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.


Disability ?

I don’t want to talk about disability generally. I can only speak to my own experience. I was recently introduced to the notion of the Social Model of Disability, the idea that it is the difficulty of functioning in society that determines if one is disabled, rather than the specific physical, emotional or developmental issue that a person might be experiencing. 

I have been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, I am on the autism spectrum. This is a disability within the Social (and Medical) Model because being autistic prevents me from easily making a living and building friendships and professional networks within the current structure of the society I live in. It interferes with my ability to deal with people and it means that I have various sensory issues that can make daily life stressful or uncomfortable.

Living in a society with a welfare system and free healthcare you might think that I receive extra support for my disability. This is not the case.
Because of my Asperger's, I struggle to work with people on a daily basis. I cannot find a job that allows me to work on my own, so I have to work part-time in order to manage the stress of being around other people. However, I am not entitled to any benefits or financial support because I do not have a physical disability.

As an artist I could (and have) identify as a disabled artist and I have received some mentoring from and been exhibited with two disability arts groups. However, because artist organisations, even ones for people with disabilities, are not set up to support people with my kind of neurological make-up, the real support that I need and that would make a genuine difference to my professional life does not exist. Or if it does, I don’t know where. 
I’m mostly interested in making work about the world and being human, rather than focusing on making work about my disability, but it seems that disability arts organisations want artists who are political about disability (understandably) So I struggle to find suitable projects supported by these organisations that would exhibit the sort of work I love to make. 

I use social media to connect with other disabled/autistic/neuro-diverse people and artists and get some emotional and political support that way. It has helped me tremendously to understand my condition and to connect with other people in a way that is manageable. But it is also fraught with triggers: noticing people who do seem to get help and support for their autism, or who seem to be part of an offline autistic community, even winning a kind of celebrity for having the same condition that makes my life sometimes very difficult and frustrating. 

However, underlying all the feelings of frustration, unfairness and hopelessness there is another voice that questions if I am disabled at all, even though the difficulties I have just functioning day to day are quite frankly a bloody pain in the arse.


However, I am competent. I’m actually more competent that many other people I know. Yes I’m beyond crap at remembering to smile at folk and I often get accused of being rude if my social functioning has been skewed by sensory overload, but I can talk to folk. I can give lectures. I can make small talk. I know some pretty good socialising rules and tricks. I remember to ask about them. I know to talk to everyone in the room. I can fix a smile and say the ‘right things.' I know what knife and fork to use and how to disport myself in polite company.

And I know how to do many things. I can milk a goat, knit a jumper, build a fire, bake bread, make wine, grow food, grow flowers. I know about British wildlife and mythology. I can create and run a pagan ritual. I can use a drill, a saw and hammer in nails. I can use a screwdriver and build a box and I know how to make ink from oak galls. I can build a pond and lay a crooked hedge. I can bake cakes, I’ve given birth, I can spin on a drop spindle and know many wild plants names and medicinal uses. I can swim, I can sing, I have a teaching qualification and a first class degree.

This person, this competent person, this person who loves to help other people, who raised a child, who has taught children and adults skills and knowledge, who reads and understands, who loves to think and is in love with the world, with the science and wonder of it all, this person is not. fucking. disabled.

I am thankful that I got a diagnosis of Asperger's/autism. It's helped me to understand myself better and because of my diagnosis I've made some changes that mean life is so much more comfortable than it was before. And there are some seriously wonderful autistic people out there, my tribe!

However, identifying as disabled has been of no help to me at all. It’s just made me feel helpless, incompetent and depressed. I have been thinking that all this agony, all this internal anger and despair has really been a very good thing for me because I have come to this realisation that I am competent and that I am here on this Earth to help, not to be helped. I am thankful that I am me and even though it would be lovely to get some support, it’s not for me. There are plenty of other people who need it more than I do. There are plenty of other people that I could actually help.

So I’ve decided that one way I can help is by doing it my way. By making the art I want to make and figuring out how to get the money to support my practice without trying to jump through the conventional hoops. Why can’t I give away my work? Why can’t I put on my own exhibitions? I’ve done both before. Not only that but why not live differently too? If I can only work part-time then why not embrace poverty? Why not figure out how to live happily on very little? (I think I pretty much have that sussed anyway)

If I live my own life, do things in my own way I can offer that as a gift to others. My footsteps can help to flatten that path of individuality just a little bit, which will hopefully make it an easier one for others to walk.

