Monthly Archives: June 2010


Photo of Achnahaird Bay by Graham Lewis, used under a Creative Commons license

Right everyone, talk amongst yourselves, I'm off on holiday for a week.

My son and I are heading off to the west coast of Scotland. Here's where we're going. It belongs to my cousin, Calum and it's only a few miles from the beach where we used to holiday every year as kids. I've not been to Achnahaird for about 20 years and I shall probably bawl my eyes out when I see it again because it's always been a bit of a lodestone in my life, somewhere I've mentally aligned myself towards.

We're going to be there with my mum & dad, two family friends, my three brothers and their families. Including us, that's 12 adults and two babies. Oh, and then my aunt & my cousin, his wife and their three kids are turning up on the last weekend. So for a couple of days, there will be 15 adults & 5 little kids - actually, possibly 16 adults if my cousin, Lindsey turns up. Did I ever mention that I have a large family?

It will be utter madness!

Fortunately I'm hiring a car, so I'll be able to take off for some peace and quiet when it all gets too much - which it will, because I'm fairly introverted. Planning to take a trip to Inverewe Gardens and maybe this wonderful but very remote bookshop.

I'm very excited to finally meet my little niece, Siobhan. My brother Ewan lives in Australia and this is the first time they've been back to the UK since Siobhan was born last year. My mum & dad have met her because they went out to Oz last autumn but the rest of us haven't. My delightful nephew, Elliot will also be there. I plan to spend the entire week snorgling babies.

Now, if I was an organised person, I would have written a blog post and scheduled it in advance but I am not, so there probably won't be a blog post next week unless some sort of magic occurs. I've no idea if there's even any phone reception there but if there is, I'll be checking in on Twitter.


Hi, are you a MagpieGirl looking for your special deal? You need to go here. Sorry about this, Rachelle and I did the interview ages ago and I've only just realised that she didn't have the new sales page details.

Come up to the lab and seeeeeee what's on the slab.

So. With my usual inimitable flair I appear to have accidentally launched another new service mere days before I disappear off into the wilds of Scotland for a week. If you've read my Resources page but you're still floundering and you'd like some individual one-on-one help, you can now buy 30 minutes of my undivided attention. Also, there are biscuits.

Behold, my beautiful creature...

Internet Hand-holding

Now, this isn't quite as daft as it sounds (OK, the 'just before a holiday' part is pretty stupid). I've always been drawn to the idea of consulting and coaching and I'd been making tentative plans in this direction for several months after a very thought-provoking Awesomeness Check-up session with the lovely Catherine Caine.

So when John T. Unger asked for willing volunteers to test out Bixbe on WordPress, I did the 'closing my eyes and jumping' thing again.

As a way of launching this and also celebrating the 3 year anniversary of this blog, I'm offering 15 free sessions. If you're interested, please comment below before Wednesday 7th July (the blog's official birthday, we shall have cake). If I get masses of people, I'll pick names out of a hat to make it fairer because I know that not everyone is online at the same time. Please note, the free sessions won't be happening until at least the second week of July because of the whole holiday thing.

Oh and while I'm shamelessly self promoting, I updated my shop, which is now called Drawings And Delights. I added an 'about me' page, some shop policies and more drawings. If I get time later today, I may add a few ACEO's that I've drawn recently.


Gossiping Ducks by foxypar4

Sometimes I have to slide sideways into things. Or trick myself into starting by making projects smaller than they truly are.

I am cursed with perfectionism, so often the only way forward is to just close my eyes and jump.

Which is how I found myself opening an online shop for my art. Without branding. Without a big launch. Without having all my drawings scanned and ready to go. Without enough mounts or packaging materials. With all my ducks decidedly not in anything even vaguely resembling a row. In fact, I’m not entirely sure where my pond is and it’s quite likely that all my ducks have flown off in a huff.

But I started anyway.

There’s not much in my shop yet (see aforementioned lack of ducks) but I’m adding things as I go along. It’s also possible that my pricing is entirely wrong but I decided that fear of pricing was a lousy reason not to start something.

And I have no idea if this is going to work.

I’ve already sold two envelopes (yay!) but maybe no one else will ever buy anything. You'd think that this would be a source of stress, that I would be filled with the fear of rejection. But weirdly, it doesn't seem to matter and that's because I just jumped. Without too much preparation or angst or investment of time, energy, money or emotion.

Sure, it would be fabulous if I make a gazillion pounds selling art online – don’t get me wrong, I absolutely want this to succeed - but I’m also very clear that it’s a test piece, a maquette, an experiment.

See, that’s the great thing about the internet - the cost of entry is low. I don’t have to spend lots of money ‘setting up a business’, I can just say, ‘hey, let’s throw a few quid at an online store for six months and see if it works?’ If it doesn’t, well, no harm, no foul and I’ll have learnt some useful stuff. I’m hugely interested in trying new things online. At the moment it still feels as though there's a lot of freedom on the web; that maybe I can do things in my own strange, messed up way and still make a go of it. That maybe all those ducks aren’t quite as important as people tell you.

Our local synchronized swimming team by Eric Bégin

Because I think I can do this, but not if I have to get my ducks in order first. My ducks are recalcitrant, they fly away when they’re told to line up, they quack in a rebellious manner, they flaunt their sassy little ducktails like 50’s rockers. And when I wring my hands about business-type things, they make rude and unhelpful Donald Duck noises. My ducks have ATTITUDE.

