Thursday, 2 December 2021

Knickerbocker Glories, Time Uncertainty, Changing Consumer Habits, Podcasts and Haunting.

 



this weeks post it note, list of books on loan from Leeds City Council Libraries which I am slowly working my way through, my journal that I write in every few days or so with fountain pen with black ink, new (to me) purse which made me smile so I bought it although I was really supposed to be buying presents for others at the time which I did as well - I haven't included the things I've been working on as they are presents and so I don't want the people they're for to get a chance sneak preview... 

giant knickerbocker glory which lives on Cleethorpes front - pictured earlier this year - I wonder if it survived Storm Arwen? I hope it did and its owner took it inside for the duration...I am jonesing for a day at the seaside (even if I almost freeze to death in the process) and in particular for a knickerbocker glory made for me by someone wearing a tabard and looking a bit bored - the best I've had has been in Brucciani in Morecambe and Pacittos in Redcar.
My mouth is watering at the memory of them.


It's Thursday so that means it must be go to local shops for bread, fruit and vegetables, possibly the library too and then come home and do a blog post day. It's been another week in these ongoing unsettling and challenging times. I remain very grateful that the pandemic has not affected my finances and that I do not have the kind of job that means I have to leave the house, use public transport to get to it and interact with others in the flesh (especially those who no concept of keeping distance or wearing a mask ) but otherwise it continues to have a frightening and damaging and pervasive effect over everything else.

Almost two weeks on from my booster jab (thank you NHS) I was just starting to feel a little less anxious about going out and meeting up with folks and doing things from the 'before times' but I'm afraid the latest Covid variant Omicron emergence and uncertainty around it has ramped my anxiety levels right back up again. This coupled with loved ones currently being very poorly with it and with other loved ones that are having treatment plans delayed or derailed because of Covid is just making me feel rather despondent in a when will this ever end kind of way? Please join me in keeping everything crossed for their full recovery and that eventually this too will pass.

The when will it ever end feeling also chimes in with the general feeling I have of losing all track of time, things feeling like they happened years ago but in reality were only months ago or were years ago but feel very recent. I don't think I'm alone in the feeling but it is kind of disconcerting too. Like part of me just cannot believe that this is the second xmas season under the heavy, horrid long reaching shadow of Covid. Is it really almost two years since I've been on a bus - something I used to do regularly in the before times? and yes, it is.

I've made most of my xmas presents this year, something I often do anyway but my purchasing habits have changed considerably in Covid times, partly due to some of the shops being closed for some of the time (I do buy some things online but not many) but also because until recently I didn't feel comfortable going into shops unless it was for immediately necessities ie bread and milk type stuff.

I still don't feel entirely comfortable browsing and so I have mostly stopped making impromptu purchases. When I do go to the shops now it's just local ones and with specific purchases in mind or a list. I haven't had a wander round the city centre just nipping in wherever takes my fancy for almost two years. A sentence I cannot believe I am writing and yet it is true.

I recognise the enormous privilege I have in being able to decide not to purchase stuff as well as purchasing stuff as well as a comfortable space to call my own to be in. However I did treat myself to the little purse on last weeks shopping trip  tho I'm not sure if I'll actually use it for physical money as I so rarely use actual cash these days, I mostly just wave my contactless card at a card machine. On checking my bank statement it seems I've taken cash out of the cash machine twice in the last year. TWICE when it used to be a weekly event. I also recognise how lucky I am to have a bank account with the privileges that brings when not everyone does. I might just the purse to keep my earrings in or a lippy and little mirror when I next have a night out - tho as that hasn't happened since March 8th 2019 I won't be holding my breath til it happens again. 

Am awaiting the return of my 35mm film with some anticipation - I so hope there are some usuable images on it but it won't have any of the recent snowfall. I failed to take any pictures of the recent snowfall, not even quick digital snaps out of the window. Tho please accept my assertion that the back garden looked very pretty under it's snow coating. I'm glad it melted fairly quickly tho as like many others I do not want to slip and hurt myself or make ongoing existing niggles with my ankle worse.

I've been listening to the very marvellous Peaches Christ Midnight Mass podcast recently as she and her podcast partner filmmaker Michael Varrati talk about some of my very favourite films and filmmakers. Plus even if I'm not familiar with the film they're talking about their love, enthusiasm and insight is infectious and I am adding lots more films to my want to watch list.  I especially enjoyed their episodes on Ed Wood and The Bad Seed.  Creatures of the Night - the Boulet Brothers podcast is also one of my current favourites.

One which encapsulates some of the aspects of my seventies childhood and which I listened to this week is The Haunted Generation podcast by Bob Fischer which for me veers between enchantingly nostalgic, unsettling and downright terrifying. The snippet from a public information film warning of the dangers of drowning in grain silos is truly horrific and will continue to haunt me for quite some time. Be warned if you listen for that may happen to you too and things that you thought you had easily forgotten just may come back to haunt you too.

                                            Thank you for reading.






Thursday, 25 November 2021

Books, Browsing, Spontaneity, Reading, Escaping, Boosting and Kindness

 

this weeks post it notes, the ever beautiful James Mason (oh be still my beating heart) who I adore and who I was talking about with a chum earlier this week, my lovely fountain pen that I write my journal with and my current reading matter - and a book by an author and series I absolutely love and I am now rationing the last few pages as I have rattled through it far too quickly and there is no more Cazalet Chronicles to read after this as I've read them all and this was the last one E J Howard wrote before her death in 2014, I picked it up from the Little Free Library at the side of the canal in Rodley the other weekend.
I am still a devotee of actual paperbooks rather than reading on a kindle or listening to an audiobook as such tho I do listen to a lot of serialisations on Radio4 Extra or on BBC Sounds - I still mostly don't listen to live Radio 4 as the hourly news bulletins are just too anxiety and anger provoking. 

 
No matte medium transfers this week to share with you other than the ones on show here and here as I've yet to send the 35mm film off to be developed (oh the excitement of waiting in these instant digital times is both exquisite and agonising)  plus I've been concentrating on getting the xmas presents I'm making finished instead and I'm on schedule and had the concentration span to read lots too... 

