Author Archives: Kirsty

About Kirsty

I am an artist & purveyor of mad obsessive projects based in Hebden Bridge, England. My work involves the accretion of large numbers of small objects - pins in fabric, knots in string or hundreds of envelopes - to make sculptures that deal with fragility, loss, repetition, obsession and time.

The Death Of Roses brings gifts, welcome and unwelcome.

The Death Of Roses is born
Photo by Kirsty Hall, Oct 2016

The Death Of Roses was an accident. In October 2016, I needed a last minute Halloween costume because I'd misplaced the make-up I needed to do a broken doll's face. With only a few hours to come up with a new idea, I looked at the lace and rose gothic dress I'd planned to wear, remembered a skull and rose head-dress I'd recently been given and the phrase 'the death of roses' popped unbidden into my mind.

'But what does The Death Of Roses do?' I immediately asked myself.

I knew that the phrase 'The Death Of Roses' would be meaningless to people: to give her a bit more heft, she needed some kind of schtick so I decided that she would hand out rose mottos. In a flurry of activity, I hit the internet to collect a selection of phrases, poems and lyrics that mentioned roses and then printed, cut and folded them into little 'rose fortunes'.

A printed out rose quote lying on red fabric rose handbag
A rose motto on my red rose handbag
Photo by Kirsty Hall, Oct 2016

In retrospect, it's no accident that my instinct was to give out rose mottos - my recent art has been very focused on the concept of the gift and I've become increasingly fascinated with the interactions, obligations and cultural meanings involved when you give something away, especially in the context of art.

Dramatic red and black make-up with thorns and black roses drawn on in permanent marker (not too permanent on skin, thankfully!), a lace rose choker and a handbag made of red fabric roses finished my transformation into The Death Of Roses.

Death Of Roses make-up in progress
Photo by Kirsty Hall, Oct 2016

I circulated at the event, walking up to people and saying,  'good evening, I am The Death Of Roses, would you like a rose motto today?' 

The complete Death Of Roses look
Photo by Kirsty Hall, Oct 2016

As soon as I started handing out the rose mottos, I realised that I'd created something far more compelling than a simple Halloween outfit and that it was an art performance piece.

The interactions with people were fascinating; some people were suspicious, some assumed that I wanted to be paid but usually people instantly 'got it' and most absolutely loved it. I would hand an entirely random rose motto to a person, only for them to read it and be staggered by how beautiful it was or how resonant it was for their life. It was a powerful experience for both me and the people I interacted with.

It was immediately apparent to me that I could take the idea much further. The Death Of Roses  'wanted to be real', so I started thinking about other events she could attend and whether I could create a mythic figure by 'seeding the culture' with the idea of her. I've been very immersed in David Southwell's Hookland of late and his work on that 'real folklore from a fake county' has inspired a lot of my thinking around The Death Of Roses. There's a good interview with David here or you can follow Hookland on Twitter for a bit of daily weirdness.

So who exactly is The Death Of Roses and what does she mean?

Truthfully, I'm not entirely sure yet because she's still developing. Obviously given her name, she's an avatar of death, but as with the Death card in Tarot, I feel she is more about transformation and change than literal death. I think of her as bringer of truths but sometimes not gentle ones - roses have thorns, after all.

Looking at art websites & wondering, not for the first time, what a residency for disabled artists would look like & how much support it would need?

Of course a lot depends on the disability in question. I recognise that someone with fixed requirements, such as the need for an interpreter, might be easier to accommodate than someone like me who has variable and erratic health issues.

Personally, I’m almost entirely excluded from residencies because of my ME/CFS. I've never even applied for one because I can't guarantee that I’ll be well enough and I hate to let people down. But I also don’t apply because arts organisations often demonstrate such poor disability provision.

By: Alan Levine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There's so much more to access than 'but we've got a ramp & a disabled loo'.

Even when an organisation or space is physically accessible, there's rarely any obvious understanding of the support a disabled artist might need to participate in something like a residency.

For example, I often see residencies held so far away that just getting there would exhaust me or with such intense and unrealistic timelines that I'd be unable to make work without instantly spiralling into a crash.

Obviously not all art opportunities can be accessible; that’s impossible and I don’t expect it. I accept that there are things I can't personally manage. I’m not going to be hiking up a glacier to make art any time soon but I wouldn’t want to remove that sort of exciting opportunity from other artists. This isn’t sour grapes.

