Right folks, my son and I are off to Yorkshire to visit my brother and his wife for the weekend and then we're heading up to Scotland to see my parents. I'll try to update while I'm away but my parents only have dial-up, so posting is likely to be very low key if it happens at all. I'll be back in ten days.

I won't be checking email but in the unlikely event that anyone desperately needs to get in touch, leave a comment on here and I should see it.


After saying that I wouldn't, I got assimilated into the world of Plurk. It's like a more visual version of Twitter and for some reason the Ravelry knitting crowd have adopted it with great gusto.

I thought I wouldn't like it but I'm finding it surprisingly addictive; for me it's a combination of the best bits of Facebook and instant messaging without the disadvantages. I got bored with Facebook because there's way too much junk on it (as you can tell from this and the last post, I like my internet to be pretty clean and linear) but the 'Kirsty is...' box was always my favourite thing about it. Plurk is basically a whole series of 'Kirsty is...' boxes without all the crazy requests to join this, that and the next thing. I don't use any sort of instant messaging service because I absolutely can't stand being interrupted by little pop-up boxes when I'm working but Plurk feels like an instant messaging service that I control.

If you're on Plurk, feel free to add me.

And don't worry, I promise I won't start writing blog posts in the third person, even though I've been thinking in pithy third person sentences for several days now!


I'm a little disturbed that I haven't posted here since last Tuesday because I could have sworn that I had. I hate it when I start losing time, it usually means that I'm overdoing things a little and falling prey to the brain fog that's common in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.


So, another Tuesday, another look at the concept of mess. I'm considering it from a slightly different angle this week.


I had an interesting experience last week: someone contacted me offering to 'moneterize'* my blog with an advertising link. I politely declined and then got a slightly cheeky email back saying, amongst other things, that 'it's just a link'.

But it isn't just a link.

While I'm flattered to be asked, adding advertising to my site is not something I want to do. One of the reasons my site looks good is because it isn't covered with too much visual information. This is deliberate choice on my part. I loathe the way places like MySpace look, I find them almost nauseating in their visual clutter and one of the first things I said to my web designer was, "I want my site to be clean." My designer did a fantastic job making a sleek, beautiful and functional space for me and I do my part by not messing it up!

My site is an area in my life - one of the few - where mess doesn't randomly proliferate because I have to make a conscious decision to make a mess here; I can't just randomly wander through, put something down and wander off again. Instead, I resist the temptation to put lots of stuff up on my sidebars. I think long and hard about every single item that goes up there and on occasion I've decided not to put up things that might benefit me because I feel that the resulting visual clutter would outweigh the benefits.

Why would I compromise that purity by putting someone else's advertising on here?

I don't need advertising on this site, it's not expensive to run and I consider it part and parcel of the ongoing costs of being an artist. Paying for my hosting once a year is no less important to my art than buying art materials, getting business cards printed or buying art books and magazines for research.

I make no money. In the 5 years since I graduated, I haven't had to pay taxes once because even when I had a part time job, I've never made enough to exceed the personal tax allowance. I survive through the good will of my partner who financially supports me. So you'd think that I'd jump at the chance to get a bit of extra cash.

But there's no such thing as a free lunch. Having advertising on this site would be messy and I feel that it would compromise my art. I'm not saying that it's evil to advertise. Every artist must make the decision about whether to accept advertising for themselves. For some artists it might be the right choice. For me, it's not.

I was trying to pin down exactly why it isn't right for me when I read this spot-on blog post by Seth Godin last night and had an lightbulb moment. He writes:

Here's the essential truth:

This is the first mass marketing medium ever that isn't supported by ads.

If a newspaper, a radio station or a TV station doesn't please advertisers, it disappears. It exists to make you (the marketer) happy.

That's the reason the medium (and its rules) exist. To please the advertisers.

But the Net is different.

It wasn't invented by business people, and it doesn't exist to help your company make money.

That's it exactly! My blog does not exist to make YOU money. Heck, it doesn't even exist to make ME money, although it may well have that effect in the long run. Certainly part of the reason it exists is to increase my profile in the art world and hopefully to garner me real world art opportunities but mostly it exists simply because I like to write, share photos and talk to other interesting artists.

Not everything in the world is for sale and I value having this one clean, controlled space in a mostly messy life far, far more than I'd value a few extra quid in my bank account.

* Incidentally, can we please take the word 'moneterize' out back and have it shot!


In fact, all my days are messy.

Messy altar 01
Kirsty Hall: Messy Altar, July 2008

This is our altar area on the middle floor landing. Spiritual, ain't it!

