In July 2022, I bought three of the Tim Holtz die sets from the Chapter 3 Sizzix release. They are what Tim calls ‘foundational dies’ and what I call ‘oh my god, I need those!’

Three sets of Tim Holtz dies.
The three sets of dies.

I’m always especially keen on dies that I can use for book-making or journal inserts because I’m rubbish at accurately measuring and cutting, so as soon as I saw these, I knew I’d be making books with them.

Although I’ve used all the dies, I've developed an obsessive love affair with the slide mount die from the Specimen set and I’ve been making a series of unique artist books using it. I challenged myself to make each book with a different theme and binding. I’ve made 14 so far… things may have gotten a little out of hand! But hey, as long as I still have ideas for them, then I’m going to keep making them.

Book 1: Sabotage

The first book in the series.

A small brown and green textured book.
The front page of Sabotage.

The pages were made from brown card sprayed and splattered with Seth Apter izink ink in Underwater, Tea and Goldmine, Lindy’s spray in Tibetan Poppy Teal, Dina Wakley gloss spray in Night, and Distress spray in Walnut Stain. I added texture with Distress Crypt grit paste, Distress Texture Paste through a Tim Holtz stencil and Distress Foundry Wax in Mined.

One of the inner pages of a small brown and green book.
One of the inner pages of Sabotage.

The centres are vintage digital photos from Pink Monarch Prints on Etsy. They were inkjet printed on copy paper and altered with water and wax, then cut with another die from the Specimen set before being slightly torn.

The text was typed with a vintage typewriter onto sepia toned inkjet printed paper and more water and wax. The text reads, ‘everything seemed so much harder than before’. It’s about how I was feeling about the pandemic at the time.

I made an extra hole along the centre of one edge and then the pages were bound with a ring binding made from copper wire coated with Distress Crypt grit paste and Distress Foundry Wax

The side view of the book.
The side view of Sabotage showing the wire binding.

You can see all the pages here.

Book 2: Cascade

Cascade was a direct response to Sabotage, although they look quite different. When I made that first book, I swithered over which way round to use the images. Because they’re printed on thin copy paper, the paper becomes translucent when you wax it so the images can be seen from both sides. I used the images in Sabotage the right way round, so I wanted to make a second book using similar images that were reversed.

The front cover of a small brown and gold book.
The front cover of Cascade.

The pages were made from brown card coloured with Seth Apter izink inks in Underwater, Tea and Morning Mist plus some Uncharted Mariner Distress ink and Distress Oxide sprays in Faded Jeans and Salty Ocean. I deliberately used the reverse of the card because I wanted to explore the way the ink seeped through the paper. I’d noticed the effect in my previous book and been very taken with it. The frames were lightly stamped with Vintage Photo archival ink and a Tim Holtz stamp before the centres were added.

The first page of Cascade.

The images were from Pink Monarch Prints on Etsy. They were printed on copy paper with my inkjet printer, splattered with water and then waxed. I used the reverse of the images because again, I wanted that more faded, ghostly look. However, I also tore them a lot so that the lovely blue from the Oxide inks was visible.

The text reads “we fell prey to ghosts and old magic. It was typed on a vintage typewriter loaded with brown ink, I used tissue paper for the pages and copy paper for the title. The text was all glued on and then circled with brown Pitt pen to make the words feel more grounded and intentional.

The cover and the binding tabs were made from a thicker Kraft cardstock for strength. I stippled them all with Gilded Distress Foundry Wax and then filled in any gaps with Walnut Stain Distress ink for a mottled, aged look.

One of the pages of Cascade showing the binding tabs.

The cover has two layers, an outer cover and a matching inner layer that the binding tabs were sewn into. After the tabs were bound in using a concealed three hole pamphlet stitch, I glued the slides in between the two sides of the tabs and then the inner and outer covers were glued together to completely hide the sewing. Finally the cover was finished with two eyelets and a brown ribbon to close the book.

There's a short video of the binding process here and more images here and here.

Oh, and it's called Cascade because of the way the pages move.

Book 3: Silent

This one is about my fears around insect decline and climate change - if the pollinators go, so do we. It’s called Silent in a nod to the seminal 1970’s book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and I’ve added the text, ‘Anthropocene No 1’ on the back because I suspect I may need to make more works about climate change. It bloody terrifies me and I tend to deal with my fears by making work about them. My art is not therapy but it is often a way to have a dialogue with my inner self.

A brown fabric cover of a small handmade book.
The cover of Silent.

