flag waving

After a very bitter election result – make no mistake, thousands will die as a result of further Tory cuts to the welfare budget and health and emergency services – no one I know feels very cheerful at the moment. Luckily I had a project I was already working on, or I might have gone to bed for a week…


Having seen a lot of uninformed prejudice on the subject of transgender identity when I volunteered at the Women’s Centre, I’ve always tried to be a good ally, and speak up where I felt it would help. About 18 months ago, that meant on a facebook thread that was getting unpleasant, and now I have 3D friends who are very involved with Nottingham TransHub. An event was organised for last Sunday and another friend, Keith, was doing the media/sound so I was called on to lend some backdrop cloth…a long and very laughter filled hour followed as he wouldn’t express any firm opinions on what colour/style etc :) The next day I decided to make a quilt to be a backdrop, based on the TG flags and what I feel about gender… that it is both more simple than people make out and much more complex.

People are the identity they feel themselves. Simple as that!

What they feel themselves to be fits on a spectrum much broader and more colourful than the binary of the Judeo-Christian consumerist transnational business heads. Colonialism tried to erase many cultures’ much more nuanced understandings and expressions, but if we listen, there are people prepared to tell us how it can be…


Some transgender people do indeed transition, via surgery and hormonal treatments, so I have used a butterfly to symbolise the transition.

With equal validity, some do not – they define as non-binary, perhaps similar to two-spirits in some cultures, but because they have to work very hard with their intuition to clarify this and stay strong in the face of the pressure to find a binary pole, I have used a heart. The black/variegated batik fabric is very close to the PoC Pride flag colours, which I wanted to bring in as there was an awful lot of white, pastels and Euro-traditional baby colours in the mix, so there are blocks of this in each spectrum too.

So, my quilt is based on these ideas:

at the heart of it all, we live on a blue and green planet

we are personalities based on the energies that run through us [I based this ring on the directional poles used in healing and medicine wheel work – nothing is right, wrong, better or weaker, just itself and powerful/empowering when used in the right place]

we live in a society that acknowledges male, female and TG and is beginning to acknowledge A-genderedness. So there should be 4 poles, not 2 or 3 on that circle…

there are currently a variety of flags used at Pride parades: Trans sexual, Transgender 1, 2, and 3, Neutrois, Genderfluid, Gender Non-binary, Genderqueer, Intersex and Hermaphrodite. I added an Ally flag, too, cos..I’m an ally making it? :)

There will be more embroidery/embellishment, but I finished it Sunday morning, it was used as the backdrop at the Transcribing Gender event open mic that night and it may be used again at IDAHOBIT [International Day Against Homophobia, Bi, Intersex,Trans Prejudice] organised by local activists and the Police, on Sunday again! So better to leave it tidy…


Flair and flares


I woke up yesterday with energy again, how frabjous! I’d slept 5 days out of the previous 9, with appointments on the days inbetween, so life has been drab, not fab. The good bit was when lovely Cherise came round midway and filled me in on her exciting final project for B.A.Fine Art. Her work is interesting, stimulating, contemporary and pleasing… but some of her tutors are so poorly informed they think buttonhole stitch [hand sewing] is knitting… sigh… Fibre art has a long way to go to get recognition, some of them hadn’t heard of El Anatsui, who had a huge exhibition at MoMA in Brooklyn last year, won the Venice Biennale a while back and is generally doing exciting headline things at the cusp of installations and structures/sculpture… when someone is paying to be taught by tutors that they have to educate, something is wrong…

DSC_0036Anyway, less winge, more show and tell ;)

I am plodding on with some elements for Cradle for Stones, but was wanting to make some pieces for a fundraising stall to accompany Diversity is our Strength at the multicultural St George’s Day event at Sneinton Market, Nottingham. Chatting to Cherise as she whipped up a storm helped the juices flow and I made 9 necklaces.


Then yesterday I got to play with my newly fixed machine [yay Sewing Attic, Sutton-in-Ashfield!!] and made two big bundles of machine cord in the morning. Later I still had energy so made four meditation pieces in the DSC_0010evening…

I love dalchini bark [coarse cinnamon/cassia] and the packet I bought before xmas has lots of lovely pieces that have eyes [gaps where twigs have been pruned out] which I’m putting to one side for a bigger piece. Meanwhile, the new living room arrangement [great work by David last week] and the aromatics make it feel like House Beautiful here – enjoying that greatly, as I don’t trust it to last – art reigns… :D



Beauty is in the eye of the beholder


DSC_0012-002I have been going through more old photos to see what I can use for the blue/brown book. There’s one image of a fence panel I have used so many times :) It’s the one l use for my avatar, it looks like the sea far out on a wave rippled sandy beach…mmm, those lovely summer days when the light is silvery gilt across the wet sands…

somewhere else

I’m getting so many, I’m not sure whether to make a set of ‘inspiration cards’ as well as the books, a lot depends on how my battered old printer copes. Unpacking continues, and I now have

DSC_0014-002the money for a sofa, but that means moving the table through to the studio, which means unpacking the right things into the right places, so focus, and the right willing hands to help.

