Friday, 23 December 2011

Hand. Made.

It seems a rare treat these days when our computer even switches on, let alone is happy to do anything. This is my excuse for not blogging, and I'm sticking with it!

I thought technology was supposed to make everything easier? I continually yearn for the days when it was okay to do everything by hand -sew, write letters..., which brings me seamlessly to the subject of today's ramblings.

'You bite your nails? Its a bad habit. People always tell you that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Bullshit its your hands, thats the sign of a gentleman.'
     -Robert De Niro in Alfonso Cuaron's 'Great Expectations' (1998)

If memory serves me correctly I saw this film 8 times at the cinema. Very clever use of colour, addictive soundtrack (look for 'Like a Friend' by Pulp on Spotify), and the strange and captivating artwork of Francesco Clemente, that is the real star.

I've been working on ideas for a flyer for my Step Mum, who is considering setting herself up doing reiki -which to my understanding is energy from the hands (I am probably very wrong about this!) -hence my doodled hands with rainbow glowing fingertips.

A healthy hand has five digits, and five is a good number. Stylistically I always think odd numbers look better than evens, which I think may be part of why I've become a bit fixated with drawing rudimentary hand shapes at the minute. I like the way my hand/trees turned out (see previous posts).

At work some of the young people made a Christmas tree by drawing around their hands on green paper, cutting them out, decorating them and assembling together -very Strangelord! And it wasn't even my idea!

I am yet to meet a grown adult with smaller hands than mine.

I remember when I was a small child my Mum calling them my 'little dannies'.

Once I when I had steroid cream for my eczema, and having an attic bedroom I could never be bothered to go donwstairs and wash my hands after applying it. The skin on my fingertips thinned so much that my finger prints had practically smoothed away. I did not take full advantage sadly, and committed no crimes.

I used the 'Great Expectations' quote in my dissertation for my Art Foundation course, after a module spent studying hands -different methods of depicting, and in others' art. It is difficult to believe that this is almost 12 years ago! I was introduced to Egon Schiele when a lad in my tutor group said my line drawings were reminiscent of the controversial Austrian. Although anyone who knows me well, knows I am far from controversial.

I revelled in painting PVA on my hands and peeling it off like shed skins for in my sketch book.

I pride myself on a steady hand. I think it's all the practice of obtaining precise flicks of eyeliner, and carefully arranging minute beads, bits 'n' bobs in certain collages. 

I maintain that 'Hand in Glove' is one of the best songs ever written.

So whatever I use my hands for this festive season -modelling a selection of nice mittens, throwing snowballs (I wish...!), wrapping presents worse than I did when I was 5, clapping along to Christmas songs, waving farewell to the old year and hello to the new, maybe actually having the time to do some art. Not punching computers! I'll be sure to stay strange.

Probably see you in 2012...

Monday, 17 October 2011


I was reminded of two things last week:-

What a ridiculously, hilariously bad film 'Creep' is. If you haven't seen it, the monster is called 'Craig'...and it gets worse...(come to think of it, I have known some monstrous Craigs in my time...)

The second thing I was reminded of is how much I adore and admire Tracey Emin.

I didn't mean to emulate her when I was at art college, and I did get slightly offended by comparisons, I mean, I'd never leave my bedroom in that state, the Monica that I am these days, but looking back...

Tracey was featured on BBC's 'Who Do You Think You Are?', investigating the maternal side of her family, finding a history of reform school boys and artisan gypsies (sadly I don't think my family tree bears any such romantic fruits. My Grandparents thought our family ran a workhouse. My Dad disputes this...)

The woman makes me smile. She's like the bad bits of me amplified. Drunk on TV. Back in the vodka days I must confess there were times my bedroom might have been slightly like hers. The tears, the ramblings.

My unconscious channelling of her aesthetic themes has at times included the use of text (I LOVE text in visual art), the use of traditionally feminine crafts taken out of context and given unexpected, inappropriate or sinister meanings, and self as art. I think I'm self obsessed...Ms. Emin's work is as intensely personal as it comes. Literally laid bare.

Her collected writings 'Strangeland' is about the most elating and abject in-equal-measures bunch of words one could ever cast their eyes and their heart over. Makes me wish I'd continued to keep diaries (possibly would have if it hadn't been for little brothers' prying eyes).

I read an old diary recently. THAT was depressing!

I was genuinely heartbroken when I learned of the fire at the Momart warehouse in 2004, in which Emin's controversial appliqued tent 'Everyone I Ever Slept With' was destroyed. The tabloids had a field day... "Didn't millions cheer as this 'rubbish' went up in flames?". It annoyed me that so many people took 'slept with' as the euphemism it is commonly used for, and not in it's literal sense -a tribute to everyone Emin ever shared a bed with, including family members, I feel is a really sweet sentiment. But it's that play on words and opening herself up to misinterpretation which only enhances the art. 

Her gorgeously sensitive line drawings make me know I really need to get my sketchbook out more. Whether she's depicting dainty birds, copulating couples, or said dainty bird perched on a penis. Come on, you gotta see the funny side?!