It might still be too early to call this a habit again but I have definitely got a bit of my blogging mojo back and it's becoming a bit of a regular thing again. I am still hoping it becomes properly habitual again - as it both helps me formulate and gather my thoughts as well as punctuate/define the week a bit.  Not least because I am proper old school and although I do stream some tv programmes I still sit down and watch some at the time they are being broadcast. 

How very retro in these netflix, amazon prime, youtube and i-player (other streaming services are available) times I hear you say and just as Thursday is starting to become update blog day, it's also Justice day. Justice is a tv series from the 1970's currently showing on Talking Pictures TV 8pm on a Thursday night and it features the very marvellous Margaret Lockwood as a barrister and it is both of its times and ahead of its times and quite gripping and it is also fun to location spot bits of Leeds that either have changed very little and are still recognisable or are now almost beyond recognition.

It's also or rather has been as it is the finale tonight -  new Drag Race UK day - I've liked all of this seasons competitors but my favourites are Charity Kase and Chorizo May but in terms of finalists I  think I am TeamElla as I fell in love with her from her first runway which celebrated the striking women from the Ford Factory at Dagenham.  My heart however continues to belong to The Boulet Brothers and all their works and I also have a very great fondness for Peaches Christ and her very marvellous indeed Midnight Mass podcast - if you love horror/quirky cult films then give yourself a treat and give it a listen.

It's an understatement to say that the pandemic has disrupted my (and everyone elses) usual habits almost completely though at the same time I am bewildered, depressed and frankly frightened by those who seem to be carrying on as if nothing has changed or happened at all. I put this down to some people just being fed up about it, misinformed by conspiracy theorists but also down to the pisspoor lack of leadership and good examples from the government but I could rant about those corrupt selfish liars forever so I'll stop there and get back to my original point...

So some new things for me have become regular fixtures and frankly a lifesaver in these ongoing uncertain and bewildering times, things like the Arts and Minds Meet and Make Space on a Tuesday lunchtime, chatting to chums on Zoom for instance and thankfully some pre pandemic things have become a thing again - twice weekly gym sessions and going to the local little greengrocers, delis and butchers at least once a week too. 

I do the latter for various  reasons - it's a good walk, the food is so much nicer and not covered in plastic and it's also nice to see money go to a local business rather than a big corporate group plus it keeps me in the habit of going out and interacting with actual people in some way. Though part of the appeal of these particular shops is that they have excellent ventilation as they either have their doors open all the time or are mostly outside. 

One of the things I am missing most and have missed the most is spontaneity - not that I was ever a really spontaneous person but things could be done without additional thoughts and precautions like have I got a mask on me, have I got some handwash, will there be good ventilation, how busy is it going to be etc etc... and lack of fear around being inside a building with other people without visible open windows like a cinema or a theatre. Though I have managed a theatre trip I have yet to manage a cinema trip.  

I had my booster jab last Saturday at the big vaccination centre at Elland Road and I am hoping that it will make me less anxious about going places, mixing with other people but for the time being I'm still being and feeling cautious and I will continue to be a fresh air fiend as well as testing when necessary, regular handwashing and mask wearing when indoors with others. 

I was rather anxious going for my booster - I don't like needles, it wasn't at my local surgery that I know well and I was slightly worried if I'd have any unpleasant side effects from the vaccine as well as the welcome actual effects. It took rather longer than I would have liked as they asked a lot of questions before administering the jab as well as insisting on a 15 minute post jab wait and I just wanted to be in and out again but all the staff were empathetic and professional.

But it was the kindness from and the conversation I had with one of the volunteers who brought me a paper cup of water after I'd had my jab as I felt a bit woozy straight away afterwards which really affected me. I don't think my feeling a little woozy was down to the contents of the jab but rather the whole situation around getting it.

She saw the book I was carrying and reading from in an attempt to distract myself and feel less anxious. It was A Single Thread by Tracey Chevalier which I had picked up from Meanwood Community Shop (aka one of the best secondhand bookshops ever) and it is the story of a woman whose fiance died in the trenches of World War One and how she makes a new life for herself and becomes an embroiderer. 

The volunteer told me that she had completely lost her reading mojo (her words) and she had a pile of unread books at home and since the pandemic began she had found it very difficult to concentrate or read for any length of time and that she could no longer read anything in which anything horrible happened - especially to children and was no longer able to read fiction in particular.

I found myself tearing up as she told me this, partly I think because I was just feeling a bit overwhelmed but also because I just felt so sad at the all the ongoing personal unseen effects of the pandemic that don't get reflected in the statistics of hospitalisations and deaths and economic impact but also because for as long as I can remember reading has been my refuge, distraction, delight and on occasion despair. 

I rarely go anywhere without a book in my bag, I still usually have 2 or 3 on the go at any time - a serious one that's either a textbook or historical, a bit of brain bubblegum fluff fiction and a serious more literary piece of fiction.

The times when my anxiety or depression has been so bad that I cannot sit and read have been the worst as I haven't been able to escape into another world or time or been made to think about something I never have before.

It made me feel so sad for her that she had lost her ability to read and transport herself, partly because I could totally empathise with that but also because she had been so kind in bringing me some water and not making me feel like I was being a wuss. When I was leaving I thanked her for her kindness and said I hope she got her reading mojo back soon.

Jabwise my arm felt like I'd been hit hard with the flat side of a cricket bat for a couple of days, didn't have the best nights sleep and was very sleepy for the day afterwards, then felt okay then felt rubbish again and had very vivid dreams and a blotchy red rash came up around the injection site but that's faded again now and I feel okay again. Let's see how I feel tomorrow... 