It can be a beautiful space but it hasn't been for months because we were decorating and moving stuff around and somehow this space became a dumping ground. See the lanterns behind the mattress - that's the remains of the Christmas altar? What month is it again? Oh yes, July...

I suppose I could just leave it there for another 5 months but most years we make a spectacular Halloween altar like this...

2003 Halloween altar
Kirsty Hall: My favourite Halloween altar, October 2003

Or this...

2005 Halloween altar
Kirsty Hall: A witchy Halloween altar, October 2005

Having stuff piled up in front of this gorgeous window always depresses me a little. Come to think of it, it's little wonder that my head feels chaotic right now when I literally have An Altar To Mess in my life. I need a pretty summer altar filled with flowers instead.

messy altar 02

The bedframe is mine. It was in the room that is now my studio, then it was in another room for a while and now it's sitting on the landing in bits. I thought about getting rid of it, it seemed the sensible thing to do but I realised last week that I just don't want to. I want to sleep on it again. It's MY bed: I have perfect grey flannel sheets for it, a beautiful pale blue duvet cover that I love and although it needs a new mattress, I adore the drama of the bed itself. When it comes right down to it, I'm a Victorian cast-iron kind of girl and why shouldn't I have the bed I want in my room? So I've decided that I'm going to dismantle and get rid of the bed I'm currently sleeping on and reassemble mine instead.

I think maybe I'm not quite getting the point of Messy Tuesdays. At the weekend I cleaned the pile that I showed on my last Messy Tuesday post and I want this mess gone by next week. In fact, I'd like to clear it up right now, but since it's the middle of the night, that probably wouldn't make me very popular.

It's hard for me to accept the fact that I have so much mess in my life. I fight against it. When I see pictures of it, I feel guilty and anxious and want to clear it up instantly even when I know it's not possible to do so. Unfortunately I'm a perfectionist and a procrastinator; it's a bad combination! Still, there are plenty more messes to document and I can't imagine there will ever be a time when my house and life are completely tidy.


Sometimes I come across an artist who's ploughing very similar ground to me and occasionally I find someone who's working with the same materials as me. However, I think that Bird Ross and I may actually be sharing a single brain!

I was looking through old copies of Fiberarts Magazine to see if there was anything I needed to photocopy for my sketchbook, when I spotted a small photograph of a ball of knotted string by Ross.

Bird Ross: 6000 Knots

Anxious that I might have accidentally copied her string work when I came up with the idea for 3 Score & 10, I checked the front of the magazine, but it dated from 2005 and a quick search through my sketchbooks revealed that I was already making 3 Score in Jan 2003.

3 score & 10 02
Kirsty Hall: 3 Score & 10

Rather oddly, Ross' 6000 Project using knotted string was about 9/11, which of course, I've also done a series about. Here's what Ross wrote about her project:

From the four airplanes (266), the confirmed dead (201), the 5422 people still missing and those that died at the Pentagon (188). It equals a little over 6000. As of today 6077. I wanted to know what 6000 looked like. How can anyone possibly imagine what 6000 of anything looks like, let alone people. What would 6000 names struck from the pages of a phonebook look like? What would it look like in terms of their handprints, their footprints, in terms of the number of people that miss them? It's like nothing we can imagine. This was my attempt to imagine.
18 September 2001

And here's what I wrote about my 3,533 (Requiem) piece:

I sat in the space and burnt 3,533 matches over the space of four days. This number is the current estimated number of victims of the terrorist attacks. The matches were then laid out so that both the scale of the numbers and the individuality of each match could be seen. The thing that I really couldn’t grasp about the attacks was the sheer scale. I needed to make work that encompassed those numbers and I thought if I could see objects laid out then I might begin to understand the loss involved.

Of course, I've never imagined that I was the only artist who took this approach, I've seen other 9/11 counting projects; it's a pretty natural response for visual people trying to get their heads around the scale of something like this. Still, when I went onto Ross' website and found that as part of her 'counting the dead' project she'd also used burnt matches, I was slightly spooked.

Bird Ross: 6000 Matches

requiem 06
Kirsty Hall: 3,533 (Requiem) in progress

Then I spotted her time clock piece and just started laughing because several days ago I wrote in my notebook, "I should get one of those old fashioned work clocks so that I can punch in and out when I'm pinning".

Oh, and I've also had ideas about using layers of sellotape - guess what, so has Ross!

Bird Ross: Wounded

How crazy is this! Bird Ross and I have never met, I wasn't aware of her work before this and I don't imagine for one minute that she was aware of mine but we're clearly tuned into the same art wavelength! I'm sitting here just giggling because it's so weird.