However, I would like to see evidence that art organisations at least understand the issue. Yet I so rarely do. It pisses me off how many arts organisations apparently have no clue just how much they're excluding disabled artists.

Disabled artists are not particularly rare. I know many working artists who have an illness or a disability, sometimes apparent but often hidden. But if you looked at the way the art world is structured, you’d think we were some kind of mythical sparkly unicorn.

By: Jill Robidoux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re from an art organisation and you’re bristling because you feel you already do disability access well, you need to show us. It could be that there's 'best practice' happening everywhere around me but if is, I can assure you that it's very hidden. And if I can't see that it's there, my previous experiences are going to lead me to assume that it's basically not.

You need to demonstrate that you’ve thought through access issues.

When you’re coming up with opportunities ask yourself how accessible they really are. Is there somewhere that a disabled artist can rest if they need to? Have you budgeted for an assistant or interpreter if they are required? Are you offering assistance with installation? Does your schedule presume the artist has good health and lots of energy? What could you put in place to make an opportunity more accessible?

Ask yourself what a disabled artist might need - better still, ask us what we need!

Put disability issues front and centre. Don’t assume that disabled artists can somehow intuit that they’re welcome. Put policies in place to ensure that they are and then reference them on your website and in your publicity. And that means more than sticking ‘disabled artists welcome’ in tiny writing somewhere down the bottom.

Normalise disability. In particular, please stop putting disabled artists in the uncomfortable position of having to bring up their own needs. It’s dispiriting to always be the person who has to bring stuff up; it feels awkward and embarrassing and can really add to the sense of exclusion that disabled people often feel. Instead ask ALL the artists that you work with if they have any specific access needs.

By: Brian Suda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look, I’ve been disabled for more than 20 years, with a condition that’s slowly getting worse. I used to be able to hide it much better than I can now. At one point, I quietly rejected the term ‘disabled artist’ as it always seemed to mean ‘go and sit in this ghetto that we don’t take seriously’. I didn’t want to be the ticked box on anyone’s Arts Council form.

But as my health has worsened, my ability to both access and be visible in the art world has correspondingly decreased and I now recognise that the art world needs to get much better at dealing with disability.

I’ve done my part by continuing to make my work despite my restrictions and taking responsibility for my health by being increasingly upfront and clear about my needs. But I need the British art establishment to get off their arses and start visibly meeting that commitment on equal terms. 

 

ORGANISATIONS

I’m not an expert in all this, just a disabled artist who feels very excluded by the art world. If you’re interested in learning more about disability within the arts, check out the following UK organisations. Other areas of the world will hopefully have their own organisations.

 Disability Arts International

Disability Arts Online

Shape 

Unlimited

ETA: I'm not the only artist who feels like way, check out this article by Stacey Guthrie, which makes similar points.

I know it's only February but if Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century by John Higgs doesn't make my top ten books of the year, I'll be very surprised.

It's an excellent speedy romp through the major ideas of the 20th century with the overarching thesis that it was a time when everything we thought we knew radically shifted and the stability of certainty was lost. As we enter another era where even the uncertain certainties of the 20th century seem to be falling away, this feels like a particularly important book.

This is a very accessible read and Higgs explains even quite complex ideas in an understandable and remarkably concise way. The only chapter I struggled with was the physics one but honestly, that wasn't a surprise to me as I've never 'got' it. Overall his writing is snappy, clear and witty and he certainly isn't to blame for my lifelong struggle with physics!

He covers so much that it's obviously impossible to really dig down into single ideas but that's not the point of the book. If you want to really understand say, Einstein, this isn't the book for you but if you're intrigued by joining the dots that connect Freud to Einstein to teenagers and rock n' roll, then I think you'll enjoy it.

Also, the Postmodernism chapter made me absolutely howl with laughter while in the bath, which is an obvious plus.

Very highly recommended.

PS. Full disclosure, my husband Ian Cat Vincent knows John Higgs & I've spoken to him briefly on Twitter about the book but I haven't met him & neither of these things affected my review. Also, I'm not getting a kickback for this, I just think it's a good book and you should all read it.

Hello, I'm not dead!

Not only am I not dead, but I'm making new work and I've finally started showing again. This is by far the longest gap I've had between shows since I graduated in 2002 but deliberately taking a break was very needful.

