Wednesday, 20 October 2010

You got to work hard

There's only 2 weeks to go for this years Exeter Open Studios!

I'm part of the steering group this year and helping to coordinate the event over at the studios, plus getting my own work done. It's a bit manic for me at the moment and the 3 weeks off ill didn't help.

This Sunday just gone I helped with setting up the preview for work that's part of the postcard auction. Artists taking part submit a piece of work and it's sold as part of an auction to benefit next years Open Studios.

The whole steering group worked hard and we got it all done in less time than I had expected. Why can't teamwork always be that good?

James sorting the postcards.

I'm also taking part in and helping to organize a craft fair next weekend as part of The Craft Hub.

An amazing amount of work has gone into pulling it off and I'm very proud to be part of this organizing team together with Pippa, Lucy and Hannah and how we've worked together to make it happen and give local crafters and small businesses the opportunity to showcase and sell their work.

Somewhere I'm hoping to have to to eat and sleep as well, which would be FABulous.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

How I surrendered to clay

You don't get a whole lot of work done when you're ill for 3 weeks!

I started feeling a bit off the week just before my birthday but attributed it to stress. On the birthday I got ill. Really ill. Think tummy bug, stomach flu and food poisoning. Together. But worse. So I was pretty much a vegetable, couldn't eat anything, was too tired to just go outside... As you might have guessed, there wasn't a whole lot of work made! I got better, and still recovering. I'm mostly just feeling I get tired very easily now.

That's why I decided to share some work that isn't mine. Call it a tribute of sorts to people, artists, things, that inspire me and my work. This will be the 1st part of a few still to come.

I wanted to start with the person who got me into ceramics, in a somewhat interesting way.

Craig Underhill was my ceramics tutor at Dudley College, during my BTEC in 3D Design.I'm not always the easiest person to communicate with and I don't think I was ready to take in everything he had to teach me. But teach me he did. And how I hated it. Ceramics was the lesson I tried to get out of at every opportunity; if I had to schedule a meeting I'd schedule it for that day and that time in the morning!

Craig Underhill - "Loch Head Landscape" (image compliments of

When I got to uni I stayed away from ceramics because it was BORING. That much I'd learned. Then came the obligatory ceramics project. And I hated ceramics slightly less. By now I had also realised I couldn't work with the perspex I had spent most of my 2 years at Dudley working with. What could I trade it for? What could have a similar plasticity and movement as a heated sheet of plastic? I think you know what the answer was.

Craig Underhill - "Split landscape, red edge" (image compliments of

I spent 3 years coming to terms with clay. I fought really hard not to fall in love with the material, fought to remember everything that had irritated and bored me about ceramics at college. Needless to say, I lost.

So I ended going back to what Craig had taught me. To handbuilding. To slabs and rough edges and dirt and hours of hard work. And it made me realise that the most important thing I'd been taught was that I wasn't ready to learn then.

Craig Underhill - "Ancient walls - blue edge" (image compliments of

I'd really like to thank Craig for what he taught me, for what he showed me could be done, for encouraging some wild ideas that I wasn't even ready to take on myself, for making an impressing on me with his teaching and his work that I would remember when I was in a place within myself where I could accept it. For showing me a way to surrender to clay.

Thank you.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


I'm never sure about posting images of work in progress; it's not finished (and some of it never makes it to a finished stage) and only I really know where it's headed. It feels like opening your mouth and speaking without knowing what you're going to say.

My project about my family is proving very hard; when I work on a piece all the stories kind of swirl around in my head and leave me feeling completely emotionally exhausted. As I'm working I start feeling the need to incorporate individuals whom I did meet but, because my family is what it is, still never really knew.

To cut a long ramble short, here are some images of 3 pieces that I'm currently working on. The vessels each symbolize a member of my family. There is still glaze to be added, then transfers and a smoke-firing. It might be hard to see where it's going but it's much clearer in my head.

This clay looks red in the pictures, more purple in real life and fires black.

I fired the two bottom ones last week (photos are pre-firing), the top one is still waiting for a piece of white clay to be wrapped across the front before being fired.

I've named the series Arvsynden, which is Swedish for Original Sin. I am liking the direct translation of Inherited Sin much better however.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Moving studio and Holidays pt1

Isn't it weird how summer's just flown by?

I've been really busy, both working and with the usual summer-stuff, i.e. having a child off school and going to Sweden.

