My new year's resolution for 2015 was to get over my fear of drawing. Despite going to art school, as of January 2015 I had seldom drawn since my A Levels save to sketch an outline on to fabric to be embroidered over.
Life drawings from my A Level days
The resolution got off to a slow start, with just the few sketches below completed in a very amateurish way, even with my Mum booking us both on to a four week life drawing class recently.
Below are the sketches completed solo and in collaboration with others on the four week "Mark Your Mark" life drawing class, which I heartily recommend to artists of all abilities.
These sketches are designs for screen prints, which I will share here soon.
Myself and artists Katrina Bautista and Cheri Smith have started something of an artist's salon to exchange ideas, collaborate, and draw together. The most recent session resulted in the drawing below, the first drawing I am truly proud of since my A Level days. I sometimes find being with such talented artists intimidating, but these two inspire me, and I'm really excited to share the zine we are working on together.
A very Merry Christmas to you from the moveable feast that is Stitch Witches headquarters. As I sit, stuffed as the turkey I’m stuffed with, glass of red in hand, I ponder how to make the glitter-covered (a Stitch Witches must) festive season just a touch more… ghoulish.
Possibly with the addition of a Stitch Witches rosette, printed with an illustration by Hanecdote and adorned with spiders, scaredy cats, or spluttering slime green candles?
Or an otherworldy Stitch Witches loveheart brooch, decorated with ghostly green and lavender gems and sequins?
These and more will be available to buy (or perhaps even win) in the run up to the release of Stitch Witches zine #1. The zine is coming on apace; here is my most recently completed page for it; I won’t give anything else away apart from to say that Polly Kettle is an artistic alter-ego of mine, and certainly lives up to her “mystifying” tag line.
Hannah is something of a one-woman stitching machine, constantly churning out occult-themed t shirts and accessories (but only of the highest quality), many of which are inspired by Stitch Witches, or will appear in its pages or in other merchandise.
We’ve both been featured (or are about to be featured!) in other zines over the past couple of months. Hannah’s “CREEP” patch above will appear in OOMK zine, along with (fingers crossed) a piece by me on putting on an exhibition in my parents’ bay window this summer.
We’ve also both had art featured in the most recent issue of Girls Get Busy zine. Girls Get Busy is “a non-profit feminist collective supporting female writers, musicians and artists with a monthly zine. Based in London, UK and curated by Beth Siveyer“. My piece, “Hysterical Woman“, is on the very first page (I can’t pretend not to be a little bit proud and smug about that):
I made my fellow Stitch Witch a little Christmas package of witchy goodies, which arrived at the same time as her copy of Girls Get Busy. Hannah took some great photographs of her swag, and I’m glad she liked my silly little gifts so much (and that they, and the zine, coordinate with her nail polish!):
One thing’s for sure this Christmas; Stitch Witches are certainly on the up. I’m looking forward to 2013, and all the creativity it will bring, immensely. All that remains to be said is, once again, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good ghoulish night.
No sun – no moon! No morn – no noon - No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day. No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, No comfortable feel in any member - No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! - November!
This (abridged) poem by Thomas Hood seems to encapsulate the way many people feel about the penultimate month of the year. I’ve been having some conversations with friends and customers recently which would certainly seem to suggest so! Some friends have suggested that everything always goes wrong in November, and one customer in the café where I work wondered if it was in human’s mammalian nature to want to hibernate through the winter months; if perhaps the human race collectively has a mild form of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
In (dis)honour of this miserable time of year, I am currently working on an altered book. What To Look For InWinter, written by E.L. Grant-Watson and illustrated by C.F. Tunnicliffe, was first published in 1959 by Ladybird Books. It invites young people into the wintry natural world and reveals for them the surprising activity and vivacity of the winter months, beginning with the end of autumn and ending with the very onset of spring.
By today’s standards the book is rather quaint, but nevertheless utterly enchanting. It’s made me stop and consider the wonders of winter as well as the hardships.
Therefore, I am embroidering my own texts on winter on to some of the illustrative pages, taking care that these have an interplay with the images, and with the words which go alongside them. I see this as a collaborative effort between the original writer and illustrator and myself, to create a work which is almostpsychogeographical.
The book itself has been weathered (and indeed, looks wintered) over the years; one side of the front cover has been chewed up (whether by mould or an animal I’m not sure).
I feel as if there is a real dialogue opened up for me, and hopefully for readers and viewers, by this book; is “what to look for in winter” what to look out for in winter – sickness, depression, and doldrums, or is it what to look hard for in winter, in spite of this – the strange beauty in all its sparse desolation, and the promise of spring?
Me on the left, Beth in the middle, and Hannah on the right
Despite my slightly tipsy state, Hannah and I really hit it off, and immediately started considering working together on a project. A few days and emails later, we had begun to outline what Stitch Witches would look and feel like.