STA44357-001I have a trip to the sewing machine workshop tomorrow, a friend is taking me and poor maltreated JL300C who can cope with machine cords but runs away on paper or fabric given half a chance, so time for a timing repair. {did you clock the pun?!}

I feel a bit guilty sometimes that I am so hard on certain appliances [my iron is in fine fettle though!!] but part of owning being an artist is respecting which tools I need and then using them well, to the best of my abilities, to do what only I can… I also share access so others can keep their machines pristine, and use materials others would waste, so I hope it is all balancing in the great ledger…

STA43948-001Meanwhile I am working on a black and dark opalescent shot charcoal grey yarn piece, that will either be the petrol pollution for Wasting Waste or, more likely, the holding harness for Cradle for Stones, a piece that has been hovering between WIP [work in progress] and UFO [unfinished object] for a couple of years… one of the benefits of moving and looking at things with new eyes though, is feeling enthused again. Also my lovely local yarn shop, Knit Nottingham had the most amazing ruffle yarn on sale which fits perfectly! I was sitting knitting and having a break before the next stage of a day of chores and another customer asked what I was making… answering “Petrol” did not go well!! Luckily Eleanor was on hand to explain the poor deluded soul was an artist :D

pain and politics



I have been looking through favourite collections of quotes and seeing which I feel to work on, preferably by using Picasa to type them over an image. This takes less energy than the Letraset I sometimes use, which can be a bit stressful when it’s a long quote, as I have to guarantee keeping my focus all the way to complete success – hmm, tall order at the moment, as I am stiff and achey from pinging my intercostals dragging the bin out [reminder to self, phone the disabled bin support line!] and not the full wattage as the painkillers make me clumsy, almost dyslexic… So, ‘work with what I have, how I can’ is the mantra for this week.

somewhere else

I had a few difficult decisions, regarding spoon priorities… I was feeling quite shabby by the time I finally had a shower, but unless you’ve been there, you really can’t imagine how much energy taking a shower drains from your daily quota. I wanted to cut fabric and I needed to make space for the last two loads of  boxes from Flat 4 and I should have done more work on a charity application… meanwhile I was getting lots of questions put to me about arrangements, which due to fibrofog felt very hard to answer! How do we make decisions when everything feels almost equally pressing, and there simply isn’t enough energy to handle our affairs? For me, this time, asking for, accepting and rewarding/valuing the help of my community/ circle of friends. Looking for the shared gain, and trusting the boundaries. I simply couldn’t have done this a few years ago, being disabled physically is teaching me a lot…

I had been planning my move since xmas, and had enrolled a lot of friends in helping me. [I am very lucky, but I have also worked very hard on my trust issues to be able to ask, to give what I can and to be able to hear yes or no without it altering the friendship!] I also did what I could to lengthen the process and plan it, in terms of considering whose skills matched what task etc. I only had one major mistake {sorry Sam!} and friends coped with me getting a bit stressed very well. Boundaries are really important – if someone does something from obligation, it gets tiresome very fast.

It’s funny, because in Daoism the idea is to avoid choice, to be so aligned to the flow that a path seems lit before you, but one of the things I did was offer some people lots of choices and some very few! The guideline was thinking hard about what I know of how we work together, and all the skills and resources available. I have a few friends with chronic pain and/or fatigue issues, and it was one of those friends who drove a borrowed van for me, and I was trying to persuade him to take money for a takeaway [to make up the lost energy, so generously given] and he ended up persuading me I would be denying him the chance to be the capable helper! Another friend is very fit but has a dodgy leg, but more importantly has been sanctioned for missing daily signing at the Job Centre because his son was visiting and leaving a poorly 4 year old with a neighbour is not ok really…apparently he should have brought the lad to throw up on the floor, then his money wouldn’t have been stopped. Sigh. Anyway, who is helping whom? Clearly they [and many more] are all helping me. But apparently I am helping by being part of a process where a friend’s self esteem is boosted, and another gets a big box of Approved Food goodies and gleanings from my pantry, when he most needs it. A couple who have been under horrible stress from online trolls for daring to hold their heads up as a transman and a non-binary person, helped me by being the best DIY team you could ask for, and I can only hope that being practical and problem solving things like disassembly and installation made a rewarding change…another friend has helped lots with organisation and packing and being my guarantor – she is now getting my lovely bike at a very bargainaceous price, which makes us both happy… there are lots more exchanges going on, some obvious, some subtle, some barter for art has been involved too. A friend who is very ill sent me the loveliest box of treats, which helped me feel in contact when I had no internet access and then when she was having a rough time, I was able to be supportive.