                                             Thank you for reading




Thursday, 18 November 2021

Promise Sticking, More Image Transferring, Colour Boosting, Boosters In General, Where Are Memories Held? Film-ness

 

Matte medium image transfer piece in progress - still need to remove last few bits of paper, trim and sew excess fabric, wrap outside of embroidery hoop in bias binding (possibly purple) and decide on a title - I usually draw on chapter titles from novels by my favourite nineteenth century authors - Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Wilkie Collins...this one is in monochrome as monochrome is my preferred colour-scheme to work in.
Examples of other matte medium transfers I have done can be seen here and here

this weeks notes, the nail varnish I'm going to paint my nails with later whilst watching Drag Race - I much prefer Dragula as its inclusivity and menu of drag, filth, horror and glamour are some of my very favourite things...so whilst my heart and soul now belong to the Boulet Brothers there's still a bit of it that has space for RuPaul...also pictured is a bag of a shower cap I bought in a beautifully old fashioned chemist in Buxton in the 'before times' because its sombre old fashioned-ness really makes me smile. 

It's still early days but as this is the third blog post I've written in the last three weeks I'm feeling cautiously hopeful that I am getting my blogging mojo back. I'm certainly finding it a good way of marshalling my thoughts again in these ongoing uncertain and frightening times, and aside from it helping me I've also had positive feedback on it which is also a boost.

Boosts of whatever kind are still very welcome as anxiety is still kicking my arse. I've not got back my going out to indoor places with lots of other people mojo as yet but am hoping getting my anti covid booster jab is going to help with that along with still taking things slowly but surely - baby steps, baby steps.  

Speaking of boosters - my current mood boosters are: watching or listening to the Boulet Brothers, the rather wonderful selection of ghost and uncanny stories on BBC Sounds and I-Player, going for a walk, reading a book that completely distracts and transports me - currently enjoying A Single Thread by Tracey Chevalier very much and painting my nails. I love nail varnish and tho I'm not especially skillful about applying it but there is something very mood lifting looking down to see shiny colourful unchipped nails.

Due to being a dyed in the wool old school goth almost all my clothes are black and often the only pop of colour about me is my fringe which is blue or my nails (if I've painted them) or my lips if I've got make up on. I don't find black a miserable colour to wear or look at or be surrounded by but I'm reminded of reading something Brix Smith Start wrote about bright colours being a form of prozac for her but annoyingly I cannot find the quote. I don't have to surround my self with colour to cheer myself but a bright pop of it somewhere along the line is nice.

Houseplants also brighten up the space around me and my mood - a chinese money plant I bought during lockdown has produced many offspring which along with spider pants (also very bountiful offspring from one plant) a few prayer plants and a very exuberant boston fern make me smile lots as do the constants of Spongebob cartoons at the weekend and daily glimpses of Hacker T Dog and his handler's other characters. As ever being able to walk in the woods and go to the gym also helps massively.

I'm also really enjoying podcasts - be it the Boulet Brothers Creatures Of The Night or Peaches Christ's Midnight Mass or No Heathen Lands eerie stories of Yorkshire. 

But back to nail varnish - my Nana always said that nail varnish was the sign of a woman who didn't do any housework and chipped nail varnish was the sign of 'a slattern' and painted toenails were a sign in her opinion of very dubious morals and the person with painted toenails was likely to be a sex worker tho she would not have used that term. I doubt she could have countenanced the idea let alone the reality of men wearing nail varnish like a few of my friends do - I think she'd have connuptions like the time she went to see Hinge and Bracket and was appalled that the man sat next to her had a handbag. I don't think she realised Dame Hilda and Evadne were actually characters played by men. 

So whilst I don't miss her sheltered and restrictive views I do miss her and frankly would give anything to be able to talk to her again and I'd get her to teach me how to crochet whilst making sure that my nails were as impeccable as I could make them and I'm not sure whether or not I'd paint them bright red - which was according to her the sign of 'a harlot'. 

Knitting is more of a mood stabiliser for me tho really as I find it quite meditative after a while and sometimes I pick projects because they involve quite a bit of just plain knitting. Though at the moment it's less meditative as I am currently working my through various projects that are destined to be xmas presents for family members. I've got 5 that I want to finish before the start of December so that there's plenty of time to get them posted off in time to arrive for Xmas. So far I've finished 3, made a start on one (a nice simple one thankfully) and then the last one is a little bit more complicated and so will require a lot more concentration. Am being deliberately vague on the offchance that one of the recipients might come across thisblogpost.

One of the things I've been thinking about recently is memories, both reliving them or what we think they were, where they are held - are they in the object, diary entry, a space somehow embedded into physical structures and my/the fear of losing them if I lose the objects that are associated with and evoke those memories and how photographs are (their lack of smell and noise aside) such excellent memory holders/provokers. 

It also makes me think and wonder about matte medium as a medium (every meaning and association of the word intended) for transferring and holding images and how I want to work on refining the physical process of working with it but also reading more about the philosophical implications of it.

I'm hoping that some of the pictures I took on film with the very lomo camera will be good enough to make into transferred pieces. I finished the roll on Monday whilst walking through the woods, I also had the usual 'ooh will I get more than 36 pictures out of it' as you often get 37 or or rare occasions 38. The camera I was using is very lomo but it does have an anti double exposure feature and so as I continued to frame, click and wind on past 36 I was at first 'yay more pics' and then 'oh no, maybe I didn't wind it on properly in the first place - all those potential photographs lost' when I clicked without really framing and it really was the last on the roll and then of course as is always the way I saw what would have been a beautiful image opportunity. Oh well.

                                            Thank you for reading.









Friday, 12 November 2021

Mirror Mirror, Matte Medium Transfers, Lomo Film Cameras, Proustian Computer Paper, GI Blues And That Kind Of Thing

Post it note-ness, camera am currently using and a piece  'Story Of the Past Part V - as on show as part of the 2021 Arts and Minds Network Online Exhibition (which can be found here ) and which was made using a photograph taken with the (very) lomo camera pictured next to it.


I am trying to live up to my promise in my last but one post that I would try to update this blog more regularly and so I tried to get back into my old MA habit of writing things that I had done, thought about or encountered on a post it note which I keep in front of my computer in my work room in the hope that will prompt me to write more regularly.