It won’t look like a ‘normal’ life. Perhaps I will never ‘make it’ as an artist. Perhaps it will be uncomfortable and difficult and weird. But it will be mine, my way of being and my way of making work and that doesn’t make me feel disabled or helpless or ashamed. It makes me feel strong.



I have been meditating again recently. I used to do it regularly up until a few years ago. I have been thinking about meditation practice in my work and also about how easy or difficult it might be to meditate as an autistic person and if it would be helpful to manage sensory issues.

Buddhists see suffering as something that we allow to happen through our ungoverned thinking. Suffering happens in the mind. A thing is only as bad or as good as you think it is. For autistic people the world can be a sensory assault, so we suffer because our brains overreact to external stimuli.

I am interested in exploring if meditating can help me manage the suffering of an overstimulated mind. I think that I will have to approach it with baby steps though. Today I was sitting in a cafe and a guy came and sat down at the next table and began to open and eat a bag of crisps. Now the sound of crisp packets rustling drives me crazy, it's utterly awful. I sat there, telling myself to breathe, to accept the noise, to enjoy the challenge.
Yeah, I lasted about 5 minutes. When the guy opened the second packet of crisps I was done and out of there! Baby steps though. Because we should also extend to ourselves compassion in order to have compassion for others. So I recognise how hard it is going to be to try and not let my sensory issues cause me to suffer. Just keep trying.

In terms of my art, I am grappling with half-formed ideas around art and spiritual practice, around mindfulness and making. It's something that I have been exploring for several years, with the Goddess pieces I made after graduating and with work that I have given away to the public, like the Nestbooks project. So some ideas are germinating in the dark of my brain....

January ennui

I don't know about you, but I am tired. I think it's January syndrome. We should be soft, quiet and resting at this time of year don't you think? It's hard to get motivated right now. I was full of plans for making new work recently, but January has got me and I am feeling very sleepy and struggling to motivate myself to anything much.
Also, I'm poor (again) so I am not able to buy materials to make new work until next month. One thing I am doing though is learning to code. I'm using Processing which seems like a good programme for visual stuff. I'm also quite keen to start exploring Arduino tech and will hopefully and finally get my Raspberry Pi up and running. Honestly, I've had the damn thing for about 4 years and done nothing with it so far. It's quite pathetic of me. I have everything I need to play with it except a monitor to hook it up to. I'm hoping that I might be able to borrow a monitor from work and get it all going.
I want to explore this tech with my weather work and I also want to look at ways of incorporating tech into the autism dolls that I'm working on right now. I have some ideas about sensory issues that I want to explore. So much to do, so little energy to do it.
Dear Winter, do bugger off, dear Spring, please come quickly!


Shape Arts Open 2017

I'm going to be exhibiting at the 2017 Shape Arts Open (opening on Thursday 19 January and continuing until Thursday 2 February 2017).
I've got to travel down on Monday by train and am really hoping that this thrilling #snowmageddon "sweeping" the UK will have passed by then and the trains are working ok.
I'm taking these fellows with me

What happened?

What happened?
What happened to this blog?
What happened to all those sharing posts way back in the early days? You know, the rants about being an artist, the trying to get shows, the frustrations and joys of making work.
What happened to the excitement and innocence of that?
What happened to blogging?
Where have all the sidebar friends gone?
Why does everybody use their blog to make money?
What happened to the community that I was a part of?
What happened to me?

I got older.
I got sidetracked.
I got busy.
I got tired.
I got isolated.
I stopped making meaningful work.

I got scared.

I got complacent and then frustrated.

Mostly, I got self-conscious.
And a lot more boring.

I thought my blog should be the place where I show work 'professionally.' And I couldn't be bothered to create a proper website. But the thing is, I think that I am discovering that I don't like professional. I prefer heart and soul. Honesty and gut reactions.
I have so much to tell you, so much to say. Even more to show you. All that damn beauty out there, all the stuff I want to make.

I think I'm going to start blogging again. Properly. Like in the old days......


All the Wrong

Sketchbook drawing for new work - 'carrying all the wrong'

Ribs and Bones

Yesterday was sunlight, ribs and bones. Soaring gracefulness, elevated joy, subtle complexity.

Walk through the autumn garden

Got to spend an hour or so in the garden this afternoon. I hardly went into the garden this year - not a mistake I will ever repeat again. No matter how hard I am working daily nature connection is vital for a happy soul.
So walk with me down the garden path. It's a dull late autumn day but it's mild and very quiet and we have the place to ourselves...

Rain Painting

new Rain Paintings