‘Fair exchange is no robbery’ is a maxim I was taught very young, interdependence as part of community self-reliance as an activist and then when I read up a lot on Daoism I was given a new take on it. ‘Ming’ [sorry, no idea how this ming is pronounced] is enlightenment where the interfusion of all things becomes crystal clear in the inner vision, that we are all part of the universe, all atoms of stardust endlessly recycling in more or less aware states…


From a Daoist perspective, things like moving can be lived as a community event/ process/ happening. This time I have been privileged to experience it that way, the best of all possible outcomes for someone with chronic pain and fatigue…

All these giftings/ barters/ supports have made think hard about  how the British government/ the Conservative DWP policies are failing so badly at respecting disabled people’s role in the community. We are seen as valueless scroungers, to be removed by callous cruelty and heartless persecution. The NHS is being dismantled and services are being cut, while Tories trumpet that  disability and health issues can be ignored because we make no contribution to society. There are disabled MPs, the Prime Minister had a disabled son [for whom he claimed every benefit possible] and the minister for the DWP dropped everything for 6 months to be with his wife facing cancer. Yet all this brings no compassion – Stephen Hawking, the scientific genius, has communicated his concern that other people with Motor Neurone Disease are being left to die, we know people are being pounded into serious depression and suicide by the policies…only an election where these immoral fools are ousted will help.

And yet, in my own life, I feel more valued by my circle [more of a wobbly star!] and part of a community via the internet, than seems possible with that in the background of everyday’s choices. [Given, that were I able to apply without fear for upgraded benefits, I could have paid for the whole move…] People at the sharp end get what abundance and community are, enough is as good as a feast, and when you share, everyone has plenty. They know they are part of a whole, when they are not being beaten into the ground by the propaganda the media have been recycling straight from the Government benches, the pernicious belief that some people are worth more than others, and only some skill sets count. If you can’t feel when things are wrong, if you can’t respond to what is, because you are blinded by political expediency, you have lost your humanity. And how can they not see?

multi 086-001












While moving I’ve sorted and re-sorted some of my fabrics, and seeing things I bought recently against stash I acquired a few years ago has sparked some new ideas. I am a very visually oriented person, and simply seeing a patch of rusty foliage on a grey day can get me thinking about a new piece – a trip to Ikea the other day for fabric took us past trees and fields and has fed into the ‘woodland’ palette freeform crochet piece I started while moving, all greens and browns with spots of bright yellow and bold orange for tree fungus…mmm!


Anyway, I am washing and -prepare yourself! – ironing lots of fabrics  for some new quilting. Sorting through I found a shirt I bought at a jumble sale, one of those, well it’s only 20p purchases, and suddenly a new handmade book is hanging itself around this one shirt. This is why people like Picasso were so insistent on making art everyday, by turning up at your studio and looking through your materials, one day a familiar object is seen with new eyes. The blue and mushroom bold pattern edged in white is not immediately appealing [understatements!] but because I was cutting the fabrics into set sizes – 20cm squares and 20cm x 30cm book pages, the pockets and button edging fell in interesting places and suddenly a book appeared before my eyes!


So while I am still gathering the fabrics for the quilts, I am also collecting quotes and clarifying the theme of the book. Having made these images on Picasa to print – I’m going to try different supports, proper photo paper, white paper, manila/brown packing paper – I now think it’s going to be about balance, perhaps because after all the careful pacing of the move, I am in the right place to honour all the people who have helped me build up a personal sense of what makes my centre and helps me keep my balance…



altered art handmade book: making space, finding peace



During my creative retreat over the festive period, I took the chance to get out a half finished project from 2013 and try to resolve it.


I find altered art quite a challenge – I have a huge respect for books and try to keep mine in good condition, deliberately making marks on text or images requires a deep breath and slightly hysterical laughter! I made a conscious effort to overcome this with pages that have now come together in this and a companion book.


To make it easier, I went round the January sales in 2013 and got calenders and diaries and some coffee table style books from remainder shops, knowing that if unsold,

DSC_0041they would be going to the pulping mills… so whatever I did would surely not be as bad as that?!