Right before we flew out for out stay in Sweden I moved to a larger studio; I loved the space I was in, so warm and light and welcoming. But there wasn't enough space, and as you work you never really get less stuff, do you? My fellow studio holder and friend, Jane (thank you SO MUCH!), helped me drag all my things from one end of the studios to the other. Anyone who's been in my studio and/or knows how many plaster casts I've got knows this is no small task. But I moved and although I miss the old space I know that the size of the new one is better.

More space for me to use both my tables and separate the jewellery work from the artwork.

Plaster casts on the shelves, plaster casts under the table...

And space for my computer work is essential of course!

Then we went to Sweden for a couple of weeks, saw family and friends, ate too much food, slept in in the mornings and had mostly rain... I decided to split it into two separate posts to make it easier to manage. Enjoy!

Walking the streets of Stockholms Gamla Stan (Old Town).

An orgy in Dala Horses! I love these wooden horses so much!

"I know we can't afford it but how pretty is that?"

Water, boats and commuter trains. Stockholm!

Check out how much space there is to cycle in traffic compared to in the UK!

We paid a visit to one of my absolutely favourite café's, retro café String.

More String.

Loving the retro furniture!

Robin aka The Other Half. Loving him too. :)

I had a really stressful time right before we went on vacation and somehow managed to come back to more stress and drama. It's really reminded me of how important it is with real friends who stick by you and who will still be there after the storm, who'll wait for you while you run around in a tornado of chaotic crap and will give you a hug at the end of it.

Robin made me this origami heart before we left. He says he sometimes finds it hard to SAY how much he cares and how important I am to him, so he MADE something to show me. I almost cried. Absolutely and completely priceless. Love, family and real friends.

Friday, 11 June 2010

"Acquired" or "Inherited" vs "False"

The title of the post comes from the theme I'm going to be working with, and a short discussion I had with a fellow artist this week.

Let me explain; the theme for the new work I've just started is "inherited memory". When I grew up I was surrounded by stories, not just the ones read to me by my mum and grandmother but also the ones that would filter down from whispers and conversations between grown-ups, tales from my dad's childhood that he would share, and often they were not the ones with an all-over happy ending, and my maternal grandparents sharing snippets of family history in their kitchen, as we gathered 'round the table for a wealth of cakes, buns and cookies that were out of this world.

I'm fascinated with how these stories have stayed in my mind over the years and how well I remember them. Some of the people in these stories I never met, some I did meet but was too young to remember.

My maternal grandfather's brother, Karl-Erik, dancing. Doesn't he look like he's having a blast?

So although I have no memories, or my memories are very blurry and vague, of these people who were part of my family, I grew up with stories about them that made them alive to me. They became the myths and legends of my childhood. Some were villains, some I feel now, were vilified, and some were victims of circumstances they could not control. It's strange how so many of these stories have a touch of sadness in them, how they are never quite happy. But they are still stories I've inherited. So I've chosen to call what I remember an "inherited memory" because it's almost certain to be a re-telling of how a person or situation was perceived by the person telling it to me in the first place.

My dad and my paternal grandmother, in Peru. I believe the picture is from 1975 or -76 when my parents were living and working in Peru.

I have only just started making the tests for the vessels I'm intending to make for this body of work and I found it very interesting, that when I told a fellow artist that I was working with these "inherited memories" and after having explained them to her, she said "Ah, false memories". False? I'm not sure.

Now, I don't know how much of what I'm remembering is exactly what happened to the people in these stories. I was a child and children remember things very differently from adults. And adults will put their own feelings and thoughts into what they tell a child; we may try not to, but it almost always happens. Many of these stories were probably not entirely accurate, maybe some of it was tinged with someone else's emotion or how they remembered it, maybe they wanted what they told me to be exactly what had happened, I don't know. But does this make them false? Is my memory false because I'm remembering events I were not part of because I wasn't there to experience them myself? I suppose it could be an "acquired memory" as it wasn't mine to begin with, but false? It sounds so hard, too much like it's out to misrepresent, to bend the truth, a right out lie.

My parents, and other family members, at their wedding reception. My mum was pregnant with me at the time.

I'm sticking by my term. These memories may not be mine, but they were given to me, they were gifts of a kind and as such have become part of my inheritance. And as something inherited I will pass it on again, to my child, and undoubtedly I will tint these stories with the colours of my own emotions. But I will never call them false.

Monday, 7 June 2010

It's oh so quiet (sssshhh, sssshhh)

Oh it has been quiet indeed.

After the fair was over I kind of went into hibernation mode. If you want to read about it Joe wrote a great little re-cap of the fair that you should have a look at.

So what have I been doing for the last couple of weeks?

Well. I did end up having some of these...

