Skip to navigation | Skip to content


Scars And Oysters

I have a scar on my left knee. It has been there for more than 30 years.

I was about 7 when I fell hard onto a Yorkshire pavement and grit worked its way deep into the graze. I raised such merry hell about having it cleaned, that my mother missed some of the dirt. There is nothing left on the surface now, just a faint black line drawn deep into my flesh but I carry a piece of Yorkshire within me. Perhaps that’s why I chose to return here, like a fish heading home.

The need to make art is like this. A scar that heals but remains visible. The grit in the oyster.

Artists talk of ideas that irk and niggle away at them. ‘The work just wanted to be made,’ they say, ‘I was haunted’.

Haunted, niggled, irked, irritated. A pearl making oysters from dirt.


Oyster with Pearl
Oyster with pearl by Max Garçia via a Creative Commons license


I recently reread some of my old sketchbooks from college and was deeply amused to read page after page where I was stuck, frustrated or worried about my work. It made me laugh because they were exactly the same things I’d been thinking about my current work.

Seeing those same emotions surfacing a decade apart, it suddenly forcibly struck me that my process is rooted in struggle. Sooner or later, I will always doubt, I will always resist, I will always feel anxious because this is how I make my art.

While I don’t enjoy it, I’ve come to recognise that it’s not a problem. Sure, it would be nice if work flowed easily from me like water from a unblocked fountain but I am not that person. I am a worrier and a maker of lists. I am often mired in procrastination, doubt and fear. Fear that the work isn’t good enough, fear that it isn’t interesting or valid or conveying what I want it to say. Fear that I don’t have anything to say anyway and what the hell am I playing at with my silly sequins, jars and pins?

And it is easy to fear those fears and then to shy away from those hard places. But I’ve found I need to sit with those fears or I can’t make my work. The work comes from that grit. Maybe you’re the same?

On that note, if you haven’t already seen it, I encourage you to watch this Louis C.K. rant about the importance of sitting with pain.


Pelt in progress

During the summer my occasional art assistant, The Wonderful Z, helped me get my studio up and running.

I’d already carved out a studio area in my bedroom but because it hadn’t been organised properly, it had devolved into a dumping ground. So we decluttered, moved furniture around and made sure that I had everything I needed within easy reach. Although I’m still very unwell, it’s made a huge difference and my productivity has markedly increased.

Before:

Studio before
Studio before: Kirsty Hall, July 2013

After:

Studio after
Studio after: Kirsty Hall, July 2013

The Wonderful Z also installed a pole and hung Pelt, a pin piece that I started work on way back in 2007. It’s been in storage for two years due to the house sale and move, so it was lovely to see it again.

Here’s how it looked when we unwrapped it…

Pelt in progress 01
Pelt in progress: Kirsty Hall, July 2013

And here it is now…

Pelt in progress 04
Pelt in progress: Kirsty Hall, August 2013

Despite my poor health, I’ve been working on it slowly but steadily, mostly whilst listening to the excellent Talking Walking podcast. It may not look like much progress, but I’m happy with how it’s coming along.

I’m going to cover ALL the fabric with pins. I did consider leaving some areas blank because I’m enjoying its present map-like quality but I started the piece with the intention of entirely covering it and I’ve decided to stick with that idea. Besides, I can always make another one if I decide I want a map related piece.

Pelt in progress 02
Pelt close up: Kirsty Hall, August 2013

Ideally I’d like to get it finished this year but that’s probably unrealistic because I can only do between 20 minutes and an hour before I get too tired and sore to continue. An hour’s work is a couple of square inches so there’s a lot of hours to go. The trick with a time-intensive piece like this is to concentrate on what you’ve done and not worry about all the work still to come. I just take it one pin at a time.

Pelt in progress 03
Pelt close up: Kirsty Hall, August 2013

Right, that’s enough blethering from me, I’m off to do some more pinning!


Art submissions please!

You know that thing where you’re so deeply involved in something that you completely miss the obvious? Well, I’ve been helping to organise an art exhibition in the shop windows of Hebden Bridge with the Hebden Bridge WI Rag Market. And I was just wondering how I could get more submissions for it when I realised that I hadn’t mentioned it here. Well duh!