I also wanted to make sure that there was something up to date for people to read if they came here via my instagram account (which can be found here ) in turn via my inclusion in The House of Smalls current exhibition Mirror Mirror On The Wall which can be found here.  Plus one of the things I find the biggest compliment as an artist aside from someone wanting to buy a piece of my work and live alongside it in their home is that they want to go and see a space for themselves after seeing my images of it or hearing me talk about it or want to try out a technique for themselves. 

A couple of weeks ago I loaded a camera (the one pictured above) with film - 35mm ISO 400 b+w  Kino film from Lomography. I had primarily been using lomo digital over the last 12 months or so using either a kids watch camera or my non smart phone camera so I had forgotten how exciting it is to tear open the cardboard box, flip the plastic lid and get that faint chemical whiff from the unexposed film. I did however struggle a bit at first to remember how to load this camera - as it has no auto windo on features at all.  I'd forgotten I needed to pull out/up the wind on bit as well in order to fit the cartridge in. But after some fiddling and worrying I'd break a nail but I didn't I got the film loaded and I am currently on  shot 24 of a 36 film.

I decided to use one of my most basic film cameras that I bought from Primarni in the before times as I wanted something to use something with no electrics that only needed me to have wound the film on properly, enough light to make a picture, a press of the shutter and a wind on and was easy to fit in a pocket and light to carry round.

It has no film speed setting, is fixed not very sharp focus and the daft passion fruit pattern makes me smile every time I look at it. You can't do accidental double exposures with it though as you can only press the shutter once before you have to wind the film on. I forget how much it cost exactly but think it was either £6 or £7 and I have taken it out of  the waterproof casing it came with as I won't be using it underwater for the moment.  It was an impulse whilst standing in the queue kind of buy.

Tho I haven't used it underwater I have used it next to water - all being well  I will have captured with it views of the Seven Bridges Valley* near Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, Meanwood Beck, the canal near Bramley Falls Park which I am looking forward to seeing once I've finished the roll and developed.

I won't be developing it myself in the garage aka pop up meth lab as a) it's far too cold and damp and miserable in the garage at the moment and b) despite my best efforts I always end up with either waterspots or cat hair on the negatives so my plan is to give it to someone far more competent than I am and hopefully I will have lovely clear albeit not very sharp focus negatives to then print from and make matte medium image transfers with. Plus I hate scanning negatives - it's one of the most boring processes in photography for me and if I can avoid doing it I will. 

I suffer from imposter syndrome at times when describing myself as an artist as I primarily use a camera as my paintbrush rather than actual paint and paintbrush, so in part to assuage this doubt I do use an actual paintbrush to transfer an image I have taken and printed onto another surface. The one above is a transfer onto canvas but I also use fabric of various kinds including poly cotton, muslin and coffin lining material.  The doubt re materials and methods used and a hierarchy thereof is not one I apply to other artists of any genre but I find it very hard not to apply it to myself at times. 

The transfer is created by painting a layer of matte medium (I use Windsor and Newton's Galeria range) on the printed image (reversed or flipped so that when transferred it is the right way round) - printed using the printer I have at home which is just an ordinary domestic use Hewlett Packard kind that I often find myself swearing at a lot. Once I have printed or photocopied the image and it's dried I then decide what surface I'm going to transfer it onto. I then paint a layer of matte medium onto both the surface and the image and then sandwich the two together making sure there's no air bubbles, letting it dry completely (usually by leaving it overnight)  and then wetting the paper and rubbing the paper away gently and hey presto the image has transferred itself...hopefully.

Sometimes it lifts off a bit, or has patches where an errant air bubble has escaped my attention but  I think this adds to it, making it more of an accurate material recreation of a memory which is basically what a photograph is. 

The more keen eyed amongst you may have noticed that the post it note, piece of work and camera have been photographed against a background of proper old school computer paper, the kind that has a smell all of its own, an ever so slightly furry texture, sprocket holes either side and numbered green and white lines, the green stripes being made up of 6 thin green lines.

This was the kind of paper I made revision notes on when I was studying for my exams and most proustian of all this was the kind of paper my Mum used to bring home for me when she was a cleaner at IBM back in the early 70's. On occasion she'd let me go with her and I'd sit and draw on it whilst she emptied bins and polished tables. A friend of mine had inherited a big pile of it from a relative who never throws anything away and kindly sent me a huge pile of it - it makes me smile every time I look at or write on it. 

Happy memories brought back as were the ones that watching GI Blues (1960) on Talking Pictures TV yesterday afternoon brought back. My Mum loves Elvis and had this album which she played on rotation with Johnny Cash's Live From San Quentin on a portable orange Dansette until early December when out would come Perry Como's Xmas Hits and an album of xmas songs by others including Andy Williams and which was probably some kind of K-Tel compilation. 

I'd forgotten how much I loved GI Blues as a soundtrack and I might have to ask Santa for a copy for Xmas...and by copy I do mean actual physical copy as although I do listen to some streamed music I'd far rather have an actual copy. Though as it's only an old secondhand copy complete with some slight scratch noises and hissing and creased cardboard cover that would make its proustian capabilities strongest.

Talk of the dreaded c-word (ie xmas) makes me think of the only acceptable xmas album namely the John Waters Xmas Album which is packed full of the most gloriously twisted and bizarre xmas songs ever. However despite the adverts assaulting our ears with xmas songs from before Halloween I won't be playing it until at least the start of December. That's a reasonable time to start playing that kind of malarkey I think - not months before. 

Thank you for reading. 

*misnamed as it only has 5 bridges apparently - I think I crossed them all on the walk and also got as far as Sam's Seat which has a beautiful view across to Ripon Cathedral in the distance. 


Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Online Exhibitions, Creative Collaborations, Sketchbook Challenges, Photoshoots, Podcasts and Musings...

