Monthly Archives: August 2011

Northumberland Street. Sorry. But I just can’t.

I have had to make a difficult decision.  Well, I have had to make several difficult decisions lately, but the one I’m talking about now is the decision about Northumberland Street in Newcastle.

Unfortunately, I do not  think that displaying the work in that fabulous venue is going to work out for me.  Or it.  Or the artwork.  I find this very disheartening as that space was the first space I had secured almost two years ago to the day.  I remember feeling nervous about meeting the city centre manager.  My photoshop image of how I imagined the artwork to turn out, my notes, my nice dress and matching shoes, my big eager grin all in place and ready to face the man behind the email address.  He was lovely and encouraging as well as forgiving of my opening sentences that made little sense.

It is with heavy heart that I have to admit that I just do not think the work should be displayed in that area.  The decision is mostly based on the fact that the artwork is fraying at an alarming rate.  The raw edges are unraveling, which was what needed to happen but not as much as this.  My fear is that if the sheets are flapping away in the wind, the work will become torn, seams will split apart and I will look at it feeling a bit sick and horrified that I didn’t protect it.

There is also the issue of volunteers and the difficulty in finding them.  Although I have met some astounding, wonderful, generous, helpful, delightful people on this adventure, I do find that it’s been a bit of a disappointment on the volunteer side of things.  My two assistants in Dudley were brilliant and Mark was excellent help to me in Exeter.  With that said, I realise that people are stretched in hundreds of directions and I don’t think I could pull together the crew needed to invigilate on the busy pedestrain street of Newcastle.

And so, here we find the artwork with just a week left at Craft House Concept in Edinburgh.  In a couple  of weeks I travel to Newcastle to scope out the last (so far) venue and  make decisions about its display.

This year has been something.  It has been much more than I had previous planned it to be.  It’s nearly wrecked me, actually.

But that is an entirely different story.


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Filed under Edinburgh, Newcastle upon Tyne, struggling here, the process

Across the plains

Edward and ...

Three generations

Grace, William and Guy Green

Recently, I received these photos from my aunt Barb.  As I am a very patient person, I didn’t wait for her to confirm who these people are in the photos.  I’ve guessed, then emailed and am waiting for a response.  I know for certain that the last one is of my grandfather and his parents.  The one in the middle has me flumoxed as I am not sure who the wise looking man is that is sitting on the right.  I want to believe with all my heart that this is Joseph Green, the man that sailed his family on a small ship across the Atlantic, in search of a better (or at the very least, different ) life.  I have not seen a photo of Joseph before so if this is it, well bless my stars, that would be something quite spectacular for me.

I have been re-reading excerpts from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Across the Plains.”  He would have been on a train that travelled very close the my family’s farm in Otoe, Nebraska.  I like to think of him, Mr RLS, on his journey through the plains, possibly glimpsing the Green family farm, Edward’s farm, in the distance.  Well, that parcel of land would not have been settled by Edward for another ten or so years after Stevenson’s first trip across the states in 1879.  But still.  I like making connections and links, no matter how tedious.

Here are some quotes I’ve lifted from the Robert Louis Stevenson website:

“For many years America was to me a sort of promised land; ‘westward the march of empire holds its way’; the race is for the moment to the young; what has been and what is we imperfectly and obscurely know; what is to be yet lies beyond the flight of our imaginations. [. . . ] England has already declined, since she has lost the States; and to these States, therefore, yet undeveloped, full of dark possibilities, and grown, like another Eve, from one rib out of the side of their own land, the minds of young men in England turn naturally at a certain hopeful period of their age”

(RLS, The Amateur Emigrant, The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Swanston edn, vol ii [London: Chatto and Windus, 1911], p. 80)

The train makes its way across the plains of Nebraska: “We were at sea – there is no other adequate expression – on the plains of Nebraska. [. . .] It was a world almost without a feature; an empty sky, an empty earth, front and back, the line of the railway stretched from horizon to horizon, like a cue across a billiard-board; one either hand, the green plain ran till it touched the skirts of heaven” (RLS, “Across the Plains”, The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Swanston edn, vol ii [London: Chatto and Windus, 1911], p. 115). In the evening, the train stops at North-Platte, Nebraska, so that passengers can have their dinner.

