Posted in inspiration, process

The beginning of an idea

My latest fascination seems to be learning about that moment when an idea plants itself in the mind.  Zillions of thoughts go zinging in and out and all about the brain yet among all of those imc0mplete thoughts, urges, suggestions, what is it that causes us to notice one particular blip?  I like the story when that small word or short sentence or feeling is siezed and what happens to the mind and life of the person carrying that idea into something tangible, something lived.

Recently, I took myself on a date to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  I thoroughly enjoyed the company, stayed as long as I liked and lingered in rooms that I felt like lingering in (and of course rushed through the rooms that didn’t hold my interest).  There were two exhibitions that grabbed me: photographs of Glasglow slums in the 1860s and the Scottish Family Portrait series focusing on recent photographs of immigrant families from Pakistan.  With the latter, it is actually the short film “Fragments of a Love Story” by Sana Bilgrami that cut right through to my current fascination.

It all began with a photograph of a girl in a family photo album.  Sana had been looking through the album with a relative and had seen this photo, one small photograph taken nearly 100 years ago.  The photograph was of a girl and no one could explain who she was.  This was what sparked the spark, this was the small ‘zing’ that flashed through the filmaker’s mind, the question of “Who is she?” that started her on a fascinating course to uncover deeper truths about her family.  The film is only 15 minutes and every one of those minutes is captivating.  I want to send Sana a message to tell her how her work has made an impact, how it moved people to stop and look and listen and feel and think and all of those things that art is capable of doing.

My favourite quote from the film, grandmother to camera: “…but destiny chooses what is to happen.”

Over the Christmas holiday, I was given a most spectacular book.  This is the book:

Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed

My love of big, slabtastic structures isn’t much of a secret.  I think this intrique began when I decided that actually, Trinity Car Park wasn’t hideous.  In fact, she was downright beautiful.  The big, cement slab structure that once occupied the Gateshead skyline transfomred itself from an eyesore to something quite wonderful to behold.

A very good friend of mine gave me this book as he is very aware of my peculiar interest.  Flicking through the pages was a long string of happy moments.  Eventually, I read the artist’s words, explaining his project and his infatuation with the structures he photographed.

“This project came about by chance.  It began with a second-hand book bought on a sidewalk in Tbilisi one day in August 2003.”  Frederic Chaubin then goes on to explain how the events unfolded from starting as a small light of interest, building itself up into a personal delight of visiting such places, eventually manifesting itself into an outrageously rockin’ book.

That one small idea.  That one small fragile insignificant thought that was heard.  What amazing things happen to our lives when we listen to that thing that tugs at the soul.


Posted in inspiration

“Don’t forget to look up”

Many years ago, whilst living in Kansas City, my friend Jovan and I were walking in my neighbourhood. Well, we often walked in my neighbourhood, but this one day in particular has stuck in my mind. The day was a day in Spring or Summer or Fall but really, the time of year doesn’t matter for this story. We were walking down the street and Jovan made an observation of me.

“Why do you always look down when you walk?”

I didn’t have an adequate answer. Maybe I mumbled something about being afraid of tripping over a crack in the sidewalk, or possibly tripping over my own feet.

“Cassandra, you are missing out on so much. Don’t forget to look up and see all the beautiful things around you.”

Jovan doesn’t know, but all these many years later I am taking his advice to heart. Sometimes I forget to look up; I forget to take in my surroundings and notice the beautiful things happening around me. Today I reminded myself to look up. The sky was doing something quite extraordinary and I just happened to be at just the right place to see how the dramatic sky contrasted itself against the curved, hard edge of a row of Georgian homes. And yesterday, whilst walking in my neighbourhood, I looked up and saw the lines of the most elegant curves.

Note to self: Don’t forget to look up.



Posted in process

When life gives with one hand then backhands you with the other

Worry (Listen to this and read on)

Woke up this morning to dog sick, immediately followed by a call from the garage telling me that my car repair bill was going to be way on the wrong side of £500.

I have been coasting on a wave of good vibes and positive experiences so am a bit annoyed to have been whalloped twice in one morning with two very unpleasant things.  I’m annoyed that the rockin art sales have suddenly had a massive bite taken out of them and I’m sure there will be a small cry of despair when I go to collect my car later and pay out my hard earned earnings.  It’s life.  This is to be expected.

It is with much hesitation that I look into the wide open mouth of 2012 and wonder how I’m going to make it through.  I realize Christmas hasn’t even arrived yet, however, there isn’t much else I can do right now to earn a bit of much needed cash.  I have done the market.  My work is out in galleries and shops, all nice and stocked up.  All I can really do is sit here and hope people buy my handprinted, hand stitched, individually made pieces.  And yet I sit here and feel the worry reaching in, creeping its nasty little fingers along my spine, telling me to look at my not-so-distant future with concern and fear.

I have identified you, thing that causes worry, and I’m not going to entertain you much more today.  There are plans set in place, plans that will begin to take shape in January.  There are a few commissions to start off the year.  One commission using a new print and LED action.  I am so excited about this.  There are also the 5 remaining commissioned pieces left to complete from The Connecting Thread exhibition.  My days will also be filled with finally getting my teaching qualification sorted in Scotland.  The fun bit will be to convince some fine school to hire me as their art teacher.  Will my winning smile and experience be of interest to them?  I hope so.

Working, planning, plotting, scheming then doing – I feel that I have done my bit so life, can you please step forward and meet me halfway.

