Thursday, 5 October 2017

PhD-Ness Part 1, All at Sea-Ness,Trains, New Campus, Love Arts-Ness, New Desk and general ness of all kinds.....

Mono print made yesterday at the Love Arts Festival launch, student travel pass, pass card to Leeds Library, notes and misery....
It's now official - I am a PhD student at the University of Huddersfield (EEK but also YAY!!!) - I have a new email address, new website to get to grips with, new printing facilities to access, new campus to navigate, new colleagues and all other manner of new-ness to get my head around.

One of the loveliest newest things is my new desk - am hoping this will help with back pain and stiffness as it is much better proportioned than the old one and I can sit at it with my legs underneath it comfortably as opposed to my legs being jammed under drawers (though those drawers were very useful indeed for holding passports, mini sd card adapters, usb sticks and the like) - old desk has been moved to the garage where it will (hopefully) be used as a printing desk. The rest of my workroom still needs organising better - the plan is to do a big book cull and get new bookcases too and then maybe I will be able to sit on the sofa bed and read - as opposed to use it as a bookcase...

The plan was to have done all this by the start of term but the boiler was condemned and that was much more of a priority to get replaced (and then the shower wouldn't work alongside the new boiler because of the changes to the water pipes so we had to get a new shower sorted as well...ARGH and indeed OUCH wallet-wise) so new bookcases are still waiting on the shopping list. Aside from actually buying the house (which we effectively bought on tick thanks to a mortgage) last September was the most expensive month I think we've ever had - new boiler, new shower, guttering needed cleaning and new down pipes fitting, uni fees (GULP!!) new glasses for us both, travel pass - got a bus and train one to make getting to and from Huddersfield easier, root canal treatment for me. All adds up to 'new bookcases will have to wait for the moment'.

But along with all those necessary expensive things I also treated myself to student membership of Leeds Library - the one that's above Paperchase on Commercial Street in Leeds - I have wanted to join since I went there for a book launch some time ago. It's a beautiful building, it's the oldest surviving subscription library in the country and it was founded in 1768. It is steeped in history, the staff are really lovely and helpful - they were very helpful when I was doing my MA and I am sure they will be equally helpful now I'm studying for a PhD. Plus best of all they have many Victorian novels, newspapers and periodicals - the actual original paper versions - not reprints or digitally scanned copies. I will be a mix of a kid in a sweetshop and a Bisto kid - breathing in that delightfully heady mix of 'old' 'must' 'candle and coal soot' and 'paper rot'.  I can't wait to start reading their wares. One of the things I am interested in is how the stories I read now as compete editions looked when they were originally published in serial form and what they were placed next to,and what adverts they were surrounded by.

They also have a lovely DVD collection from which I borrowed the delightfully grim and hilarious Arsenic and Old Lace - Peter Lorre as Dr Einstein is glorious and the BBC adaptation of North and South which I am halfway through watching. It's quite tough going - am not finding the characters portrayed on screen as sympathetic as I did when reading them..but I will persevere - I'm intrigued to see how the scene where Margaret Hale is bonnet-less (caused scandal in the 19th century) and steps forward to protect the mill owner John Thornton will be done.

I am also getting to grips with the library at Huddersfield Uni - it's nowhere near as gorgeous to look at as the Brotherton, it's quite labyrinthine, quite noisy and I'm not sure where the librarians live in it as all the booklending is done by a machine which scans your card and the me old fashioned but I prefer to interact with a human and have my book stamped. But there are lots of helpers about - one of whom helped me navigate the difficulties of loading cash onto my printing account (it's mostly done online - ARGH!!! Another one of my bugbears as I prefer to pay for things in person if possible) and then it seemed fairly smooth. I found the book I was looking for and checked it out, I also found my way to and from the print room and got some nice b+w prints done of more recent images I've made.