In the Swim by StarrGazr

Now I'm not saying that you should make a half-arsed job of things. If you're the sort of person who can easily organise your ducks, that's absolutely great - you've got a huge advantage and you should use it to the full. What I am saying is that for perfectionists, the perceived need to get all our ducks in a row before we start anything can be a very effective stalling technique. It can be an excuse. And sometimes you have to be braver than that.

So I’ve learnt to pointedly ignore my ducks and then quietly organise them into rows when they're not looking.

How do you deal with your ducks? Let me know in the comments...


What's Been Happening Lately?

So, I sort of opened a shop for my drawings. There's not much up there yet but if you've ever wanted me to send you a hand-drawn envelope containing a secret, you're in luck! There's also a couple of my more expensive archival drawings and more will going up next week.

You may remember that back in February I did a 30 minute talk about blogging for the University Of Arts in London - the audio is now online.

On Friday, I visited the American Museum in Bath with the lovely people from Textile Forum South West. We had a guided tour around their current quilting exhibition. Now quilting isn't my thing but it was a fascinating talk and the level of sewing skill was quite staggering, especially when you consider that most of it was done by hand. I also ate my first ever Snickerdoodle, which is quite possibly the best cookie name ever. It was very tasty. The museum have their own kitchen where they bake deliciously exotic American goodies and frankly it's worth a trip just for the baked goods but they also have an eclectic collection set in beautiful grounds.

I sewed lots more sequins and listened lots more podcasts. It doesn't make for very exciting blogging, does it. But I've definitely passed the half way point now. Unfortunately, I've - gasp - nearly run out of sequins. I'm praying that they've got more of the right kind in Fabric Land. I'm going into town to find out tomorrow, if they've run out you'll probably be able to hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from wherever you are in the world.

I finally made another video. If you fancy a four & half minute tour around my studio, hit play:


Last night I was fretting that Colette was ill, she had disappeared into the chicken house for hours and seemed strangely docile. This morning it dawned on me that the silly hen is actually broody. We don't have a cockerel, so she has no fertile eggs - in fact, she isn't sitting on any eggs at all but she's making a fairly determined attempt to hatch out a pile of shredded paper. She's not the brightest chicken, that one! Still, at least it's keeping her quiet.

I finished Among The Bohemians by Virginia Nicholson. It's not flawless, she does rather gloss over Eric Gill's unforgivable practice of committing incest with his female relatives but I found it a very readable account of this interesting period in art history. If you've ever wondered where a lot of our contemporary ideas about artists come from, this book provides many of the answers. Highly recommended.

Other Artists
Two artists inspired by animals this week:

Matt Cummings makes amazing sculptures of animals that manage to capture the essence of the animal without being slavishly realistic.

I'm loving these rabbit prints by Kyoko Imazu, especially the more sinister ones. If I had any money at all, I'd buy one.

Cool Things
Sister Diane's video 7 Crafting Supplies I'm No Longer Allowed To Buy to buy made me laugh hysterically. Total comedy of recognition.

I'm currently enjoying Marisa's blog, New Dress A Day, which features daily remaking of thrifted clothing. I don’t always like her finished items but I’m amazed that she looks at some of those hideous dresses and thinks, ‘hell yeah, I can make something with this 1980’s shiny polyester peach number!’ It’s a lesson in creativity, for sure.

If you like things in jars, you'll like this, if you don't like dead things, you won't.

If you've not been listening to John T. Unger's podcast, Art Heroes Radio, you need to remedy that asap. All the ones I've listened to have been interesting but the one on pricing is especially valuable.


Old slips hanging from old bones. Drawings like dried blood. Worn fabric and harsh stitches.

Like many in the art world, I feel the need to pay tribute to the redoubtable Louise Bourgeois, who died this week aged 98.

I’m not sure when I first became aware of her work but the first time I saw it in person was at her 1998 solo show in The Serpentine in London. It was such a visceral experience that I had to leave half way through for some fresh air. I had to go and sit on a bench in the park for about half an hour before I could look at the rest of it: I’d never had such an intense physical reaction to an exhibition before and I was rocked to my core for some time afterwards.

Several years later in Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery, I was captivated by her stacked fabric sculptures made from striped mattress ticking and vitrines containing small, crudely stitched pink figures.

Louise Bourgeois, Temper Tantrum, 2000

I didn’t always like her work, it could be disturbing in its blobbiness and overt sexuality – she wasn’t always at home to subtlety - but I was rarely unaffected by it. I am particularly fond of her drawings, which have a delightful freshness and lightness of line.

Louise Bourgeois Untitled Drawing
Louise Bourgeois, Untitled Drawing from mid-1960's

Louise Bourgeois, Feet

Her uncompromising commitment to her art also inspired. Like all the best artists, she didn’t seem to care what people thought of her work. She had the courage of her convictions: if she wanted to use metal, she used metal, if she wanted to sew scraps of worn pink flannel, she just cracked on and did it. We can all take a lesson from that.

And as someone who didn't get my art degree until I was in my 30’s, Bourgeois has always given me hope that I'm not too old to have a successful art career. I hope I'm still making brave, radical new work when I'm an old age pensioner!

So rock on, Louise – I don’t believe in an afterlife but I hope you’re hanging out with Robert Mapplethorpe somewhere, waving a big penis sculpture at us all and giggling.

Robert Mapplethorpe photographic portrait of Louise Bourgeois
Robert Mapplethorpe, Louise Bourgeois, 1982