  

'The Hidden Dread' 2021
matte medium image transfer - on show as part of the Volatile State at The House of Smalls
- can be found here  

a collaborative piece made with my friend and 'Man Ray' person Jon - some of whose work can be found on his insta and you can read about how this collaboration came about and what it signifies here

one of the single line drawings I did as part of the Sketchbook Challenge online class at Swarthmore Centre in September 
although I mostly use a camera as my pencil/paintbrush I enjoyed the challenge of using pens, pencils and watercolour and drawing my skull topped pens made me smile 

Portrait of Joel - taken earlier this year, it's his reflection on the bonnet of his hearse, you can hear some of the music he makes in his solo project Bryronic Sex and Exile by clicking here 
I really enjoyed this photoshoot as it was a very different thing for me to do as I don't often take pictures of people (and their hearses which I got to have a lift home in after we'd finished) plus Joel was really pleased with the pictures I'd taken too - result all round :-) 

Also got work in Mirror Mirror - another House of Smalls online gallery project which goes live this weekend   


It's quite a while since I last updated my blog, updating it used to be part of my weekly routine as I used it for my research journal, but once I graduated from the College of Art it stopped being such a regular part of my routine, and I know I have said this before but I do intend to update this blog more often as it's a good way of marshalling my thoughts - especially with regard to creative matters. The images above give an idea of the kind of things I've been up to over recent months.

I write much more regularly of much more personal matters in my journal but that is for my eyes only plus that has the benefit of being portable too as it is of the paper kind which I write in in fountain pen, however with the advent of Covid I haven't written it anywhere other than my workroom or the dining room for months. I have dared to venture  to the local library recently but I have yet to feel comfortable enough to spend longer than the time it takes to return books and check out new ones. To sit at a table in the library and write feels beyond me at the moment. I've still to venture into the city centre to go back to either of the libraries there - despite missing being in both of them keenly as the thought of being in a people filled busy city centre and the bus journey needed to get there practically brings me out in hives. I had hoped being double jabbed would help with that anxiety but although it has diminished my fear of dying from Covid it hasn't diminished my fear of catching it in the first place. 

One of the central beliefs of the Arts and Minds Network is that creativity promotes mental well being. I have been a member of the network for well over 10 years now and it is thanks to them that I have met and made new friends, I've also been able to take part in projects which have taught me new techniques, or new places to show my work. This year like last the annual exhibition of members work is online and you can look at it and my piece 'Story Of The Past Part V' here 

Creativity and being creative is absolutely central to maintaining my mental health , whether it's the ability to enjoy others creative output in the form of films, programmes, books, photography, paintings made by others or the ability to create and make my own. In terms of my own work it's primarily in the form of images made with various kinds of cameras and some of them I either print or have printed directly onto fabric or transfer them onto canvas, fabric or other surfaces using matte medium. I have also been trying to write poems and longer prose but have yet to create a piece I consider finished and am happy enough with to share just yet.

Over the last couple of years I've found I've often been so distressed or anxious that I've been unable to concentrate properly on creating anything myself or I start something and then get distracted and cannot finish it or sometimes along the way I lose confidence in my ability to create the thing. At other times though I've been able to make and finish things either despite feeling depressed or anxious or because I have been feeling relatively okay. 

In order to make the times of feeling okay enough outnumber the times of not feeling okay at all one of the things I've been doing is to make sure I get out regularly for fresh air and I am so very grateful that I have a peaceful mature garden I can sit in and the woods nearby to wander around, and that the plantar fasciitis that had been so painfully limiting my mobility continues to be in abeyance. I continue to go to the gym regularly too - deadlifting and strength training makes me feel so much better-er as my beloved Hacker T Dog would say. Watching his glorious nonsense also never fails to make me smile  -  see also the work of The Boulet Brothers and Spongebob Squarepants - they are also a vital part of my self care routine.  

I've been knitting too - as long as I am comfortable with the pattern I find it quite a meditative and relaxing process and my go to default destress things to knit are booties or dishcloths. I have knitted quite a lot of those items over the last few months. Some I have kept and some I have given to friends. 

 Along with taking and making photographs, I also ventured out of my comfort zone by doing a  portrait photoshoot  really enjoyed doing it as I don't often take photographs of people so it was a challenge. 

 I was also very pleased to be asked to be guest on the rather marvellous podcast No Heathen Land earlier this year. The podcast looks at  talking about my love and passion for St George's Field as a space and two of the women buried there and you can hear the episode I'm in by clicking here  and give yourself a treat by listening to the eerie and disturbing tales in the other episodes too.

I've really got into podcasts over the last few months - along with No Heathen Land I am also really enjoying the ones from The Leeds Library, The Uncanny on R4 and the Battersea Poltergeist one was completely compelling. 

So that's a round up of things I've been up to recently and my plan is to keep on doing more of the same whilst trying to keep well and safe in these ongoing frightening and disturbing times. 

                                                 Thank you for reading. 



Monday, 2 August 2021

Work On Show - This Volatile State



I've got one of my matte medium image transfers on show as part of the Volatile State Exhibition - you can see mine and lots of other artists work by clicking  here

It's exciting to be part of a show again - though I've been quiet on here I have been showing some of my recent photographic work using a kids toy watch camera over on instagram - you can see that work by clicking  here

I know I have said this before but I am going to try and get back into a habit of posting here again - as well as it being a way to show my work, it also helps me organise my thoughts - a task which seems ever harder to do given the events of the last 18 months...


 





Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Beginning At The Other End, Dark Shadows, Collage, Walking, Grieving


This was a light refraction image taken on my trusty go to lomo camera phone earlier in the summer when there was still quite a lot of daylight. It makes me think of Covid virus images but in this case it's sunlight refracted through the patterned surface of a drinks tumbler onto my grey marbled kitchen worktop. My lomo phone camera (I do not have a smartphone) has become my camera of choice over the last few months despite its lomo limitations. Its very poor zoom, limited focus and lack of flash are outweighed by the fact that it fits easily in my pocket, plus it's very light in weight and it only relies on electrickery to take and transfer the images to the computer rather than chemical developing the film in our cold, slightly damp and not very nice garage before scanning it into the computer.