I knew I needed more strength for this book construction, so the pages were cut from thicker brown card. Instead of cutting the whole die, I only cut the fronts so that once two of them were glued together I would have a fully transparent slide. I added areas of Distress ink, Crackle Accents and Distress crayon to the slide mounts. Each slide has two pieces of sanded, heat-resistant acetate in them. I stamped the insects, words and numbers (all from a Tim Holtz set) with black Stazon ink, which works on non-porous surfaces like acetate. Both pieces of acetate are reversed so that the stamping is on the inside, partly to protect the stamping but mostly because I preferred the slightly more subtle look it gave. After I’d glued the slides together, I carefully burnt the edges, slightly melting the acetate as I did. I had an idea in my head of museums burning and this being the last damaged evidence of these insects remaining. Hey, no one said this was a cheerful book!

A set of slides filled with stamped acetate.
The pages before they were bound.

This one was bound by putting jump rings through the slide holes, glueing them shut and then sewing them to a fabric spine. I coloured the fabric cover and the spine with watered down brown acrylic paint. I glued the spine into the cover, then glued on the title, the text and the wool closure plait. The typed text on the front inner cover reads: “And after that, there was no going back.”

The inner cover of the book.
The inner cover of the book.
Two of the inner pages of the book.
Two of the inner pages of the book.

More images here.

So that's the first three books from this series, I'll add more soon.

During my blogging hiatus, one of the many things I’ve been making is a stitched series using WW2 cream Utility blankets.

A cream blanket with hemmed holes hanging from a white pole
Fettle hanging in my studio, Dec 2022

The first piece is called Fettle. I’ve been cutting multiple holes in a blanket and hemming them with mattresses stitch. The second piece is called Fallow and it comprises of round pebbles sewn onto a blanket with (the unfortunately named) Colonial Knots. I see them both as a continuation of the ideas raised in Tatterdemalion.

A cream blanket with holes and stones.
Fettle before I cut the stones off.

Fettle was started in 2018 and is nearly finished. It would have been done already but I made a major mistake in the concept of the piece and spent an embarrassing amount of time sewing stones into the middle before realising that I was actually trying to squeeze two different pieces into one. Unfortunately I was nearly finished before I realised that I needed to cut the stones off Fettle and start a second companion piece with them.

A cream blanket with lots of cut stitches
Cutting the stones off Fettle

What's worse is that I was recently looking through my old sketchbook and found a drawing where I'd originally conceived of it as two pieces not one. I don't know when or why I foolishly squashed them together, my suspicion is that I just misremembered the original plan. Guess it just goes to show the importance of flipping through your sketchbooks on the regular!

Sketchbook page with two rough pen drawings and notes.
Sketchbook drawing of what are now Fettle and Fallow

So that was an annoying but very necessary realisation. I’m much happier making two separate but connected pieces. Before there was a constant feeling of wrongness (that I should have heeded much earlier), whereas now there's a deep feeling of rightness. I’ve only just started sewing the stones onto Fallow because it took me 7 months to source a second blanket the same size as Fettle. So it’ll be a while before that’s finished and they can be shown together as I envisage them, with Fettle hanging on a wall and Fallow tumbled on the floor under it.

A stone sewn into a cream blanket.
Starting the sewing on Fallow

What’s odd is that during those 7 months while I was trying to find a second blanket, Fettle temporarily lost its name. After I took the stones off, I was unsure whether it was still called Fettle or not but the minute I bought the new blanket and understood that it was called Fallow, Fettle reclaimed its name. Apparently they are so deeply connected that I couldn’t properly name one until I knew what the other one was called.

A cream blanket with cut holes hemmed in blanket stitch. A needle with cream wool is in the foreground.
Sewing holes in Fettle


I chose to work with Utility blankets for several reasons and none of them are anything to do with WW2 nostalgia.

Firstly, I got obsessed with a scratchy old grey wool blanket at my parents house. It gives me Big Art Feels; I am simultaneously drawn to its humble beauty but repelled by its scratchiness. I call this The Push-Pull Feeling and it’s the basis of a surprising amount of my work.

My parents are still using that blanket as a mattress topper so I don’t want to ask them for it. Besides, there’s only one of it, which would make it far too precious for me to ever use for art. I don’t know how many blanket pieces I’ll ultimately make but I know myself and I like to work in series. I knew my chances of finding a set of identical blankets to the one my parents own was ridiculously small, so I needed a reliable source of substitute blankets that gave me that same Push-Pull feeling.

Modern blankets are way too soft, plus I wanted to work with old blankets that had already lived a life. However, I didn’t want to destroy anything truly precious or expensive. I settled on Utility blankets because they were made in their thousands to a set standard, come up fairly regularly on EBay and even now can be bought reasonably cheaply. And naively, I initially thought that choosing Utility blankets would mean they’d all be identical.

Hah, I soon learned otherwise!

I now own four of these blankets in two sizes and each is slightly different. Although like all Utility products they were standardised due to the restrictions of World War 2, it’s obvious there was a certain amount of wiggle room in the rules. Even if they had started out identical, which they didn’t, they have been living in different conditions over the last 70 years. Some have clearly been used and washed far more often than others, some have stains, holes or other damage and they are all subtly different shades of cream.