I'm slowly but surely finding my way both round the campus and Huddersfield itself too - I've still to check out the cafe in the Parish Church (though I have had a look at the graveyard surrounding it) - am loving the 19th century architecture, the charity shops, Walkers the jewellers and the vegetarian sausage rolls from the pound bakery. I love the bit of the campus that goes over the canal - even though on the whole the campus is a bit too toytowny architecturally for me. Am looking forward to doing some more exploring off campus. Including of course Edgerton Cemetery which opened in 1855.

I have found where to get a good baked potato for lunch and got chatting to the lady sat opposite me whilst eating it yesterday. She turned out to be a fairly big cheese in the university and has offered to help me find a scientist type at the university who can help with analysing whether or not the 'mourning' brooch I got in Cleethorpes a while back is made with human hair. It was sold as a mourning brooch but it has no personal dedication or general memoriam-ness which makes me wonder if it is in fact a more mass produced fashion item or love token. Exciting times.

I was however given some undoubtedly authentic mourning items at the weekend by an old chum who kindly gave me a box of Royal Mourning Pins - they're completely black and not shiny and so therefore suitable for use during periods of deepest mourning. Not sure who made them but am guessing by their title that they were made after 1861 (death of Albert) to cash in on Victoria's going into deep mourning and helping make it a more fashionable/expected thing to do. He also gave me mounts for funeral card dedications - it's not clear whether they were 'real' people (will check next time I'm in the local history library where you can access the Ancestors website without having to subscrtibe to it) or examples for printers. The designs are gorgeous and will make beautiful outlines for making both cyanotypes and anthotypes.

Thanks to a workshop run by the lovely Hayley Mill-Styles  - you can find out about her and her work here that was part of the Love Arts Festival launch which you can find out  about here.

I made an image using printers ink and a tile yesterday (see red and white shapes above - I was channelling my inner late 60's early 70's design loves there) which has given me lots of ideas for developing my own work and my aim to present photographic images in a non 2D way. I need to get some new supplies - and dig the enlarger out of the wardrobe as I'll be able to use it to project images and so stencil them onto polystyrene...and then print with them - hopefully with added grave dirt/site specific material from the places they are images of.

The Love Arts Festival runs until October 18th and there is so much to choose from - art shows, plays, perfomances, a special showing of Now Voyager (on 35mm!!) at Hyde Park Picture House at 2pm on Sunday 8th October for which I've written a short introduction, and a pop up outside the by then newly reopened Art Gallery on Saturday 14th October from 11am til 4pm.

I have some of my coffin lining prints on show as part of the pop up exhibition in the Light and as ever I owe The Arts and Mind Network (the people behind the festival) massive gratitude - it was them that gave me the opportunity to take part in the Place and Memory Project which in turn led to me going back to big school (Leeds College of Art now the Leeds University for the Arts) to study for a Masters degree and in turn the PhD I'm studying for now.

I've also written my first proper grown up academic article - currently awaiting feedback on it, had a proposal accepted for a conference on death and memorialisation at Hull University next year, been booked by Darling Roses again to do a talk about my work, so although I've not been making much new artwork recently - the research  into the stuff that inspires me to make the work is ongoing....

What else - as am still settling in, am still trying to work out how best to do my PhD work but I have bought a notebook from the student union shop that is half lined paper and half graph paper and on its front is the embossed gold legend ' LABORATORY BOOK' which I am very much looking forward to filling with notes on anthotype experiments. I am hoping to still have proper down time too and to make that a part of my daily schedule too.

It's two months since I last wrote a blog post, this blog started out as just a general place for me to write about my obsessions, research and projects and then it became my official research journal for my MA. I'm not quite sure what format the academic hoops I have to jump during this PhD malarkey will take - I may update this weekly again like I did or I may just keep notes in a notebook instead - this is another question to ask my tutor when we meet....I already have a list for her.


  1. Lovely to see you blog back in action :) Sounds like everything is going so well. Many congrats. Love Jane x x

  2. Aww thank you :-)
    Hope things are going okay for you too xx