So here are the details:

Applications are requested for an exhibition taking place as part of the Hebden Bridge WI Sensational Summer Rag Market.

Shortlisted entries will be exhibited in shop windows in Hebden Bridge in July 2013.

Hebden Bridge WI Rag Market

The theme of the exhibition is ‘Haberdashery’ and this can be interpreted through any form of creative art. Most creative art forms will be considered including craft, textile art, sculptures, paintings, photography, print, drawings, jewellery and fashion. Unfortunately we cannot include video or performance art.

The space available in local shop windows to display your finished piece will be no larger than 50cm square so please bear this in mind when choosing your medium and creating your design; small really can be beautiful too!

This Competition is open to anyone over the age of 18 and Alison Bartram, owner of Heart Gallery in Hebden Bridge, is delighted to have been asked to come along and choose an overall winner. This winner will have the opportunity of working with Alison in the future to create either a ‘one-off’ commission piece for Heart Gallery or a collection of work to showcase. Heart Gallery prides itself on supporting, nurturing and promoting independent artists and craftspeople; particularly local makers.

There are no entry fees for this exhibition but artists are responsible for delivering their own work. The deadline for proposals is 1st June 2013 and finished work must arrive no later than Monday 24th June. For more information, or to send images of your work & details of your proposal, please email kirstymhall@gmail.com.

If you’re interested, email me with your submission proposal or comment on here. I am easy to talk to and happy to help if you have any questions. And if you know any artists whose work might suit, please pass it on.

The Rag Market itself takes place on the weekend of 13th and 14th July in the Hebden Bridge town Hall and I will be performing my Pin Ritual piece at various times during the weekend.

So if you’re local, please do come along. It’s always very popular and the money we raise goes to fund an education bursary for WI members. For more information, visit our facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

Blooming burnout

Burnout.

I have it.

Burned-out car
Burned Out Car by Niklas. Used under a Creative Commons license

And at some point in your creative life, you’ve probably had it too. Creative people tend to go like the clappers and then fall down in a heap.

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light.
Edna St. Vincent Millay


Candle
Candle by R!E Used under a Creative Commons license


The last two years have been immensely difficult for me. 365 Jars was an epic but gruelling art project. And then halfway through the jar project, our 14 year relationship with our ex-wife disintegrated in a very painful way. A divorce and house move followed in 2012. Oh, and our teenage son flew the nest. It was a time of harsh transitions and deep loss.

I kept myself going with willpower, sugar, caffeine and neurotic list making. I knew I was well over my limits but because of circumstances, I had to keep going until my partner and I moved house and got settled. I knew that I would fall apart when once we moved and fall apart I have.

I used to see burnout as a horrible trial, something to be grudgingly endured. And while it’s true that it isn’t fun to experience, it does have its place in the creative cycle. Like trees sluggish with winter sap, plants hiding underground from the frost and animals hibernating in their nests, sometimes we need to retreat, to turn in on ourselves and conserve our energy. Without a baseline level of energy, making art is impossible. You cannot create from nothing.

My word for January was ‘rebooting’ and that’s what I’ve been doing. Switching myself off and seeing if I can reset myself to a healthier level. Letting myself be. Resting. Knitting. Reading. Watching documentaries. It does not come easily to me. I chafe at the restrictions my brain and body provide, I constantly butt up against my limits, I convince myself that I am rubbish and that I will never make art again. I am forced to recognise just how much of my self-image is rooted in me being an artist and how lost I am when that deserts me.

February’s word has been ‘completion’ and I have been gently finishing off a few projects and even more gently getting involved in a new one – helping with the Hebden Bridge Rag Market. It’s subtle but I can feel the burn-out gradually starting to lift.

So nw my challenge for March is not to immediately throw myself into a dozen creative projects before the burnout has fully run its course.


RESOURCES

If you’re also suffering from burnout, here are some resources:


Preventing burnout

How to recognise, prevent and deal with burnout in a creative job

5 ways to bring yourself back from burnout

My beloved Catherine Caine writing about overwhelm and a pragmatic approach to self care.


Take care of yourselves, my honeys, the world needs your creative visions but you have to protect and nurture yourself to bring those visions to fruition.