...and enjoying a little bit of peace. I buy magazines that I don't have time to read because I'm too busy and end up dragging them with me around town and country thinking I might get time to have a peek in them. Just don't get me started on the years worth of Icon I have sitting on a shelf at home, glaring at me, begging to be read. Can you hear them crying from neglect?

Apart from a few hours of rest here and there I've been finishing up some jewellery pieces for launching on Folksy, hopefully at the end of the week, which is also when I'm crossing my fingers and hoping Robin will have had time to help me finish my website.

This year I'm in charge of organising the studios for this years Exeter Open Studios, and I'm part of the steering group for the Open Studios as well. I need to find time to help out with the events out at Organic Arts and somewhere, somehow, I need to actually do some of my own work!!!

Last week was half-term and Robin was working from home so there really wasn't much time to work on anything anyway, but I did finish off that jewellery and on Saturday I went in and tidied and cleaned the studio and packed away the jewellery making things for a little bit; I've picked a project off my "Projects I really want to do" pile and I'll be starting to make tests this week. I'm very excited about working with paperclay porcelain for the first time ever. I've made some sketches and will have to do a fair bit of testing (which I always say I will do and then I end up jumping in at the deep end anyway because I get so excited...) but I'm liking the ideas I have. I'm not giving the game away just yet, that will have to wait until next time!

(But you can have two hints: "family" and "memory")

Friday, 14 May 2010

People tell me it's all happening at the fair

Ah yes, The Fair. There's only 8 days to go and it really does feel like it's all coming together. Finally.

When Joe asked me if I'd like to help with getting a craft fair started in Exeter I thought "Sure!" and somewhere I imagined it could be quite a lot of work but it still felt like something good to do and a great experience to get under my belt. I mean, how hard could it be, really?

I had NO IDEA how hard! Or how many hours worrying and stressing, how many late nights, early mornings, trips to printers and gazillions of e-mails it was going to be. But it's happening, it truly is.

Now, I'm not an easy person to work with. I'm extremely critical and have super-high standards for a lot of things, I like planning ahead and getting every single little detail sorted. Joe's been incredibly patient and understanding and put up with everything, met me for lunches and coffees and sent me at least half a gazillion emails back at all hours of the day. Such a trooper!

In hopefully less than 15 minutes my transfers will be ordered and paid for, then I'm off to the studio to glaze the last of my work, which I will also be doing tomorrow, and then firing on Sunday, applying transfers and lusters on Monday and firing again either Monday or Tuesday.

Did you guess I've put in for another meeting next week..?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


I've been extremely tired lately. Now, I say "lately" but it's probably closer to a few months, with spikes of sheer exhaustion. Yesterday I went home early from the studio; I was having problems concentrating and was worried I might start accidentally breaking things. On the way home I decided to walk a different way that was slightly longer and when I got home I'd walked off my frustration and promptly fell asleep on the sofa... I woke up briefly and realised I simply couldn't make it into town for Make, Do & Mend, and went back to sleep...

In the end I think resting helped as I was able to take part in my choir later in the evening (we call ourselves a choir, but it's really a quintet). It was a great session and although still tired I felt better afterwards. We are so lucky to have the incredibly talented Rosa Rebecka leading us on our musical adventures, who always writes beautiful arrangements that make all out voices shine.

Work is going through a bit of a slump at the moment. Functional is just not where my passion is so I find it hard to get really excited about it. I did promise some pictures of WIP last week, so here's a bit of that:

Jewellery en masse! It looks like quite a lot but I still have quite a few bits to do...

I also decided to review and re-make some of the jewellery pieces I wasn't quite happy with, and also make some more of things I was happy with. These flowers go on hair clips or slides.

At this point they're very rough; I let them dry out before sponging and tidying edges, plus when they've been fired I sand them as well. Now I "only" have to make up my mind about the colours!

I wanted to end with pictures of something I can be a little bit more excited about; these flower vases (or that's what they will end up being, vases) are a bit of a merger between something I'm still working on that was/is not functional and function. The flowers are very delicate and I'm slightly concerned about how to package them in the best possible way to discourage breakage... The solution most likely lies in making the flowers less thin and have them protrude less from the body of the vase itself. But I like them this way! I want them to be looking more like they are a part of the receptacle and less of decoration; that's the idea!

And then one single flower, just before it goes on the vase:

I'm impressed I managed to take a picture that didn't have plastic bags in the background! They are everywhere in the studio; I use them to cover up work/clay so it won't dry while I'm working on something else. Baglady, moi?

I'm trying to sneak in some time to work on my Secret Semi-Big Project but I find myself lacking some of the information I need, so I will have to do more research before I can press on with that.