My favourite piece of hers is this beautiful little folded paper piece called It All Adds Up. It's clearly a till receipt and since it's part of the 6000 series, I'm guessing that it's folded 6000 times.

Bird Ross: It All Adds Up

Isn't that lovely. I like the way it's encased in the narrow glass or perspex vitrine, it sets off the piece so well.

Right, I'm just off to check one more time that there are no pins on Ross' website!


It's National Shed Week. What, you didn't know that Britain has a National Shed Week? Shame on you! There's a blog and everything.

The winner of this year's best shed competition is Tim, a man who has combined two great British passions to create a Pub Shed.

Images from readersheds.co.uk

This isn't the only pub shed I've heard about; a friend of my mum and dad has a small 'cricket pavillion' shed in his garden, complete with beer on tap. And yes, there is also an area to play cricket, although I believe that they often go straight to the beer part. You have to make your own entertainment when you live in a small Scottish village...

There are a ton of other inventive sheds on the shed website. including this fabulous Tardis one.

Image from readersheds.co.uk

In fact, there are so many Tardis sheds that they have their own category. but I particularly like this one because of this quote from the female owner, "I don't think of it as just a shed - more a David Tennant trap."

Some of their sheds are a bit posh but as a fan of wabi-sabi, I prefer the more ramshackle versions like this one or this. Some sheds are particularly organic. This one makes me envious - I'd absolutely love it if mine had a living turf roof but it's pretty far down the list of gardening priorities.

And of course, we can't talk about sheds without mentioning some art inspired by the humble shed.

I find most traditional shed paintings a little boring but I was quite taken with the naive style of allotment painter, Chris Cyprus.

Simon Thackray's photograph of his shed door inspired him to start The Shed, an unusual series of music, poetry and art events in his small rural community.

Simon Starling's Turner Prize winning installation, Shedboatshed started life as a Swiss shed that he turned into a boat.

Image from Tate website, unknown photographer

He sailed the resulting boat containing the remaining shed parts down the Rhine to the venue where he was exhibiting before rebuilding it into a shed. I have to say that the confidence of this project impresses me, I'm not entirely sure I'd want to set sail in anything I'd built! Loathe as I am to link to the Mirror newspaper, this attempt to replicate the project made me laugh.

Cornelia Parker's famous piece Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View involved the British Army blowing up a garden shed that Parker had filled with a collection of objects sourced from jumble sales, charity shops and the sheds of the artist and her friends. The resulting charred remains were collected and hung around a single light bulb.

Images from Tate website, unknown photographer

Sheds, what's not to love?

A traditional Devon cream tea...

Cream Tea and Sweetpeas
Kirsty Hall: Cream tea with sweetpeas, July 2008

Kirsty Hall: Scones with clotted cream and jam, July 2008

...on a traditional British summer's day!

Rainy day
Kirsty Hall: Rainy day, July 2008

Wet chair
Kirsty Hall: Wet chair, July 2008


I've been seeing references to Messy Tuesdays for a couple of months now. I thought, 'hmm, sounds right up my street' but didn't follow it up. And then, whilst following a link from the excellent needled blog yesterday, I found the fascinating Felix and discovered that, along with Lara, she was one of the originators of the Messy Tuesdays idea.

Here's Lara's post introducing the idea of Messy Tuesday and Felix's original post, complete with manifesto...

Messy Tuesdays Manifesto:

You are not your flawless surfaces. You are not your orderly laundry-pile. You are not the seamlessness of your Finished Objects. You are not your risen cakes. You are not your sewn-in ends.

Messy Tuesdays seems to have struck a cord with many bloggers. Felix's post, Mess Is Beautiful has inspired me to order some Toni Morrison from the library. The F-Word addresses the feminist aspects of domestic mess but Penny points out that someone has to clear up. I loved the story behind this box of tangled threads on Practical Polly's blog. The needled blog celebrates mess while mootthings experience with breeding plant pots will doubtless be familiar to every gardener.

Here's my contribution to the conversation:

Mess is a vital part of art. Without mess there can be no art. That doesn't mean that all artists are inherently messy - although many are - just that the creative process itself is not a tidy one. There are wrong turns, false starts, abandoned pieces, 3am ideas scrawled frantically in sketchbooks, creative messes left lying on desks and in corners. Even if you are a tidy artist who puts things away when you're done, in the midst of creating it's likely that paint is smeared all over your palette, your pencils are in disarray, fabric pieces are scattered randomly around your sewing machine or you have clay, paint or plaster lodged under your fingernails.

