Posts tagged ‘art’

stop and start again

CN: PTSD, ‘domestic’ violence to women, hearing voices

Lots of ways to read that – one meaning is that the internet wifi has gone down irretrievably and my one hour callback from the tech dept arranged by customer services after the first fail [tsk tsk] still hasn’t come 9 days later.. my new router from a different company should arrive sooner than that though ๐Ÿ˜‰ meanwhile a 5m ethernet cable from the ยฃshop is making internet access possible, though not comfortable.


I’ve had an emotional break-apart/through too, I have had a painful experience in taking on too much and having to excuse myself… I was tagged to The Women’s Quilt, a very brave endeavour, where there will be a square for each of the 589 women in Britain known to have been killed by a violent partner, father, other male relative during the period 2009 – 2015. That’s 2 a week, in a relatively small country. I volunteered to make some squares, though finding out we had to do the research ourselves on the women was where I should have dropped out. I assumed there would have been a collaboration with the friends or next of kin over what they would like a woman remembered for. Having to read up about 8 women and a 16 year old girl’s horribly violent deaths and try and find any source of information about the woman other than as the victim was very difficult.. every newspaper covered the number of stabwounds etc very few said ANYTHING about the woman. The Facebook page became filled with heart rending stories as more people making squares shared how terrible the deaths were but also how horrible the gaps are… The admins were careful to tell people to protect themselves and only take on what they could, but the constant reminders via Fbk notifications were upsetting – yes I turned off the notifications, it takes a couple of days to take effect… I managed to make 4 squares, two of which are very plain because there just wasn’t any personal information. One woman was about to go swimming so I made her a mermaid


another was the concert pianist Natalia Strelchenko, so I found some music printed on fabric for her [ it’s The Holly and the Ivy, but needs must..]


I was really surprised how much this experience shook me… I think to be fair if I wasn’t already upset by my brother-in-law dying [the oldest and last of the three brothers, my poor mother- and sister-in-law] and his wife now being seriously ill in hospital, my therapist of the last 11/12 years having suddenly being diagnosed with cancer again and having to stop work, a friend being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma… then it might have been less upsetting. Combined with my personal griefs, the Trumpland woes and Brexit suicidal xenophobia… I just felt very ‘precarious’, a word I use when I feel the PTSDs are running amok and I can barely hang on to the wild horse of survival… I’ve made it, and learnt – yet again – that pacing is some tricky shit.


I feel I need to withdraw from Facebook and use it much more carefully. I signed up as an artist and then Facebook made me have a personal account and a ‘business’ account. It’s a useful tool and a tyrannical master… my friends have a broad range of politics, so my home/feed is full of bad news with the occasional positive…no one means to be negative, but that’s a lot to hold your self and daily purpose against. While I was feeling ‘haunted’ by the details of the deaths, mixed in with life stories of others and my own experiences of violence and helplessness, I felt bombarded by all the bad news in the world, how the right are rising and fascism may overtake Europe and the US… and as the feelings of uselessness rose, I was rescued by the reminder [yes, voices in my head ๐Ÿ˜‰ ] that you can only do your OWN work, that in the face of death and destruction, all I can and must do is make art, however I can. It was amazingly reassuring…

somewhere else

I can’t only make art of course, but if I accept the loving reminders of politically aware friends like Uditi Shane and Jennifer Moore, then my art IS enough of a protest to make… and the rest of the time I need more mental space, I need to have more space to experiment and be playful. Because life sends enough challenges without the constant flood of negativity the news etc brings. In my own words, “I am one 7 billionth of the problem – sometimes it’s ok to only be one 7 millionth of the solution”. I usually laugh as I say it, because it can be very easy today to feel we aren’t doing enough, and putting that perspective on it changes everything. I’m pretty sure even on a bad day I manage to do my share, because my ingrained habits of thrift, recycling, buying fairtrade, vegetarianism and giving to the foodbanks etc do that… During my internet hiccups, I didn’t miss Facebook very much at all – because I could connect for long enough to message friends but not long enough for general browsing or reading the feed, which I had come to dread. I read books, sewed towards the Empire piece, caught up with some dyeing projects, slept off the adrenalin rushes… and now I’m starting again, trying to follow Olitski’s excellent advice ๐Ÿ™‚



turning corners

DSC_0021Sophrosyne (n) a healthy state of mind, characterized by self control, moderation, and a deep awareness of one’s true self, and resulting in true happiness

