Welcome! Before you get comfortable - I have moved! Please come over to my new place, Do What You Love

Monday, 30 August 2010

the sea, the sea

'The Sea': 12"X12" acrylic on canvas

I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

by John Masefield

I used this poem as the inspiration for this work-in-progress for Louise's 'Creative Color Challenge'.  Check out all the other contributions here...

Have you ever been on a tall ship?  It is a magical experience.  I once raced in the Cutty Sark Tall Ships' Race across the Bay of Biscay, wind in my hair and dolphins at the bow.  I love this poem as it captures that feeling so beautifully - the sense of freedom, and wandering wonder

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Learning to paint Jesse Reno style + 6 month blogiversary

Anyone else signed up for An Artful Journey in California in February next year?  For Jesse Reno's class?  It is going to be awesome, I just know it.  More energising days of organised creative chaos in those beautiful mountains, in the shadow of that magical redwood forest, with old friends and new.  So exciting! 

The Presentation Center, home to all sorts of creative magic at An Artful Journey
I started this blog after attending An Artful Journey last year, and it was a really important moment for me.  I began listening to my own creative whispers, and so many great things have happened as a result. 

And this is just the beginning...

In fact, today marks six months since my first ever blog post, which talked about the importance of doing what you love.  And signing up to An Artful Journey again is one of the ways I am trying to stay true to that.  With Squam coming up next month it is fast become a twice-yearly creative pilgrimage to the US, but I know it is going to be important again, for different reasons, as next year is going to be HUGE (you'll have to wait a while to hear more about that...)

For now, I just want to take a moment to thank you all for making this blogging experience so special, for leaving comments, sharing your stories, and hearing mine.  To think that I knew nothing about this whole world of lovely creative souls just six months ago. 

What a precious thing this is, really.

Monday, 23 August 2010

At home: Welcome to my studio!

"Pick one room and make it yours.
Go slowly through the house.
Be polite, introduce yourself,
so it can introduce itself to you."
(borrowing the words quoted by the lovely Louise Gale as a comment in response to this blog post)

So that’s what I am going to do. Introduce myself, then introduce you, room by room, bit by bit. As we start to make friends with our new home. 

Here is a peek of the first one – my studio.  Won't you come in?

At one end it has this sweet fireplace, which will be great when winter sets in.  I have just put up this picture for now while I work out what to do with the space above the mantelpiece.  Any ideas?

Here's my painting/making stuff table.  There is an easel in the corner but I like making a horizontal mess!  The glass table is actually more practical than it looks - it provides a brilliantly smooth surface for painting and is easy to cover, but also makes the most of the space in the room when it is uncovered. 

The wooden floorboards were reclaimed from an old school gymnasium.  They are full of marks and stories - you can almost see generations of children jumping over benches and off climbing bars (and maybe even sneaking a first kiss behind the pommel horse). 

There are three big windows like this so they let in lots of light

Handy storage for my art supplies, and just enough space to squeeze blank canvasses underneath

No such thing as too many art books...

These old picnic hampers make great storage for my sewing stuff - fabric, ribbons, thread for the things I am slowly learning to make!
And there's the lovely painting from Judit at Pilgrim of the Moon (I talked about it in this post )

One of my inspiration boards.  This one includes prints by Juliette Crane and DJ Pettitt, and my Soul Collage cards that I made in California back in February

I think the paper obsession, stationery obsession and book obsession may be linked...

Finally I have somewhere to put all my bits and bobs - paper ribbon, buttons, lovely shiny things

My little bonsai friend (in need of a haircut)

My reading corner, and all important stereo - 
a girl's gotta have tunes to paint to!

So there it is, my new studio.  Would love to have you all come over to create and make mess.  What's your creative space like?  What's on your inspiration board?

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Overwhelmed by kindness

Housewarming gifts and cards have been pouring in before we have even had the chance to send out our new address to most of our friends.  We have been overwhelmed by the kindness.  Here are a few of the things which have made my heart leap in the past couple of weeks, and which are indeed warming our new place:

  • A bay tree by the back door (I have dreamed of this ever since doing postgraduate study in the beautiful Roman city of Bath several years ago, where all the houses are honey coloured stone and many have bay trees outside)

  • A gorgeous original painting all the way from Spain, created especially for my new studio by the lovely Judit of Pilgrim of the Moon - so kind!  Thank you Judit - how did you know the colours would be perfect?

  • Flowers, flowers, flowers - these are now all over our house!
  • A hand-stitched picture of the Chinese character for love
We were also showered with welcomes (and vital rubbish-disposal information!) from our new neighbours, a new bird feeder for the garden and cards and messages galore...  I feel full of love for the world today!

Thank you everyone!


