Letter to an Inanimate Object. No2

 To my old Hewlett Packard Camera.

Dear Camera,
Even though you have now passed on, I want you to know I loved you. 
(Though I am sure you felt that vibe when we were together)

Oh! All the adventures we went on together! 

Do you remember the walks we took? I was at University, you were my constant companion and together we explored the world. We looked at trees, at sky, at rain on water and water on stone. You captured every passing shaft of light, the drawings made by winter trees, you saw things I didn’t realise were there sometimes.

Your eye helped my eye and together we made some beautiful images.

I loved the heft of you, the feeling of rightness when you were in my hand. The curve of your body where your battery sat fitted perfectly into my palm. When I held you and we walked out into the world, I felt so centered, relaxed, joyful.

Dear Camera, you have passed on now. Though increasingly battered and scratched you always worked perfectly until the day your screen died and then your software glitched and that was that.

It’s been about 6 years and I still miss you. No other camera has fit me so perfectly and so no other camera has worked with me quite as you did. Maybe it was the freshness and newness of our adventure that meant we made so much lovely work together, but I do know that I’ve never quite managed such good images with anyone else.

Thank you for being in my life. I miss you.

With love,

Me xxx


Letter to an Inanimate Object. No1

Dear Pencils and Pens,

I love you.

(If love is feeling happiness, gratitude, unchanging affection, a desire for the wellbeing of another and a joyful little physical sensation somewhere in the region of the diaphragm when looking upon the beloved, then I do. I love you.)

You have been my companions for 50 years.
Because of you I was able to draw feelings and emotions I didn't know how to express any other way. We have told stories together and explored the world together. Our love affair began when I was such a little child and it has never gone away. I hope you are with me right until the end.

When I use you it is like dancing on paper.

You have challenged me; those days when I can't get into the flow.
You have given me so much joy; those times when I have been lost in the pleasure of the line.
You are always there, always available. You have been one of the greatest, most consistent joys of my life. Of course I love you.

Like any relationships, some of you fit me better than others; 4b and I have rarely agreed whereas black Bic pen and I have shared some wonderful times. Sharpies are valued for their enthusiasm to mark anything, even though they are rather brash and bossy. Some of you pencils have misbehaving erasers, but that's not really your fault. The aristocratic elegance of fountain pens have beguiled from time to time and I'm sure that there is an adventure waiting for me and Kuretake pens, even though we have struggled in the past.

Of course, words are insufficient to really express my love. That's why we draw together isn't it? When we draw, we can say anything and everything. When we draw our eloquence is never in question. Even if only you and I ever see the drawing. We know. We are together.

Dear pencils and pens, thank you for everything.

With much love,
Me xxx



Kitchen table studio with hand made willow brush

Willow brush drawing

Willow brush and spoon drawing
Wind drawings made with paintbrush and feather suspended from frame, moved by the wind

Wind drawings made with Sharpie pens moved only by the wind


Big Damn Heroes - an autistic post.

If you are the sort of autistic person who can talk, has average intelligence, can manage to hold down a job, can shop, use public transport, can go into pubs and clubs, theatres and restaurants and generally behave in a 'normal' manner, then it must seem very strange to non-autistic people A) Why we got a diagnosis of autism in the first place and B) What on earth are we complaining about when we talk about our 'sensory difficulties' or our struggles to understand communication.

Well,  there is this thing that some autistics talk about and do, called 'Passing.'

Passing is the result of years, even a lifetime of trying to behave 'normally' even though we know we are different. Passing is paying intense attention to how other people behave so that we can copy them and hopefully not be found out that we are not really like them.

There are two places in life where Passing is mandatory, school and work. At school many (most?) autistic people don't pass very well. We are young humans and generally slower to develop than our peers, so for many of us school is pretty difficult.

But we finally get released from school and some of us manage to get jobs. And it is in the workplace that the art of Passing is honed to a fine edge. Do you know how difficult it is to work if you are an autistic person? Working in a non-autistic workplace is probably the hardest thing an autistic person has to do. And if they're really unlucky, they have to do it every day.

It's hard to explain how awful it is. If you're not autistic I can understand that it must be very hard to imagine it. But something happened to me yesterday that maybe illustrates something of the difficulty.

Now I'm lucky enough to work with some brilliant women who are doing their best to be accommodating of my autism. The work environment itself is frequently overwhelming and exhausting to experience, but these women are so great I keep going back. Yesterday my manager told me to "practice self care" and use the quiet room if I needed it (it had been a particularly challenging couple of days). Despite this being a lovely thing to say I found it extremely upsetting and even felt a bit angry.