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Filed under a good story, Nebraska

The disappearance of Spillers Quay


Last weekend I took a trip down to Newcastle to visit a friend and celebrate her birthday. As the train pulled into the station, I was greeted by the views that I enjoy so much about the city – the Ouseburn, the Tyne, Castle Keep and more.

My friend and I watched a movie at the Tyneside Theatre, had a meal at Pan Haggerty’s then walked from city centre to St Peters Basin via Spillers. Obviously, I had known that Spillers was in the process of being eaten into by diggers and drills. I’d seen some photos on Twitter, thanks to the Mushroom Works photographic updates. Unfortunately, all of these messages and pictures hadn’t prepared me to see the devastation first hand.

Walking along the quayside, following the road, seeing the massive structure just coming into view, walking closer, seeing the jagged edges and mountain of rubble, getting closer, my heart sinking. Spillers looked like a gaping wound in the sky. Walking closer, seeing the details of the broken cement and the iron rods bent and twisted like sinews, I couldn’t help shake the feeling that I was looking at some poor creature that suffering a slow death, having its insides torn into.

When I first moved to Newcastle, I was wary of this building. What was it doing, sitting there on the quayside being ugly and neglected? Eventually, I got used to the solid structure and then fell a little bit in like with the straight lines and solid geometry. It was predictable. The circles were perfect. I even created several artworks based on this building.

And then one day, some ridiculous person thought it would be helpful to scrawl HOPE across the top, in outrageously ugly, badly executed lettering. HOPE? Those big ugly letters inspired anything but HOPE. It looked sad. It felt depressing. Very sadly, this seemed to be the start of an accelerated death of Spillers. More graffiti and then fire. It was deemed unsafe and then the diggers were sent in.

Now when I see Spillers in its current state, I feel a horrible sense of disappointment. I think of the success and planning that went on when this building was being designed and built. Progress and moving forward. Now it just looks like death of those ambitions. Time marches forward at an ever quickening pace, dragging us all forward into change. Change can be quick and brutal. Change can happen when you feel you aren’t ready. This is how Spillers feels to me now.


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Filed under Newcastle upon Tyne, the process

The one about the wedding

Behived bride and Colonel Sanders

The wedding happened several weeks ago and I am only now blogging about it.  Tsk.  Tsk.  I’m not doing so well keeping up with things.  What can I say.  Life is turning corners, jumping ahead and dragging me – bumping along – with it.  I feel  like I have lassoed a Bronco.

So, this is the wedding.  And there is the bride.  And there is our father looking distinguished by her side.  As you can see, Nicole’s hair is defying gravity in a rather awesome way.  She is beautiful as ever, looking towards her future, stepping into it with  hope and love.  Just wait until year three when you are still bickering over whose turn it is to do the dishes.  But for now, for now, enjoy the newness of it all.  Enjoy the changes, too, because they are something wonderful to behold.

Nicole and Dad walked in on a song that sounded like the Jaws theme tune but then switched to something else, but equally forboding. The ceremony was lovely, a message was delivered by our Biker Minister and there were some tears in some eyes and a couple of those eyes may have been mine.


The kids then walked down the aisle, smiling and cheery, to the sound of the High School Pep Band playing a lively tune.

The band!

We then all went outside and released some balloons into the air.  Afterwards, we found ourselves in a beautifully decorated church basement, were faced with cake and food and drinks and speeches.  It was all very lovely and wonderful.  The kids did well to make this a very unique -to-them ceremony.  Here’s the bit where they shoved cake in eachother’s face:

Nom nom

And they lived happily ever after.  Nicole went on to become the rockenest theatre/drama/music teacher in the history of ever.  Chris continued to be entertaining and hilarious in his unique way.  And they gave me several neices and nephews which in turn made me live happily ever after as well.  Thanks!  My future self thanks you for your generosity.

