Saturday, 26 September 2009

human stew

Every Tuesday I go to a little cafe called Picnic. I don't quite know anybody in there, it's like a human stew, a jumble of people who gather there to drink coffee, eat cake and gossip. It's not terribly big, but is the perfect place to sit, watch the world through the window, draw and write letters. The window looks out onto three other cafes. The other day, I was sketching and drinking coffee, when a large circle of Moroccan men caught my eye. They were sat sipping coffee and sharing stories in their mother tongue. It was intriguing to watch them, whilst telling their stories they get up wander about they are so animated whilst the stories were been told. I love the dynamics, passion, the overwhelming need to share their stories and the continuous heckling throughout the dialogue.
I go back to my scribbling and try to listen to what people are chattering about, in the cafe it's quiet today everybody speaking just above a whisper, as not to share their business with the world. Why in this country are we so worried about encroaching on others space? The only thing I hear with any clarity is that "he said his wife's face looks like a mouldy sandwich". Charming! For all I know that's what they could of been storytelling about over the road in the Moroccan circle. I really love that Moroccan people understand the importance of their storytellers as they keep the flames of their culture alive. We all have stories to tell, their in our bones.
I would just like to say how grateful I am to my Dad for his storytelling throughout our lives, and how lucky we were to have known his stories especially, little red riding hood the little raver.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

fragility of life

We run from place to place, busy onto the next thing before we have finished the thing we were in the middle of doing. There is no time to stop and stare. Sometimes you just want the world to freeze for a second to spare you time for thought and to enjoy the moments. The moments we have each and every day, that maybe we don't deem important, but it's all these moments that make a life.
On Saturday the world stopped for a moment when the very sad news came of a friend who had decided that she could not exist in this life anymore. She was too tired to fight, the colours had become dull, the sounds a thud and the taste of the world had turned sour. We met 10 years ago, I was invited to start an arts project for artists and creative people whose lives have been disrupted by mental illness. Over the last 10 years the project has grown out of an art cupboard with a few art materials, to a project where the arts have become an integral part of people's care and recovery. We have a gallery space, we exhibit nationally and in November are about to launch our monthly handmade boutique. Some of our gang are artists some were people who came to doodle, to escape the fear, loneliness, anxiety and demons. They are now exhibiting work in their own right. We work hard to dissipate discrimination through the arts. "1 in 4, like me, have a mental health problem. Many more have a problem with that" Stephen Fry.
We meet twice a week, it's a time to gossip drink tea, have loads of creative fags, to share worries noisily or just to come and forget quietly. The thing that brings us altogether is the art and some of the most interesting people you will ever meet. But yesterday was quiet, each and everyone their knows the fragility of life and sometimes you want to let go because it is more than you can bear, but something keeps you holding on tight.

Friday, 18 September 2009

no 29

I would just like to give something back to all the lovely people who continually inspire me and my work. This is from my little geisha collection no 29, they start life as little mono prints that I have embellished with silk, ink, stitches and jewels. I have been leaving some of them at bus stops, in cafes in books in book shops everywhere and anywhere. I am a great believer in fate so whoever finds them was meant to have one. It is lovely to receive the stories from where and how people have found them. I never name them they are always just numbered the name giving is the job of the finder. I would like to invite you to leave a message on my blog by 30th September with a name for no 29 and who's ever name is pulled out of the hat, she shall be yours.
Sew scrumptious your name was picked out of the teapot she will be winging her way to you as Isabella.
You can see more on

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

a granny,a spaceship,a tea cup and Balmain

Photo from October 2009 Vogue

Who could put a granny, a spaceship, a tea cup and a model in Balmain it could only be the bloody genius that is Tim Walker, creative god.
It was a pure delight to open October's Vogue and find the Tim Walker photo shoot The lady who fell to earth. His photos are like stepping into those strange and magical day dreams with an Alice in wonderland type quality, the kind of dreams you never want to wake from. One of my absolute and favourite fashion photos ever, is the wonderful image of Lily Cole on the spiral staircase with the never ending dress. Each photo in that whole photo story is exquisite, if I remember I think taken in Gujarat India in 2005.
I think his work is just like a little slice of day dreamy heaven.
We should all day dream more, it's when our creativity floats in, because we momentarily let go of reality.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

waited and I waited and I waited......................