Photos of the house to follow shortly I promise...


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Busy bee

So much going on at the moment.  Lots of exciting things in the pipeline, can't wait to share.  Here's a little hint for one of them:

I have been buzzing about finding out...
Check back soon to find out what I have been researching for!


Trying to keep up with the August Break - check out the 4000+ photos in the Flickr group here

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


When you move somewhere new, you start each journey from a different place.  We only moved 10 minutes from where we lived before, but I have started to see things I never noticed before.  Like this gorgeous stretch of river.

What have you discovered near your home recently?


This month I am joining in Susannah Conway’s August Break, sharing daily photos of my life this August. Why not check out who else is joining in, or have a go yourself?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Do What You Love interview: Yvonne Carmichael

Yvonne Carmichael is the curator of Art in Unusual Spaces, a scheme which opens up empty shop units in city centres for use by artist as project or exhibition spaces, inspiring and sometimes surprising busy shoppers. Artworks so far have ranged from miniature prams to giant robots and from den-making to really short artist films. Yvonne shares her thoughts on exhibiting art from a curator’s perspective.

Ingrid-Berton Moine's short artist film as part of 'Short Shorts: Very Brief Artist Films in the window of 42 New Briggate', Decemver 2009. Part of Art in Unusual Spaces.  Photo with permission from Yvonne Carmichael

How did you find yourself doing what you do?
 I studied an Interdisciplinary Art and Design BA at Leeds College of Art and on the course was a module focusing on collaboration. It was about this time things seemed to click, leaving the studio and meeting other artists working in the city made me realise that being involved in art might actually be something I continue doing after I graduated.

It was through connections made on the course I ended up co-curating 42 New Briggate - an empty shop unit next The Grand Theatre in Leeds. In the beginning this was in partnership with Opera North; putting on exhibitions which accompanied their productions next door in the theatre. Then in between the opera seasons there was time to work with artists on independent projects. Programming the two strands of the space was really exciting, the balance between having funding and a brief for some projects and other being much more self-directed was really great opportunity for me and I learnt a lot in a short space of time.

Whilst studying I was particularly interested in how artworks are presented to audiences. The final steps in deciding how to display or articulate what artworks are about are often vital to the audience's reception of that work. A lot of people who work in the arts wear lots of different hats from day to day, which is something I really enjoy.

What does a day in the life of an independent curator look like?
It really depends what kind of show you are working on. With Art in Unusual Spaces I seem to spend a lot of time carrying things from one shop unit to another - chairs, lights as well as washing windows, installing vinyl lettering (a very stressful time-consuming task, I can assure you), updating websites, writing press releases, getting hold of keys for shop units and of course meeting with artists and talking through projects.

Do you only curate exhibitions of art that speaks to you? What kind of art are you drawn to?
With Art in Unusual Spaces I like the artwork to respond in some way to the spaces. The shop units aren't white cube gallery spaces and have a more mixed audience than a gallery does. I like it when artists are prepared to experiment. I also find discussing projects with artists as they develop really interesting. Art In Unusual Spaces is also different to curating a gallery in that I rarely deal with completely finished bodies of work – rather I work with artists to help realise their ideas.
I like artwork where the audience and 'exhibition' space have been considered in the making of the actual work. I am also drawn to work which has a playful approach. This can often provide entrance points into the world of contemporary art for people that aren't familiar with it.

What makes an outstanding exhibition? What would be your advice to artists preparing for their first major show? How can they make it special?
I enjoy exhibitions which are ambitious and experimental. I think that it's often important to be honest about what you are doing and why you are doing it. I find it frustrating when artists succumb to the pressure of 'over-hyping' or over-explaining their work. This often leads to disappointment. Audiences can make their own opinion about work and it can be off-putting when artists tell them how fantastic their own work is.
When putting on exhibitions for the first few times it is easy to forget about marketing the event. This is the same for any kind of event I suppose, the focus is placed on getting the actual event together and letting people know about it is left until the last minute. The balance between the two things is something I am still learning. Artwork should be for everyone, not just people who might already know about it, and I think getting feedback from new audiences is always important.
Being able to collaborate is usually really key when putting on an exhibition, it's often not possible to organise everything yourself and it can certainly be a lot more fun if there is a group of people involved.

How important was your art education in helping you choose a life that lets you do what you love?
I gained a lot from my degree. I was very wide-eyed and keen when I was a student partly because I hadn't done a foundation course so felt I had a lot of catching up to do. The course involved regularly presenting yourself and your work, which at the time seemed to get in the way of the actual projects. In hindsight though, it has stood me in good stead. I am more able to communicate projects in their really initial stages to lots of different kinds of people. Also, I did workshops in many different mediums and processes (glass, wood, metal, jewellery, photography, film, photoshop and drawing). Though I'm by no means an expert in any it has provided me with an overview that has really helped me to be able to mediate for lots different artists.
Studying is great in that it provides a well needed excuse to spend time researching, exploring and learning and takes the focus away from doing paid work.

