Wednesday, 15 April 2015

researching in a 'feminine' way

Is that possible?

I didn't post up a #creativetuesday yesterday as my creativity has been an intense period of research this week.

I love researching, reading, ideas and books as much as making art.

Doing the art collaboration with Evy Jokhova later this year - who's practice is different to mine - is making me look at alternative things. How architecture (3D habitable art?) affects human beings, and how that level of identity-making isn't something I'd thought of in terms of my own practice as I work mainly with images, however both are deeply intertwined.

As a result, I started re-reading some of my trusty books (The Story of Art) and some new books, and got curious about the history of images. It's loaded. From a Western and Eastern point of view it differs of course. Early propaganda? Serving ultimately religious purposes from the Middle Ages in Western culture? Images (and words) are 'important means of preserving cultural memory' I learn. I would also add they are important means of creating culture too.

And then I was reminded of Helene Cixous who proposed that for women to 'enter' language/culture in a system created by men/partriachy they need to develop their own way of writing. This is interesting, as another strand of research precipitated by this book; The Book of the City of Ladies (image at top) - taught me that Nicostrata was meant to be the original creator of letters - why didn't they tell me at school that it was a woman???? I mainly learnt about men! See more here.

I am fascinated by history, the place from which I come, but equally the places we may create and therefore go to.

I'm sure it was no 'coincidence' then that I walked in to my father's studio at this time to see a single book facing out at me: African Nomadic Architecture: Space, Place and Gender. I love 'coincidences' like this. I have only read the introduction, but such fascinating thoughts on transient (and original) architecture built with the land and nature. Nomadic structures are not cast in stone and penetrating the earth, to then be valued, heralded, fought over and staked as a 'possession' - is this type of sedentary architecture a more 'masculine' route? The book discusses this. Invisible, transient labour (associated with the domestic sphere and interior spaces) cannot be commodified in the same way - therefore do we need a different value system?

I felt a bit sad as I think about what we do to this planet, how we could live in harmony with it more. Equally I'm thinking about what ways do women or 'the feminine' have that differs from men, or masculinity? (I know have to be so careful with terms of sexes or genders, but I hope you know where I am coming from.) Could there be, or is there a different way to do things that has been diminished over time, lost even? Is it about trying to re-member or find, or is it about creating as Cixous suggest? Is there a masculine way and is there a feminine way?

The book on Nomadic structures discusses also, the way in which arts and crafts were divided as male and female - and I bet you can guess which goes with which? But if you diminish or subordinate an art/craft associated with a sex then you do the same to the whole sex?

If culture is about writing and recording (and creating) then we know - and also considering nomadic and transient concepts - that there is a whole history that has gone un-recorded and unrecognised and that might be the other language that I find myself sometimes searching for. I find as a woman and mother that something does not sit right with me in regards to the culture I live in. I can't always put my finger on it, but I use art to seek maybe.....

On a more contemporary note, this is definitely something I think about: can we all have it all? Another good TEDs talk.

I am starting a separate blog to chart my research in to this collaborative project with Evy Jokhova. I will share the link once I get it sorted. Maybe it will be interesting (for me as much as anyone else!), to see how the process of an art project and resulting work unfolds and goes hand in hand with research. Maybe today is #researchwednesday instead of #creativetuesday this week :)

I hope you are having a creative time wherever you are in the world.


Friday, 10 April 2015

ideas on taking time to live well

I've just discovered The Simple Things! When getting ready to go travelling - a drive from London to Paris meant travel preparation (!!) - and I fell upon this magazine. It's all centred around ideas for living well - how refreshing.

It triggered a wave of inspiration for SIMPLE LIVING. Oh my for simple living. I've thought it's something I've craved as I've got older, but in fact when I look around the world + living in a city, I think a global fast pace has encouraged a generation craving simplicity, slowness, deliberation, and peace a little more. A bit like the craft revolution, the return to the hand-made, home-steading, growing and cooking good food. Maybe it's found me a little later.

When I open a magazine that invites me to bake, put on a record, hang bunting, take a walk, be curious, note the flowers and birds, play cards, potter in my shed and sit around a camp fire, I feel a total THRILL of yes, yes, yes. This coincides with conversations recently about quality of life versus work stress. 

Family dinner talk time had us discussing education that invited questions versus learning by rote. Jobs that invited values and quality of life before - or equal to - financial gain. About how experience and adventure are more rewarding than being a 'slave' to finances which may yield stress and discomfort and see our best years swallowed up. You know that one where working to earn enough to do what we love (but never get there), but actually if we take the time to revise our needs we may need less, which means earning less, which means we might get to do what we love first. Something I have been and continue to work toward.