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Filed under a good story, Nebraska

and then it owned me

I am in a very weird place.  There is a bit of calm happening and I’ve taken this calm space to sit down and consider the project so far and the project in the future.  With Exeter, Dudley and Nebraska behind me, with Edinburgh current then upcoming Newcastle, I am now living in the middle of this huge adventure.  I see what I’ve done.  I see what I’m about to do.  It’s exciting, brilliant and also a little bit sad.  Is Newcastle to be the end?  Hopefully, no.

How did this project begin?  Well, that question has been answered a zillion times, but perhaps I haven’t really addressed why I needed to do this.  After all, we have lots of ideas throughout a day: Maybe I’ll start going to that zumba class, Perhaps I’ll eat fruit more often, Think I’ll get my tyres rotated, Today I will start writing that book, I really ought to start a book/film/knitting/hoovering club.  They flit in.  They flit out.  What is it that makes you grab onto an idea and own it?  What makes you realise that to give it up, to let it slip through your attention span – going hardly noticed – would be a detriment to your life.

When this project came to mind, I was going through a significant transition.  Most of my life has been a significant transition – a transition from the states to Redhill to Crawley to Newcastle to Edinburgh from job to job to job from hoping to start growing a family to realising that’s just not in the cards for me.  Nearly nine years of transition.  All of those times of stopping then starting over with a new plan.

When the idea for this project came to mind, I had to hold onto it and make it happen as there just seemed to be no other option.  It was something I had a certain amount of control over.  If I failed at this, it would be my fault and my fault only.  If I made it happen, then that would be my success.  The project was monumental and I needed to prove to myself that I could at least succeed at this. I may have failed to put down roots or carry a job for more than 2 years, to have children, but this would prove to myself that if I believed in it enough, I could make it happen.  And it’s happened.  It is happening.  And I do feel that I have wrestled this beast to the ground and shown it whose boss.  Life, that is.

What does success for this look like and how do I know I’ve achieved it?  To be honest, if I had only gotten as far as Exeter, I would have felt that this was a success.  I finished the work on time.  I’ve learned things.  My eyes have been wide open and I have met so many interesting people along the way.  My life feels fuller and richer.  Because I took a chance.

Which was scary.

But I did it, anyway.


Filed under a good story, Edinburgh, Exeter/Ivybridge, Nebraska, Newcastle upon Tyne, the process

Craft House Concept preview photos

Tasty cups of wine at the preview

looking slightly insane here

Mary and Rhiannon

Okay, so they are looking slightly entertained. Better that than running for the door.

My lovely assistant Andy

Open the door and there's all the people

window display

I would love to add more photos to this, but for some reason most of my pictures are being very stubborn.  Although I have rotated as necessary, they still insist on laying on their sides.  Sideways Helen.  Sideways Andy.  Sorry guys, I’m not sure what the dealio is.  As for my 20 minute video, YouTube thinks it will take 5 hours to upload.  Five hours?  Who has time to let the computer whirrrrr away in the background, working at an alarmingly slow speed.  I will try to take on patience.  I will win and make it mine.

The preview was lovely!  Wonderful! It was great to see my friends there.  Thank you for the use of your groovy little shoppe, Steph.  Thank you Rhiannon for the beautiful art tour title.  Thank you Gill for your amazing design work on the information cards and also for the crash course in Illustrator. Thank you Russell and Diarmid for your word skillz wizardry.  Thank you Mark for putting up with me whilst I flap around and become a stresshead – I do not deal well under pressure.  Thank you samba bandmates for being fun to play with.  And thank you random strangers for popping in.

I would also like to thank very much Craft Scotland for adding my exhibition to their homepage.  What an honour. (You can see it at

I am a very lucky girl.

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Filed under Edinburgh