Anyway, I'm delighted to announce that I'm in the Shoddy exhibition in Leeds in April. Shoddy is a show for disabled artists working with textiles, so of course I had to apply and I was very pleased to be accepted.

From the exhibition brief:

Shoddy is the name for new cloth made from woollen waste and recycled fabric. This original meaning is now largely unknown, and the word has come to mean of inferior quality, shabby or broken-down. This is the starting point for a project by disabled artists working with woollen or other yarns and fabrics, or recycled and reused textile materials.

We are challenging ideas that disabled people are second-rate. Instead, we think that “shoddy” could be used to describe the government’s treatment of disabled people, with cuts to welfare benefits and public services.

I'm making a brand new piece of work for the show.

Tatterdemalion consists of 255 rocks wrapped in torn cloth and sewn along all the seams so the rocks are completely encased like tiny shrouds. It's a rock for every month since January 1995, when I first became ill with ME/CFS. Although I wasn't diagnosed until much later, that's when my health started to deteriorate.

Tatterdemalion 02
Tatterdemalion: Kirsty Hall, Dec 2015

 

Here's the wall text for the piece:

The work explores the on-going nature of chronic illness and the way that many disabilities are invisible. The work speaks to the inherent contradiction of disability – that we are so often perceived as vulnerable, worn-down or damaged yet we often have a hidden core of inner strength. We need that strength not only to accommodate the limitations of our own bodies but also increasingly to deal with the prejudice that people with disabilities face in these harsh times.

The piece references the British thriftiness of ‘make do and mend’ and the Japanese tradition of Boro. It uses recycled fabric from my own life, including fabric from my first art installation from before my illness. The sewing is deliberately rough and threadbare, emphasising the oldness of the cloth by leaving small holes, raised seams, frayed edges and darned areas. The smooth stones become uncomfortable to hold.

On a personal level, this piece is about coming out. I spent many years denying and hiding my illness, at one point even concealing it from my family. It is the first time I have made art explicitly about my ME/CFS and the enormity of seeing 21 years of illness made manifest has been sobering.

Tatterdemalion 03
Tatterdemalion: Kirsty Hall, Dec 2015

I've been making the piece since December and I currently need to sew three rocks a day to make my target. Each rock takes a minimum of an hour and often longer, so it's generally around 3-5 hours of daily sewing. With my illness, I'm finding it very physically taxing but I'm stoically plodding along.

It's a stretch but it is doable. I did the maths before I started: I'm not completely masochistic! As my illness has worsened over the years, I've had to adapt my practice to accommodate my limited energy, which means being realistic about what I can achieve and allowing myself more time than I think I need.

Barring disasters, I'm currently on track to finish the piece in time. I reached 190 rocks last night, so I only have 65 to go with three weeks left to complete it.

Tatterdemalion 07
Rocks, scissors, needle, thread: Kirsty Hall, Dec 2015

It's immensely satisfying to be making new work again - even I can only pin so many pins before I get a bit bored - although this is certainly not the first time I have wrapped objects. Whilst in college I wrapped cherries in silk and made a silk pillow filled with rose petals and the jars featured several wrapped objects.

The rocks are intended to be displayed in a large pile and I think they'll have quite an impact en masse. This image is only the first 16 rocks; it's hard to comprehend what 255 will look like - even I won't know exactly how they'll look until I install them.

Tatterdemalion 01
Tatterdemalion: Kirsty Hall, Dec 2015

It's interesting looking at these first photos of the work because my sewing has become much neater as I've perfected the technique. Which means I need to decide whether I'm going to go back and tidy up these first rocks to match the later ones or if I leave them as they are.

Tatterdemalion 06
Tatterdemalion: Kirsty Hall, Dec 2015

The opening of Shoddy is at Live Art Bistro (LAB), Regent Street, Leeds, LS2 7QA from 6-8pm on Wednesday 6th April and the show runs until Saturday 16th April. If you're local, I do hope you'll come along. Please share the information with anyone who might be interested - the Facebook invite is here, if that's a better way for you to share.

Right, got to go, it's gone 10.30pm and I still have three rocks to sew today - I don't often say this but right now, it's a good job the ME/CFS comes with side order of insomnia!

I refer to myself as The Queen Of Procrastination.

