Monthly Archives: October 2011

Due to illness

Due to not feeling well, I will not be workshopping and speaking at the Centre for Life today. Instead of going out with a bang, I seem to have gone out with a splutter and a limp. I wish it were something as easy as cold or flu instead of an illness I’ve been carrying with me since the age of 15 making itself known.
So, here I am, curled up on the sofa and seeing that the day is bright and crisp. I want to get up and do things and make things and walk in the fresh air but right now all of those are bad ideas. Rest it is then.


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Filed under struggling here

Pink cadillac

Birthdays.  I am rubbish at sending my family their gifts in time for their special days.   I work and go about my life, writing down plans on my calendar and then I see oh yes, yes, it is infact October 18th and hm what a lovely day.  On the evening of the 18th I will be meeting friends for drinks or going to a movie or making a meal for someone or deciding perhaps I should use that evening as a work evening and OH MY GOD IT’S MY BROTHER’S BIRTHDAY TODAY! Gift-buying-on-time-to-send-t0-the-states fail.  So I called him and we had a good chat.  It was a bonus phone call in that I was able to talk to my little nephew who informed me that he had been making ‘good decisions’ in school.

Me:  “What kind of good decisions have you been making, William?”

Him:  “No hitting.  No biting.  No shoving.  No kicking.  No talking.  No running inside.  No stomping….”

(all of which imply that he had been doing these things)

I was grinning quite a lot my many thousands of miles away from that small voice telling me about his bad behaviour.  What a sweetheart.

So anyway, I needed to rectify the issue of having not produced a birthday gift for my brother’s birthday.  What could I find or buy or make?  I looked through the prints left over from The Connecting Thread and found the house in North Platte, circa 1950-something.  And parked right beside the house, my grandfather’s car.

From what I can remember of stories told by my dad and my aunties, my grandfather owned a pink cadillac during his FBI workin’ days.  How rock and roll.  How Elvis.  Why a cadillac?  I can imagine him driving his growing family in that massive pink ghetto sled (what the kids used to call something that big and boxy back in the 90’s).  I should ask my dad and aunties about their experiences in that rather stunning vehicle.

During my summer holiday to visit my family in Nebraska, one of my aunts told a story about clambering around Chimney Rock.  My grandparents had driven across the dusty plain and let the kids out to run around that gigantic landmark the pioneers used for guidance.  The kids had climbed quite a distance when my grandfather received a call (how?  This was in the 40’s or 50’s or something.  I imagine it wasn’t a compact little Nokia contact) demanding that he chase something/someone/leave wherever he was as he was needed elsewhere.  Their children were called for, yelled for, waved down and quickly they came scrambling down as it was of the utmost importance they very speedily dash on to whatever emergency was causing them to exit quickly.

When I visited Chimney Rock this summer, we could only get within a mile of that thing.  The idea of a big old car bumping along some small country road is an entertaining thought.  I can see the dust whirling around the car as they stop, the door pops open, releasing a couple over-excited children.

Later in his life, my grandfather acquired another caddie.  He must have been in his 70’s.  I remember visiting home one year and there it was, parked under its own purpose built car port.  Why did he buy that caddie again?  Was he trying to claw back something of his younger years or did he think that pink cadillacs were still a status symbol?  Who knows.

So anyway, for my brother’s birthday, I made him a small artwork of the house in North Platte, making sure to put the emphasis on the car parked beside the house.  I’m sure that not everything that happened with that car were as golden and sweet as I would like to think.  Families being families, I’m sure at several points there were threats to pull over to the side of the road if someone didn’t stop picking on someone else.

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Filed under a good story, Nebraska

Workshop and Artist Talk schedule at Bioscience Centre

October 27-28

11-12:30 and 2-3:30

Join in the fun of helping to create a collaborative artwork made by using Gocco printing techniques. Learn about the small printing machine of amazement and wonder. You can drop in anytime during these time slots; there is no need to sign up. This workshop is available to those that have paid for a ticket to visit the amazing exhibits at The Centre for Life. Participants helping to create the large artwork will get the opportunity to win the completed artwork. Open to ages 5 to 105.

12:30 – 1 and 3:30-4

Artist Talk
Want to know more about The Connecting Thread, how it was created and its journey? Please join me for a walk through of the installation. Questions encouraged and feedback welcome. Meet at the entrance of the Bioscience Centre. If you have any questions or comments relating to this talk, please write a response here or email me at



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Filed under Newcastle upon Tyne

How do you measure your own success?

Some quick scribblings and a few numbers listed on a scrap piece of paper have revealed to me that this project has been successful.

Just like that; I’ve deemed it so.

Seriously, I have thought a lot about what has happened in the course of the past two years and how I see my current position.  Where am I standing now and is it much different from where I started?  The view has certainly changed.  Instead of looking out on the Tyne River from my living room, I now look at a criss-cross of cobbled streets leading up to Dean Bridge in Edinburgh.  Instead of my table being covered in research into my ancestry, I’m now looking at completed commission pieces.  Instead of piles of funding paperwork decorating the outer edges of my work table, I have a tidy sum written out of money earned through funding, donations and requested works.  Somehow, I haven’t lost money on this project.  Even that fact alone is enough to make me feel incredibly proud and of the running of this project and thankful for the kind heartedness of family, friends and strangers.