Next update should see more about the Handmade Home Fair that I've been working on with my friend Joe for what seems like an eternity now and it's starting to feel a bit frightening that it's on in less than 3 weeks!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Lions and tigers and business advisers, oh my!

This Tuesday past I went to the Civic Centre to meet with a business adviser. I didn't really know what to expect; I'd asked Other Half to come along in case there were numbers involved and before I left I told him "I don't need too much tough love, so please stop him if it gets nasty".

I would say that it was a very frank meeting; there was some tough love involved but I don't feel I got any advice that wasn't constructive. It all comes down to me having to profile myself (and my work!) more and better. A lot of the things I need to do I have done for others or helped others do, but not done for myself. That's a little bit me in a nutshell. I also need to work on my versatility and expand functional work because I can't afford to (at this point) only do what I love and follow my passion. I have been making jewellery for a while now and I need to step up my production of this and work in a "functional line" as well. Sew Crafty Fox said something along those lines to me at the last meeting of the Make, Do and Mend craft group; fashion houses have ready to wear lines that are accessible to everybody but they also do their couture lines that are much more narrow. She's right. I've had some ideas rattling around in the back of my mind for a while now in regards to functionality so I'm going to try some of them out. The point is to retain your aesthetic vision and feel while still making your work broader.

For the rest of the week I have just been working away in the studio doing both my own work and admin things. There's so much to do in both departments! I'll give you a little sneak peek of my little space:

I actually took this image week before last so things are more ordered now, apart from my desk where, since I have started working again, there's a mess.

Tomorrow I've got a stack of things to do which will keep me from going over to the studio. But I intend to make the most of my time and pick up some items in town I need. The most important one being an electricity meter so we can gauge how much electricity the kiln uses. When this is sorted and plugged in we can start firing again! Looking forward to bringing the camera into the studio and snapping some previews of Work In Progress!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Day off

As important as all the work is, it's also important to stop sometimes, take a deep breath and regenerate.

So last Thursday this is exactly what we did.

Me and Other Half packed up enough of our things to weather a nuclear holocaust and took daughter on a trip to the beach at Dawlish Warren. Between the train and the beach we picked up a small beach tent, which was the best investment of the day as the wind was chilly even though the sun was warm.

There were sandcastles made...

...and kites flown...

as well as a short moment in time when OH actually took a picture of me that came out decent.

All in all, we had a marvelous day and hope to be able to do it again soon!

And now the schools have started again, which is a relief, and life can start to assume some kind of normality. My studio is finished and I have managed to do a little itty bit of work, although with there still being work to do around the building I feel guilty whenever I do something for myself... Hopefully this feeling will gradually go away and I can go back to enjoying making things and helping out with things. Finding the balance between the two is the hard part...

Friday, 2 April 2010

It was the worst of times...and it was the worst of times...

And so it was finally time to say goodbye to Exeter Castle.

I would love to be able to say that it was a great experience and that I'm going to miss the place...but no. The unprofessional behaviour of The Castle towards us as artists and as an organisation was at best neglectful and at worst appalling. To avoid any mudslinging I think the best thing that can be said is that we've moved out, we've moved on and we're working hard to build something bigger and better, both as an organisation and in terms of the new studios!

Exeter Castle; a shame that all the glitters isn't gold...

Now we are resident at Alphinbrook road, pulling apart and rebuilding what used to be an auctioneers place. It is a lot of work but when you work together with a great goal in mind it all becomes so much easier!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Coming out of hibernation

I know it's already March, but I'm slow at shaking off the winter sleep... There's still that feeling of "are you absolutely sure I have to wake up now?" and the intense desire to pull the quilt back over my head and continue dreaming.

We didn't have much snow this year and when we did have some it just seemed to be a nuisance more than anything! It made it impossible to work in the studio; I went up one day and the clay had crunchy ice-crystals in it and was much too hard to work with.

Just to prove I didn't make up us actually having snow!

My studio is moving and it is an unsettling, frustrating experience. It hasn't actually grown feet of its own but all of us artists at the Exeter Artspace are packing up and moving to larger, better, HEATED premises. As much as we all know it will be better it is still a difficult transition from one place to another and we are losing some artists along the way, which is a shame.

I'm also helping my friend Joe with setting up a craft-fair here in Exeter. She's also running a craft group, Make, Do and Mend which meet on a monthly basis. Brilliant, no?

Otherwise I'm researching my Next Big Project so that I can jump right in and get started on it properly when the studio move is completed. I'm also making some smaller pieces at home and doing digital work.

The bed and warm blanket still look terribly inviting...
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