Yesterday was a day of waiting patiently, and then a bit more in- patiently and then as the day went on just bloody well mad of waiting. We were waiting for our new red sofa, our window slot for delivery between nine and five. You are always hopeful at the beginning that you will be first on their list and then as the hands on the clock pass, you begin to get a little less hopeful. Then at 4.30pm, you make a call to see if there is a hope in hell's chance of it arriving. " Yes it's on it's way" she said. 4.55 our lovely red sofa arrived, 4,55. I think the term is sod's law. Why is it on those days that you can't settle, to do anything.
Sofa's should be like old friends, that you can curl up on, play on, sleep, dream and live. They should be big enough for you and friends, and thoroughly welcoming at the end of a busy day. I love our new red sofa, but still looking to new, no sofa war wounds in the form of cat claws, red wine or covered in threads like our other sofa. Our other sofa really is an old friend and has many battle scars. I have actually finished making some cushions for our home rather than the rest of the world. Now that is a miracle!

Friday, 11 September 2009


Had a morning of mono printing and drawing and working on my collection of little geisha. I now have around 50, they are little mono prints embellished with silk,stitching and thread. I still think drawing is like magic, that strange zap of something that makes your hand draw what's in your head. I don't understand it. It truly is a wonder. The first drawings you make are always the best they have those wonderful raw qualities, that we often loose, as we try to refine lines.

Matisse makes a drawing, then he makes a copy of it. He recopies it five times, ten times, always clarifying the line. He's convinced that the last, the most stripped down, is the best, the purest, the definitive one; and in fact, most of the time, it was the first. In drawing, nothing is better than the first attempt. ~ Pablo Picasso.

You can take a sneaky peek at them

Thursday, 10 September 2009

a cat with a moustache

Just woken up in a bit of a fog due to a few glasses of champagne and wine maybe just one too many, never the less a perfect evening to celebrate my birthday, with lovely friends. So I am trying to lift my head off the pillow when I look at Archie the cat and overnight he seems to have grown and enormous moustache, I had a few last eve, not that many. As he comes nearer the moustache is moving. OH MY GOD IT'S A SNAKE! What do you do pull the duvet over your head, scream or faint? I scream pull the duvet over my head for a few seconds take a deep breath only to find out it's a slow worm. Still not good in your bedroom. This took me back to a strange site I encountered whilst in Cambodia. A lady hanging out her snakes to dry. I thought from the other side of the road, they were saffron coloured threads, hanging, but on closer examination hundreds of snakes drying out in the midday sun. I have had some unusual encounters with creatures whilst out their over the years. The most peculiar spectacles is the transportation of pigs. The transportation of pigs is unbelievable on the back of the moped, there is a plank of wood, about pig sized. These pigs are alive tied up on their backs with all four trotters up in the air. It is astounding, I asked how they get these pigs to comply with this mode of transport. It seems that the local home-made moonshine is the answer. Getting your pigs drunk for the journey, I wonder what the RSPCA would say about that. I don't like to see it, but I still think it far less cruel than the way we transport our animals half way round the world and then slaughter them. These pigs have lived their lives roaming freely, with plenty of food, and then they will go on a short journey, be it upside down to be killed and every scrap of flesh will be consumed. I know which I think less cruel.
I have been offered some real delicacies to eat in Cambodia, red ant paste, deep fried cockroaches and locusts, tarantula, baluk which are hard boiled eggs with the chick already formed, tortoise, and crocodile from the back yard. Each and every time with my hand on my heart. I have said thankyou but no. Thank God I really am vegetarian and have been for the last 27 years.