Even so, it was hard, but I was pleased with some of the pages but couldn’t find a way to resolve them into a finished object. Coming across the quotes I put into Letraset [funky fonts, apologies to the dyslexics, this post is going to be really teeth grindingly annoying for you…] I decided

DSC_0052to cut and paste and collage again to make something that had more of my input.



The final touches are yet to be done, even though I have stitched the cover on [laughter from the back is allowed!] as it was only when I really looked at the album in order that the central theme became clear to me, the making space/finding peace. Lots of the images are about meditation, holy places, altars, temples… and lots of the quotes are about personal growth and finding our way to simplicity, happiness, serenity. So I will now do an extra page to paste or stitch in, and use my stamps and punches to make some more space/peace links…

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea” is from Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen and I used this a lot on my allotment to get great veg out of stress at home, thus linking it neatly to the advice from E.F.Schumacher [Small is Beautiful, Good Work etc] “The art of living is to turn a bad thing into a good thing”. The two quotes with no author are by me:



Each step in the garden brings back peace

The seed knows its purpose is to make seed: it does not owe you leaf or fruit

– more wisdom from my allotment ;)


I’m going to look at a new flat tomorrow, a ground floor one and hope I get it, having the energy for a container garden I can nip out to would be lovely. The stairs here are getting too much and the downstairs neighbours have taken the garden in a  ‘white vanman’ direction of beer, bbqs and destruction of the lovely permaculture woodland edge I was creating… very depressing and I’d rather just start again somewhere new. I find gardening very healing for my agoraphobia and of course being out in sunshine is good for mood, and getting your hands in soil too…It would be great to have a new garden space to play with.


So all who read this, feel free to cross your fingers or light candles for me to find a home and garden that suit me, the fibromyalgia and my persnicketty puss, who HATES change…


for those who celebrate christmas



I actually celebrate the Midwinter Festival of Abundance, but as that appears only on my calendar (!) I stretch it from Solstice to New Year. I don’t normally spend much on presents, but I look to where my abundance is overflowing, and share from it to bring back balance… So often I share from my materials to other makers and if I have spare money to some of the excellent micro-charities out there. Last year I started seriously giving a lot to the local Foodbanks, as the situation is so dire for people on low income, whether working on zero hour contracts or sanctioned by the Department of Woe and Persecution. This year I had bought for the bank but then they have closed, refusing to collude with the Government, who is saying people are ‘choosing’ to use the banks…

So friends have got things I knew or hoped they might like, plus a distribution of bargains from Approved Foods – I know lots of people who love to drink organic herbal teas or green teas, but can’t always afford them, so laid in a few dozen when they were 50p a box [they’re now 33p, dang it!] and then vegan or gluten free goodies and/or craft items. I still have a bag to donate to Tasty Tuesdays Free Cafe or the other Foodbank, but can actually see my shelves again ;)



Meanwhile I am using the quiet time to focus on creativity and any new goals… I had a lot of success with a couple of craft stalls for Refuges for Pets [where people in refuges get their pets fostered till they are rehoused] and my share has gone into my exhibition fund. Making decorations to sell on the stalls has renewed my enjoyment of making scented sachets, creative stitching and embellishments. Some friends gave me lovely fabrics and sari embellishments for my 50th birthday recently, which were really good fun to play with ;)


So I have taken the chance to get all the fabric boxes I can reach and re-sort them with new projects in mind, and to buy a few colours/patterns to bridge gaps. I try to always buy remnants, not just because they’re cheaper, but to stop fabric ending up in landfill, such a waste… Just handling fabrics makes the ideas come flooding, so I’m trying to sketch and list ideas as my memory is so rubbish now. I’m not sure if that’s fibro fog or medication, but it’s very odd after a life of hyper vigilance and flashbacks and reliable recall of a lot of research to find things fading like snow in sunshine. It has its upside, but adjusting to writing everything down has taken a while.

As so many people are away and all the routines are put aside, I have come to really enjoy this time where I can follow ideas through with fewer distractions or pacing needs interrupting the flow…


It was New Year 2012 when I started making handmade books again, and I can feel that impulse again. I’ve also lucked into some yarn that makes me want to pick up Cradle For Stones again, an installation about PTSD triggers I put down to work on Diversity is Our Strength…

So I’m only a couple of days in and I already feel the benefit of my retreat and refresh/ recharge/ re evaluate time… I hope whatever kind of festive times you are are having, you are enjoying them and finding time to enjoy all the colour and lights against the darkness in the North, or for the Aussies, barbecue on the beach I guess ;)


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