Monthly Archives: January 2011

I’m a little bit proud

Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh

One of my artworks was selected to exhibit in the Upper Galleries of this grand building.  I’m a little bit proud and actually a bit shocked.  I saw the work that was being taken in and thought I didn’t have a chance.

Let me introduce you to my delightful Swedish friend, Anna:


You will agree with me when I tell you that she is delightfully cute.  Delightfully. This photo was taken on my last trip to Sweden just a few months ago.

Less than three years ago, I took my first trip to Sweden to visit Anna.  We had met a few years previously at a business start up conference.  It was one of those rare moments in life when you meet someone for the first time and you just click.  You some how know that they will be in your life for a long time.  You don’t know how you know, but you know. As she lived on the other side of the country, most of our communication was through emails.  Anna is brilliant in knowing what needs to be done.  Full stop.  She can cut right through the bullshit and see the core of the issue.  And, just as important, she will tell you.  I really appreciate that she is so straight with me.  Sometimes you just need someone to take you by the shoulders and shake you a bit, to see what’s infront of your face and not dress up the issues with niceties.

Less than three years ago, when I was visiting Anna, I arrived feeling a bit unhappy, a bit at a loss.  I couldn’t pin down what was going on, just that I was getting tired of ramming my head against the wall.  I’d had a run or truly awful jobs, I was facing a move, I felt completely out of control of my life.  Blah.  I think at some point we’ve all been there, so I don’t mind admitting to it.  As Anna and I were walking around Gotenburg, she very simply asked me ‘What was it that you dreamed of doing when you were in high school?’  Oh well, that was easy enough.  I wanted to be an artist. ‘Well, what is stopping you then?’ Long pause. Longer pause.  Walk up the hill.  Walk down the hill.  Look at the big moose behind the fence.  (Was it a moose?  It was very large and hairy, whatever it was).  ‘Me.’

And then we made a plan.  Upon my return I was to go to the art gallery that was already stocking my Gee How Quaint products and ask them if I could display artwork there.  So, I booked a meeting with the gallery manager, sketched out some ideas and had that conversation.  It was a bit ballsy as I didn’t even have anything created at that point, just a few rough sketches and some descriptions. A month later I was chosen to be in their curated collection, a free invitation to display my artwork for however long I liked.

Recently I read an article about what it takes to be an entreprenuer.  I don’t really think of myself as such, but there is one quality that I believe I share:  Bloody mindedness.  It’s incredible how far that can carry you.

So thank you Anna.  Thank you, Thank you for being such a dazzling, brilliant friend.


*I’ve been corrected.  The work is in the Royal Scottish Academy.  Right building, but I gave it the wrong name.



Filed under a good story


This week, I really messed up my back.  It was quite sudden, very dramatic, and had me hunched over and cursing like a sailor.  I’ve never strung so many swear words together before.  Or maybe I have and I’m not admitting to it as I know my lovely Aunt Patty reads this and I would really hate to shock her with the realization that I may not be very innocent.

I was forced to spend a few extra hours in bed yesterday and today and I really, really hated it.  Mark and Josey were out at the beach and I was whimpering into my pillow.  Fun was being had and I was missing out.  I felt very isolated.

Isolation is a feeling that I have associated with some of the cast of this particular story.  Of course there is Maria Kingwell, having grown up in a very large family.  She was then whisked away to that wonderful fairy land…Dudley.  She was far from her family and plunged right in the middle of a bustling small city.  Or town.  Not sure what it was then, but she was a few houses away from the High Street.  Her home was a hub of home industry and if she wanted to, I’m sure she could have leaned out her window and touched the side of the house across the street.  She went from living in these conditions to living in the newly established territory of Nebraska.  In.  The.  Middle.  Of…of…field after field of land.  And more land.  And those big skies swooping out in every direction.  No extended family.  No busy city bustling.  Just her and her family and acres of land to farm.  How very alone she must have felt.

My husband’s idea of eventually ending up living in the countryside fills me with dread.  I can’t deal with isolation.  I felt it when I moved to England, isolated from everyone else because of this accent.  I felt it every time we moved to a new city.  I most certainly felt it all those many years ago when I spent that month in hospital.  Well, there were a few good hours when they showed on TV The Parent Trap with Hailey Mills , my most favouritest movie ever (at the time).  This fear of isolation is probably what keeps my social schedule very active.

It is very clear in my mind what I shall do with the bed sheet for the move to Nebraska, 1867.


