Thursday, 29 March 2007

Five perfect maidens (5)

Process. Experience. What I think about when making work. How that feeds into the work, not always visibly.
There is something at once melancholy and sensual in this separating of strands from the bundle of (artificial) hair before me, which I then use for crocheting. I am reminded of the way a mother might tenderly run the comb through her daughter’s long hair and then separate out three strands and weave a plait. I am not speaking from memory here, as I mostly had short hair as a child and only ever wore tiny thin pigtails which barely stuck out from my head for more than a couple of inches. Isn’t it funny, in German these short girly bunches of gathered up hair are called rat-tails…
That conjured up image of the perfect mother quickly flips over into one of the wicked (step)mother who pushes the comb harshly through the girl’s hair and gives the entangled strands sharp tugs. The opposite to everything is always just around the corner, never mind all the possibilities in-between and beyond.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Five perfect maidens (4)

This morning I finally put up my five hairy dresses, here, at home, and find that only now do they seem real to me again. It is so easy to lose the connection to what I’ve made - not in terms of subject matter, ideas, concerns, images conjured up in my mind, but in terms of some of these ideas actually being realised, made manifest… It’s like when you’re not sure if you just thought something or actually said it aloud, to be heard by others, taken up, reacted to. So here they are. I have made these.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Tieing the knot

This is for my friends Maria and Glyn, who are getting hitched today. Happy wedding, happy honeymoon, happy life!

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Five perfect maidens (3)

Number three of my five crocheted hair-dresses, this one with a lip-like shape embroidered on. At the moment they are all still packed away, but I hope to unpack them at the weekend and put them up here. I love having them around me.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Five perfect maidens (2)

I want to crochet with everything – cotton thread, wool, string, hair, cord, ribbons, cables, tubes, hoses, wire, ivy trails, twigs, shoots, grasses… The arts of spinning and weaving occur in lots of old stories - does anyone know of fairy-tales or myths or other stories where somebody crochets?

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Five perfect maidens (1)

Stitches, stings, pricks, pins, loops, needles, hooks, threads, a stitch here, a stitch there, nothing nothing, another stitch, something. Needlework, girls’ work, threadbare work, hairy furry work, artwork.
Female body hair is such an object of cultural anxieties and pressures, and crocheting little hairy dresses seemed a good way to play with some of these notions, have some fun with them. Beauty and repulsiveness are close together. A sense of unease here stemming from the borders between inside and outside, between natural and controlled, being permeable and unstable.
The dresses are small, but intense and a bit scary in a fairy-tale sort of way. They are loaded with humour, anxiety and contradiction, or so I hope.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Work in progress

When I come to the end of a piece, close to finishing it, when it just needs those decisive touches to become what it is meant to be, I often, in fact most of the time, have a crisis of confidence and get close to unravelling tearing up crossing out destroying the work. Then I have to really force myself to let it lie or hang for a while and allow it to come back to tell me exactly what it wants to be. This relatively short time of indecision, short in terms of how much time I’ve spent working on the piece until then, is so hard to bear. I want to know and know immediately what it is and that it is something and that it is something good.
I am at this point now with a piece that I’ve been working on for months and have been imagining for even longer and it just doesn’t look right although it’s almost finished and yesterday I wanted nothing more than to take the scissors to it but didn’t. I am looking at it now, as I write.

Friday, 16 March 2007


'I’m sitting here on my floor, in my chaos, and feel happy, with a niggling anxiety at the back of my head that I shouldn’t feel happy, that I’m making do, that I’m content with trade-offs and little things when I should be striving for something big and substantial, that I should be making a mark on the world, in the world, and here I am, sitting on the floor, feeling happy, looking at a little piece of artwork I’ve finished, it just needed a tiny bit of work, a flourish really, a squiggle, but I needed to be awake and aware for that and get it just right, and now it’s a small hairy dress on a small self-made (and it shows) coat hanger, and I’m looking for a way to put it up properly here, and my living room is in chaos, hairs everywhere around me on the floor - reddish, blondish, brownish, grey, and materials, papers, pens, sewing needles and - newly acquired: giant spearlike knitting needles (a substantial part of my happiness) and big elderly-spinster-like lumpy chrochet needles (part of it too), and I chose them myself during a delicious if stressful and very tiring outing to town. I came back clutching my little John Lewis paperbag, filled with these instruments of pleasure, which I bought myself and brought home myself and haven’t been able to use yet, but hope to employ very soon, as soon as my arms feel strong enough really, and I will finally embark, yes it feels that big, embark on making a work that has been on my mind for years, which I have watched (lying down) taking form in my head and going through various practical and not-so-practical phantom shapes and now finally I think I’ve found a way of actually making it and making it work too, my big hairy dress. That is happiness too.'
I found this on my computer today, had forgotten I'd written it last winter. Such bliss. The picture shows what I started out with when I got into crocheting, tiny weightless hairy dresses that fit into the palm of my hand, made when I could hardly lift my arms. The vase was made by my friend Beatriz Araiza.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Here's one I made earlier (3)