Hello again

A blog. Oh my god, I have a blog? Actually I have two and they’re both languishing in sad and dusty state. Poor blogs.

Hey Kirsty, what the hell happened to you?

Oh you know, nothing much? My world fell apart & then I fell apart.

After a very difficult 18 months, my husband and I have now moved to lovely Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire where we are slowly putting our lives back together. I am currently in the midst of a big ME/CFS crash but I’m slowly pulling myself out of it with lots of rest and knitting. And I’m very slowly inching my way back to making art. It will NOT involve jars.

I’m not sure what this blog is going to look like over the next few months, let’s just play it by ear.

The Law Of Diminishing Returns

I’ve seen a lot of ‘rah, rah, just try harder’ cheerleading type posts on the internet lately.

Erin The Cheerleader From Barrhead!
Creative Commons License photo credit: † Jimmy MacDonald †

Sometimes ‘just try harder’ is rocking advice: it’s just what you need to hear on the days when a boot up the arse is helpful.

Now, I’m all for working hard and doing your thing and being stubborn and persistent, even when things are tough.

But sometimes ‘work harder and keep going’ is actively harmful.

This is because of The Law Of Diminishing Returns.

You already know what The Law Of Diminishing Returns is. You’ve been there, you’ve done that and the t-shirt is mouldering unwashed at the bottom of your laundry basket.

The Law Of Diminishing Returns is when the energy you’re expanding far outweighs any benefits you will receive.

The Law Of Diminishing Returns is when you’re too tired, hungry or burnt-out to work but you keep going anyway. You do bad work that will need to be redone later but hey, at least you were in the office showing your face so no one can accuse you of ‘slacking’.

The Law Of Diminishing Returns is when you hit your email button on your phone just one more time before bed. The Law Of Diminishing Returns is when you endlessly rehearse a conversation that you know you’ll never have because the other person refuses to hear you. The Law Of Diminishing Returns is when you read that same page five times but don’t take in a single word.

The Law Of Diminishing Returns is this conversation from When Harry Met Sally:

Marie: The point is, he just spent $120 on a new nightgown for his wife. I don’t think he’s ever gonna leave her.
Sally: No one thinks he’s ever gonna leave her.
Marie: You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right.

The Law Of Diminishing Returns happens in offices & workplaces all over the world every single day. It happens to me after about 3 hours of working, when I hit my internal limit. Now what I should do at this point is take a break and go do something else or rest.

If I don’t switch gears, I invariably start going round and round in endless internet circles like a dog chasing its tail. Mine goes email; Twitter: Pinterest; RSS feed; Twitter; Ravelry; Facebook – rinse & repeat until I get cross with myself or my eyes fall out, whichever happens first. You’ll have your own version.

Sometimes what you should be doing is not ‘trying harder’ or ‘being more magnificent’ but resting. Or thinking. Or playing with your kids. Or sleeping. Or reading. Or watching TV with your sweetie. Or even – whisper it if you dare – quitting completely because you’re trying hard at the wrong thing.

By all means, be magnificent if magnificent is where you are right now. If you are magnificent, I will applaud you and tell my friends.

But no one can be magnificent constantly. It’s just not possible. So if your well is empty, you need to bloody stop. There is no more water there. So you need to either find another water source or sit down and wait for some rain.


I'm talking in Brighton

Hey there, this is just a quickie.

I’m off to Brighton tomorrow because the lovely people at Fabrica Gallery kindly invited me to talk at this this event. The theme is artists who are using the internet as something other than documentation. I will, of course, be talking about 365 Jars.

There are four artists taking part, we’ll each have about ten minutes to talk about our projects and then there will be a panel discussion. I’m looking forward to hearing what the other three artists have been up to.

They are:

Kevin Meredith aka Lomokev, a Brighton-based photographer
Wandering Bears, an artists’ collective
Lucy Phillips, creator of the What Cannot Be Seen project

The event starts at 6pm on Wednesday the 14th of September. Although it’s a free event, booking is advised, just call the Fabrica office on 01273 778646 or email office@fabrica.org.uk

OK, got to dash – I need to pack before bed. Why do I always leave these things to the last minute? No, don’t answer that…


Please make rubbish!

Today I read yet another ‘you should only work when inspired’ comment on a post about creativity.