I know, I know, it's not a very sensible self-fulfilling prophecy to land myself with. Pretty blooming accurate though!

I've got a crown and everything!
I've got a crown and everything!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over the years, I've learnt that procrastination can have many causes. I was reminded recently that fear can be a big one.

In December, I swapped webhosts for 365 Jars because the original host was overpriced and since the site is basically now an archive, it seemed crazy to be spending so much on it.

I backed up the site onto my computer, bought new hosting, cancelled the original hosting and then... froze. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Every time I opened the new hosting site to install the site, I completely panicked and shut it down again. One time I actually burst into hysterical sobs. I realised that I was blocked by the sheer terror that something might have gone wrong with the backing up process and what would I do if I'd lost more than a years-worth of work? [Apparently in my terror, I had completely forgotten or discounted the fact that The Wayback Machine exists.]

Knowing what was wrong didn't really help: I still couldn't make myself get over the fear and do it anyway.

I finally got myself unblocked by approaching it sideways. In my other role as President of Hebden Bridge WI, I wanted us to have a better website because Blogger's weird formatting issues was driving me nuts. So I've spent the last couple of days replacing this with this. Much better, yes?

Having transferred one website to a new WordPress blog, I realised it was absolutely ridiculous to be afraid of transferring 365 Jars. So this afternoon, I made myself tackle it. And of course - like so many things that we get ourselves in a tizzy about - it was a complete doddle. It took longer to find a decent theme than it did to install WordPress and get the backup working. I'm left wondering what took me so long whilst simultaneously being a bit wibbly with relief that it's OK.

Anyway, that's a long winded way of saying that 365 Jars is back up again.

What are you stuck on this week? Is there a way you could approach it sideways?

Oh, and a friendly reminder - back up your website(s). And your computer. You'd be gutted if that stuff disappeared into the ether.

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Today I've been reading a long interview with Johnna Flannagan from The Pale Rook, who makes beautiful, wistful dolls from antique fabric.

I particularly liked what she had to say about creative blocks:

"I used to get crippling creative block, which, in my experience is usually the result of two things – focusing too much on what other people are doing and achieving, or worrying too much about other peoples expectations of you. I find that creative block has little to do with a lack of ideas and more to do with too much noise and clutter in your head." Johanna Flannagan

 

I haven't been able to work much since we moved and naturally I've been beating myself up about it and trying to force it. But every time I tried to work, I would quickly find myself physically exhausted, ill at ease and mentally depleted.

But while reading Johanna's quote, I realised: I haven't been blocked, I've been empty. And there's a big difference.

The jar project scoured me out. There were no ideas and no energy left, so there was nothing to unblock. The stream wasn't choked by mental detritus, it had temporarily dried up.
 

Dry stream bed
Dry Stream Bed by Martin LaBar, used under a Creative Commons license
 

On one level I already knew this, I wrote a post last year about burnout and how you sometimes need to refill the well. But it was very hard to accept that I was so empty and so I've been playing The Blame Game instead.

The Blame Game says things like:

"Why aren't I working? God, I'm so lazy."
"I'll never get anywhere if I keep stopping."
"What the hell is wrong with me?"
"Every one else is doing great epic things, why do I just want to knit?"
"Oh come on, you can't still be burnt out, that's ridiculous!"

I am not someone who likes to 'do nothing'. There can be immense fear in stopping. The dominant fear for me is 'maybe the art will never come back.' And our society looks askance at those who stop. We reward busyness and bustle and achievement. There is very little tolerance for just being.

It has been challenging. You can see the reasons for something and even know how to fix it, yet still not be able to fully accept it.

 

Stop sign 01
Stop Sign: Kirsty Hall, Jan 2011
 

But in truth, it takes a lot of mental, physical and emotional energy to uproot yourself from a relationship and a house where you've been for 15 years. To move to a brand new place and completely start over - especially when you're in your 40's and believed that you were nicely settled - is no small thing. I'm a gardener; I know that some plants romp away when replanted while others sit there for a while before they get going. And I am a real homebody, so I'm definitely the second sort of plant!

Don't get me wrong, I am immensely happy in Hebden Bridge. I feel far more at home here than I ever did in Bristol. There's an inescapable rightness to being here. Yet more than 2 and half years after moving, I am still having unsettling dreams about houses. It's not nearly as raw as it was but I'm still processing everything that happened.