Continuing with the theme of long arms here is a figure which I exhibited two years ago at The Surgery, a brilliant artist-led space in Nunhead/London. I have been working on a group of figures made from newspaper and masking tape for a while now and you’ll see more in time. The process is a simple but effective one: I crumple up newspaper, press it into shape, wind tape around it and thus slowly build up and form bodies. The newsprint remains visible through the gaps and at times shines through the masking tape. My focus is on the female body. I am interested in posture and movement, not just for themselves but as a way to manifest emotional states. Also ambiguous states of mind and body: the figures give a sense of inner strength as well as vulnerability, of pain as well as pleasure.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

I don't need a muse, I need a wife

The act of crocheting, now, here, but also going back in time. Something learned at school (early 1970s) which at the time seemed entirely useless, boring, of no interest at all. Girl’s work. Domesticity. Duties.
This is what I’ve been working on. Too tired today, household duties took over.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Six degrees of separation

Today both of my ears are blocked and I am surprised by how unsure that makes me about the firmness of the ground under my feet. I totter through my flat as if its floors were undulating animated surfaces which any minute might pull out from under me, leaving me flailing falling falling

Monday, 12 March 2007

I learned a new word today

Last week I received a birthday present from my Spanish friend Silvia R. which was entirely unexpected. It is a tome of poetry and other texts by the Austrian author Friederike Mayröcker, in German, my mother-tongue. As I leafed through the book I found a short poem that immediately put its little hooks into me and transported me backwards sideways forwards here. In just a few lines it hurled me into my childhood, into my mother-tongue, into the times when I was desperately mourning the end of a relationship, into fearfulness sadness hopelessness longing, memories of but also felt now. What initially made me stop with this poem were the image of burs caught in a girl’s hair and the words child needlework embroidery, links to my own artwork of course, which may well be indicative of my narrow-mindedness and focus on my own pursuits, always on the look-out for something I recognise from myself/for myself... But I learned a new English word: bur, such a small word, and so far not part of my second language vocabulary but having a special place in it now.

my own rather literal translation:
without wax

as if everything
was lost wasted
looking into fire
looking into the sky
this night this
morning your chopped up
voice on the telephone, come
back come back, I want
to shout but you
throw burs at me: not
into my hair! just as a child
I am afraid…
small needle-
work embroidery/
oh your look does
not carry me anymore …

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Here's one I made earlier (2)

Doing a daily blog is quickly becoming a habit. I’m enjoying it - trying to express the art-linked essence of a day in a few lines of writing and a pic focuses my mind on things creative and lets them run like a thread through a week filled with mostly mundane activities.
Had a delivery of groceries this morning plus the Sunday paper, and while it was great to fill my fridge and stock up on fresh fruit and 'verboten' chocolate cake it was the newspaper that quickened my pulse - I want to use some of it for a new piece. More to be revealed in time…

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Imagined company

Lately I’ve been looking at and moved by work by Fiona Tan, Louise Bourgeois, Aeschylus, Silvia Bächli, M.P., Anders Petersen, Philippe Chancel, Walid Raad, all present here. This takes me halfway around the world, the Phillipines, Germany, Australia, France, New York, Greece, Switzerland, Lebanon, North Korea, and back here. I’ve smuggled myself in there too.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Today I am like this

Today I am like this: all curly knotted limbs, not quite in control of sharply painful fingers, my whole being tensed so I don’t unravel into formless fatigue. Life still good because I found this pic on my computer, taken a while ago with pleasure, posted today.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Who finds crocheting exciting?

This morning I opened and rummaged through several boxes to find one of the pieces that I’d been working on before I moved. Of course it was in the last box and before I opened that one I had moments of sweaty panic that I’d lost the piece and some others packed in the same box. But here they are, all wrapped carefully in layers of apricot-pink tissue paper… Funny, it’s only a plastic case and although I knew exactly what it contained it felt almost like opening an old trunk brought down from some grandmother’s attic, promising faded lacy dresses and such like. This makes me think of my mother’s mother, the grandmother I never knew as she died when my mom was still a toddler, and it’s good to think of her here as I was thrilled to learn a while ago that she had been a needlework teacher at a primary school. A link to her, tenuous, yes, but I like it. I hated crocheting and sewing at school, my small sweaty fingers working on something incongruous like oven gloves or an apron. And now I’m crocheting away and finding it exciting. I guess part of the excitement comes from exactly that, crocheting being something so quaint and lame/tame and domesticised, but it can be turned into something else, opening up in all kinds of directions. Isn’t this wonderful about making art, you can take something and change it a little bit and create a piece that holds the old and something else, something new, unexpected.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Here is one I made earlier

Normally I am surrounded by what I have made and what I am making. I have just moved and my art is still in boxes, apart from the piece I am working on now. I feel almost disoriented without my art around me and am surprised myself by how elusive my identity as an artist seems. It's been a while since I've had work in an exhibition, well, several months really, and posting work now feels like a good move towards getting my work seen and getting feedback for it.
At the moment I am crocheting, something which I can do lying down, which is brilliant, as I'm not very well just now. I love seeing the ball of wool diminish slowly and becoming formless and the new piece growing and taking shape. It's as good a way as any of measuring time and achievement. My ideas and influences come from myths and fairytales, childhood memories, artbooks, my materials from haberdashery departments, hair shops, paper shops...