This is a close up of the doll I got from my Nana when I left home just over 30 years ago. The doll usually has a hat on as well as a peach dress and she guards a toilet roll under her faded crocheted peach dress.  This year she had a respite from toilet roll guarding duties and became a film star when I took her out of the toilet roll and put her in my mini studio and took photos of her.  She along with other images I'd taken became part of an experimental short film I made earlier this summer, when I took part in the Facing The Mind project. I got so much out of the project - it was both beautiful and welcome distraction from grieving and lockdown fears plus I learnt some basic video-editing skills and learnt a little about the Kuleshov Effect - you can read more about the project here and see some of the other participants work too.  

 



This is a still of Barnabas Collins as played so beautifully by Jonathon Frid in Dark Shadows - a daytime gothic horror soap opera which ran on american television from 1966-1971. In this image he is staring out from the Old House wishing harm upon his young relative David Collins. There were over 1200 episodes made and I've seen almost 700 of them so far. I started watching it this time last year and was instantly hooked on its dark grim storytelling, for all its shonky-ness in places (line flubs, scenery malfunctions, boom mic shadows) it is also completely compelling and often telling versions of stories inspired by the gothic classics - Dracula, Frankenstein, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, The Pit and the Pendulum, Jane Eyre to name but a few - I've now reached the Lovecraft inspired Leviathan storyline and I am loving every moment of it. 

I have fallen completely in love with Barnabas Collins - the reluctant and sympathetic gentleman vampire with the most excellent eyeliner and eyeshadow and almost all of the residents of Collinwood, the old house and Collins Port. I've joined online fan clubs, got audio versions of the books featuring the same characters but not quite the same story arcs and one of the soundtrack albums. The haunting theme tune by Robert Cobert perfectly fits the weird world dreamt up  (literally - the idea came to him in a dream) by Dan Curtis and fleshed out by writers like Sam Hall. The theme tune has become a kind of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) in our house as hearing it takes us instantly to a calmer contemplative state in these otherwise fraught and frightening times. 




The other thing that has been helping to keep me calm and keep me relatively sane in these otherwise gruelling and distressing times is being able to go a for a walk as thank goodness the plantar fasciitis issues that were so crippling and disabling me are in abeyance. This is a picture taken on my lomo non smart camera phone and post processed using the basic free photo editing software that comes with Microsoft Windows. Being able to go for a walk around the nearby woods and bridlepaths continues to be an absolute lifesaver for me. Especially as my usual outlet for distraction and relaxation the Hyde Park Picture House has been closed for refurbishment and would have been closed because of Covid. 
 
I have tried to keep up with exercising at home and have gone to the gym when I could but I am hoping now that I can get a clear run or rather clear chest press and shoulder press towards my current goal of being able to deadlift 100kg. I've really learnt the value of exercise and a place to be able to do it over the last few months. 

Until somewhat ironically the start of the first lockdown earlier this year I was only able to manage about 10 minutes from home by foot, every trip out on my own had to be planned so that I could easily call a taxi to come and get me or get on a bus if need be. Needless to say the mix of pain, physical discomfort, lack of mobility and frustration that nothing seemed to be working in terms of making it better were really getting me down.  

Plantar issues severely limited my mobility and choices of places to go to and things to do whereas now thankfully I am mostly pain-free and it is either Covid related restrictions or my own choices to minimise my risks of catching Covid that put limits on where I want to go. It's almost a year since I have been on any kind of public transport, nine months since I went in a supermarket though I have been to the local shops a few times for things like milk, bread, wine and cake. For the rest we've been relying on companies who have diversified from supplying restaurants to supplying individuals. It's quite hard to eat a kilogram of hummous though but we went halves  on the kilo tubs of hummous with friends who live nearby and thankfully it now comes in pots of a much more manageable size. 

I can't tell you how much I am missing going to the cinema, looking/listening/absorbing in art galleries, sitting somewhere other than my desk to write my journal or read a book, treating myself easily to the occasional fancy decaff coffee as opposed to planning exactly where to go and queue and remembering to take hand sanitiser as well as well as wearing a mask. Carefree or rather comparatively carefree spontaneity is one of the things I miss most of all.



This is a close up of a detail of the piece I made in memory of my father who died earlier this year and which is part of the Arts and Minds Annual Exhibition - you can see it and the other pieces here. I have started making collages and including it as part of my practice after a prompt from the Facing The Mind project. I find it rather soothing to cut things out, arrange them on the paper and then glue them down.

Having something to do with my hands has been very important in stopping my mind from racing or dwelling on things. Along with making collages I have been doing a lot of knitting too. I took this pieces title from a chapter in Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon as it seemed appropriate for a time post death and the beginning of grieving for a loved one.

I'm not going to call it a grieving process as process implies something orderly that can be managed and I don't think it's like that at all
. As ever Victorian sensation fiction has proved to be excellent distraction and that along with the support of my husband, family and friends, Dark Shadows, exercise and snuggling up with the cat is helping me get along.

I'm hoping to get back into a more regular blog habit again. I let one particular unsupportive and destructive naysayer get in the way of my writing it and I shouldn't have let their nasty negativity get in the way. Blogging is more important for me as a way to marshal my thoughts than who is reading it and whether or not it's 'good writing'. 

Thank you for reading. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

What am I doing now part 2

I've been keeping myself busy
- reading, making, doing and listening.

Reading wise - I've been struggling to concentrate at times but the last couple of days I have been really enjoying Have A Bleedin Guess (2019) by Paul Hanley - the story of the making of Hex Enduction Hour by The Fall. It's always interesting to read about others creative processes and Paul writes the best footnotes. I only got it on Sunday night - after the Brix and The Extricated gig at the Brudenell and it was really nice to be able to buy it directly from the person who wrote it and to be able to thank them for their previous book Leave The Capitol. I'm not sure how much you'd enjoy it if you weren't a Fall fan, but Fall fan or not I'm sure you'd enjoy Paul's descriptive incisive smart witty writing and his truly excellent footnotes.

