Verdant



Yesterday my Mum and I went for a walk through Epping Forest. It had been raining, fitfully and heavily, all day, and had just stopped when we went out.

The forest was still dripping, and I was struck by the very particular smell of the forest when it rains; mossy, and of ferns unfurling. Mum agreed, and said that the smell was verdant; imbued with green.

Inspired by this sensory experience, my old friend and fellow artist Kat and I wandered into Walthamstow Forest this morning equipped with a plethora of film cameras.

Here are the results which I can share with you straight away; Polaroids shot on my Spectra camera, with a variety of filters and costume changes.

The first three photographs are an extension of my self care rituals of rewarding oneself with stickers - this time I've covered Kat's face with merit stickers - badges of honour for surviving. This is a theme I'm planning on developing considerably in the near future... I'll keep you posted.




















Rest Cure


As much as I do love London, occasionally I need to escape it for a little while. I've been feeling a little disenchanted recently; I think from constantly working so hard on projects, from the long summer which I've been failing to fill effectively, and from spending too much time staring at screens (she says, staring at one!)

So a two week rest cure at my parents' house in the North West Highlands was just what the doctor ordered. I brought my current project, Big Teeth, along with me (and got a surprising amount sewn on the train!) My aim for the holiday was to sit and sew and look out at the sea.

So far it has also included rather a lot of staring at screens (surprise surprise), fine food (and wine!), and the odd walk around the hills and down to the beach. The wild landscape is the perfect setting for constructing a book about fairytales (many of which, of course, had fairly savage beginnings).

First of all, here are some holiday snaps:



An old friend adorning a stone shed on the walk down to the beach (painted by a family friend).

Giant daisies growing against the shed in my parents' garden.

The first bushel of gooseberries grown in the garden; there's almost enough for a crumble!

An entirely unintentional shot of me wandering around in the garden in a lovely dress.
Of course, most of my time has been given over to sewing, and this current project isn't an easy one (but then I'm always one to bite off more than I can chew!)

Someone else who hasn't been finding my sewing easy is our dog, Rosie. A few days ago, the phone started ringing whilst I was mid-stitch; thinking it might be my boyfriend, I got up in a rush, thrusting the embroidery aside. It landed on the dog.





Poor pet!

My reading material for the holiday has been fairly light; I desperately wanted to read The Little White Horse, but couldn't find it at home or at my Grannie's (hers is the house next door to my parents'). Instead, Grannie lent me Linnets and Valerians, also by Elizabeth Goudge. I must admit, so far I haven't touched it; I've been too engrossed in Issue Five of Magpie Magazine, which, as well as being full of beautiful photographs and articles, has quite a number of the best poems I've read in recent years. They've inspired me to write some of my own (not quite ready to share yet, though). My final "reading material" is my previous artist's book, On Being Soft, which is sob-inducingly superior to my current efforts, but acts as a good source of inspiration nonetheless.


And on to those poor efforts! I think my real problem is that the story/poem that runs through the book is rather text-heavy, and my pages are rather tiny!


The first few pages are charmingly off-kilter, but the last couple are so dense the text is almost illegible! The second to last page in particular is just not gelling for me; I think the blanket stitch around the text is too bright. I may unpick it and start again. Also, the last line of the first page is missing and I can't for the life of me find where it's gone! Typical me!







I do like the soft tones of the scanned and cloth-printed Polaroids against the clumsy blanket stitch and the hand sewn text, though, and I am (more or less) happy with every page other than that pesky second to last one. Perhaps I should have stuck to using the same fabric for each page, as I did with On Being Soft. Oh well, I'm sure the contents of the Polaroid pockets will be more impressive. And speaking of, I'd better crack on with them. No rest for the wicked!


"You'll turn into a pumpkin"

"You'll turn into a pumpkin" is still a phrase my mother is fond of saying to me when she fears I'm staying up too late. It's a reference, of course, to the fairytale Cinderella, in which the Fairy Godmother transforms a pumpkin into a carriage to transport Cinderella to the ball.

I too like to recycle and transform things in unexpected ways. Some old Polaroids I took during my A Level Photography course will make an appearance in my new artist's book, Big Teeth

The shoot was inspired in part by enigmatic symbolic/surrealist photographer Francesca Woodman, and in part by, you guessed it, Cinderella.

I've recently got back into taking Polaroids, and do seem to gravitate towards the colour gold (whether it's spray painting golden pumpkins or covering my face with gold reward stars); perhaps it's the warmth of Polaroid film which suits golden tones.
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I've just ordered some printable fabric, and plan on incorporating the Polaroids into the book as pockets which will hold embroidered handkerchiefs. For now though, it's back to stitching up the poem which runs through the book.

Treasures For Your Troubles

Once again, I'm back to my old tricks of hipster bingo (typewriting on Polaroids). This time around though, my efforts are a bit more considered. I hadn't bought Polaroid film in years, but when the idea for my Treasures For Your Troubles project popped into my head, I knew I had to get my hands on some for a very special shoot.