I know there are things I'd like but it's definitely about feelings (the right feelings in life), about quality of life, about experience and about knowing if I'm smart enough I can find creative ways to do what my passion (and purpose) is and make it a BIG part of my life (and others).

And so, this magazine got me thinking about the things in my own life I find rewarding. The things I'd like to do daily (amongst those things I have to do which are tough):

here goes, my ideas for living well...

- Play with art (with paper, paint, stitching, images, photography, book-making, collage - as those are all my fav's)

- Play like a kid. I found this Pinterest Board and have decided I am going to build a den in my house somewhere (when time permits) and I will have fun gathering all the items for it (fabrics, cushions etc). You might want to make one too? 

- Take time to select nice, nutritious, (organic) food and create dishes from scratch, knowing I am nourishing my mind and body. I read recently that if you don't have your health, no matter how financially wealthy we are, one is not rich....

- Discover, explore, research, ask questions, read books

- Spend quality time with family

- Gain experience and insight through doing (in my own way)

- Make positive changes in the world and help a planet that I sometimes see as flailing - see this fantastic entrepreneurial idea/business

- Plant and grow things. I've been collecting loo rolls and think I may cut them in half, fill with soil and put seeds in on my window ledge :)

- Absorbing good culture and art. Discovering great thinkers (and do-ers)

- Garner and absorb in community

- Use my body: exercise, walking, cycling, breathing deeply and appreciating nature and the world at large

- Dream and make plans (one of my favourite past times)

- Being curious. I ask lots of questions. Always. I like discovering and finding answers and I remember how good it is for creativity

- Continue to SLOW down. I have chosen this year to be slower and so far it feels good. Things are changing a little round here too, but more about that soon ;)

What's really important for you and are you living it? I would love to hear what your thoughts are and what you do (or would like to do) for taking time to live well..... 


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

#creativetuesday #5 | Parisian photo walks

This Easter was a fun, full, family break in Paris. I took my trusty iphone with me at all times, snapping away at the places we visited. Above is a tiny snapshot of the many walks for #creativetuesday 5.

Images order:

View from Hotel window in Porte de Clichy.

Le Comptoir General museum, bar, cafe and all round intriguing place with flea market stalls, plants and an indoor garden, art installations, random bars with fishtanks below. Even a glitter ball area - see here. Well worth a visit.

Disney Land Paris.

The Eiffel Tower.

And I finally made it to the Pompidou and got to see the Jeff Koons show (final image).

I spent so much time walking and ensuring everyone was alright, not much time for 'hands-on' art-ing, but that's why I like taking pics so much. Still a chance to be creative and snap a glimpse of the environment we're in at that moment.

What have you been up to this Easter? What creative projects? Do share in the comments below and/or anywhere else - I always love to hear :)

I have lots more projects and ideas on the go. I will be back soon!


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

#creativetuesday #4 | found-papers artists books

images: a journey through both of my books 

Another #creativetuesday is here and I thought I'd share my 2 latest creations - 'found-papers' artists books. This comes from enjoying time on the PaperLove course.

There are reams of collected, hoarded, squirreled and folded papers that fill the many crevices of my home. I love the touch, feel, even smell of paper. Paper with history; paper with substance; paper that holds potential; paper that needs intervention and paper that tells a story. 

Gathered here are different sized pieces from:

- vintage book pages (blank)

- vintage art catalogue page

- hand-made paper

- watercolour paper  

- cartridge paper

- tracing paper

- brown kraft paper 

- Somerset paper

- a photocopy

- magazine page

- screen prints I've done 

+ more

Assembled by size, weight, texture, interest and stitched together using waxed linen thread.

I used these as 'vessels for ideas' - I love that notion! Once made, I started to work in to the pages. There are some layers of collage with varying paperloves of mine, then I re-discovered my spray paint and whole pages became blanked out in a coat of black and the occasional strip of black releasing alternative narratives within an image.

This may well be a new way to feed my work and project ideas: sketchbooks with context and history i.e. I didn't simply walk in to a shop and buy a sketchbook! I love things that have a patina of age, of being handled, of well, so many stories.

Some images from magazines, postcards and other sources, I covet so much, that to copy and include seems a good way to view and play without 'ruining' the original. Sometimes I live in fear of 'ruining' an original of something because the image, the paper, the whole 'idea' holds so much potential, and once I have done something to it, I may be committing it to a final symbolism, or existence, coded once and for all and no longer open to many possibilities....

In fact screen printing works well for this challenge, and I will be including some of my creations here soon for a #creativetuesday.