I'm also reading Anne Tyler's Searching for Caleb (1975). I've not had the time/state of mind to get completely lost in this like I did with when I read her Back When We Were Grown Ups (2001) and A Spool of Blue Thread (2015) but am hoping to get lost in it some time soon. I became aware of her work after reading an interview with my beloved John Waters in which he praised her work so I determined to read some for myself. And I'm glad I did as I have really enjoyed the ones I've read so far.

Other books I'm dipping in and out of when I can include 17 by Bill Drummond (2008) which I bought recently from Oxfam in Headingley, and Cursed Britain A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic (2019) by Thomas Waters borrowed (like the Tyler) from the Leeds Library. I treated myself to membership when I became a student and I have continued to treat myself to it.

I was a fan of the KLF back in the day though I can remember feeling indignant about their burning of a million quid,  you can listen to a dramatisation of that event here and I recently went to see him and the documentary about him called Best Before Death (2018) at the Hyde Park Picture House. In that perfomance he questions whether or not he is suffering from White Saviour Complex and ruminating that he probably is, but like Waters, he makes me laugh and think which is my favourite combination.

Speaking of John Waters, I went to see him speak in Birmingham at the beginning of the month and he was as ever - funny, filthy, thought provoking and inspirational. Alas this time I didn't get chance for him to sign my book and so have a filthy blessing but having had afternoon tea with him this time last year I think it's safe to say I remain in a state of filthy grace.

Making wise I've been knitting - I've made some booties for chums who have had babies, they are my default de-stress knitting, I've also made some presents for family members (xmas is only a month away) and I've finally got round to making over an old turkish delight balsawood box, knitting a kind of skull creature and I'm still in the process of making some matte medium image transfers. I just need to wet the paper and rub it away and hopefully the image will be remain intact on the material. 

I didn't see lots at the Leeds International Film Festival but what I did see I really enjoyed. It included Haxan (1922) the scenes in which nuns are infected with devil worship are brilliant, but my favourite film seen as part of the festival was also the film which won my 'What The Actual Living Fuck Have I Just Seen?' Award for 2019 was Jesus Shows You The Way To The Highway (2019) and as I'm still not sure how best to describe it other than mindblowing, instead I shall link to a trailer for it here and you can make up your own mind. It's worth watching for the trailer alone.

Other things I've been listening to have included Drift Series 1 by Underworld which includes the very excellent 'Low Between Zebras whose opening lines of 'drift liberation, a happy wanderer journeying without purpose,travelling directed by intuition not target to move through places with no other objective than to experience the moment' really speaks to me.

I'm also mostly still watching the Horror Channel or Talking Pictures TV as it is a treasure trove of interesting films and listening to Radio 4 Extra as it has no news it is much less painful to listen to than regular Radio 4. The news is still mostly bringing me out in hives and other than looking at front pages of the news sections of the BBC and the Guardian I'm mostly trying to ignore it as it makes me feel so sad and helpless. 

I'm still gym-ing and am hopefully on track for my goal of being able to deadlift 100kg by xmas. 
Housework is a boring thankless sisyphaen task, I know I am better off by doing it as the end result is of benefit but the process of doing it is just boring and frustrating and so by writing this I have put off doing the dusting. Alas however I can put it off no longer and must get to it...

Thank you for reading.

 

Monday, 4 November 2019

Non PhD-Ness 3months on from cessation aka what am I doing now?

Notes for todays blog post and what I hope to cover....
Phone image of the Goth cabinet currently at Leeds Museum in the Broderick Room and there til February 2020, installed as part of the Festival of Gothika held on October 12th 2019. I gave a talk as part of the festival entitled 'Hidden Relics: Uncovering Hidden Histories in St George's Field'.
3 of the hoops I have made containing photographs I have taken and transferred onto material - including coffin lining material are hung around the neck of the Newky Brown Bottle promo item. Said item used to live in the legendary and much missed Phono nightclub... and a place in which I spent a lot of my time in the late 80's when I first moved to Leeds. 
Road sign image taken on toy digital camera - this is cemetery Road off Clarendon Road Leeds 6. It leads to one of my very favourite places namely St George's Field, the former burial ground that is part of Leeds University campus.
So pleased to have recieved this unexpected treat in the post from the never not funny Hacker T Dog aka Phil Fletcher. His brand of dog based meat paste fuelled slapstick, wordplay, cheekiness and proud northern-ness has helped me get through some really tough times recently. I am extremely grateful to him for making me laugh. I am also extremly grateful to my ever supportive husband Mr Pops, Mapp, my lovely friends and Paul at Crunch Gym in Meanwood for helping me get through it too. I can now deadlift (just by its name it is the goth-est of all exercises *grin*) 85kg and have a goal of being able to deadlift 100kg by the end of the year...lack of further illness and injury permitting that is.

  

Oh my poor neglected blog, which I haven't really looked at or updated recently. On checking I updated it last in June 2019 when I put up some images of work I've made, and prior to that it was November 2018. Annoyingly (for myself anyway - it might have been a blessing for readers *grin*) I let someone who I should not have paid any attention to niggle away at my self confidence, especially in connection with writing this blog.

Sadly though I let their rude, unsubstantiated and contemptuous opinion of blogs and blog writing overtake both the compliments I have been paid with regard to it but more distressingly and stupidly I let it get in the way of how useful I find writing it as a way of collating my thoughts.

So I am hoping to get back into the habit of regularly updating it, maybe not as regularly as when I did my MA (which was at least once a week) but maybe once a month. Like when I first started my PhD at Huddersfield Uni in September 2017 and which after a lot of thinking and discussion with the head of department I decided to withdraw from before the start of the new academic year in September 2019.

I withdrew for various reasons both personal and institutional but the bottom line was it was making me increasingly stressed and unhappy and had been since the start of my second year. Difficult circumstances external to the PhD were also having a negative impact on my mental health and so my ability to study and I was unable to secure the help and support I needed to deal with those issues at the time. Circumstances that thankfully are now resolved and long may they stay that way. I'm hoping that physio is going to help with ongoing plantar fasciitis problems though. Not being able to get out and about as much as I would like to has been and continues to be really limiting and horrible.