So Fallow is not an exact colour and texture match to Fettle but by this point in my blanket collecting, I wasn’t expecting it to be. Fallow has a distinct Herringbone pattern that Fettle lacks and it’s slightly darker. They are very similar but not identical; siblings not twins. However, they are the same size and that was the key thing for me.

Two cream blankets
Fettle on the left, Fallow on the right

Don’t expect to see Fallow finished anytime soon, this is the very definition of slow art. Even if I worked on it every day, which I know I won’t, it would still take ages. I'm trying to crack on with it now while I'm still fresh and enthusiastic because I know from bitter experience that it's likely to get harder later. Baring disasters, Fettle should definitely be finished in 2023 and I am working on them both weekly. I find if I don’t strongly commit to working on the big sculptural textile pieces every week, they fall off my list too easily.

Oi Kirsty, where did you go?

Well, I had a spot of cancer!

Anal cancer, to be precise, which is somewhat rare. Thankfully, it really was only a spot of cancer because although my tumour got to about 5 cms, it was still only Stage 2 and hadn’t spread. We caught it just in time - 5 cms is usually the size at which they expect anal cancer to start to metastasise. It was difficult, painful and hideous enough but even a couple of months later, it could have been a much more serious story. I got really lucky.

I was diagnosed last November and went through successful but brutal treatment in January and February of this year - I had 6 weeks of daily chemo and radiotherapy, which I’m still recovering from. Then in May of this year I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes on top of my existing MECFS.

As we say around here, with classic British understatement, ‘it’s been a bit of a year!’

Kirsty, a white woman with dark hair and wearing a black mask, sits under an NHS patient sign with her name on it.
First day of treatment and thankfully the only chemo injection I had (the rest was in pill form).

Thanks to the NHS, I’m currently cancer-free and if I can make it until January 2023 and my next set of scans, I will probably stay that way because if anal cancer is going to come back, it usually does so within the first year. But we shall see; there are always outliers and I’m honestly still kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I suspect that’s probably a fairly common emotion in cancer sufferers. Whatever happens, I will need 4 more years of regular oncology check-ups, which is daunting but necessary.

But hey, right now, I’m doing as well as can be expected. I’m slowly recuperating and I’m still making art daily and living my life to the best of my ability whilst juggling several chronic illnesses in the midst of a pandemic (yes, we are still in middle of a pandemic).

A pile of sewing bits on a NHS blanket.
I made art throughout the cancer. That day I was sewing some random bits in what we lovingly referred to as 'cancer hotel', the free NHS accommodation we stayed in during weekdays because we live an hour away from the hospital.

I can’t promise that I’ll get back to regular blogging. I would like to but my stamina is so erratic and I’ve had very little writing energy over these last few years. I’ve been prioritising making art over writing about art. However, it does feel like my brain has slowly been coming back to life lately, which is encouraging.

I’ll always have to work around the serious limitations of my MECFS but it’s obvious now that the added fatigue from the cancer was really doing a number on me. Given when I first started having subtle bowel symptoms and my general health plummeted, I suspect that I may have had the cancer for as long as five years. I certainly had it by the summer of 2020 when I first noticed a 1cm lump, which was initially misdiagnosed as piles. Pro tip, if you have piles that don’t clear up and especially if they get larger, go back to the doctor! Anal cancer is rare but it mimics piles very closely, so it is often initially misdiagnosed.

As the cancer progressed, gradually every extraneous thing that I cared about, like socialising, gardening, knitting, writing and even reading, fell away because I simply didn’t have the energy for it. At the time, it felt like another MECFS crash or perhaps a bit of pandemic depression but looking back, it’s obvious that my body was desperately trying to deal with the added burden of the cancer.

A close up of a green and brown journal page with a vintage photograph of a woman and the caption, 'I was afraid'.
An art journal page that I completed in March, just after my treatment.

Chemo and radiotherapy are hard and take months to get over but I'm definitely starting to pick up a bit now and I can clearly see the difference in my fatigue levels and my motivation. I am still housebound and disabled by the MECFS but I am starting to feel more like myself than I have in several years. So who knows, perhaps regular, longer form writing will be a thing that I can gradually return to.

In the meantime, I’m fairly reliably over on Instagram, so that’s a good place to keep up with me and my art. I aim to post there at least 3 times a week but unless I’m very unwell, it’s usually more.

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 shtick 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 mottoes, 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, some may be much easier to accommodate than others.

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 unrealistic timelines that I'd be unable to make work without instantly having my illness flare badly.

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. Disabled people as a whole constitute at least 15% of the population and I know many working artists who have an illness or a disability, sometimes this is apparent but often it's an invisible condition. 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. 



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



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

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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Eh bien, le Tour de France 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 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.

1 Comment

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?