I read this on facebook, such a lovely thing to come across…

DSC_0023Centering down to do more of what I want/ what is mine to contribute right now means giving up some of the many other exciting and sparkling possibilities available…there is a happy balance between total simplicity and sufficient resources to sustain an artist in many media. Finding a new main medium/ expression for my art has lead to acquiring a lot of materials that all appeal, but are not necessarily viable [certainly not in my bijou flat!]


Like most artists, I have a tendency to stockpile materials, and as an upcycling artist, the number of POSSIBLE uses I can think of for an individual bit of…tat… are distressingly many. At the height of an argument with an ex he told me I was like a disco mirror ball, to which I replied, ‘Yes, how wonderful, all those facets!’ย  Heย  shouted: IT WAS AN INSULT!

Nerts to that!

DSC_0024By nature I have been much more of a juggler and a marathon tasker/ up with the rocket, down with the stick/ all or nothing person and it is a revelation to become seasonal and patient, an ‘enough is as good as a feast’ person. It has grown on me gradually, first of all through agoraphobia, then Daoism, gardening, living with someone with bi-polar, but now mainly having to make a balance that will keep me able to make art at least sometimes in a day/week. Pacing is so central to my management of the pain and fatigue andย  weakness of fibromyalgia, and it involves moderation, never one of my strong points till now.

DSC_0025Lately I have had help tackling the studio, and great progress has been made, yay!

I give to a lot of projects, so friends give to me, knowing I can channel things, but it can be very tempting, all that eyecandy! Sorting through boxes always brings a feast of ideas to mind: the trick is enjoying the ideas and letting them go, materials and all!

I am becoming increasingly comfortable with knowing a number of projects ahead and rotating between them – after a lot of work on Wasting Waste, I’ve had a spell of gardening and pink Wool against Weapons knitting, and now I want to work on something else, still for Peace Week, but a different installation, probably the ivy rootballs. I’m going on holiday on Monday [the sea, the sea!] and when I come back it would be great to have WW sorted and stored, easily accessible but not on every surface!

So I’m very pleased some more sorting happened today:



Zero-waste projects are 1) making strong fabric carriers for the Foodbanks to give food away in, I had a few left over from the ones I made for the Fixers stall and clearing out my work-in-progress/UFO crate has added more.

2) putting all my threads and snippets into the same place so I can make embellishers for the guerilla gardening pouches. I have some see through plastic storage jars that seem just the thing.

I bought some more see through plastic (shoe) boxes and David, who was helping, gave me some ziplock freezer bags he was clearing out, so I am sifting and sorting, and I suspect there will be a lot of boxes of those, but then, they are very handy, so this shouldn’t be a problem, hmm?

DSC_0073Having sorted out the pieces of the duvet cover I am almost ready to finish quilting, I was able to put unwanted cloth into the smaller shoe boxes and colour code it. This liberated a 20litre crate for Wasting Waste yarn stash, which liberated an 80litre crateย  for Diversity is our Strength, which liberated the travelling bag so I can pack to go on holiday on Monday! Oh my!

I hardly ever buy fabric anymore, maybe a particular keynote colour, as I am working through the stash acquired by a few years of visiting remainder sales and friends’ clearouts…it does take having access to a large collection of fabric to acquire the huge variety of snippets I love to work with though. This is where SOPHROSYNE comes back in…I seem to have hit the point where I can balance letting go of some plans [making embellished/complex cloth floor cushions, making clothes, printing cloth] and taking on others [guerilla articulture.]