Why is public art important?
It depends what kind of public art you are talking about; prefabricated bronze sculptures that you might see in front of an office block are less inspiring than research-based and socially-engaged projects. I do appreciate, however, that one of public art's functions is to make places more attractive!

I think it's important that the public engage with art because it can help people think about places differently by offering new narratives. For example with a piece of work I did with the artist collective Black Dogs in Holbeck we helped people think about the area differently through guided walks and installations that played on the Italian and industrial heritage of the area.

Also, more generally, art provides an experience where the audience has to make up their own mind about the 'meaning' something carries so it can be a kind of training in critical thought; it isn't entirely consumptive or passive. I think art outside a gallery is often more interesting and thought provoking because it provides these experiences in a non-specialised space and can be more surprising.

For more info on Yvonne's work see her website


For more inspiring interviews with people doing what they love see here

Friday, 6 August 2010

Shoes and memories

One of the best bits about unpacking and sorting boxes of stuff is rediscovering all the stuff you already have.  It's like a shopping bonanza without spending any money.  However, it also slows down the task somewhat, as you think a little about each thing you pull out of the cardboard boxes.

As you can see, I quite like shoes and am trying to find a place to put them in the new house... 

However many times I have a clearout I can never bring myself to throw shoes away, so I end up keeping them for years.   For me shoes - especially the really impractical but gorgeous ones - spark memories. 

...The day I wore those sparkly flipflops on the beach in Brazil when I first tried surfing
...The night I wore the really high silver heels with a long tangerine dress and danced until dawn with my man
...Even the slippers I wore to climb the Great Wall of China back when I was 19, having rushed out of our Beijing hostel in a sleepy daze to catch the 5am bus, forgetting to actually put on a pair of proper shoes

You can see why it takes me a long time to unpack!

What do your favourite shoes remind you of?


This month I am joining in Susannah Conway’s August Break, sharing daily photos of my life this August. Why not check out who else is joining in, or have a go yourself?

Thursday, 5 August 2010


I love to travel yet I love to nest (especially right now!)

I love to be surrounded by people yet I love to be alone

I love extremes and excitement, yet I love calm

I love to dive in, yet I love to sit back and watch

I love crooked old houses, yet I love zen minimalism

I love adventure, yet I love the comfort of what I know

I think we need to appreciate our own paradoxes to be true to all parts of our selves

What about you?


This month I am joining in Susannah Conway’s August Break, sharing daily photos of my life this August. Why not check out who else is joining in, or have a go yourself?

Time out

Spent the day on the water today. 
Taking a break from it all,
getting caught up in the excitement of a yacht race,
seeing the beauty of the land from the water,
hearing the call of the gulls
and clearing out the cobwebs
as the sea breeze rushed through my hair. 

I spent my childhood on the coast
and it feels good to reconnect with the salty air and open skies.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Pottering about

Thinking about our new garden today, and realising how little I know about how to care for it. My gardening history to date has revolved around pots of basil and the odd tomato plant on many an apartment windowsill. Our house was empty for a few months before we moved in as the previous owners had emigrated to Australia.  As a result the garden has gone a bit wild.  It has lots of tropical plants in it and I kind of like it that way, all a bit crazy, but it seems a shame not to be able to even see the sunken table, never mind eat dinner at it!  Time to get green fingers...

(photo from recent island travels in Greece - photos of our new garden coming soon!)

This month I am joining in Susannah Conway’s August Break, sharing daily photos of my life this August. Why not check out who else is joining in, or have a go yourself?


How come the things which make us happiest often stress us most along the way?  

I am exhausted from the move,
from all the unpacking,
from the decorating, 
from trying to make it all perfect
from day one.   

But today,
we just stopped,
dropped the boxes,
and shut the door. 

We left the paintings unhung,
the books unshelved,
the shoes un-put-away. 

And flopped.  

Given the small inconvenience of not having a sofa until September,
that actually meant we flopped onto the floor.  

Still, the icecream tasted just as good sat leaning against the wall.

And as we sat laughing,
surveying our new home,
the aches started to fade,
the excitement returned 
and we remembered what it was all about.

I think we're going to like it here


I am rather late to the party for Susannah Conway's August Break (a new daily photo challenge which started on August 1), but better late than never! 
This month I am going to aim for more photos, less words, so keep a look out for a peek into my August (including some shots of our new house, once we have unpacked a little more!)

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