I thought about why that was, because of course I should really have been grateful. It's extraordinary to be in a workplace that tries to understand and accommodate my difference. I've never had that before. The nearest I ever got to it was a manager that equated my autism with a character on a popular US sitcom and whenever she met a difficult or unpleasant person would declare "I bet he has Asperger's." (In retrospect I find this funny. At the time, not so much.)

Anyway I finally figured out that maybe my reaction was about past trauma. Anger for all the years of struggle, confusion, exhaustion and just trying to fit in. Anger that I hadn't heard this before. Frustration and some embarrassment that I have this annoying, different brain. And some strange emotion I cannot identify but that is about how working in NT land is so deeply difficult for me/autistic people that such kindness felt as if it was undermining the struggle. Undermining the heroic ongoing effort to Pass. To pretend to be normal.
It feels like I don't know where the line is now. Do I Pass, do I continue the struggle, or do I just accept my difference? And if I accept it what does that mean for all the effort and years of Passing?

I dunno.

But as I said to an autistic friend who is also struggling with working in an non-autistic environment (and to quote from one of my favourite TV series) those of us who are autistic and working are "Big Damn Heroes." Oh yeah.


A brush made with my hair

I was really pleased with my work today.

Firstly, I made two brushes. One is made with my own hair (saved from when I had it long). I didn't make the brush amazingly well because I was rushing a bit. The handle of the brush is a length of Himalayan honeysuckle which I grow in the garden and which is hollow inside. But it's all bound together with gaffer tape because I couldn't wait for the glue to dry.

I'm using a pot that I made from clay dug out of the garden and fired in a pit kiln I made in the garden. I really like using it. It's rough and beautiful.

The circle I got with the hair brush was rather nice. The photo I took of it was terrible and blurred. I've overlaid a pink circle in Photoshop and can see that this is probably the most circular circle I've done so far.

I then made a brush using the tips of some willow (also from the garden). This made lovely circles and also wanted to make more gestural marks. So I did.


Sometimes I recognise that I write bollocks.
Unfortunately it's quite hard to avoid taking yourself tremendously seriously if you are an artist. After all, everyone else is taking themselves tremendously seriously too. And discovering and exploring your own mind, or the stuff of the material world is thrilling, so one can appear somewhat earnest.

But nevertheless, sometimes it does all sound like bollocks.

Ho hum.

Light on water


Coming home (Beginner's Mind No 3)

So I just found out that Zen Buddhist painters practice a form called Ensö, which is the drawing/painting of circles.

I feel like I've just come home.


Beginner's Mind 2/2

I have been working a great deal with meditation and mindfulness practice recently. Every day I have sat in meditation and every day my mind has been thinking about circles. Not metaphorically, actual circles made of ink on paper.

Over and over again I have seen in my mind these circles.

I realised that I wanted to simplify my practice. So I have put away all my tools, pens, notebooks, material, yarn and kept just 8 items: paper, 2 notebooks, 2 brushes, a bottle of black ink, a pencil and a camera.

With these things I am going back to the beginning and making work in silence, paying attention to space and with the most basic materials.

Zen buddhist monk and teacher, Shunryu Suzuki, wrote a very famous book called Zen Mind, Beginners Mind which I first read when I was a teenager. In it he explains the importance of the beginner's mind, when one has no prior experience and therefore no fixed ideas about an outcome. To practice meditation with beginner's mind means being absolutely in the moment. This is what I am attempting the explore and experience with the circle drawings.

I'm interested in the work that I produce after a session of meditation, when I am at my stillest and most attentive to the moment. Inscribing a circle seems the perfect vehicle to explore this idea.

Beginner's Mind 1/2



A Manifesto for Making Work

This is my manifesto for making my work:

Go Outside: because it's always interesting out there. Because it is what I need to make work about. Because the Earth is in trouble and it needs us.

Do What You Love: because I am too old to continue worrying about what other people think. Because if I make work with love, doing what brings me joy that will make my bit of the world a better place, which will help to make the whole world a better place.

Accept Poverty: because that will make me free to make decisions with courage, not with fear. If I need something I cannot afford, ask for it. Gift work because it comes to me freely and should be freely given. If someone wants to pay me, that's a bonus.

Allow Time: stop rushing and learn to trust.

Consider Space: space and time are one and the same. Work needs to be encircled with space so that it can come into being quietly. On the page, consider space. The thing that is not there is as important as the thing that is. The placement of work in a space is of vital importance.

Breathe: breathe in, breathe out. Be here.