“I said nothing for a time, just ran my fingertips along the edge of the human-shaped emptiness that had been left inside me.”
― Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

 

Looking at it logically I can see that I've done loads of things since moving. My husband and I have made our new house into a home. I've slowly been making new friends and putting down tentative roots. I've created a brand new garden from our empty concrete parking space. I've lost more than 2 stone at Slimming World in the last year. I've started learning French. Last July I curated an exhibition in twenty Hebden Bridge shop windows and this May I became president of the Hebden Bridge WI, which is great fun but a lot of work. And all while suffering from ME/CFS.

But none of those things are art. And if I'm not making art, it's hard for me to feel real. It's hard to feel that I am doing anything important. It's hard to be grounded and to feel that I matter. Yes, a therapist would have a field day with that little lot!

But thankfully, the water has recently begun trickling back into my art stream again.

I've started noodling around in the studio with matchboxes and I'm planning a big summer project around those. I've been making more art jars, because apparently I'm not quite done with those yet. I bought a new bedside notebook and I'm jotting down ideas on an almost daily basis. Projects have started drifting out of the studio into the rest of the house. And I can read about art without wanting to cry.

I am coming back to my core self and the relief is immense.

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Eh bien, le Tour de France a été et disparu.

We've waved and cheered the riders as they sped past and now it's time to bid farewell to the colourful windows as Hebden gradually returns to what passes for normal around here. So here is the final part of my Tour De France essay.


 

There's been such a surfeit of yellow in the town that it comes as a bit of a relief to see shops using different colours.
I liked the stark graphic nature of this wallpaper on display in decorating shop, Colour Yorkshire.

Colour Yorkshire Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014 by Kirsty Hall

By and large, the biking and outdoors shops (of which we have several in Hebden) didn't manage very interesting displays but this dotty 'king of the mountains' bike in Mountain Wild was a fun exception.

Mountain Wild Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

Nearby boutique, Amelia featured some yellow clothing but they also explored the red and white theme with these small decals.

Amelia Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

A glittery, glamorous bike decorated with sequins and pompoms in popular bar-cafe, Mooch.

Mooch Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

And 'lovely things' shop Spirals had lots of these charming, tiny bikes handmade from recycled tin.

This blue one was my favourite.

Spirals Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

Children's store, The Old Treehouse always have gorgeous windows and I really liked these loosely painted, white bikes. They remind me of illustrations from children's books and evoke the freedom of summery days spent bombing about on your bike.

This was the one window that made me miss cycling; something I can no longer do because of my ME/CFS.

The Old Treehouse Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall
The Old Treehouse Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

The Yorkshire Soap Company are another shop who always have creative displays.

This is one of my favourite shops in Hebden; a visit there is a delight to the senses and the chaps who own it are just lovely. For the tour, they had a pink bike surrounded by wheels filled with white flowers, bunting in French colours & a selection of their tour-inspired soaps and bath bombs.

The Yorkshire Soap Company Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall
Pink bike and white flowers, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall
And pink soap to match! Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall 

And back to yellow. One of my favourite tour-inspired projects was by the reception children from Central Street Nursery and Infant School. This was on display in the Copa House cafe. The children yarn-bombed this bike and drew a delightful picture of themselves cycling down a big Hebden Bridge hill.

Copa House Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

Check out the details in the background with the tall terraced houses so typical of this area and all the yellow bunting. Like many artists, I love kids drawings and wish I could make art as freely and confidently as they do.

Copa House Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

 


 

I don't have any pictures but I can't finish without mentioning the amazing Cragg Vale Bunting, who decided to celebrate the tour coming to Yorkshire by trying to break the Guinness World Record for the longest bunting in the world. They made nearly 7 miles of bunting to hang up the Cragg Vale hill, which is the longest continuous gradient in England and heard just before the tour started that they were successful in their attempt to break the record. They had a lot of help from community groups and individuals all over the region (one lady made more than a mile of flags!).

I know several of the organisers and they've really worked their socks off over the last two years to make this happen. Well done everyone, what a superb achievement!

 


 

Adieu Tour de France. I hope you enjoyed Yorkshire as much as Yorkshire enjoyed playing host to you.

Le Tour De France, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

Only one day to go before the Tour comes whizzing through Hebden Bridge and excitement is rising. According to Twitter, the Co-Op has run out of food already. There is bunting everywhere, including on our street, and Le Grand D’Party! is taking place in the town centre this afternoon.