Posted in inspiration, process

The one about Coriolanus, Q and A, and the man down the row

Last night a friend whisked me off to see Coriolanus at the Cameo.  When I was alerted to the fact that I was being whisked away to see Shakespeare, I very quickly did some research, online style, as I didn’t have time to go out and purchase the text.  I really struggle with Shakespeare and find that I enjoy seeing it if I have worked my way through it before seeing it on stage, grappling with the words to figure out the plot, who the main players are and twists to look out for.  I may have abandoned a play midway through once because I just couldn’t figure out what was going on.  To my shame I admit this, but at least I haven’t given up.  It’s worth my time and impatience to struggle with it until I’ve teased out the meaning, until I’ve somehow unlocked it for myself and ‘get’ the story shrouded in wording that is unfamiliar. Or something like that.

So.  The movie was very good and I must say that the mother was by far my favourite in the line up.  I liked the music that punctuated the scenes, the video footage, the contrast of the characters and places as characters were all very good.  In my opinion.  Which may not be worth very much. This is really all I’m going to say about it as I’m certainly not a critic.  I just know what I like.

What I liked even more than the movie was the Q and A afterwards.  Sorry, but I didn’t catch the name of the guy interviewing Mr Fiennes.  Said man was beautifully turned out and spoke in a most excellent Scottish accent.  The chairs and mics were set and then, down the left aisle, walked Mr Fiennes.  What was it?  A frisson?  There was that and rapt attention.

It was interesting to hear Mr Fiennes discuss the struggles behind getting this thing moving.  He talked about the road blocks of financial struggles, set backs and when he was asked if that just made him feel almost like giving up, his response was a very direct No.  Not at all.  If anything it spurred him on to try even harder, to fight for something he knew was worth fighting for.  He had this idea that started out quite small and fragile, he believed in it, he envisaged how it would play out and then it just took over.  (These aren’t his words, but my interpretation of what he said).  That determination, fight and passion I know in myself.  It resonated as I’m sure it resonates with anyone striving to make a dream into something tangible.  Lived.  I decided that I liked Mr Fiennes very much.

Now to reel you back a bit – before the movie started, there was a man sitting 4 people down from me reading The List.  He had flicked the pages to my page, was reading the art exhibition listings and then read my blurb.  I’m embarassed to say that I actually stared at him while he did this as I have never seen anyone looking at my work before.  Mentally, I was screaming ‘I’m down here!  I did that!’ but alas, he didn’t look up.  Which is fine.  It would have been uncomfortable if he had clocked me staring.

Posted in news

The List (Edinburgh and Glasgow) Dec – Jan edition

And here it is. A photograph of the page where my work and bio appear in The List. Here’s the link to the online version, which shows a totally different artwork, but hey, you won’t hear any complaints out of me. A few weeks ago a journalist from The List contacted me via my website contact page, asking for information as he wanted to feature me in the Central Station slot in the magazine. Me? You mean…me? This is no false modesty. I didn’t really advertise this possibility until I saw it for myself in print. I did think that they would read the bio and think ‘Oh, uhm, well, she didn’t graduate from Edinburgh or Glasgow or London so uhm, should we look for someone else?’ or some other kind of you’re-not-who-we-thought-you-were type of thinking. Oh Cassandra. Why must you think like this?

This morning I walked to the Fruitmarket Gallery, saw the latest version of the magazine and quickly flicked through the pages to find myself. And there I was. So, I guess they were serious after all. I bought three copies: One for myself, one for my family in Nebraska and one for my family in Cleveland.

How am I feeling about all this? Well. Hm. What to say. I feel vindicated. I feel vindicated because I have spent a good many years hearing that maybe I ought to do something else more serious, more stable. You know, because I’m looking out for you. And you know, you may have been a big deal in your small town, but this isn’t your small town. So really, you ought to maybe put this aside and do something else. In no way do I (or have I ever) felt like a big deal. I do, however, work very hard and am a believer in the idea that hard work and passion and putting out your antenna will get you to where you want to be.

I feel like my decisions have been vindicated. This is the path to be on and I feel very confident about my steps and will feel even more confident about the ones to follow. Thank you very much Central Station and The List for noticing me. You totally made my year.


Posted in process

Office Space

This is my work space, quite small and very tidy. I find clutter a hindrance and must begin each project with a clean white surface. What I’m not showing is the space around my space. The walls are busy with illustrations I love, with photographs that are meaningful, with post cards sent from concerned and caring people. The shelves are busy holding up books and making attempts to keep my printed cloths tidy and crease free. The latest addition is a sad, tilted tree wearing a garland and some baubles.
My good friend Pete alerted me to a blog dedicated to work spaces. From Your Desks will keep you busy for several happy hours.


Posted in galleries and shops, process

Laurel Gallery, St Stephen Street, Stockbridge

Today I dropped off three artworks to be displayed and hopefully sold at Laurel Gallery on St Stephen Street.  My delight at this was possibly masked by my husky voice, sniffles and spluttering due to a cold I contracted over the weekend.  Shame about the cold, but great about the gallery!

A few weeks ago I had wandered about my neighbourhood checking out the galleries and trying to figure out which one would be a good fit for my work.  There were plenty of great, amazing spaces, but which one felt right for me?  With my friend in tow and our eyes and minds open, we took in visual information, stepped out of the space, conferred, then walked on.  When we exited Laurel Gallery we both agreed that this one would suit me best.  So I did a very brave thing…and asked them to frame something for me, which was more of a cop out than a brave thing.  When I went back to collect the work, I finally asked if they would like to stock my pieces and thankfully the lovely lady with the nice smile and cheery disposition said ‘yes’.

So that’s me then.  On St Stephen Street in Stockbridge.  I am so pleased.