Wah, wah, wah. Cry me a river, newbie.

This idea that you should only work when inspired otherwise you make rubbish is a load of bollocking crap. Making rubbish is the important part.

Making rubbish is how you learn.

Making rubbish is how you improve.

Making rubbish is how you exercise your creative muscles.

All artists, even the best ones, make rubbish. The smart ones appreciate it and understand its part in the creative process.

You don’t have to show people your rubbish. But you do have to make it.

So yes, you do bloody have to show up and make your work every day – or as often as you can possibly manage.

Do you think that athletes show up for the Olympics hoping to be inspired? No, they train and train and train and then hope to do their best on the day. And when they don’t, they spend time asking themselves what went wrong and how they can do it better next time.

Splashdown
Creative Commons License photo credit: cmaccubbin

Do I believe in inspiration?

Hell yes! I’ve felt it. I know it exists. And like most artists I live for that particular drug, angel-sweet in my mind.

But I also know for a sure and solid fact that inspiration tends to show up more often when you’re already doing the work. Like a garden, inspiration grows best when the ground is tended and fertile. And that means lots of digging and a hell of a lot of manure.

Colours
Creative Commons License photo credit: Scarleth White

So get out there, my darlings and make the very best rubbish you can; you’ll grow prettier flowers in the end.


A few changes

Hi there, my lovelies.

As regular readers know, I’m currently hugely busy over on 365 Jars and it’s basically eating my life. The project takes at least 2 or 3 hours most days and it’s often far more. When I started, I honestly thought I could work it around the other things that I had planned for this year but three months in, it’s obvious that I was monumentally wrong about that.

I knew it would be a lot of work but I honestly had no idea quite how all-encompassing it was going to be. That’s partly because it took off instantly, so I never got the gentle ‘I’ll just get up to speed while no one is looking’ period that I was expecting. But I also drastically underestimated how much admin it would require. When I was planning it, I sensibly accounted for the making and the walking but stupidly didn’t think about the time needed to answer comments and emails, promote it, manage the required databases and all the photo editing and blogging. Let this be a lesson to you, my dears, the hidden work is still work!

365 Jars is an epic project that deserves my full attention and rather than attempting to do lots of other things in a half-assed fashion, I’ve decided to make a few changes to free up time and energy so that I can concentrate on it.


The art shop

Firstly, I am closing down my Big Cartel shop completely. It’s costing me money to run and I’m just not selling enough to justify that expense. More importantly, I don’t have the time to make and add new stock and do the constant promotion that an online shop requires.

Rather than having it mouldering away unloved, I’m shutting the shop on Thursday 31st March at 9pm GMT and I’m discounting the existing stock, so you’ve got two days to get an art bargain.

Smaller drawings like this one are now only £30:

Pencil + gesso 05
Kirsty Hall: pencil & gesso drawing

While the larger drawings are reduced from £75 to £50:


Kirsty Hall: pencil & ink drawing

These are all original, one-off drawings and the price includes postage. It’s possible that I may try selling my artwork online again at some point but it definitely won’t be with these particular drawings, so you’ve only got two days to snap them up and then they’re gone for good.

If you’re desperate for one but can’t afford it right now, let me know and we’ll work something out.


The business stuff

I have taken down the Artist’s Eyeballs. It was an interesting experiment but they proved to be far too much work for the amount of money that I felt I could charge for them. I also didn’t enjoy doing them enough – they felt like a struggle. It’s possible that they may return in a different form in the future but for now, they are no more. If you’ve bought one and not yet received it, please don’t worry, I’ve not forgotten about you – I’ll be emailing you all personally this week to discuss timescales and options.

It’s extremely unlikely that I will be offering any new products or services until next year and I may not continue working in this area in the long-term. But for now you can still hire me to help you work out your internet strategy because I’m continuing to offer Internet Hand-holding consulting. I’ve also taken this opportunity to slightly lower the price of consulting from £70 to £60. I know people say that you should never lower your prices but it was obvious to me that £70 was too high for my particular client base. Yes, I could go looking for a wealthier client base but other artists are the people that I’m still passionate about helping.

I am also still available for paid talks in the UK, so if you represent a college or an artists’ group who need a talk on blogging, social media or the internet, please get in touch.