The idea of covering myself in gold stars, mundane rewards for struggling or succeeding through life, struck me as an arresting image, and one which would work particularly well in the soft tones of Polaroids. I'd written a few lines of sing-song poetry on the theme, which I decided to type on the frames of the Polaroids with my cursive typewriter (how analogue can you get?!) If you want to get really pretentious, I could say this was something of a self-care or self-affirming ritual. Or I could say it was just an excuse to cover myself in glitter (though who needs an excuse?)




This project is a celebration of the human spirit in all its absurdity, mess, and glory, and I think the ink smudges (which I dreamily imagine could be tear stains) and blotchily developed photographs, in all their beautiful imperfection, demonstrate this.

More Treasures For Your Troubles to follow...

At home in the universe


Every now and then, I need a little respite from making. I feel that being in nature is really important for the creative process, and helps me breathe. I've been kayaking a lot recently, which is a really novel and relaxing way to experience the city.

Now that spring is (finally) well and truly sprung, Pip and I took the opportunity to go on our most gothic date yet; a long overdue trip to the famous Highgate Cemetery, burial place of Karl Marx and many other thinkers, writers and celebrities.

The Cemetery really is "a haven of beauty and tranquility" as its website says; strolling around the graveyard one couldn't help but feel at peace, and sitting by the firefighters' memorial surrounded by birdsong and inquisitive, fearless robins was the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.

 The Cemetery is teeming with life; many graves are more like flower beds, covered with planted daffodils, primroses and pansies. I find the intersection of life and death inspiring and life-affirming; to know that we continue in the form of natural beauty when we die. A number of tombstones had been laced with ivy which had died back, leaving veinous patterns to add to their marble design.


Human design, too, was very inspiring here; there were many witty examples of gravestones the deceased or their families had chosen, from the tomb designed to look like a Penguin Book cover, to  pop artist Patrick Caulfield's sculptural grave, which reads, rather dryly, "DEAD".







When I was doing my A Levels, the topic of one of our Photography modules was "Links and Connections". I chose to look at the links between life and death, and, more specifically, at graveyards.

I also photographed a whale's spine decomposing on the beach of the tiny Highland hamlet my grandparents live in.

The vetebrae sticking up into the air put me in mind of the tombstones I was also photographing at various graveyards in the North West Highlands.

Visiting Highgate Cemetery reminded me of this, and it was a shame I didn't bring a better camera than my everyday digital one! I did, however, snap merrily away, and got many pictures of the profusion of flora and vegetation in the Cemetery, and the varied examples of design in the tombs, ranging from art nouveau to art deco, Sorry this post is so picture heavy; I did get slightly carried away:



I thought this was a particularly lovely epitaph.




Douglas Adams's grave, complete with an offering of pens to the writer

This woman had such a beautiful name; I wonder what her story was?


Blooms covering a "flowerbed grave"
...and luscious ferns


Patrick Caulfield's acerbic tombstone
Pat Kavanagh's art noveau-inspired gravestone


Jeremy Beadle's tomb was judged to be the one with the most books!


This woman is buried with her dog, Emperor




Somehow the erosion of statues like this one only adds to their romantic beauty


George Eliot's tomb




As it is perhaps the first week of tightsless weather this year, I couldn't resist dressing up for the day out in my new imitation-fifties frock (complete with petticoat), and genuine-fifties Polaroid sunglasses.



Now it's back to stitchin' for me; I will try to have my Melancholyflowers up on here this week; it's just that all that foliage is so fiddly (but I do love sewing it!)

Oh, to be young and insane.





Yesterday I stitched this play on the phrase "Oh, to be young and in love" on to an antique linen cross-stitched with a floral design my mum's colleague gave me... apparently it belonged to her mother (I'm not sure she'd be too impressed with my subversion of its glorious twee-ness!)


This may wind up becoming a part of my planned collaboration with my friend Jess, who has just joined the cool kids on Blogger.

Here's Jess enjoying the present I made her for her birthday. That's right, it is a chintzy floral tank.


Soon I'll post about my final university showing, but first here are some photographs of what Pip and I did today; messed around in the garden with my Polaroid cameras. I haven't got these babies out for years and years, I'm surprised the long-expired film worked so beautifully.

Here we are in all our soft-focus, light-leaky glory.

Taken by Pip on my Spectra



Taken by me with my Land 420
Pip again (there he is in the window) with the 420
And finally one my brother attempted to take of the pair of us, from which we are mysteriously absent. I still quite like it, though.


It was our six-month anniversary on Friday, and amongst other sickening gifts, I stitched Pip a letter on to a page from a Ladybird book of ducks and swans which Mark bought me.




I think I like the back better than the front.

(Pip calls me Pine Cone because I once sent him a pine cone in the post when I was pining for him... we share a weakness for awful puns.)