Saturday, 13 June 2015

I am taking a sabbatical...

I am finding it difficult to keep up with this blog mainly due to the fact that my MA blog is taking precedence. So this one is either neglected and/or repetitive, also I am doing very little else apart from my MA that I can write about!
Therefore I have decided that until I complete my MA I must give this one a rest. I shall return in November 2016, meanwhile PLEASE follow my 'State of Flux' blog... also I would appreciate ANY comments AT ALL.
Thank you so much for reading and I shall see you on the other side :-)

Daphne's Glove (reverse)

Sunday, 3 May 2015

About Chernobyl - copied and pasted from me to me...

I can't decide whether to have this AND my MA blog running or combine the two, what does anyone think?
For now I'm copying and pasting the post I've just written about my Chernobyl trip from my MA blog!
Hotel in Pripyat Plaza
Some said 'brave', some couldn't understand why we would even wish to go there, some were envious…we (me, my partner, my 2 x 21 year old daughters and one boyfriend - I was very impressed they all desperately wanted to come) were excited and really had no idea what to expect.
Personally and ostensibly it was for my MA research (though no excuse needed) and I was looking forward to meeting the re-settlers and to discover their reasons for choosing to go back and live on the edge of the exclusion zone which is still a very dangerous place to live due to the invisible enemy  'radiation poisoning'. It has been said that the longevity of the re-settlers lives is due to their quality of life and happiness in being 'home' which negates the effects of the radiation. The dangers of which is more  preferable to them than living in a city's high-rise away from their farms and the countryside. 

Ivan (Mikhail) Ivanovitch, Security (!) and Ivan's house
Me and a happy Ivan
However, after my visit, I realised there were so many other aspects regarding the 'Chernobyl issue' that I couldn't confine my interest to just the re-settlers and I have reverted to my original thoughts about dark tourism, collective trauma and collective memory, then overarching or underpinning this, the 'correctness' of interpreting such unspeakable, atrocities and heinous issues via an aesthetic means. (N.B. I may be visiting Auschwitz later this year).

The trip itself was mesmerising (for want of a better word) from start to finish. There were days either side spent in Kiev and an airbnb apartment which were fantastic, although kind of 70's, and unbelievably cheap.

Back to the 2 days spent in Chernobyl. Radiation dose expected equivalent = one hospital x-ray.
We were with (fantastic!) - a tour, only/easiest way to get in, and of a very mixed group, 17 persons and a guide. There were other families and some couples, some groups of friends and a few people travelling alone which was a very nice mix. People from USA, Finland, Germany, Austria, Spain, Sweden, UK and Switzerland at least, which I loved and people of all ages 18 -70.

On the minibus on the way to the power plant + Laura
 We weren't quite sure exactly where we were going and in what order but this was where we went, in order (I think!) This was after we checked in at the hotel, in CHERNOBYL, within the 30km exclusion zone, which extends on the north side into Belarus, Russia.  We have stayed in much worse Travelodges in the UK. The food was, shall we say, interesting - plain and typical Ukrainian food,  and the blob of tomato sauce on the side of plain pasta or rice we found quite amusing. Every meal was a set menu (all inclusive :-) and we were all served at the same time, it reminded me of school trips abroad years ago.

DAY 1: 

Abandoned house in Chernobyl town
  • Chernobyl Town: 
The Angel of Death monument/memorial 

  • Rusting boats - docks (quickly & from a distance)

  • Robots (used in the clean up operation)

  • (small) Kindergarten 

  • Cooling towers of unfinished reactor 5 & 6, due for opening in 1988 for Reactors 5 and 6 

  • Chernobyl nuclear power plant

  • Reactor number 4 - viewing platform and VERY close
Fireman memorial
Bridge & giant catfish

  • Reactor number 4 & Memorial

  • New sarcophagus ('safe' distance)

  • Pripyat ''Ghost City'': (inhabitants were given two hours notice to evacuate, almost two days after the explosion - already too late)
Prometheus cinema

  • Local Council Admin Building
Pripyat Plaza-

  • Polesie Hotel

  • Palace of Culture: "Energetik" 

  • Amusement park

  • Soccer stadium - Stadium Avangard
Middle/Grammar school 

  • Swimming pool 
(in use by the liquidators and other people working in the Zone up until 1996)
  • Tower block 

(roof of)
We got back to the hotel sometime before 8pm (there's a curfew), had dinner and sampled the bar.
Oh, there are no toilets in Chernobyl/Pripyat that you can actually use, only bushes (!) so be prepared to wait up to 6 hours if you're like me, then also be prepared for the most awful toilet ever which is located at the checkpoint... not sure it was better than a bush to be honest.

Radiation detectors going in and out of the exclusion zone
DAY 2: 

  • Chernobyl Zoo (I would say small farm or pets corner)

  • Bridge of Death; where people flocked to watch the flames of the explosion and consequently received lethal doses of radiation. I think if it had happened at Hartlepool, the people of Billingham would have probably done the same. Also, there were people travelling on a train going under the bridge on their way to Moscow at the time of the explosion who also received very high dosage of radiation, an extreme case of wrong place, wrong time.