She's everything I wanna be when I grow up, and everything I won't be because I haven't got the guts. And even though I'm teetotal, I'm sat in my bedroom, listening to Hole, thinking I'm eighteen and getting all post-feminist on your ass, filling art shows with photos of me and plaster casts of contraceptives...(anyone who saw my 18+ art foundation final show knows what I'm talking about...!)

Oh, and just so you know, I will be wearing leopard print 'til I'm 90.

Monday, 3 October 2011

arty cats (or avatar adventures)

Gosh, has it really been this long? It's terrible I know! I have been busy though, what with turning 30 and hosting the biggest party since I was 8 and demanded a 'present tree' (I got the idea from a book -how many 8 year olds do you know who own party planning books?!)

I've also been moving house, to my very first, very own brand new house, and yes, at first it was chaotic -hence my absence.

In getting back to normality and realising I'd neglected my artisitc endeavours, I discovered that a cushion I was pictured holding in my avatar on Folksy had since been used as a kitty-comforter a little too often. Probably shouldn't sell it then!

Instead, I thought I could share with the world my brand new Aladdin's cave of an art cupboard, so I fluffed my hair, made sure my fingernails were clean, and set about posing as the ever-suffering Alex took pictures.

It appears Casper has missed out on being involved in art recently also...

So very helpful! He's lucky I didn't glue him to my collage. Tempting...

Monday, 6 June 2011

Thinking Inside the Box.

My latest work in progress got me thinking about my penchant for putting my ideas in boxes, and how it all began.

More recently I've been challenging myself to branch out from my fine art student 'art for art's sake' mentality to create things that whilst still arty, have a function -hence the little trinket boxes as above.

But it's not all about functionality. It's memories of my jewellery boxes as a child, especially the one with the plastic ballerina that played 'Some Day My Prince Will Come' (he did by the way, after a heck of a lot of frogs!). It's like my mum's pewter 'treasure chest' ornament, which I broke by filling with beads and burying in the garden. It's my plastic vanity case which when I was a kid housed a toy hairdryer, brushes and curlers -which I punked up when I was about 17 with stickers and a snakeskin lining.

Boxes conceal, but also protect. And for me there's something really lyrical about a box and the secrets inside.

People who know me know I've always been a hoarder, and that nothing has changed now. When I was on my art foundation at Doncaster College my workspace was nicknamed by a fellow student Karen 'the table that taste forgot', owing to the multifarious bits of junk I'd gathered up from home and brought in to serve as my muses -hideous dolls from Mega Girl lucky bags, seashells, my pearls from when I was a bridesmaid, dancing medals, beads, bits of Barbies, ornaments inherited from Grandma...the list goes on.

 A tutor suggested to me that I look to Joseph Cornell for inspiration. I think he wanted to see me at least make use of the rubbish I'd cluttered the studio with. But it wasn't until I went to uni that I really got chance -stimulated by possibly one of the most important exhibitions -for me -that I've ever had the pleasure to visit -Peter Blake's 'About Collage' at the Tate Liverpool in 2000/01-which featured not only Blake's homages to Cornell, but also examples of Cornell's boxes. 

I went two, if not three times.

There is real magic in this reclusive, self-taught artist's aesthetic -the dream-like juxtaposition of images and objects.

Feast your eyes and let your imagination run away with you.

I am convinced that like me Cornell intended part of the art to be in viewers creating their own meanings. And a while back, when fellow crafter and blogger Mary-Jane from Voodooville featured my Little Red Riding Hood themed 'Happy Never After', and described my work as  'so like Joseph Cornell's stuff, but with a twist', she could only guess as to how much of a compliment that would be to me.

So Joseph, you fight for that special place as my most favouritist artist -rivalled only by Hans Bellmer, Max Ernst and lovely Tracey Emin.

And I now, and forever will remain a boxy lady.

Stay Strange xxx

(thanks to the Cornell images)

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

on the button!

Life gets in the way. And the sickness! But that's another story...

Finally found the chance to tell you all about the fun Stacey and I had a few Saturdays ago at The Button Tin, the quaintest little craft kiosk imaginable. And in good old Rotherham of all places!

The lovely and talented textile artist Gemma Nemer opens up her personal workspace to deliver workshops 'with a vintage twist'. Her ethos is all about keeping alive traditional fabric crafts, and re-using and re-working reclaimed materials -a girl after my own scavenging heart!

Apparently we opted for the trickiest, most labour-intensive make Gemma offers -etui sewing boxes. Nothing like jumping in at the deep end!

I'd planned to give the end result away as a gift if I didn't like it. Being a perfectionist I can't bear to look at something I feel I've made badly, but I worked so hard my eyes were crossed and my fingers were numb! And the clashing fabrics I'd chosen, which initially we weren't sure about, looked just so cute together.

There is no such thing as too much pattern!

So now my battered purple sewing tin has a sweet, new, pain-stakingly crafted companion...

...and I'm trying to pick which of Gemma's classes to try next. I'm thinking the nostalgic jewellery making, in the hope my efforts would turn out anywhere near as perfect as Gemma's pretty petals...