And more than the purely physical mess of creating, there is that singular moment in many art pieces when chaos descends and you can no longer see what it is you are doing. The original purpose gets lost and suddenly there is only messy paint on canvas, confused lines on paper or a hideous lump of clay beneath your hands. This is the point where many people give up, not realising that this moment of sheer chaos is the fertile ground where new art grows. Not all your creative seeds will grow into something wonderful and worthwhile - some just stay messes - but without the courage to step into the messy, uncomfortable, annoying part of the creative process, nothing new will arrive.

I can't write about Messy Tuesday without spotlighting a mess of my own. Here's the current state of my bed.

Messy Bed
Kirsty Hall: Messy Bed, July 2008

Yes, my bed; the place that all the magazine articles and decluttering books tell you should be a romantic, restful haven. Notice how mine is covered with work instead! Here we have piles of books and magazines that I'm in the midst of reading, a journal, pens, a roll of pencils, several pads of cartridge paper, a pile of finished drawings, a pile of unfinished drawings, drawing board (what, you don't have a drawing board on your bed?) and lots of lists.

Why don't I put it all on the floor next to the bed? Er, well, there isn't room...

Messy Bedroom Floor
Kirsty Hall: Messy Bedroom Floor, July 2008

I will be tidying this soon as it's getting to the 'too much on the bed' stage. That doesn't mean the bed will be empty when I'm done, just that I'd like to change the sheets before starting a new, fresher pile of work!


On Saturday I was in the mood to take photos so I wandered along a couple of Clifton roads that I haven't been down in years because although they're just around the corner, they're not particularly on the way to anything. Noticing new things in familiar places is one of my favourite things to do.

Late afternoon light and these ornate old windows made for an unusual abstract shot.
Broken Reflection
Kirsty Hall: Broken Reflection, June 2008

This shot is typical of the things I love to photograph - fragile, battered, ephemeral objects that are still beautiful.
Fallen Flower
Kirsty Hall: Fallen Flower, June 2008

At first I thought this patchy grey lichen was blobs of chewing gum!
Mottled Wall
Kirsty Hall: Mottled Wall, June 2008

There's something pleasingly primal about this silver graffiti.
Silver Man
Kirsty Hall: Silver Man, June 2008

This was my most intriguing discovery.
Kirsty Hall: Commemorative Plaque, June 2008

Ellen Sharples was a miniature and portrait painter working in pastels. Born in Cheshire, she later emigrated to the United States with her artist husband, James Sharples, where she became one of America's first professional female artists before returning to live in Bristol after her husband's death.

I'd never heard of the Sharples before but they were apparently quite influential in early American portraiture with James Sharples drawing a famous portrait of Washington in the last year of his presidency. This portrait and others of notable Americans really paid the bills, with both James, Ellen and their children making copies. Although her career involved making copies of her husband's work on commission, Ellen was obviously quite financially successful because she left £2,000 in her will to help set up the Royal West of England Academy and also donated her private art collection to the new gallery. You can see some of her art here.

Encouraged by her mother, who had advanced views on education for women, Rolinda painted in oils in a variety of genres, including portraiture, Bristol cityscapes and images of contemporary Regency life. She was one of the first British female artists to tackle large crowd scenes, most notably in her paintings of the races on Durdham Downs and the Clifton Assembly Rooms.

So there you go, a little bit of feminist art history right around the corner from me but unnoticed for years.


Because of health issues and poor weather, I haven't done as much gardening in the last couple of weeks as I'd planned. However, I did manage to finish the bed I was working on.


Bare bed
Kirsty Hall, May 2008

Kirsty Hall, June 2008

Isn't it great how weeks of hard work can be made to look miraculously simple through the wonders of technology!

In fact, it was so magical that I want to do it again...

Bare bed
Kirsty Hall, May 2008

The main bed
Kirsty Hall, June 2008

Big improvement, huh.

As I've said before, gardens are a constant work in progress so it's not exactly 'finished'. I'm watching it to see what does well this year before moving stuff and tweaking the planting; I've already decided I need some taller plants in the middle of the bed and some stuff needs to be closer together. There are also a few annuals that I won't bother with next year because the slugs liked them too much.

We also harvested the first of our strawberries.
Kirsty Hall: First Homegrown Strawberries, June 2008

The six plants didn't produce much because they were only planted this year but the dozen berries we got were so delicious that we shared them out gleefully like tiny red treasures.

I was surprised to discover that this tiny geranium cutting had flowered.
Trying hard
Kirsty Hall: Trying Hard, June 2008

I pinched out the buds on the other pots because I want them to be making roots and leaves not flowers but these had already opened and I didn't have the heart to remove them. I always say that I practise 'Darwinist Gardening' because it's the survival of the fittest around here. I can't be bothered with plants that need endless fussing and coddling but I do have a sentimental side, especially if something is clearly trying hard.