Monday, 7 September 2009


Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. ~From the television show The Wonder Years

Memory is a funny thing, how one memory triggers another and then another, then before you know it you have the memory domino effect. Well that happened this weekend, my mum came to visit bringing a suspicious looking carrier bag from my sister. A carrier bag of dolls. Dolls from every part of the globe. There are elements of these dolls that are undoubtedly darkly grotesque, but there is something really quite whimsical about them. I still can't decide if I really hate them or really like them, the jury is still out. I was never much of a doll person as a child I was more in to decapitating them and giving them a felt tip makeovers, that Gok would be proud of. This bag of dolls started the memory domino effect with thoughts of this little bear, which my mum handed down to me a few years ago, he has no name, has one ear, medals around his neck, and sits on our dresser. He was my great granddad's and he carried this bear whilst fighting in the first world war and throughout his life, until it was passed on to my mum as a child. This bear has been a constant wonder throughout my life, of the stories he could tell, and a trigger for memories of a wonderful man who we all still really miss. I think it will soon be time to hand this bear down to Scarlett my little niece. That's a bit frightening.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Anybody got a cure for piles?

Anybody out there have a cure for piles?
Piles of stuff everywhere. I have just been walking around my house, garden and studio, looking for things and have counted 16 different piles of piles. Piles of drawings I am working on, piles of embroidery I am working on, piles of books that I am reading all at once, piles of newspapers,
piles of sketch books, piles of paintings for exhibition, piles of ideas in my head that need sorting out and as ever piles of socks and shoes who have lost there partners. When we all lived at home my mum's cure for piles was a cardboard box in the garage with each of our names on, and the pile stayed there until we could be bothered to retrieve them. One day I think the piles at my house will be so high that I will enter through, into my very own Narnia like world.
There is one thing that I have noticed about my piles, they have to look nice and inspiring, so that's a blessing, inspiring mess.
You can take a sneaky peek at my stuff

Friday, 4 September 2009

digging a way your worries

It's a lovely sunny morning and the perfect day to dig away your worries. If I am feeling anxious or worrying, or need to come up with a plan, digging, weeding and planting are my ways of thinking through worrisome thoughts. Your worries seem to stretch out in the garden you feel part of the universe, you think more clearly and you can hand your worries over to the world .
I used to work with someone who always used to say to me "You die if you worry you die if you don't"
Thank goodness I am a compulsive gardener because it counteracts my compulsive worrying!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

making stuff

After yesterday's holding on blog which are the grim realities of lack of basic medicine, clean water and education. I wanted to bring you a little of the work that I have been doing, I work hands on with children adults, pregnant women out reach, anybody and everybody, but I also run training for healthcare workers, NGO'S, children on the streets to look at how they can use the arts to relay health education messages set up workshops to engage difficult to reach people to give people the opportunities to learn new skills and my biggest concern, looking at how the arts can impact on mental health issues in a country where there is very little mental health provision. This all happens from one suitcase of materials which always seems to bring a whole world of chaos in it's wake. I always travel light, clothes your standing up in, tooth brush, red lipstick and perfume, because nothing in the world can save you from some of those smells. So this is my travelling kit and the rest of my bags full of paint, glitter, beads, pencils, scissors. I always wonder how one bag can explode into huge chaotic messes of creativity, as you can see in the above photos in the middle of a hospital ward. The most brilliant thing there is health and safety is really non existent, people use there common sense instead Hoorah! I still find it hard to comprehend that there were children and adults who had never held a pencil. I just can't imagine. My khmer is limited there English lots better than mine, but we don't need words. The paintbrushes dance and we have a universal language.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

holding on

I have been fortunate enough to have worked out in Cambodia as an artist for the last 5 years, and around this time of year I start to get itchy feet about going. I have worked in hospitals, remote villages, and seen the realities of how civil war ravages the very soul. I go out as an artist and work with the people of Cambodia, to look at how they can use arts for health, to heal and to become an integral part of individuals care and recovery. There is not a day that passes when I don't think about Cambodia and longing to be there I sometimes get scared that I will forget as we live this life. I found a piece in my diary from Nov 2006

Holding on Nov 2006

There have been times in my life, where I have wanted to hold on to a moment, stop time and treasure that thought, feeling or sense. I get scared that amongst all the chaos of life you will be robbed of those memories, as we busy ourselves with the sights, sounds and sensations of the now. I don't ever want to forget how I felt when I saw children dying around me, families sleeping on the floor waiting for news of their loved ones. The pain of mothers watching their children's lives slip away.I don't want to forget the children ravaged by Aids and malnutrition. I don't want to forget the many dead children I have seen whilst out here. I want to remember all these difficult things that we might try to forget.