea of having a ‘speculative practice’. They basically start out with a set of interests with no specific outcome in mind at the start of a project, and that the documentation whether in the form of photos or proposals can often end up becoming the work itself. Rob hilariously described a speculative practice by saying the practice is an animal and the work is the ‘droppings’ that fall out of it along the way! He said there is a certain sustainability in working this way, mainly because if there are ideas constantly flowing, when opportunities arise there are always things to select from.

At the moment, Haroon Mirza has an amazing exhibition at Spike Island, and I attended the talk/conversation he had a few weeks ago. He mentioned his process and referred to himself as a hoarder, that he constantly gathers material, be it recordings or objects, and collects with no motive, often on a chance encounter, sometimes holding onto things for years before finding a use for it. He said sometimes he only realizes the significance of a collected material much later…

I suppose these ideas of process and practice have reinforced certain ways of thinking in regards to how I work. I’ve been able to think a little more clearly about what I need in order to sustain myself artistically, especially without a studio. It’s difficult because I am a hoarder as well, not of found objects but of made or constructed objects and information such as newspapers and books. Although more than any of these things I am a hoarder of images. Finding ways to constantly manipulate and rearrange, use and reuse the plethora of images I collect leaves me with millions of possibilities to select from when future projects arise, which is great but as I’ve found, can also be really overwhelming if I don’t utilize some sort of pre-selection system…

Last Monday I attended a Documentation Day at Motorcade/Flashparade gallery where I brought a load of my work to be photographed by a professional photographer. Because I don’t have a studio I thought it would be a great opportunity to make some new work, try out some new ideas and get some good documentation for my website as well as upcoming open submissions and proposals I may apply for. I even took some holiday off from work in order to make stuff the week before, but my son developed chicken pox which left me with little time to create anything new. Thankfully I have loads of objects and images (and images as objects) made that I haven’t yet used or shown much previously. I was able to take them instead and mix them with some of my older objects to create new arrangements, and therefore new works. Even though I wasn’t able to get more than 4 arrangements made in the half hour time slot, after looking at the photos 3 of them look like fairly strong pieces. I think it worked out really well in the end, and I am really pleased with the results!

With that in mind, I think it could be really helpful to have a space that I can use for a few hours or even an entire day, in order to play around with my objects and take photos of different arrangements without such a tight time constraint. Because my process is so fluid and continual, I am ironically still realizing just how much importance photographs have when documenting my practice. They tend to be how I reflect on a particular arrangment’s potential, whether something is successful or not. It’s sometimes hard for me to see what arrangments “work” and what doesn’t untill I see the photos…There is a theatricality to this way of working, constantly moving things around a room, so a photograph acts upon my work almost like it does when freezing time on a live event. It actually stops my process. While I have thought about this aspect, there is a lot about that which still needs much more consideration…


It’s always hard to know where to start, and I tend to feel that way with most things I begin, whether it’s starting university or finally graduating and wondering what next, meeting someone new, being a parent, making a new piece of work, or writing a blog, etc… But I’ve always found the easiest way to get over that initial anxiety is to just jump right in, so here goes…

I graduated from my Fine Art course this past summer, and while a lot of people seemed to be looking forward to having a good break in order to relax, reflect and adjust to life on the outside, I didn’t want to stop. I think there are probably a lot of factors why, possibly one being that I was a good 10 or more years older than most of those on my course, and had lived in the “real world” for some time before deciding to study. I’m at a totally different place in my life. I was anxious that having too much of a break might turn into a permanent thing, with all the other responsibilities I have in my life.

Maybe also because for the last year I had been a direct entry student into the 3rd year and felt I had only really started to assimilate myself and feel comfortable there.

I think however, that a large part of feeling I didn’t want to stop was because with 3 months left to go on the course, I finally felt like I had something to say, something that had to be said, a voice that carried through my work. I had at last found ideas, a process and a way of working that REALLY clicked with me, that people seemed to respond to and all I could think about was exploring it further. Never in my life had I been so engaged and interested in what I was creating, I felt I had a million ideas and I needed to get them out of my head.

Of course I did take a break. I couldn’t have kept up the same intensity, after 3 years I really did need to find a better balance for the other important things in my life.

Upon graduating I received the Emma Sullivan award, and was then also shortlisted for the Spike Island Graduate Fellowship. The latter I didn’t get unfortunately, but I did feel a real sense of accomplishment at getting so close,

In July, my 4 year old son and I visited my parents in America for a month, and it ended up being a great place to clear my head and readjust. Once we returned I was able to slide back into the job I had 3 years prior just before starting my course, at an art materials shop. First anxiety out of the way.

Not long after starting back to work I was invited to partake in a collaborative micro residency and exhibition with Matthew Robbins (a fellow student/artist from my course) at the Backside Space which is part of the Motorcycle Showroom, an artist led space here in Bristol. It was a great experience, especially because I got to know Matt and his work better. It also gave me room to really contemplate the idea of collaboration, and a fresh place to explore making work, think through ideas and organize an exhibition outside of art school rhetoric. Second anxiety out of the way.

In December, I was finally accepted into an open submission competition. I can’t even count how many I have applied for in the last year. The National Open Competition was at Motorcade / Flashparade gallery here in Bristol, and I was awarded 3rd prize. It was wonderful exhibiting with some really good and well respected artists, and to have been selected by such well respected judges, whose work I admire as well. 2011 ended on a high note.

In the midst of all of this, our son started his first year of school, developed a pretty happening social life… and now has chicken pox. (That was the first anxiety actually, him starting school, not the chicken pox.)

Now I’ve started…Anxiety momentarily deflated