This blog

I will still be blogging on this site but it is going to be infrequent. However, I definitely don’t want this blog to die for a year while I blog like a crazed weasel over on 365 Jars, so I’m considering options like Audioboo, more round-up posts and short videos.


Artist Arse Kicking

I haven’t completely decided what’s happening with Artist Arse Kicking but I definitely won’t be opening it as a monthly subscription art club until early next year. It’s obvious that I can’t offer people my full attention right now and it would be unfair to charge for something that I can’t deliver well. I am still very excited about it though and it will definitely happen once the jars are done.

I would like to do something with the site this year but I don’t quite know what. I may ask for guest posters or just post inspiring stuff that I find around the web. I’d like to get some energy and community going over there. Suggestions gratefully received.


OK, that’s it for now. Don’t forget that you’ve got until Thursday at 9pm to buy my drawings before the shop closes.


The myth of competence

Woah, there goes another tumbleweed bowling past.

A Good One
Creative Commons License photo credit: Claire L. Evans

Yes, sorry about the dusty ghost town feel around here of late. There is a very simple reason. 365 Jars has been kicking my ass. Hard.

In my enthusiasm for starting a new project – ‘yay, new art project, yay’ – I forgot that new projects are always intense and all-consuming. 365 Jars is especially full on because it is a ton of work: I seriously underestimated how much time it was going to take every day. Plus starting a new daily walking habit has been a shock to the system. Don’t fret, I’m OK but between all that and recovering from The Hideous Flu, I’ve been distinctly overwhelmed and I’m still behind with everything.

I don’t know about you but I live with the pretty fiction that I can somehow Get On Top Of Things.

Let us pause for a moment for the hysterical laugher to subside.

Despite 43 years of solid evidence to the contrary, I persist in believing in a mythical point at which I will be Up To Date.

I secretly believe that it’s possible that my inbox will be empty, the laundry will be washed and put away and I won’t have any urgent outstanding work. Furthermore, I believe that it’s possible for all this to happen on the same day!

There is no indication that this is humanly possible but like a fervent believer in the Loch Ness Monster, absence of hard scientific evidence does nothing to dissuade me. The truth is out there, Scully, the truth is out there.

Surely it’s theoretically possible that one day I will complete all my unfinished knitting projects? And all my paperwork will be correctly filed with no missing bank statements and my accounting shall be done to a level that would make the Inland Revenue smile and pat me on the head. And the floors will be clean and I will have cooked in recent memory. And angels shall sing and fairies shall dance in my spotless kitchen and all will be well with the world. And all this shall happen before civilisation crumbles into oblivion, the sun explodes or we are invaded by aliens who eat our brains.

In short, I believe that it is possible that I will be On Top Of Things Like A Real Person.

IMGP1957
Creative Commons License photo credit: Don Fulano

Now, I do not know who these Real People are but apparently they are capable of a mystical level of organisation that I can barely aspire to.

In truth, like many people, I exist in a state of barely controlled chaos.

Recently I had a staggering insight. There will never be a point at which everything is working. Never. There will always be something undone, something lost, something falling off the bottom of the list, something a mere moment away from a crisis. Always.

So what to do with this insight?

I could forgive myself.

Hard for a perfectionist but OK, I’ll give it a go. But then I just wind up crying into my cornflakes about how I’m not forgiving myself perfectly enough. Oh wait, I see a slight problem with this approach.

I could seriously cut back on what I’m doing.

Ah, this feels better. Is everything on my list really necessary? Is it all equally important? Will the world end if the laundry is not put away? Ah wait, perhaps this is that mythical ‘prioritising’ of which I’ve heard? Why, goodness me, I do believe it is.

But truthfully, right now, even the thought of prioritising makes me want to cry. It seems to demand more competence and energy than I currently possess.

Oh dear, we’re back to forgiveness again.

So I’m falling back on that old standby: ‘tiny steps’. It’s not big and dramatic but it works. I’m not taking on new responsibilities and I’m patiently nibbling away at existing ones like a harvest mouse.


Creative Commons License photo credit: Chris Barber

In the meantime, does anyone want to come round and put my damn laundry away?



Archives