  • Pripyat:
 Hospital, one of my favourite places, very emotional and evocative.

  • Combined School (collapsed in April 2013- the snow that falls in the winter has caused most of the damage to the city, I think soon it will all possibly be too destructed to visit)

  • Telephone exchange?
Jupiter Factory (could have stayed here all day)
Police station and cells with exercise yard
Old Fire Station (with garage), all the men who worked here died.

  • Kindergarten 2 ( a bigger one)

  • Open air military museum (possibly, it was somewhere with trucks)

  • Meeting local inhabitants in the Resettlement zone (unbelievable and great for my research) I have recorded an interview but can't get it off my phone as yet.

  • Late lunch at power station (an experience, I wouldn't like to eat there every day - rumour has it it's always exactly the same) - there are still workers building the new (overdue) sarcophagus which will protect the world from the radiation that is still being emitted and possibly escaping as we speak through the holes in the old one.

  • Vehicle graveyard - Chernobyl (possibly through the red forest - I wasn't even sure where we were at the time)
Swimming Pool, Pripyat
Gymnasium, Pripyat
Pripyat, can't remember which building it was

I am now desperate to return and hopefully this time next year I will. I found out so much information, one thing I hadn't realised was that a second, more powerful explosion was only very narrowly avoided, one which would have wiped out the whole of Europe -completely. We were so unaware. And 'Tens of thousands of Soviet citizens filed into Chernobyl to help, considering it their patriotic duty; all were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation with no warning from the government.'
 And did you also realise that the Chernobyl disaster was instigation for Glasnost and the fall of the USSR. It truly did change the world in many ways. 'According to Gorbachev, the Chernobyl explosion was a turning point that “opened the possibility of much greater freedom of expression, to the point that the system as we knew it could no longer continue.”
Reactor No.4, the bad part is behind the concrete blocks
Inside the unfinished cooling tower

An overview of the disaster and situation is here.

The whole experience was like NOTHING I have ever experienced before. The pictures you see on the internet give NO indication of the feeling you get by being there. It is truly amazing, I have never seen anything/anywhere like it in my life… it is the most unbelievable, disconcerting, silent, strangely beautiful place I believe I will ever see.
I still haven't managed to work my way through all my photographs so these are just a very small selection of the first lot- it is SO difficult to give a good indication of the whole trip. I will publish a couple of albums on my Facebook page as soon as possible.
Men working on the new sarcophagus
Housing block in Pripyat
Changing rooms - football stadium
Ferris wheel built for Mayday 1986
Children's coat hooks in the Kindergarten

Inside the cooling tower
Poster inside the school

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Daphne’s Glove OR ‘The presence of Daphne’s absence’ OR ‘Traces of Daphne’…

THE glove: in original and negative form
This is a collective project I was asked to participate in many months ago. I knew it would be difficult alongside everything else I have taken on but it sounded exciting, it was flattering to be invited and the deadline was way off. The deadline is no longer way off, in fact it is the end of this month and is galloping towards me. The project will culminate in a joint exhibition with 11 other artists and our, well their progress is documented through social media so please look here... ‘A Group Gathering’

I have found it incredibly difficult to try and fit this project in but I have been determined since the beginning to create something aesthetically pleasing at the very least. However, it has, I admit, been much more difficult than I thought. And now it has come to producing the final piece my intentions are faltering again. Technically, I keep disappointing myself. 

My thoughts and ideas have only slowly taken shape and evolved. I wanted to ‘suggest’ the absent wearer (Daphne), a trace of her if you will, hopefully to provoke a sentiment, a connection, questions…
For my MA I have been researching memory; items left behind that suggest past lives, then conversely objects that could/would be evocative but are no longer there (physically) and trying to work out how to invent this using fabric and thread.
After much experimentation into technique albeit based on a different visual, I thought I had an excellent plan for Daphne’s glove. The reality is though that great ideas rarely look so great when immediately put into practice. So I struggle on…
I am working on a fabric piece, eventually using a somewhat darker palette than I started with, suggesting/indicating that Daphne has passed, though her femininity and  (futile?) attempts at ‘ladylike-ness’ remain.
Using screen printing techniques and a photographic, negative image of the (opened) glove I have ‘removed’ the image from the fabric only leaving an imprint of it, just as Daphne did on life. 
Paper stencil + open screen

The florals were printed using a stencil inspired by a pattern on a piece of torn wallpaper I photographed in an abandoned derelict house discovered in Cork, earlier this year – a room forgotten. I originally wanted the piece to be faded, imperceptible, almost not there but growing with vibrancy, detail and colour towards the ‘end’, that time when you no longer care about what other people think or how they see you, caution to the wind and all that. 
Original colour thoughts
However using the dark background means the discharged elements stand out starker than I first wanted.
Discharged dye

I could overdye the whole thing but I would prefer the glove to stay white so I may dip dye the lower part of the design to knock it back a little, although I really like the contrast. We shall see after I have slept on it. Then I MUST start stitching! I sampled the domestic digital machine as it is all I will have access to for a while but I do intend to also hand embroider…quickly! 
Machine embroidered sample

Thursday, 19 March 2015


These are some of the prints I did at the weekend... there is one I love as is (for now and not shown). There are 4 that have potential within a collection (of what I'm not sure/worrying about) with more work; i.e. more layers of print, perhaps some overdying and some embroidery. There are also two that are awful and unresolvable.