What projects, ideas, loves, passions, creations have you been working on, or tinkering with? What materials does it involve? What images on your camera, or notes in your sketchbook? (Yes, photos, words and squiggles are included too!) Do share with a link (URL) to your online home or place where images or words exist for those of us here to peak at :)

Instagram & Paris

I am off to Paris this week - if anyone has recommendations of where to visit, do let me know.  I will be posting some of my adventures on instagram, so if you're not already following (and want to), head over here for more: 

It is my intention to use instagram (more) as a way of adding snippets of my day-to-day life with a considered and artistic touch. I love photography as much as paper, and, well, lots of other art techniques.


Oh, and I am loving the links, connnections, and richness that is forming over on my paper | texture | form board on Pinterest (you might want to peak ;) ) Or start your own board....


Friday, 27 March 2015

Where to get non-traditional art materials from (for experimenters)

the stick with ink on is a BBQ skewer ;)


Spring is in the air. Ideas are brewing. Art is being created and I would love to know - where do you get your art materials from?

I've been thinking about this a fair bit recently as I often find myself in the most obscure places gathering materials for my art projects. So, I thought a post about it would be an idea. Here goes:

- carboot or yard sales - when I was doing my art MA I was creating installations with fairy-tale like narratives. I would often go to my local boot sale to source old and odd items, such as vintage scissors, jars of ink, mirrors etc

- eBay - eBay is an amazing place to buy art materials from. I found intriguing items for the project mentioned above. Also great for vintage postcards and photographs to work with or household trinkets and ornaments to make sculptures from 

- charity shop - similarly if seeking clothes or fabric to do stitched art on and need something with a history, apart from one's own wardrobe, buying reclaimed clothes to cut up from here, to patch, dye and stitch, is a great resource. I have also bought old linen from street sales in France.

- cosmetics shop - in the past I have used cosmetics for work including staining (those who have done the experimental art e-course with me, will know about this ;) ) Nail varnishes (polish) are like enamel paint, and there's liquid liners or coloured rouges/blushers to experiment with!

- the stationery shop - Who said paper? Oh how I love the stationers for all the potential paper cutting, tearing, hole-punching, ripping and layering. I love the squared graph paper - see artist Abbi Torrance who uses graph paper to draw on - and then there's tracing paper that is lovely to layer on top of other papers/colours, and of course hand-made papers that can be put through the printer to get gorgeous prints on. Hole punches can be bought here - see this recently discovered artist. And then there's pencils and glue to glue collages with...

- museums - partly what precipitated this post is because I found myself at the local science and natural history museums recently buying crystals and even a 'grow your own crystal kit'.  See artist Karen David. I have this idea that I would like to collage with crystal and rock etc. On speaking to a friend it's possible to make one's own crystals with copper sulphate and knotted string - has anyone done this experiment? Also, solar paper can also be bought from museum's often - I'm keen to take some 'sunlight' photographs soon

- hardware or DIY shop - this leads me on to the hardware shop. There is SOOO much to be got from here. White spirit to mix with oil pastels, or string to create an Eva Hesse or Richard Wentworth art-piece with. Maybe copper sulphate can be bought here too? Wood for painting on (I've bought many wood off-cuts from my local hardware shop), sandpaper and bleach to 'erase' with (presence and absence and all that) ;) and household paints to paint with, wallpaper to collage or create installations with + more I'm sure...

- the great outdoors - oh my and this is all for FREE. What is possible to collect here is immense. Flowers for petal collages (try collaging flower petals on to old photographs), leaves to print on or with, or use for stitch inspiration (veins of leaves are amazing), stones or rocks for creating an Andy Goldsworthy's with or for collaging (that's what I'm planning - if it's even possible!?) Mud to paint with, berries to stain and colour with, twigs to create mobile art or installations, or as I do, try sharpening a twig with a scalpel and dipping it in ink to draw - it's amazing! Create a collage of debris from found items

- library & second-hand bookshop - I have often bought old books, magazines and even ordnance survey maps from my local libraries. I will cut up book pages, use collage from the magazines and of course maps are great for art. Possibilities: collage on top, reference the lines, use as inspiration for an individual style map or mapping and print and use element as a starting piece for an art project. The same applies to second-hand book shops

- fabric shop - I love the fabric shop for all the embroidery threads to stitch with, to muslim, voile, linen and cottons to make a canvas with or stitch in to. See artist Alice Wilson who uses voile to stretch over a frame and then paint and draw on to so the image can be viewed on two sides (Alice has a show coming up at ArtLacuna next month by the way). I've also recently been buying fabric paint to paint on to vintage french linen with and have used calico in the past to do Watercolour painting on - very interesting effects

- the bin (or trash) - I love my recycling bag for all the potential bottles, card, paper etc. I will often recycle envelopes in to my artists books. Items can be used to create debris, card or paper collages or use items to create installations to photograph. See this artist's photos of plastic bags - they look amazing! And loo roll art from Yuken Teruya. And Sue Webster's shadow art - see what can be done with a mountain of plastic!