Knowing and accepting what I can do within the limits of fibromyalgia is not a straightforward thing: but then, life is never straightforward, right? Some things suit my face though – the audacity of street art, the gifting and salvage side of what I make and how I choose to share it, these are much more mainstream than they were, more impactful as I can now share them through Facebook groups. I like to be playful in my making, but I am very serious about how stepping out of expectations of what contribution (among others) people with disabling conditions can make to the idea of worth in the community. People living outside the ratrace are necessary to the w/holistics of communities, we model being and doing, not having and buying. Artists/creatives of all kinds can encourage others to think out of the box and work with what we have to make what is needed:



Finally though, it comes back to living with what works for me, knowing what works for me and enjoying that. Definitely a corner turned.



I’m steadily making more progress on the Wasting Waste installation, and trying to write about the piece feels really like wading through mud. Being in a very visual/ tactile space with all the fabrics and yarns is far more exciting! Forget words for now, then, eye candy it is ๐Ÿ˜‰

































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What’s in a Name?

So I’ve been interviewed 4 times in 2 months, and two of the interviewers were reluctant to accept Singing Bird as my action name. As an agoraphobic, this is an avatar that helps me be somewhere that sets off panic attacks, so their attitude lands very badly. One accepted it but his editor called it my pseudonym, my false name, and this annoyed me excessively until I thought about what I’d said during my interview with Kristina, that this is my ‘true’ name, expressing a part of me that has struggled for a long time to come out. And as the editor has no idea about that…no blame…


Interview by Kristina Lewis-Shipley for her forthcoming book on Street Artists and their handles:

KLS: Please ignore ‘SprayCan’ throughout the message, (hahaha) Ok, so the two questions are really simple:

Why did you first pick up a SprayCan? Where does your Street Name/ Pseudonym come from?

SBA: I feel the tiniest bit intimidated, but I’ll just pull my big girl panties up and speak loud ๐Ÿ˜‰

The two questions you put are 30 years apart in my life, and why I feel like my life is finally making sense – a big wound has started to graft ๐Ÿ™‚
I first made a piece of guerilla paint and fibre art in 1983, but it was a street action for peace. I was used to making peace flags for the barbed wire fences at the MoD missile sites or the Trident base at Faslane, but when I suggested doing it in Newcastle upon Tyne, the other activists were really snobby about it. They didn’t want to be accused of vandalism ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Luckily my best friend and my boyfriend were supportive, because on the day I was down with a stomach virus, and they had to execute the designs. I’d made pieces to hang in a tree and a piece to write on the walls and pavements in chalks, and after they’d done those, they added some of their own, which made me sooo happy ๐Ÿ™‚
Why did I want to do it?
I dreamt it.

A lot of my art comes to me that way, now that I am an artist, but at the time I was a bit lost, my parents had refused to let me do art at A Level, they were abusive in many ways, including physical and sexual, but looking back the biggest damage was withholding my way to be in the world. How is that possible, that a parent refuses to buy their child even super cheap felt tips? And pours scorn on everything that might encourage her?
So I grew up very bent out of shape and this was my first experience of genuinely needing to make MY mark in the world, and my new people, the activists did not like it, but I did it, and when I was up again, I added to what the others had done for me – it had been made for Valentine’s Day, so it couldn’t wait…it was a message of love to the precious earth and to her humans to stop the trashing…
I loved it and one of the ‘real’ artists I knew (he could draw!) decided it WAS effective after he heard about it and we should do some street art/ performance art and we did… ๐Ÿ˜‰
But it was interesting to see how flyposting was political and ok, and heartfelt messages and pictures chalked on walls, bedizeners hanging from trees…not so much…


My street name has been Singing Bird Artist SBA for five years, since my husband died and I could no longer paint, so since 2008/9. (er, long relentless optimist story, broken collarbone and ribs trying to save him, permanent damage, learning Machine Embroidery as a new skill to keep sane through staying creative…)
City and Guilds courses are REALLY tough, super structured and meticulous, I was an “interesting” student ๐Ÿ˜‰ but I found myself needing to express my wild side/politics and myself more freely, more directly…


So I started with hanging freeform fibre art in bus shelters etc and public crafting/freeform crochet and leaving bedizeners/happy makers in public spaces ๐Ÿ˜‰ My husband was an artist/poet and we would do this together before, we made environmental art in the woods too, so art for people to find has been important to me for a long time.

