Category Archives: struggling here

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

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


Spinning plates on sticks.  Who was the person that thought of this as a form of entertainment?  How does that thought even begin?  I wonder what would happen if…?  First there was the one plate, gyrating on the tip top of the pole. I just love the thought that thinks the one isn’t enough.

This month has been a month of trying to keep several plates balanced and spinning, desperately trying to make them whirl whirl whirl and me running like a crazy person between them all.

I nearly let the Connecting Thread plate slip.  It was just whirling away quite nicely and I took my eyes off of it for too long.  There is one last leg of the trip and I am leaving it to rather late in the day to promote it.  So, promote I shall with Twitterings, Facebooks and Blogtasticness galore.  There are invites to send and press releases to release.  This is the finale – the final show for this year and it would be such a shame if I let it all end with a small whisper.  Or a sound as insignificant as papers shuffling.  Or an exhale.

I am also working on creating more artworks for shops, contacting shops and hoping to have a presence in all the major areas of Edinburgh.  The Edinburgh Skylines are selling very nicely in the Grassmarket (Hannah Zakari) and on Broughton Street (Curiouser and Curiouser).  I am now targeting New Town and Stockbridge.  Spin.  Spin.  Spin.

Then of course there is navigating the foreign landscape of being a unit of 1 instead of a unit of 2.  The plate is wobbling all over the place and to be honest, I have dropped that sucker, taped it together, dropped it again, glued the pieces into one, gave it another whirl and now seem to be fumbling along in a very tired, exhausted and haggard kind of way.



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

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

Dudley forecast for Friday, 17th of June: Rain

Dudley pillowcases

It appears that we’ve got another something interesting to contend with in regards to the life of this project.  Rain.  Again.  The forecast is not looking promising for Friday.

Which, you know, isn’t ideal.  I mean, the artwork can withstand a bit of drizzle, but very sadly, the forecast is calling for something more substantial than a little drizzle.  In fact, of the ten weather websites I have checked, that cloud is coloured in dark gray with lots and lots of rain drops, instead of 2 or 3.  As I had a back-up plan, I wasn’t too worried.  And then I found out this morning that my back-up plan is not actually open on Friday.  Best laid plans…best laid plans.

Commence the frantic internet search for other venues, phone calls and emails.  I have targetted the Churchill Shopping Centre, but so far I have only been in contact with an answer phone.  To be honest, I am not sure if there is anything else available to me.

I knew that I was risking it with the weather, creating this large artwork to flap around outside.  It is actually best viewed outside; it is supposed to live outside for a bit.  My inks are heat set and won’t run, and my canvases of sheets and pillowcases can very obviously get wet.  I think perhaps it’s more about how much I want them to be battered by the elements.  Dilemma.

If you are reading this and happen to live in Dudley, please oh please do add a comment, giving suggestions if you can.  Or commiserations.  Or even a “well, what do you expect?”


Filed under Dudley, struggling here

Wind and rain




Today had all the promise of a gorgeous start and high, bright skies. When we stepped out of the hotel lobby and into the fresh air, a gust a wind slammed into me and my heart sank. Possibly, the weather was forcefully against us.
We pitched up in Friernhay, anyway. The artwork billowed out, swooped up to heights I couldn’t reach, then would settle down again for a spell of stillness.

My very good friend Hillary arrived on the scene, first thing. I met her during my research visit to Exeter back in September, 2010, and have been keeping in touch ever since. She was very helpful to me, helping me to track down specific information for my project. She is a teacher of history and her enthusiasm for her local history is catchy. She reminded me of a fact I had forgotten about Friernhay, something we both learned during an Historical Walking Tour.

Some years ago, the council had wanted to build a road right through the middle of that green space. There had once been a church in the middle of Friernhay, but that had been destroyed around the time of World War II. There is a grave in the corner of the land, and it was the deceased’s family that held out and did not give the council their blessing to interrupt that graveyard by digging a road through it. Well done to you family, for preserving such a pretty little pocket of Exeter.

The exhibit was visited by three Swiss tourists. Of course I was excited to talk about my own connection to their gorgeous country, after all, I secured for myself a husband in that mountainous land.

One man suggested I read “1,000 Acres” by Jane Smiley as my Nebraska sheet reminded him of this story about Iowa (our neighbour to the East).

A fine young couple saw the article about the exhibit in the local paper and came along to see the work. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to speak to them as I was in conversation with someone else. The first couple of hours seemed non-stop with visitors, which was brilliant.

I met a nice young lady that was interested in interviewing me on live radio (gasp) tomorrow morning.

I’m not so sure this last statement is a possibility now as the forecast is threatening to rain. Although the artwork can get wet, it’s a downpour I need to avoid. So with a very sad and heavy heart, I may have to make the decision tomorrow to not hang out the work. It was a risk. An outdoor display submitting to the elements.


Filed under Exeter/Ivybridge, struggling here, the process

Two trees

God bless these things that grow

Two trees.  Two beautiful, glorious, massive trees.  My heart did skip a beat at seeing those sturdy trunks.  And the distance between those two trees is perfect, perfect, perfect.

The dilemma still looms.  How to get the thing to stand.  I was hoping that I had taken enough photos during my recon trip to Exeter to give me an idea of trees and the spacing of them.  Because trees, my friends, are the answer.  Although I have dowling rods and cast iron umbrella stands, the clothesline still isn’t sturdy enough to stand 4 large sheets and 12 pillowcases, which are made even more heavy by the multiple layers of fabric stitched onto them.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take enough photos of my allocated space, you know, in the graveyard, as I thought at the time I would be able to opt for someplace different.  But now, I love this space.  It’s rad, rad, double, triple, rad.

Did I happen to mention that this is the first time in my entire life that I have not slept a wink all night.  Trust me on this when I tell you that I am NOT bragging.  It is nearly 6am now and my eyes hurt.  I have spent the last few hours stitching in the details, listening to Deerhunter and cursing my anxiety.

25 days, and then we ride.

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Filed under Exeter/Ivybridge, struggling here