This makes me want to run out and start gathering materials to do all sorts of experimental art projects with :)

I love to extend the possibilities. Think outside the box. In fact it's got me fired up for running another experimental art e-course. I want to add to the course and am plotting and planning at the moment (I'm aiming for later this year). You can of course hear more via this mailing list: experimental art mailing list.

Where you gather your materials from? I would love to hear - and add to this list........


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

#creativetuesday #3 | paper sculpting

As a result of doing #creativetuesday I have felt more immersed in the creative zone. This is good. It's funny how parameters can work positively and get results. 

This process is like a peak in to how I work and think. Building on from last weeks 'presence and absence', I have continued to explore these possibilities and see where else I can take what I have been working on (above).

Structure, construct, geometry, bio-morphic, bio-molecular have all recently come in to the equation. I can't seem to string the words together to explain how/why because this is a process based, well, process.... The links are visual at this stage.

Where does identity start? How are most things - physical and metaphysical - constructed? Does art emulate life/nature? Maybe it is all linked, like circles, yes circles, growth, expansion are all good......

I will stop there.

Paper is such a key medium to my work. The above image is utilising waste - waste images, waste waste (I won't tell you just yet what the circular pieces are from that the paper sits in ;)

It is this love of paper that finally tipped me over in to taking Rachel Hazell's PaperLove e-course. I LOVE paper and it's fun being on the receiving end of assignments and being part of a group. Well, I love any excuse to make too :)

So here are some more of the paper play and paper sculpting I've been doing......

There is something truly satisfying about playing with paper. I am getting lots of ideas!

And I'm still obsessing with Pinterest, adding to my paper | texture | form board - wanna see? Check here:

So much one can see, make, do, perceive, connect, muse on..... ah, the list goes on.

What creative projects are you working on? What Pinterest boards do you have or love? Any paper art projects out there you enjoy? Do share ;)


Saturday, 21 March 2015

'How To Make an Origami Envelope' with Flow Paper (by Rachel Hazell)

Dear friends,

A guest post! Yes, I'm trying another new experiment. I've invited Rachel Hazell to do a lovely paper tutorial. Great timing as Easter looms. Righto, I will hand straight over to Rachel.....


Hello fellow paper people! 

Thank you Amelia for inviting me to create a guest blog post for you. This comes from the Isle of Iona, ( where I am preparing soup and goody bags for the Driftwood Bookbinders who are arriving. 

We are going to think and write and fold and stitch all the long weekend. Because everything to do with travel, stationery, correspondence, maps and handwriting gets me super excited, I’ve chosen to produce instructions for an origami envelope made from a paper square. Compose a thoughtful message on one side and follow the instructions below to construct a neat self-contained vessel. Happy folding!

You will need:

Paper. Experiment with different thicknesses, but somewhere between 80gsm and 160gsm is ideal. I’ve used paper from Flow Magazine’s Book For Paper Lovers. Packed with pattern (AND bunting, AND labels, AND stickers, AND postcards, AND wrapping paper….) You probably need it.


Cut paper into a perfect square, by folding one corner of a rectangle diagonally. Use a bone folder to get your creases crisp.

The triangle’s long side is going to become the bottom edge of your envelope.

Roughly divide the long side into thirds, fold in one point. Just under a third is better than over. Guestimating is fine!

And then fold in the other point, which will meet the other end, just about.

Fold this top point back over itself, exactly half way across the bottom line.

Lifting the point up to a ninety-degree angle, gently open out and push it down flat to create a square-shaped lozenge.

Finally bring the top triangle down to meet the bottom edge, crease, and then slide the point into the lozenge to seal.

Perfect for billets doux, notes on presents, a literary advent calendar, and whenever you need to send a special message…

Try with manuscript paper, pages from old books, thick wrapping paper…. I’d love to see what you create!

Please share on facebook 
Twitter @BookloverRAH 
or Instagram @paperhazell – thank you!

Rachel Hazell’s five week e-course PaperLove, packed with bookart, calligraphy, collage and more origami starts March 23rd. See:


Thanks so much to Rachel. I know what I'll be doing this weekend! An idea for #creativetuesday? ;)

Back soon,