SBA was definitely a response to him dying and me having to work without his support – I have agoraphobia and can’t be out alone after dark, or in isolated places. Then I mixed in with Nottingham yarn’bombers’ for some joint blitzes. I prefer yarn ‘tagging’, cos I’m a pacifist, but I understand the excitement of saying yarnbombing, and also the backing off from the guys within graf (def NOT all, waving at you, lovely Popx!)ย  who are hostile to using tagging for yarn/fibre work.
I have had fibromyalgia for over 4 years now (following the neck injury) and use a rollator, so can’t action very often, but am blurring the lines where I can, I have 2 fibre art installation pieces in a gallery in London in February and they want me to make a ‘live’ piece for the private view. What they don’t know is that with the help of the friend I’ll be staying with I will yarntag across London while I’m there – coming to a railing near you, peopleย  ๐Ÿ˜‰ [Due to the injuries following installation, I couldn’t actually do this, but made it into art for the Anti-ATOS/WCA protest on February 19th and Robin Hood’s Rally against Budget Cuts on March 19th 2014]

I chose to use my yarntag name as my ‘fine’ artist name (big thanks to Banksy for showing the way) so I can link the two sides, legal, illegal. It also frees me to work a different way – the art world is full of puffed up entitlement at one end and genuine heartfelt making at the other. I have struggled with writing those pompous post-modernist windy statements, and then last spring I cut through it all and declared I would only use Singingbird Artist/SBAย  for ALL my art/social justice/permaculture activism. It comes from a Chinese proverb “If you keep a green tree in your heart, maybe the singing bird will come.” To me it means that if we are true to our deepest calling to make our mark in the world for what is needed (to cut through the mindless consumption junky culture capitalism demands, at the cost of the earth and all her peoples) then we each become a singing bird for those around us who need to hear that things can be different, change is possible, every *small* act counts.
Since I got my ‘right’ name, amazingly, loads of doors are opening for me, so your question about the name strikes home!

As Singingbird Artist, I make what I like, as fast as I can ๐Ÿ˜‰

Which is not very fast, grrr,ย  I have permanent damage to the deep tissue in my hands, but all the joy that pours out into the work and the world makes me really happy. I even like it when people steal the work to take home, if it speaks to someone that much, great, I’ll make another, keep spreading the song ๐Ÿ˜‰


re photo, I need to be anonymous – the Dept of Worry and Persecution will stop my disability benefits at this prioritisation of my energy to art not hoovering ๐Ÿ˜‰ so I like to use this one as a thumbnail- the rollator makes the point that physically disabled people can still make art/actions ๐Ÿ˜‰

Well, back to making! I have been working on the brown – blue water waste piece, some tricky freeform knitting, but first there are some garden photos to edit ๐Ÿ™‚

Loudest Whispers 2014

I was really tempted to call this post loudest whispers, quietest screams…talk about suffering for your art ๐Ÿ™‚



So, I went to London last Monday to supervise Sea Change being installed at St Pancras Conference Centre Gallery… due to the curator being 45 minutes late, the previous artwork still being up and the curator needing to see the work hung a few ways, sad disaster has occurred. Sea Change is up in an improvised space, and I hope will stay up till March 28th, with Diversity is our Strength being shown in the foyer slot earmarked for Sea Change.


In helping install it 3 times in 1 1/2 hours (Jen did the lion’s share) I wrecked myself, with the coup de grace being run-limping for the train, they had already shut the doors on the train!


Luckily we got let into First Class and I staggered down to our booked seats, Jen making 2 trips after me with rollator and bags.

Since then I have been all systems down, my arms barely move, my hands hurt like blazes, my legs were shaking and spasming, I have a mystery muscle tear bruise on my left leg… I was terrified on the limp to the train my right leg would cramp and collapse, but I really didn’t have ยฃ120 for new tickets.

