For details about my work have a look at my website,

I am currently working on large prints combining water based woodblock techniques with oil based linocut: nothing if not a challenge! I'm also doing some teaching and go back to school myself in the spring to qualify as an adult education tutor

Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas Story

The house I rent while I am staying on the Isle of Wight is about a half hour commute from the factory and, since winter came, has been a drive to and fro in the dark. As my last visit coincided with the start of Christmas, there were various displays of lights en route. The garden centre had fairly freaky lights on their conifers which, in combination with my enamel dust filled eyes, danced alarmingly in and out of focus Bridget Riley fashion, causing me to drive past at geriatric speed each night. The real stunner was in Sandown itself. The wattage was so powerful and the combination of religious and festive icons so varied that it was a couple of days before I managed to make out some of the detail.

One of the things I noticed was a giraffe in blue twinkling lights. Now I went to a fairly high church Anglican boarding school and we had plenty of religious instruction. We had our own chapel and in addition to the usual daily assembly service we had evening chapel twice a week, Communion Wednesday crack of dawn, Compline Friday evenings and full services Saturday and Sunday. Come Christmas there were a lot of extra services and I emerged at seventeen with an encyclopaedic knowledge of hymns, ancient if not modern, and a fair grasp of the King James Bible. Nowhere could I place a blue giraffe in the Christmas story and yet I drove past it each evening, large as life and beautifully detailed.

Finally I decided that the thing to do was to go and have a proper look and see if there was some sort of African twinning theme happening. Imagine my utter disappointment when I walked up to the building from a different direction and discovered that my beautiful blue giraffe was in fact just an ordinary tree draped at random with a string of lights, reliant entirely on the angle of the road and the height of my mini to conjure it into life. I thought about this, wasn’t happy and decided that there was a bit of space in the Christmas story for a blue giraffe after all. What if one of the wise men (wiser than the other two and perhaps with kids of his own) realised that no young mum, however inexperienced, would let her infant near frankincense, myrrh or gold pieces so, knowing all babies like bright colours and soft toys, took an extra baby-friendly present in the shape of a blue giraffe?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Listen Again

I've never been a fan of rave music to be honest. Actually, if I am entirely honest, I'm not very good on the subject of music at all. I dread the 'what music do you like?' question which usually wipes my mind entirely clean of any music related information. It's not that I don't like music, I do, but I like such a bizarre selection of fragments that it defies band, style or even genre. My brother-in-law and I sat down with as many CDs as we had in the house about a month ago and he complied a play list for me. After a trying few hours he looked at me kindly and said 'You do know it's really only music to do other things to?'. Since he lives in a flat insulated entirely with CDs, I guess that's me categorised: "likes music to do stuff to" which brings me back to rave music.

Thanks to Kev and Dave I have found that the stuff to do to rave music which makes it really, really excellent, is to pitch up in the 4.30am darkness when there's only the three of you awake, the furnaces are welcomingly blistering and getting six panels fired and back is viable before the factory fills up at 7.00am. I should say that I was late, they'd both been in since 3.00am, but I'll try harder next time we get a backlog on my work. It was early enough to make eating rum truffles at 7.45am seem perfectly reasonable, much as the porters in Covent Garden downed early morning pints, but I don't recommend it - it catches up with you later believe me. By 10.00am I'd been at Guy's stash of paracetamol, by 12.00pm I'd scored Pro-Plus pills off Dave and by 2.00pm I was only awake thanks to the sugar rush from a brick sized piece of Colin's birthday cake. I stuck it out until about 5.00pm by which time I was ready to lie face down on any available flat surface which is exactly what I went home and did.

I came home on Saturday on the early ferry clutching a hamper of Island produce courtesy of Wells. Why they should be so kind when I'm well aware that my need for random access to the furnace must make my visits a nightmare to accommodate I'm not sure, but I'm going to enjoy eating the lot. Again Red Funnel came up trumps in the costume department. This time it was a ferry man in full Father Christmas costume with his own lavish beard. As I was climbing back into my car at Southampton I heard the following exchange: small child "Santa, what are you doing on the ferry?" Santa, without hesitation and with exasperation "Nipper, it's my day job. Six more hours of this and I have to get back to the North Pole for the sleigh, so get back in your car and stop bothering me with your questions." Classic.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Shipping News

It’s been a long gap between blogs. That’s because there’s been a long gap between visits to the factory. I am on my way back now, sitting on a fairly empty Red Funnel ferry making valiant efforts to hack into their wireless network. I’m somewhat distracted by a pair of toddler twins sitting on the bench opposite. With exactly matching red hair and blue eyes, they’re both dressed prettily as snowflakes* and are watching me with total fascination (I have had a quick mental review and quite what is so engaging about a woman in a lumberjack shirt tapping on an old laptop is a mystery). It’s getting a bit disturbing to be honest and the temptation to suddenly shout ‘BOO!’ is becoming very tempting. Though there’s something of The Shining about them so perhaps best not…

I was far too early for my ferry today thanks to Tim, my sat nav (Tim was the English voice; Tod was the American who sounded frankly annoying and, being American, unlikely to handle roundabouts and London traffic well). Normally I have a stop before Southampton for a coffee, but today Tim took me on a strange and depressing circuit of Southampton’s suburbs, religiously avoiding anything resembling a coffee or tea shop, tipping me into the ferry terminal an hour and three quarters early. However, I’ve managed to get on the ferry before my booked departure no questions asked. This is an eternal mystery to me. Sometimes, like today, this is completely OK and I’m straight on. At other times asking for early admission is acceptable, but will cost an arm and a leg after a stressful session in the ticket office. Sometimes I’m not even allowed into the ferry port and have to wait in the overflow car park in disgrace. None of this bears any sensible relationship to the number of cars waiting to get on the boat, nor has any Islander been able to explain it. Answers on a postcard please…