I had started a PhD for my own satisfaction as opposed to 'I've got to do this because I want a job in academia' and I am still deciding what steps to take next - if any in a formal academic context. Steps being the possibility of transferring to a more traditional history based PhD as opposed to a practice based one as one of the areas I was finding most difficult was writing about my work in a way necessary to highlight the practice based elements of the research and what was original about it but I am still undecided about this and still thinking longer term what is the best thing for me and my work.

I am still unhappy about leaving things unfinished as it were, especially as it plays into negative feelings I have about my own abilities and makes imposter syndrome feel far too real for me but I have no regrets about not returning to Huddersfield Uni, that was definitely the right decision for me.

However I also realised I needed a break from all things academic/research related and so for a lovely few weeks over the summer I was lucky to be able to do things like pursue other purely photographic interests namely seasides, watch and listen to Count Arthur Strong who like Hacker T Dog never fails to make me smile, I went to see the wonderful and awe inspiring Carter Tutti, listened to bands like Snapped Ankles, The Psychological Strategy Board,Brix and the Extricated, and went to the cinema A LOT (might have to do a separate blog post about the films I've seen and enjoyed so far this year)in other words I gave myself very much needed rest and thinking space.

Outside of a specific academic context I am still continuing my research into the history of some of the women buried in St George's Field and Victorian Mourning Culture and still making photographic based work inspired by or connected to it. You can see some of my hoops featuring images I've taken of St George's Field in the Goth Cabinet in the Broderick Room of Leeds City Museum until February next year.

I am still at my happiest when wandering round a Victorian era cemetery, researching its context and specific history and making work inspired by it and that process. I am very glad that I have not lost that love or my enthusiasm for my subject matter. I still want to learn more.

Nor have I lost my love for Victorian era sensation fiction and over the summer I read (for that read could barely put down) East Lynne by Ellen Wood. Oh my goodness, what a page turner of improbable occurrences, coincidences, vividly written events and characters and I enjoyed every single sentence of its gripping improbability.

When trying to describe it to the Darling Roses WI group I said it was like Jackie Collins but without the explicit sex scenes though there is elopement which is almost the same given the time in which it was written (1861) and every bit as enjoyable though you do have to make sure your 'suspension of disbelief muscles' are in good form before you start reading it.

So that's where I'm at and a bit of what I've been up to, I'm still in the midst of planning and researching my next steps but I hope to blog about it on the way.

Thank you for reading :-)

 

Saturday, 8 June 2019

PhD-Ness - Part 13 Year 2 Some Work So Far...


It's been just over 6 months since I've updated my blog. For various reasons I got out of the habit but I've decided to try and get back into the habit. It's a good habit as writing up what I've been up to is a good way for me to a) collate information b) keep track of the progress I'm making and c) be able to show examples of my work. 
This post is a mostly visual one with examples of what I've been working on over the last few months and a few words about each piece. All of the pieces shown have been made in connection with my research into the history of St George's Field, some of the people buried there and Victorian mourning culture. I'm interested in the past, how we view it and how we can collaborate with it. 

Close up of memorial decorative detail on a stone nearest the Chapel at St George's Field. B+W film image. Flowers were often used on gravestones in the Victorian era, sadly this stone is missing the name plate so I cannot tell you who it was for. There is something about the fading flower covered in spiders webs  against a backdrop of decaying stone that I find aesthetically pleasing and I am repeatedly drawn to it.

This is a matte medium image transfer of Anne Carr's grave. It was made using a print of a 35mm colour photograph I took of her gravestone on January 18th 2018 on what would have been the 177th anniversary of her death. I laid a yellow rose on her stone in tribute to the work she did with so called 'fallen women' who would often be made to wear yellow when housed in a workhouse. I am especially interested in the work, life and death of Anne Carr. She was the founder and Presidentess of the Female Revivalists Friendly Sick Society and she preached sermons inspired by the New Testament around the country as well as encouraging people to take the Temperance Pledge and forgo the 'demon drink'. 

This is a 35mm black and white film image of the Chapel building at St George's Field, taken with a fish eyes lens. I've been making work in and about St George's Field and researching its history and the history of some of the people buried there since 2013. This image is part of a series called Once and Now.
This is an anthotype of the same film image made with weeds collected from the site.
This is a lumen print of the same film image of the Chapel.

This is a 35mm black and white view of the view through the entrance to the site nearest to Clarendon Road.
Comfort in Sorrow
This is an installation I made for the Living With Dying Conference at the Live Art Bistro in March 2018.
It consists of muslin soaked in a solution of dirt from St George's Fields for 3 days, along with a mix of prints of images printed on coffin lining material (generously donated by Luke Howgate and Sons, Dewsbury) and dried roses.  

digital picture of reflection pic taken in the rain in April 2019 

Another b+w film image view of the entrance to the site nearest to Clarendon Road  

An experiment with printers ink, rollers and leaves collected from the site.

Matte Medium Image transfer of a 35mm colour film image of the tomb of George Thwaites and family. He was an innkeeper and lived on Vicar Lane in Leeds. He died in 1855 of inflammation. This image was left on the site for 4 weeks.

A reworking of the Comfort in Sorrow installation for the Death and the Sacred Conference at Manchester Metropolitan University March 22nd 2019
Work in progress - rubbings of various parts of the site. One of the things I'm interested in trying to achieve is a kind of collaboration with the site. 

view of Once and Now - show at Kapow Coffee, Thorntons Arcade, Leeds October 2018-November 2018
2d printed and framed work
Close up of hoops - images are 35mm film images heat transferred onto on coffin lining material and hoops covered with purple and grey bias binding, purple and grey are colours associated with Victorian mourning.



works in progress - matte medium image transfers of 35mm film images of the Chapel at St George's Fields