What was I hoping to achieve with the Connecting Thread?  Good question.  I was hoping to engage with people on a topic that I find thrillingly interesting:  identity and finding it through the means of the people preceding you.  Good stories have been heard and shared and stored in my memory bank.  Friends have been made.  My human experience has been expanded tremendously due to the people I’ve met along this journey.  In turn, it is my hope that people have been affected in someway by the project, whether by walking through the artwork or by following the journey.  If any of this has mattered to anyone else, I would consider this work a success.

It has been important to me to do something meaningful with my life, reminding myself what it feels like to have a strong sense of purpose pulling you up out of bed every morning and making your steps through the day worth taking.  A fulfilled life is a purpose-filled life.  Don’t you think?  Although I like creating the smaller works for walls, I needed to prove to myself that I could do something with substance.  There is nothing wrong in making something for the purpose of adding colour or interest or beauty into a room, however, I needed to sink my teeth into something with depth, with soul, something with life.

So with that said, this isn’t the end.  There is still life in this project and I will continue to update this blog and write about the continuing journey of The Connecting Thread.

And also…there is always an ‘also’ because once one project starts to quiet down I feel the need to pick up something else and start running.  Once I flesh out the details I will be sure to let you know more about the Next Big Thing.  There will be another blog.  There will be another journey.  There may be a little bit of overlapping.


Filed under a good story, research, the process

Commission works in progress

Now that the work is living in the Bioscience Centre, I have turned my attention to creating the pieces I have been commissioned to create. Busy. Keeping busy.
There are also efforts being made to secure a big space in Edinburgh as I would really love to display the work in its entirety in this fine city.
I’ll let you know how I get on.

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Filed under a good story, the process

The blank pillowcase




I am… hesitant. There are things that need to be written, things that I don’t necessarily feel like writing but know I should. The blog for this project is to tell an honest account of the life of The Connecting Thread. To stay true to that promise to myself and to anyone following the journey, to maintain authenticity and honesty, I really ought to write about Sunday.

Sunday was the day I packed up the artwork and drove it down to Newcastle. The gallery space was ready with necessary wall structures in place. Hooks needed to be added, as well as the string, sheets, pillowcases, information boards and information pamphlets on the side. A beautiful vinyl with the project name and my name in black lettering had been created. My good friend Ian and I, along with two helpful and delightful men at the Bioscience Centre, put everything in place and that was that. The artwork was set out in its new home. (The two worker men reminded me of Fraggle Rock’s Doozers as they seemed to come out from nowhere, quickly did their work, then mysteriously disappeared).

The reception was low key and celebrated with Cava in hand. The Lady Boys of Bangkok provided us with thumping tunes as their tent is set up just outside the doors of the Bioscience Centre. Oh, Centre for Life, you are so varied in your entertainments. Good conversations were had, but honestly, by the end of it I was completely shattered and just wanted to find my bed, wrap up in warm blankets and put the day behind me.

Throughout this project, it has been interesting to hear people’s reactions to the last pillowcase – the blank pillowcase. You start with big, swooping, green hills, stone bridges then move to Georgian houses then a house made of mud. Vibrant and deep greens, golden yellows and touches of blue take up the visual space and then of course there are the details of the stitched words. You walk along and follow the story, you finally arrive at Newcastle and see the Bioscience Centre. You shuffle passed that big sheet and end up staring at an empty pillowcase. Most people have seen this as something positive. “Oh. There’s nothing on this one. Oh! I see. It’s the future. It has yet to be written.” This is the usual reaction and one that I am pleased with because the viewer is ending on a high. One girl that viewed the artwork on Sunday said that she felt sad about the last piece; it had brought a tear to her eye.

Initially, I had seen that last blank canvas as something positive and hopeful. Now, I see it as a big, empty expanse. And it, too, bothers me in a way that I had not anticipated.

Because the thing is, and this is the thing, when this project began we were living in a lot of hope. It was my final attempt at IVF and you have to live in hope that it’s going to work for you. This time. This is the time when things will happen because you think you deserve it, because you’ve suffered enough really and it would be nice for life to shine down and smile on you and your happy dreams. Well. We know how that ended. It took 9 months for me to process that kind of loss and to be honest, it will never be fully ‘gotten over, ‘ it will be something I carry with me through all my days.

After awhile, we took the steps to apply for adoption. Again, there was hope in something good, in a nice sunny outcome, something to look forward to. A difficult step, but a choice met with excitement and anxiety, sometimes in equal measure. That blank pillowcase would be filled with a different outcome, but something wonderful and shiny and brilliant. Unfortunately, the much hoped for and anticipated outcome has resulted in something quite the opposite. I have somehow ended with less than what I started out with. Instead of a family of two and a dog, it is just now me and a dog.

I found Sunday difficult. I found it difficult because all of my emotions were pushing their way to the surface and I couldn’t contain them. I found it difficult because now when I look at that blank pillowcase, it makes me feel raw and broken. It’s a feeling of being stared at by the nothing that is a result of dreams that haven’t turned into anything tangible.

“Isn’t it common for artists to suffer for their work?” a friend of mine asked. Or was it “because of their work”? I can’t quite remember the wording. I suppose it would be ridiculous to think that I could make this and be unaffected by it.





Filed under Newcastle upon Tyne, struggling here