We were both intrigued by girl gangs, slightly occult themes, the few remaining taboos of modern society, and, most importantly, stitching!
Both being quite heavily involved in the young feminist art scene, and given where we met, we decided that our medium would be a zine, and thus Stitch Witches was born.
We plan on making the zine available to purchase in November, and will be doing a post-Halloween giveaway to get people in a suitably ghoulish mood!
Hannah has already produced reams of art and design for the zine, and I’ve written some of the text and designed a membership certificate (my next task is to make Stitch Witchesrosettes!)
Here are some photographs from one of our (very high level business) planning meetings:
Here is my second collaboration with composer Joe Donohoe. This one, The Alchemist, has quite a different feel to Kiss the Book, in that it is brighter, both musically and in subject matter, being more of a "straight" love poem than the more cynical Kiss the Book. This time around I sent Joe the text of the poem and he composed out of that, recording my vocals afterwards. Joe used composing software to simulate tuned percussion and violins, and I think the results are very beautiful.
A few shots of the embroidery which accompanies the sound piece
The text of The Alchemist reads:
My words always did look prettier in your mouth, you alchemist
Always taking lumps of coal and dreaming them into diamonds Making something out of nothing with the slightest
Sleight of hand or
Flick of the wrist;
You undid the buttoned-up British stiff upper lip at the collar,
Slipped that starched white surgical ruff off of the
Draft diamond, gave it room to respire,
A pause for a breather;
Then went mining beneath its varnished veneer,
Told me to take my medicine when i told you i belonged back in the coal scuttle, Only just no longer merely a minor, so why don’t you try her,
Before she slips back down the mine shaft to try for another?
I want to kiss you on the mouth; I want to kick you in the teeth, Oh take out your molars and string ‘em up into a necklace and
I’ll wear you always, strung up and strung out and resting soft as clouds of
Cubic zirconium all along my collarbones;
Oh boy you just about knock me out.
Today I am sewing my next piece (which will remain shrouded in mystery until it is unveiled), listening to a lot of angry girl music (such as The Horrorpops and The Dresden Dolls!), and checking out internships at The Tate. Got a few more collaborations on the way and very happy to be busy.
This is the result of my first collaboration with Joe Donohoe; we recorded my monologue/prose poem, and Joe then added atmospheric sounds of East London at night, together with an out-of-tune chord harp. The embroidery in the video illustrates one of the lines from the monologue.
The embroidery is currently on show at the Pharmacy of Stories as part of the Here Is My Heartexhibition.
The title Kiss the Book is a reference to a line spoken by Stefano the drunken butler in Shakespeare's The Tempest. The "book" of the line is in fact a bottle of alcohol.
The text of Kiss the Book imagines a romance between two self-styled tortured artists:
Kiss the Book
In later days the latter day lady lit her Marlboro Light and skipped lightly to the front of a 10,000 strong queue waiting on cheap thrills not one of us could afford (yes, we sold our very souls for the promise of a Parker pen and possible publication).
The background noise of barely mentioned sexual tension’s got me jumpy, buzzing in my ears like a pneumatic drill setting my teeth on edge.
So bring your lips to the battle and I’ll bring a bottle (the truth is I haven’t been kissed in a while), and we’ll wear our best black boot polish berets atop dreaming (a)spire heads. Blacker-toothed and blue-lipped, let’s riddle ourselves with writer’s cliches like other teens catch sexual diseases.
But don’t sweat it babe, bard, it’s quite legit, I carry a Poetic License for use in the event of romantic circumstances like these. If you amuse me, I’ll have you with my morning museli. You’ll briefly be my brightest burning muse. And valorously, vaingloriously, we’ll fur our teeth over with velour, spooning with a desperate fervour, for revolution, for a resolution to our private privileged hells.
Our teeth are furred over like cheap velour by cheaper wine whilst we worry the kerb, licking biro-bled blue-black lips, cursing the orange sky, cultivating Scrooge sentiments, stoppering our hearts before a drop is spilt. Dry ice breath puncturing the air, punctuating our sentences with commas, a brief breather between my romantic comas.
You and I might be the last remaining sufferers of Celia Johnson Syndrome, forsaking feelings for public decency, drinking to loosen stiff upper lips, awakening to find starched white surgical ruffs buttoned back up beyond the collar. Still, we are still so young and lost, on booze, lust, wanderlust. Wilted English roses grown pallid and wan, wandering moors, moaning “Willoughby, Willoughby” at thin air for hours.
Today I recorded a spoken word piece with good friend and composer/ambient musician Joe Donohoe. We will be working together for the duration of The Cure For Love project, translating my poetry and prose poetry on love into sound pieces. These will include sound textures from Walthamstow in East London, where we both hail from, together with Joe's own original compositions.
Joe performing Hope/For Daniel at the Secret Garden, at Bossanyi Studios in West London: