Posted in inspiration

In praise of others

Inverlieth Park Allotments

Because no man (or woman) is an island.

As I stated in a previous entry, I recently attended an event in Edinburgh’s City Arts Centre.  At the end of the day (that specific day, not the ‘at the end of the day’ phrase that is so popular ’round these parts) we were invited to visit the ‘Reflection’ exhibition. What a treat.  So, off I took myself to see the craft pieces and artworks of some rather talented people in and around this fine city.

The exhibition website blurb goes a little like this:

‘Reflection’ highlights the inspiring work of 22 artists and makers who have been supported by the Visual Arts Awards and Craft Maker Awards run by the City of Edinburgh Council in partnership with Creative Scotland since 2000. As well as reflecting on the talent that the city has supported throughout the first decade, the exhibition gives participating artists and makers the opportunity to reflect on their own development and creative practice over this period.

It was inspiring.  It was good.  And I was terrifically pleased to see Rachel Elliott’s work on display at this exhibition.  I met Rachel at the West End Art Fair in the summer of 2010.  I had rocked up with my print and textile wares and she had rocked up with her glassmakings.  It was love at first sight of LEDs as we had both been experimenting with those tiny lights of wonder in our artworks.  She had a small police chase scene with blinking lights in tiny glass cars and I had lit up windows in tenements.  Meeting Rachel felt like meeting someone that was floating along the same wave length and we had just sort of bumped into eachother.  Then again, she could totally disagree and might be thinking “Cassandra who?”.

Rachel’s piece on display at the exhibition is based on the subject matter of allotments.  Oh wow!  They are lovely.  The details are incredible and the fact that she created a piece on allotments, well, my Edgelands lovin, psychogeography traipsing self really delighted at this.  And bizarrely, a couple months ago I had been taking photos of my local allotment with a mind to make an artwork of those tiny sheds and wonky chairs.  Is it that something in the air again?

On the other side of the spectrum, on the other side of the water, my cousin’s son, Josh, is cranking out some mighty fine work.  How old is he now?  15? 16?  Apparently, he’s been covering his math books with impressive graffiti.  “Graffiti is more fun than Geometry.” Shamefully, I am glowing with pride.  Just remember, Josh, Geometry is full of building blocks.  If you miss out on something now, you’ll be utterly confused in a few weeks.  The grown-up version of me is telling you to do your school work to the best of your abilities.  Perhaps when you are trying to sort out the answer, drawing in the margins and on big empty sheets of paper will help you.  It did me.  But only slightly.  I scraped by with barely passing marks in that subject., but heck, my drawing skills were much improved!

Congratulations on your fine talent and good luck in your brilliant future. Maybe an introduction to Banksy would be good now.

Posted in inspiration, process

Making your work pay

On Friday I attended a workshop for artists and craftmakers.  This workshop was about finding ways to make your work pay.  Essentially.  Yes.  That was the gist of it and I am very thankful that this event existed and that there are things like this and groups and organisations out there with the goal of assisting artists at various stages of their careers.  Apparently, I am an ’emerging artist’ which makes me feel like I am slowly releasing myself from an egg; me and my unique-to-me batch of talents breaking out into the world.  Cheep cheep notice me tweets.

So.  It was all very good and we learned important things like the obvious:  If you don’t value yourself and your work, no one else will.  We did an exercise for finding the basic costs of creating a work and what was needed to not just break even but to *gasp* earn a living through your work.  Why do we as artists and makers feel so bad when we price our work according to what it and our time is worth?  The next time I put a price tag on my work, a price that is fair and  reflects the cost of materials and the cost of my time (as well as the expense of framing), I will not display it apologetically.  I value myself.  I value what I do.  And I swear to God I’m not ripping you off.

So really, it’s value for money.  Think of all the many hours you will enjoy this work.  Think of the thought, the time, the materials and the love that has gone into this.

A good lesson learned.

Part of the workshop also dealt with how to approach galleries, which I feel fairly confident about doing by this stage of the game.  Do your research.  Obviously.  Scope it out and make sure your’re a good fit for it and it for you.  Obviously.  Know the name of the person that runs the thing. Yes.  Yes.  All good advice and chalk full of common sense.

There was a spiel about networking that I backed away from.  Networking is necessary for my type of work and it is a valuable lesson to learn that making connections is vital.  What I don’t like is engineering a situation that feels false and is driven by the thought ‘what can this person do for ME?’  False and insincere:  this is NOT how I roll.  I prefer my connections to be organic, friendly, if there is anything I can do to help you then great and hey, if we both get something out of this then isn’t that a bonus.

I am pleased that I attended this chat, this discussion, this thing where there were about 30 of us asking questions and having them answered.  There is much to think about now.  Unfortunately, my brain felt it was vital to think on it last night and didn’t seem to shut off until 4am.  Let’s see if we can put that thinking time into more useful hours, like, on a Sunday afternoon at a cafe with something nice and hot sitting across from me – like a hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Posted in process

Last of the Connecting Thread commissions

This morning I finally completed the last of the Connecting Thread commissions. For those of you that are not aware of this massive project in which I threw myself whole-heartedly, may I please direct you to the blog. The art tour first planted itself into my mind nearly three years ago. Shoots sprung out and eventually it grew to encompass my entire life. At times it was exhilarating, exciting, I couldn’t believe I was doing it and at other times it was draining, exhausting, it tore my life apart (or so it felt) and I’ve had to recover a little from it. This is not an exaggeration.

And so. I have finally completed the last of the commissions from that project. As wonderful as the adventure was, I am ready to put it away – tucked up in its suitcase – and not look at it again for quite some time.

There are many good and new things on my horizon. I can now move on to completing commissions for a few Edinburgh Skylines, some family homes, a project for WORDfest Crawley and a piece to donate to the Fox Theatre in McCook to help raise funds for renovation. I’m also ready to get the print production going and start taking them into the shops that currently sell my originals. I think this is a useful step and am anxious to see how they are received.

It’s good to be able to physically put the past behind me. I have my box of Connecting Thread printed fabrics, several Exeter cathedrals, Homesteads, Stowford Papermills and McCook water towers left over from the tour. These will all be carefully folded and stored away. I may look at them again at some point. I may make something else of these. Or not.


Posted in galleries and shops

VAS Open Exhibition at the RSA and yeah baby, I got in!

Tonight I received the good news that one of my artworks has been selected to hang in the RSA.

This is the RSA, in case you aren’t familiar or from ’round these parts:


What a beauty.

I had a spin around the show last year and enjoyed the exhibition.  I’m very much looking forward to the show this year as it is inspiring to see the breadth of talent in this fine city.  And man, I just feel pretty lucky that the judges liked my piece.


Posted in inspiration

Edinburgh: I love this city

This morning, like practically every single morning since 2009, I latched the lead onto Josey’s collar and walked bleary eyed into the cold. Instead of walking our usual morning route, I mixed it up a bit (much to her confusion) and took her to Inverleith Park. The frost was still clinging onto the rooftops. There was a cold mist hanging about and we were clacking along the sidewalk, breathing in the sharp air.

We skirted around traffic, navigated our way around the various detrisus found along the path, then eventually found our way to one of the crossroads in the park. I looked behind me and couldn’t help but smile at the view spread out before me. The sky was a mix of pink, purple, gold, orange and that sharp silver colour that slices through winter skies. It was difficult to get the layout of the city as some bits were obscured by mist. The top part of Balmoral Hotel caught the light and St Giles made a wonderful silhouette.

My little explorer and I walked around the park, further up to the North side and saw the Pentlands looking dark and mysterious in the background. As I passed others doing their morning routine, we all commented to eachother about the gorgeous morning. I think I must have caught the school run crowd – mostly labrador owners. Dog of choice around these parts, I suppose, as they are good family pets and all.

So. That was our morning. Click click click click went the little Josey paws on the path. I kind of needed the morning to go a little like this.


Posted in news, process

A new thing

limited edition print


Limited Edition Print (50)

Image size: 8 inches x 6 inches


I have been toying with the idea of making limited edition prints of my original artworks.  After spending way too much time thinking about this and little time actually doing something about it, I’ve finally taken the step and oh my, am I ever so pleased with the quality.

My worry was that the print quality wouldn’t be able to capture the texture of the work and that the colour wouldn’t be as rich and deep as the fabric is in the flesh.  On two separate occasions, I showed the print to friends.  They both looked at the work and were confused that when they touched it, it didn’t feel like fabric.  They were expecting to feel the stitching under their fingertips.  And that, my friends, is how high quality these prints are.  I am so very pleased.

So the new thing is that I will be offering limited edition prints of some of my original artwork.  These will be on offer on my website and will soon be offered in some of the fine shops that stock my work.

I am also proud to announce that I was the first project for the The Garret Print Studio and I am very thankful for their fab skills.

Posted in process

Torness Power Station


This is the thing, the thing that I wrote about on Saturday night.  Although it is quite a lot different from a sketched idea that forced its way into my mind, I think this is good.  I think this is what needed to happen.  Today I am taking this to the framers so that I can take the complete article to something that will cause me to hold my breath and pray to be lucky again.

I’ll report back on this in a few weeks.

Posted in process


Have you ever been conscious of the point when you’ve done something or thought of something or had the light shimmer of an idea that then made you think ‘Ah yes.  This is a game changer.’?

This is the thing that I’ve been waiting for.  This is the thing, and I don’t honestly even know what ‘the thing’ is, but this feels like it.

Tonight, Saturday night, Date Night for many, work night for me, and I have been creating a new print of a building I enjoy seeing slide into view when I am on the Edinburgh to Newcastle train.  It glints in the sun.  It stacks up then disperses.  I’m not the only one to have noticed it and if you think hard enough, if you’ve been on that train enough, you have probably guessed what it is I’m talking about.

The other day I decided to make an artwork of this building.  I popped over to the fabric shop, pushed open the door and went down the stairs to the corner where I knew the fabric I needed was displayed in a tidy rainbow.  With the image in mind, I looked at the fabric, waiting for something to make sense.  The colour scheme needs to be just right for this to work.  I pulled out a deep purple, held it, then put it back.  I took out three more colours, put two back, picked out three others then looked at them as they overlapped.  I thought that I should also choose a blue and possibly a gray, but I changed my mind.  I took my selection to the counter to be cut.  As I stood there chatting to the Lady With Scissors, I saw a gorgeous little basket of fat quarters.  For the uninitiated quilt maker, fat quarters are used for quilting.  They are tidy cuts of fabric of an enormous variety of colour combinations, with a mind blogging number of patterns.  Amongst the pile, I saw a little fat quarter made of the colours I had brought to the desk. There were other colours in the fabric that worked well together.

By this time my fabric had been cut and my bill tallied.  I kept looking at that little fat quarter, then looked over at the bolts of fabric on the shelf, then at my own selection. No.  What I’ve chosen is fine.  These are fine.  She’s already tallied my bill so no, these are fine.  It’s good.

But it bothered me.  It kept bothering me and just as I almost turned my back on the idea, I walked over the to shelf and took down the blue and the gray.

I think that was the right choice.  And tonight, whilst I was creating the prints to use for the artwork, an idea flashed into my mind.  It was like an epiphany.  Yes!  This is what I will do!  And oh wow, this is the thing I’ve been waiting for.  If this works (IF IF IF) then this will be quite something.

I’m trying to listen to that small voice, from the beginning of a project all the way through to the end.  Which colours feel right?  What about the size of the work?  How about the positioning of things?  What looks right and what jars?  What is mediocre and what zings?

I’m also trying to listen to my intuition when it comes to choosing which projects to go ahead with.  I’m trying to decipher which ones are going to add to my life and which ones are going to suck the life out of me.

Yes.  That small something that knows.  It’s like you already know before you start.