Filed under Nebraska, struggling here

Just call me Rich

Rich... not Richard

Just call me Rich.  Not Richard.  But Rich.  I find this very telling, that Rich signed his name Rich on his Will.  I know I have talked about this before, but this time I am revisiting Rich and his handwriting.  And his wife’s…

I have finally reached the point where I need to decide how I shall present the words.  The images can tell quite a lot of the story, but not all of it.  For instance, you won’t be able to tell that the date for a certain part of the story is 1864.  There are city names to be written, short stories and explanations.  What kind of font was I going to use?  Perhaps something that was popular in 1840 for the 1840s bit then work my way through the decades using appropriate lettering.  Then I thought that would be a bit disjointed or jarring or would become too much of a focal point.  So, no.  No that isn’t the answer.

It wasn’t until I was reading over my Exeter documents that it occurred to me.  Handwriting is so personal, somehow comforting to see.  The loops, the dots, the squeezed-together letters.  So , yes.  Yes.  I would handwrite all of the words.  Unfortunately, my handwriting is less than fantastic…


My handwriting teacher would be so terribly disappointed if she saw this.

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Filed under a good story, the process

What is psychogeography (my attempt to explain)

First…let us rest our eyes upon a nice photo of some work in progress…

Putting the pieces together

I thought it was time to slot in a photograph before getting into the fun of trying to string words together to make a coherent explanation.

*deep breath*

Here we go.

When I first spied this word, I tried to put together a meaning by taking it apart and defining each of its parts.  It was a guess that the word meant something like how you think of your surroundings, how your surroundings shape you, psycho, geography, thinking, place.  After googling the definition and agreeing that it had something to do with my project, I decided that that wasn’t good enough so I bought a book about it.  Thanks again, Ian, for your suggestion.  I am thoroughly enjoying ‘Psychogeography’ by Merlin Coverley.

I’ve only read through the first 30 pages, but this is the gist of what I believe the book is telling me.  London and Paris were the main cities in which psychogeography were practiced and discussed in the 50’s.  Writers had dabbled in it before but had not defined their thinking/practice/whatever as psychogeography.  It is a way of thinking of your environment.  Instead of trying to get from A to B as quickly as possible, consider your surroundings.  Consider the history of your surroundings.  Consider how they impact the people living amongst the buildings, streets, cars, hills, and so on.  Do not think of it as it currently IS, but think of it in the context of its history.  To quote directly from the book, psychogeography is:

‘…reflecting a wider awareness of ‘spirit of place’ through which landscape, whether urban or rural, can be imbued with a sense of the histories of previous inhabitants and the events that have been played out against them…This visionary continuity is described as a ‘chronological resonance’ and is the point at which place, history and identity converge…’

It’s this and more and if you want to get into more detail, I suggest you grab yourself a copy of the book.

Does that help?  I’ve been underlining bits, taking notes and drawing in the margins.

Can I just say, that if you are looking for a more in depth explanation or a philosophical discussion, I am not your person for that.  Neither am I one to discuss history or geneology or other sciences as I barely passed my science classes in high school.  I am just me.  I don’t claim to be anything more than that.  I don’t mean this is a mean way, I just don’t want you to be disappointed if I don’t respond with something deep and profound.


Filed under research, the process

The elusive zone

I just wanted to report that I am having an exceptionally good day of work today.  That is all.

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Filed under the process

Nature, Nurture, Context

I did have a scanned image of Robert Winston I was going to insert into this blog.  But it looked a bit silly, so I decided to leave it out.  I found his photo in The Times and cut it out in a big heart shape.

The Times introduces Robert Winston as ‘Lord Winston, Professor of Science and Society, TV star, eminent doctor, creator of thousands of children as a pioneer of IVF treatment…’ So for those of you who didn’t know, now you do, and I will move on.

As you can imagine, The Connecting Thread is constantly on my mind.  I think about it when I’m driving, when I’m walking my dog, when I’m talking to friends.  I think about it when I’m watching t.v., reading the paper or making dinner.  The only time I don’t think about it is when I’m concentrating on trying to wham out the correct beats in my Samba class.

I am not just thinking about ‘how the bloody hell am I going to do this bit and that bit’ but also about the people I have gotten to know along the way.  My ancestors.  Maria who lost her father when she was 14 and living with her mother and many many siblings at Stowford Paper Mills in Ivybridge.  I think of Maria moving from England to America, with her family.  I think of her exchanging a life of semi luxury for life on a newly settled land, harsh landscape and living in a house made of mud.  What sort of person could cope with that and what effect did that have on her children, their children, and so on down the line. That sort of living isn’t for the faint hearted. And of course in the midst of all of this, I think of  how this has effected my grandfather, my father and finally, me.  How has this shaped the way that I think, how I live, what I do with my time, etc.