DSC_0042Of course I really don’t have a new body available either… ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I have had to recognize I won’t be able to go back on Friday and hang the Valentine piece or do the Same But Different fibretagging in London. Wow, this is such a huge thing for me, you can’t imagine, unless you are also a powerhouse who sweeps on through against the odds and snatches victory from the jaws of defeat type…My body just can NOT rise to this one…


UPDATE:ย  opened my email box to find this, which makes me feel so much better ๐Ÿ˜‰


– excellent!

So, what do you do with dozens of hearts and frustrated creative energy?


Think up alternatives! Elizabeth and Eleanor listened and laughed on Thursday and I felt better after that, then after a heated exchange on facebook last night (someone on the internet was WRONG! my, I amaze you ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) the little contribution I was making to the local ATOS demo has grown a bit… Someone asked Eleanor if they could be put in touch with a yarn activist, so fingers crossed, I can get filmed making a piece to support the ATOS protests ๐Ÿ˜‰

Win! ๐Ÿ˜‰

open and shut case

The last week has been a lot about this:

– which took a lot of stubborn persistence ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  I don’t often completely miss it with my art, but after an hour’s filming (thanks Keith!) and more in Picasa editing, I watched my first rough cut and thought…oh dear! That’s so DUUUUULLLL ๐Ÿ˜ฆย  and promptly edited out the first 4 minutes of 15…then another 3… and then muttered a lot, cos if you’ve edited out HALF the original content, it might (just a thought! duck!!) be worth re-thinking your concept…


I had a day off from it and instead explored quotes about diversity online – there are some really nice ones! Then I decided on my new handle and took another limp at it…and after a lot of swapping and turning things inside out, I feel much happier. It’s now a snappy 4 minutes, and gathers from some people I hadn’t even heard of before, always a joy!ย  Art making is as much about learning as telling, and that was the problem with the first version I thinkย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you like it and think it would be useful in diversity awareness, feel free to share it from vimeo or this blog to Facebook etc. It has my watermark in it and credits, so I’m happy about it being used to broaden minds/open boxes.

A lovely quote that didn’t quite fit the brief is from Chief Seattle:

โ€œHumankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.โ€

Chief Seattle (1780-1866);
Leader Of The Suquamish And Duwamish Native American Tribes

and this by Goethe rocked my socks ๐Ÿ˜‰

โ€œTolerance should really be only a temporary attitude; it must lead to recognition.โ€

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832);
Philosopher, Scientist, Author

And if anyone is keeping track and wants to know where the waste not, want not post is, this is UPCYCLED! k?

I’m looking forward to sleeping more, then playing with brusho and resting the RSI from editing – think more, edit less!

choosing myself


It’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, “I pick you.” Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charming has chosen another house–then you can actually get to work.

If you’re hoping that the HR people you sent your resume to are about to pick you, it’s going to be a long wait. Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound.

No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.

– I am currently talking to a project about exhibiting with/through them, and it has all come about because I was cheeky on Facebook, and put myself forward as a performance poet for an event and followed it up by asking for a chance to exhibit….


Actually it has come about because I have been in personal growth work for, um, yep, 25 years and counting and yes, I am still a work in progress (is that encouraging or not?ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  ) and I can choose myself as a poet who is good enough to perform at a public event, who will offend very few (devout Grauniad fans beware!) and inspire many. I know my art work makes lots of people happy or intrigued or quizzical, not everyone, and it’s really not very attractive to people who like very safe, contained, conceptual work, clean hands, and abstruse, cerebral, conceptual theories. ( those are the kind of words they like too, just to show I can use them ๐Ÿ™‚ ) The Making Art, Making Work course at Nottingham Contemporary has really helped me let go of trying to reach them. I think I had an awakening, that really I should just be me, then, everyone is happy, but particularly…ME!

Again, choosing myself, to be good enough – I can write one of those turgid, murky, ultimately meaningless exhibition proposals, OR I can write as me, an interesting mixture of intellectual and tactile, practical and approachable, using the odd colloquialism, but still being rigorously professional about the standard of the work. It’s an amazing feeling to realize I have become capable of affirming myself as an artist, without a vicious backlash of insecurity… let’s celebrate!!ย  And then I’ll move on to the next issuSTA43425-006e ๐Ÿ˜‰