Posted in galleries and shops, inspiration

Whoop, there I am

It's good to have friends

Obviously, I’m the one with the bow in her hair, like some kind of unopened gift. I am currently celebrating a birthday.  Currently as it appears to have started on the 3rd, was birthday proper on the 4th and at the weekend there will be another installment to the celebration.  There’ll be joy, there’ll be fun, there’ll be an outdoor treasure hunt in the blustery January drizzle.  Not sure how wise that was to plan an outdoor event this time of year.  My friends are robust though; I think they can handle it.

This birthday session has been the best I’ve had in years.  All the necessary elements were there:  friends and activities that are very much me.  Some of us took in a movie, ‘Another Earth’, which was thought provoking and chalk full of beautiful cinematography (I think they say in the trade).  Claire did have a freak out and wondered ‘Why aren’t they freaked out about the proximity of the other Earth?  It’s getting closer!  It’s going to smash into our Earth.  And isn’t that going to change the gravity?!’ Oh Dr Claire, your scientific mind is a wonder. That evening a gaggle of us met up for drinks and hilarity at a pub and then I sauntered on home, feeling very content with life.

Yesterday, Steph and I popped over to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and mooched around the Sculpture Show.  Upon arrival, we were confronted with a hyper realistic sculpture of a newborn baby, measured at several feet in length.  A Girl, created by Ron Mueck, is quite a sight to behold.  It held my attention for 15 minutes as I tried to comprehend the detail. The creation by John Davies, For The Last Time, caused a physical reaction in me; it almost made me feel sick. As you walk between the suited men creeping around the floor, looking sinister, you can’t help but feel like you want to retreat into another room.  I found it alarming, which is actually quite a trick for an artwork to cause such a strong reaction.

Friend and I then scooted on out and over to a rockin good sale at Urban Outfitters and yes, dear reader, one did gift herself a rather wonderful dress for  a tenner.

So now here I am, ready for work.  All the festivities have passed and now I must get serious.  Seriously stuck in to making shit happen. Wish me luck.

Posted in process

Surviving your reflection

This time of year can be brutal.  Normality suspends whilst you are put into all sorts of extreme situations. My ‘normality’ stopped well into December, when I was busying myself with visiting friends, cranking out work at an alarming rate, feeding on food stuffs that aren’t exactly ideal.  Then with a resounding thump, Christmas Day landed on my doorstep.

As I walked Josey down the street to our favourite walkies place, I could see the Christmas trees in the big windows of my neighbours’ homes, lit up, inviting, waiting for a families to settle around them.  My family are all clustered over there in the states.  This year, I decided to expand the definition of ‘family’ and brought my friends into that category.

That afternoon I enjoyed good company and good food with a great bunch of people.  Even when I came back home to my dark, quiet flat, I could still feel the warmth of the day surrounding me. I want more of this.

After Christmas you are then faced with New Years and hours of excruciating reflection on the past year and hopes for the new.  You pick yourself apart, your life apart, think about what you want less of and more of.  This time of year forces you to look yourself in the face full on and see the imperfections but also see all the beautiful things that you should be thankful for.

Sometimes it seems that this time of year is the most difficult to survive, however, it is necessary to stop.  Just stop.  Look at yourself.  Look at your life.  What are you living for?  You pick it to pieces, examine the bits that amount to your existance…and then what?  You decide.  And then you step forward with purpose into your brand new shiny batch of months.

What have I decided for myself?  I have decided that relationships are key.  I have decided to also pare back down to basics and to not put incredible pressure on myself with a zillion things to accomplish this year.  My first priority is to find a teaching job, followed close by keeping my work and contacts  in the galleries up-to-date and happy with my output.  I’m thankful for the commissions I have already scheduled in for the year as this will feed my need to create and make me feel very much like me. Once the teaching job gets fixed into place and I feel like I have room for something more, I will move forward with my next big project.

And just in a couple days, I turn into a new year of me.  I’m hoping for much less of the bad kind of drama in my 35th year.