I wonder about myself and how much that long line matters to my life today.  I am the first one in this long line to view myself through the lense of a divided then expanded family.  I think of my step parents as parents, every bit as much as I consider my birth parents as parents.  My step-mom, Bev, had such a big impact on my life in the way she spent her ‘down time’, which there wasn’t much of.  I remember her always crocheting some massive throw, making a rag mat, sewing dresses for dolls and for me, whereas my mother wasn’t really the makin’ type.  I look at how I spend my time now, making, sewing, knitting, my hands must remain busy creating something.  Anything.  It’s a weird craving.  I then think of my birth-mom, Kathy, and her mannerisms and how much of those I use without thinking.  It’s the ‘hmgh’ of disbelief or a facial expression I use in certain situations.  As I never lived with my mother, I find is fascinating that I am very much her daughter as well.

And of course, I think of my step-dad and birth-dad and how much my birth-mom liked drummers as they both did a bit of that in their youth.  My birth-dad, Mike, used to pack up his drum kit and myself and take me to gigs.  As chance would have it, I’ve recently joined a drumming group…and seem to be picking it up quite easily.  I wonder how much of this is down to listening to both of my Dad drumming in the house, on their kits and out in pubic or if there is some sort of Will Learn to Whack Stuff Easily gene that was passed on to me.

There is also the rather larger matter of what is happening in my personal life, in the background.  Ticking away quietly, nudging into my thoughts as I sit at my sewing machine.  There is going to be an impact of having been right in the middle of the adoption process as I create this piece.  It will influence it somehow.  How could it not?  And in regards to that topic, I am brought back around to the nature nurture topic and am very comforted that Lord Winston believes ‘nurture ultimately matters more than nature’ (Times).

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Filed under the process

Self annoyance

Okay.  Now for the honest stuff.  I did say I wouldn’t paint all of this in beautiful colours if I wasn’t having a beautiful colour kind of day.  This morning I think I very nearly had a panic attack.  I had just finished the VIP works and was getting the studio ready for more printing.  My breathing became more and more shallow and I felt like I needed to quickly go find a paper bag and breathe into it.  I’ve seen this work in movies and thought perhaps I ought to try it out in real life.

After standing in one place for a few minutes, I left my studio, clicked the lead onto Josey and went for a walk.  I hoped seeing a bit of sky, staring at some trees and looking at the hills would help to bring me back from a moment of panic.  Josey was entertaining as usual and gave me cute antics to laugh at.  She’s so good about knowing when to be extra cute and entertaining.  I just really love her for so many reasons and this is one of them.

All morning, I had ‘I’m not getting enough done’ on repeat, rolling around in my head.  I became so infuriated with myself for allowing my time to be sucked away into lesser projects when this was the one that needed all of my attention.  It was went a bit wrong in October and continued to go wrong throughout November and December.  It was a need for money.  So, I set down the project and picked up the tenements again and continued down that route.  At the time, I just needed to tell myself ‘you know what…this isn’t what you should be doing.  It’s okay to not do this right now and to focus on the project.’  But I didn’t give myself that permission.  And now I am paying for it by working a very punishing schedule.

I need to start giving myself permission to drop the ball in some areas of my life.  My house is tidy.  I cook (mostly) healthy meals.  ALL of the meals.  The clothes are washed, the floor is free of small pieces of grit and there is plenty of food in the house.  Josey is always walked.  Her towels, clean.  I am up to date on my correspondence and I have even scheduled in social time.  My husband’s working hours are riduculous in that I rarely see him before 7:30. It’s very much left to me to just get on with everything in the house.  To be honest…I can’t keep this up anymore. It’s incredibly difficult to let standards slide when I pride myself on aiming for high standards and grimacing as I stretch to try to meet them.

Well.  All of that is just going to have to stop and as much as I hate to say it, I am going to have to become very selfish with my time.  Or this project is not going to go well.  It is important to me that it goes well.  I’ve risked too much to let lesser things (uh…like laundry) get in the way. I need to give myself a break because no one is going to give it to me.  And so I say to myself my newly written mantra:

I will complete all works for the art tour on time and in a relaxed fashion.


Filed under struggling here