Faded and worn detail
But as I am itching to get started on some design work I am just flinging out initial ideas using 'materials', I'm sure whatever they finally turn into will be a million miles away from these samples.  My own suggestion to myself is that I aim for a collection of just beautiful fabrics for now and worry about that or see where it goes later.
Discharge on Indigo, screenprint
I think this has got something

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Scrap Exchange #collagecontest

detail - laser tree

mine + Lani's

just me
The story goes... in December I think it was, I was emailed details of my 'partner in collage' - Lani.

It was a Facebook thing ran by Papirmass and Brown Paper Bag and there were some big collage names involved. It sounded really interesting and as I love collage and it sounded quite straightforward I decided to sign up. We would be matched with someone from anywhere in the world which was rather exciting and we would exchange scraps and then each/all make a collage combining our own bits and pieces and our partner's.
I duly received my match; living about 30 miles away! 
I missed the deadline. 
I've been so busy and by the time the scraps were exchanged (over Christmas!) it was not a good time. However and luckily I found that the deadline had been extended so breathing a sigh of relief, set to work. It didn't take too long when I finally got down to it... and I think the result is 'interesting' and it was fun. So...good times :-)
Now, what to do with it?!
It doesn't fit with my MA work (shown above) but that's the beauty of it I guess.
Now, on with the next deadline... coming soon.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Some Sketchbook Stuff...

I took a look at my (MA) sketchbook this week... I was worried that my concept wasn't coming through in a focused enough way. I know why, and it does generally. But I wanted to take my own advice and get the initial ideas out of my head and down on paper (in order to let it later develop and hopefully get more fabulous almost accidentally), so I could get on with trying to visually communicate (perhaps through embroidery), what the main point actually is.

It was fun and lovely and I intend to do (a lot) more this weekend. This time I may even do some stitching. I am so excited about it at the moment, slightly worried at the same time but this is what I love and if I get to do what I love at least some of the time, how amazing is that? I am hoping I am snowed in for at least a week.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

A blog from my other blog...about 'Contested Territories': Seaton Carew & Seacoaling

So I've been busy.... sampling and trying to figure out my final exhibition piece. The pressure is on as this will be the first piece of work my MA peers will have ever seen of mine so obviously I want it to look good BUT the piece of work itself is not assessed so... a quandary. What IS being assessed is the 'writing' that goes with it, the collaboration that has taken place, the resulting group exhibition and the research (I guess.
As usual, it quickly became clear that the idea in my head was not going to look as amazing as I imagined, and that, almost as soon as I started sampling. I decided to work on 3 identical pieces of fabric - a medium weight linen which would support any embellishments and still hang nicely, I dyed them all the same sandy beige/taupe base colour (with coffee because it always works) in various densities. Then I etched my illustrator drawing of the Hartlepool, Seaton Carew, Teesside coastline - I wanted a clean crisp line and my thinking was that it would not only be a hypothetical border but also a barrier - to the indigo dye I intended to handpaint with... I hoped it would stop at the line, which it actually did in a few tests. It was rather successful (until I washed it and it frayed badly - but in a good way (image No. 5).
1. Etched Coastline
2. Cut Coastline
3. Etched then washed coastline
A little washed out, with neon pink Japanese braid pinpointing Seaton Carew and Hartlepool, I then went for the Irish Machine, NOT for quickness, really, but because I was aiming for the widest satin stitch and layers of stitching for a lumpy effect (re. coal). As I explained to my students who witnessed my swearing at the said Irish, when they asked what I was doing, this is a 'fine art' outcome not a 'decorative' one :-)
4. Colour or Black & White?
I managed to get a silk chiffon digital print rushed through (though there was no silk organza which is my preference). I had to try both colour and black & white, as I am trying to produce 3 finals so I can choose the best one. I do prefer the colour against the background. Notice I've laid some glass black beading along my coastline on the right. Loving it. It says coal so well and not that blatantly, mmm I might do a questionnaire about that - 'What do YOU think it means?'
5. Etched, washed and stitched coastline
I don't usually do messy... but hey I might!
6. Handpainted, stitched and beaded silk organza
I would say this sample was my eureka moment, at the exact point that I folded it up. Now this IS organza, it dyes so beautifully, coffee and quink ink... then bleach - delicious and as transparent as you can get without being clear vinyl/shower curtain or tulle. I think the way the embroidered rivulet band of coal (!) and loose threads can still be seen through the layers and how they are partially obscured, to be very apt And then, depending on the way the light hits, you catch a glimmer, a sparkle of the beads - like hidden treasure just under the surface, which is exactly what sea coal was to those who collected it.
7. Organza Detail 
So I did have three linen pieces, two of which are now cut up as samples though one is still my back up plan. I also now have a clear idea of how I will produce THE final. Fingers crossed X