See more of her work on Flickr click click!

And visit The Button Tin's website clickety click!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Tangerine Trees

Been soooo busy lately. What with sorting out invitations for my 30th Birthday extravaganza (it isn't for a while yet, but time's a ticking, and I do like to be organised!), the dreaded annual car insurance search (done!), and still finding time to celebrate the bank holidays and socialise (two barbeques within one week, heavily featuring my first attempt at banoffee pie, and fridge cake, just like they had a the Royal Wedding! I so need to do my Denise Van-work-Outen DVD...)

I've also been fairly prolific with my creative dalliances. I think it's the impending pressure of the Summer shows coming up. I've just had 2 pieces accepted for Bury Art Week. I haven't shown there before so am quite excited. Then there's the Great Sheffied Art Show, which is pretty much the highlight of my year. I'm hoping to submit four or five pieces for selection next weekend (haven't quite decided yet), so I'll have fingers and toes and all other appendages crossed, and hope you will on my behalf also!

I've recently reprised my doodled trees motif and am quite pleased with the result.

I've been told that the effect is quite pschedelic, and although that was not the intention originally, I kind of agree, what with the tangerine trees, power flowers and retro backdrop.

I'm not going to put this in my Folksy shop just yet, as I think this is one of the pieces I'll submit for GSAS.

I also completed this trinket box recently, which is available on Folksy, and was inspired by a couple of European trips.

Who knows, maybe if I keep working this hard I'll treat you to a post about a wonderful little workshop myself and the lovely Stacey Grimey-Grime participated in this weekend.

What busy-busy bees!

Monday, 28 February 2011

grey matters.

I've realised lately I just love grey. Not the most exciting of shades, often used to describe something, or someone dull and boring.

Picking my outfit this morning, and pairing a cute but simple loose grey top with a crochet detail neckline, with my pillar-box red jeans, got me thinking about why.

Maybe its the sky at the moment, or the industrial landscape I've been growed-up in. I can't get enough of dove-grey eyeshadow to bring out the brown-ness of my eyes, my Bella Swan-esque cable knit gloves, the trusty grey stereo-print hoody my younger brothers covet, nonchalant t-shirts, thermal tights (much less harsh than opaque black), stonewashed grey denim...the list goes on...

I much prefer a grey suit on a man to a black one. One day I hope to decorate my boudoir like a stark, grey side-ward in a lunatic asylum. Serious!

Grey goes with everything, whether spangling up with sequins, metallic knits (like my favourite metallic grey cardi which, you guessed, I can't get enough of!), or gold or silver jewellery which match equally well, or clashed with neon when I like to pretend I'm a bit street.

Lavendery grey is the perfect contrast to the pastels I often paint in. Grey tones in my collages I feel make for evocative subtlety.

'Love Your Bones' mixed media collage, featuring an image I photoshopped of the Catacombs in Paris.

I was afraid of colour for a while. Not in my dress sense you must understand, but in my art. A tutor tried to teach me about colour theory, and advised me that a particular hue should never be selected unless there was a reason, or something symbollic to justify it. I evaded that one -and for a while stuck to a limited palette of black, white, blood red, pale pink, pale yellow and grey. Fortunately I found kitsch, otherwise my aesthetic may have been entirely different!

So here's to grey, and doing it the grey-way, like some of my fellow Folksters...

Clockwise from top left:-

Shades of Grey Hair Pins by Bina Geyer

Grey Knitted Bird Bag by Jayney Mac

Grey Wool Beret by Imogen's Imagination

Little Silver Grey Pony by The Hunny Bunny Company

There may be the odd one or two silver-grey hairs in my fringe (hey, my job is stressful, and I am nearly 30!), which I am not loving, and which are promptly plucked out, but by the most part to me grey isn't boredom, it's beauty.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

masterpiece in motion

(otherwise known as work in progress!)

This was an old bathroom cabinet donated to me by an ex colleague.
Starting to get strange-ified.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Sweet Sentiment.

We're a lovely bunch over on Folksy. A mutual appreciation society for all things crafty. And I relish a bit of encouragement as much as the next person.

I was in touch with the smashing Sally from 'Sweetly Wrapped' recently, and was overjoyed, not only to receive lovely comments, but also this super-kind offer...

'Aww, thank you Emma :) I love your work too, it's very different. Are you in need of any bits and pieces? I have lots of little things I'd be happy to send you.'

Not gonna say no am I?!

I arrived home from work yesterday and couldn't have been more thrilled to receive this package. These weren't just any bits and pieces, this was a veritable treasure trove, which I cannot wait to incorporate into my next pieces...!

Any fab sweet wrappers I come across will be winging their way across to Sally.

Until then, you really ought to check out her little Folksy corner shop where she offers such delights as this popping candy card wallet, making spending so much sweeter!

click to visit sweetly wrapped :-)

And all for not much more than the cost of a quarter of your favourite spice.
Thank you, sincerely, for being so thoughtful Sally, and keep up the ace work!