So in surprisingly timely fashion, here is the second part of my documentary photo essay on the local decorations...


Many of the shopkeepers have made windows that are in keeping with the ethos of their shop.

Cabbages and Cushions, a decorating shop, have found some charming bicycle wallpaper and added an abstract yellow splatter in what can only be a Jackson Pollack homage (or an unfortunate reminder of what happens if you drop your tin of expensive Farrow And Ball paint!)


Cabbages and Cushions Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

This flowery bike in the florist's, Fleur De Lys was unfortunately rather tricky to photograph well but they've used red, white and blue flowers for the French flag and of course, lots of yellow.


Fleur De Lys Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

An appropriately fresh image is in the wholefood shop, Valley Organics.

Valley Organics Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

This beauty is in Not A Full Shilling, a shop that sells jewellery made from coins. The race would be a lot slower if the cyclists had to use Penny Farthings!


Not A Full Shilling Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

While Nelson's Wine Bar have cunningly matched their logo by giving their bike rainbow wheels.

Nelson's Wine Bar Bike, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall


But sometimes there's not any obvious connection.

This is in the opticians, Mark Hurst.


Mark Hurst Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall
Because every bike race (and opticians) needs a blow-up monkey in a yellow shirt!

I love the detailing on this tiny cardboard bike in Christine Edwards, which as you can see from the bra in the background is a lingerie and swimwear shop.

Christine Edwards Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

You might not think a lingerie shop would be interested in the Tour De France but they've dressed their mannequins all in yellow and have a row of these lovely little bikes along their windows. There are surprisingly few shops that haven't taken part, so when you see one, you think, 'hey, where's your Tour stuff?'

And of course, someone had to use these Queen lyrics. These are in the window of Oxfam.


OxfamTour Window, Hebden Bridge, July 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

You're singing it in your head now, aren't you!

I will happily take any excuse to post a Queen video...


And since I'm posting videos, here is my friend Rebecca's son, Harry in a sweet little film anticipating the race. He's very keen on cycling and will apparently be in full cycling gear when he watches it tomorrow. Awwwww.

Le Grand Depart from Whitenosugar Productions on Vimeo.

I'm glad the Tour is bringing pleasure to so many people. Even I, with my avowed lack of interest in sports, have been enjoying all the buzz.

I have one final section of this essay still to come, which I will probably post tomorrow if I can hear myself think with all the crowds cheering. The Tour passes one street away from our house, it is going to be LOUD.


OK yes, I do know that the Tour De France is going to other places apart from Hebden Bridge but we shall not speak of it.

You see, I have no interest in the actual cycling part but I have been hugely enjoying all the creative responses to the Tour in the shop windows of Hebden. The town is buzzing with bicycles and the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival at the moment and I have been documenting both as a way of gently easing myself back into blogging after far too long an absence.

So I hope you enjoy this photo essay from my funny little town.


Simplicity can be hugely effective.

Paper yellow jerseys on the library door...


Hebden Bridge Library, Kirsty Hall, June 2014

...and paper letters in one of the hairdressers, A Circle Of Friends.


A Circle Of Friends Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, June 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

But some shops have gone all out with the crafting!

Paper and paint in The Barn, a home accessories shop.

Tribal Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, June 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

Bike bunting made from fabric, fake grass & plastic flowers outside the fantastic Heart Gallery.


The Heart Gallery bunting, Hebden Bridge, June 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

A small crocheted bike in the window of my hairdresser, Zeitgeist.

Zeitgeist's Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, June 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

And one of my favourite bikes high up on the wall of The Willow Garden, the wonderful florists who made my wedding bouquet.

The Willow Garden bike, Hebden Bridge, June 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

The word 'le' is popular right now.

'Le Sale' in Harold Crabtrees boutique, whose large windows are each painted with a single huge yellow wheel; another simple but visually arresting idea.


Crabtrees Tour Window, Hebden Bridge, June 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

And extra points to The Workshop who've even changed the wording on their signs for the duration!


The Workshop sign, Hebden Bridge, June 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall


The Jewellery Workshop poster, Hebden Bridge, June 2014. Photo by Kirsty Hall

Well, that's part one, part two will be along in a few days once I've been down into town and taken more photos.


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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.