*costume and the ferry: last time I crossed it was Halloween and extremely crowded. That time I squashed in with a baby disguised as a pumpkin and five zombies who ate chips with an enthusiasm you wouldn’t expect in people haemorrhaging badly from eyes, nose and mouth.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


My mother-in-law has instructed me to write a new blog as she's tired of waiting for an update. Apart from being flattered that she's interested, I think it's fair exchange for lending me her entire kitchen floor as a layout pad, her light box, pencils, pens and oldest son for the day while I designed a new section of landscape for the enamels.

When this project started, I thought I had things stitched up - all the panels designed, planned, consigned to individual template sheets and ready for production - I'd been two years in the preparation after all. You can tell it's my first public art project and I have stumbled into it a complete innocent as it has now become obvious that lots can change, change and change again.

The main change has been in the actual contours of the cladding: what used to be areas of smooth curves now have doglegs and bends, doors and differing levels. While I have the comparatively easy task of redesigning a few areas of artwork, it's the project managers, steel workers, sprayers and furnace men that have had to get their heads and the sheet metal around these new curves and bends. For them this has meant building jigs and special firing platforms, making doors for the first time ever and generally going about things in entirely new ways.

If you see this finished artwork in all its glory, take some time to look at the panels themselves and their construction - there's an awful lot of thought, invention and cooperation in them which is just as skilful and, in its way, creative as anything I've done for this project.

Friday, 24 October 2008


I have a promotion of sorts here at the factory: Kevin and Colin have decided to let me take my own artwork to and from the furnace, something which has previously been done by Dave (Dave is now holidaying in Cuba where I would like to think he is sipping lush cocktails and enjoying the odd cigar with his wife-to-be). The promotion comes in the form of trusting me to manage the journey without disaster.

To remind you, I have my six precious custom-made metal trolleys for moving my work. These fit the 1.2m x 2.4m panels and are pretty solid. They are fine for swinging about in my studio space, but are singularly dodgy for travelling. To get a panel to the furnace, I have to weave it past other work which is stacked at random angles almost everywhere. There is nothing better designed to chip enamel than more enamel on the move: it is fragile stuff until it it safely installed. Add to that the problem that the stacks of other work (which can range from Aga tops to Boris Johnson's 'Don't drink on the Underground' signs) are balanced on trolleys made up of slats of metal effectively little more than stacks of knife blades on edge and you can see why Colin and Kevin are being so brave in letting me do this.

Progress is very slow and, compared to the men, I am painfully cautious. Even so I managed to knock a panel badly (much laughing and thankfully it was a dud one which I have suspicions may have been left especially balanced to hone my skills). The lift is particularly difficult, Kev manages to exit controlling a full trolley with a flick of the wrist at speed. I can only manage it by backing out bottom first, freeing the trolley with a sort of full on Josephine Baker shimmy.

Hmm, call me slow on the uptake, but it occurs to me now I write this that I may just have worked out exactly why I've got the promotion and why everyone's being so very patient about it...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Blue Sky Thinking

I was interviewed for the local Isle of Wight radio yesterday along with the management. The man who turned up was very kind, while he couldn't be expected to be as absolutely charmed by enamel as I am, at least he was absolutely charming about it. All went well except that he asked one fatal question which went something like 'and how do you know you've got it right?'. I laughed in the slightly maniacal tone often favoured by Joyce Grenfell and explained that the dispatch guys checked every panel for alignment and colour before they were sent up to Aylesbury.

So with the dispatch team watching my back all should be well, but after the interview I got to thinking about the day's six panels. As I said before, the six panel waltz is best taken as it comes. I have done an awful lot of planning and preparation, I do check constantly for alignment and colour, but I don't think about the whole thing all at once, not until yesterday at least. Trying to take a considered overview of the situation when some were done, some downstairs, some half painted and one still propped up against the wall was silly - but it was a desperate and long few minutes while I stared at what I had, thinking that it couldn't possibly all be right. Then I realised that I was looking at a couple upside down and sanity was restored.

Trouble is that the sky in my pictures can as easily be at the bottom as at the top and, like most normal people, I'd failed to take that into account while panicking. I should explain that I see landscapes pretty much as a series of appealing shapes which lock together in a patchwork. Sky is useful as a backing cloth to hold the pieces together and, as such, can logically be as good below the landscape as above it. At least I've stuck to blue sky for this project: that's not always the case in my prints, but I figured that the townspeople of Aylesbury are in for a big enough shock as it is...

Monday, 29 September 2008


I've been pondering a comment from one of the senior management which followed my brief appearance in a pretty skirt and top, neither of which were caked in my usual appealing mix of enamel dust, solvent and paint. He started and said 'Oh so you can look like a lady!'. Maybe I think about these things too much - ten hours a day doubled over mild steel will do that to you - but I'm amused that I only look 'like' a lady even when I'm giving it my best shot and also that I'm obviously so irredeemably vile the rest of the time that it's a shock to see me presentable...

Truth is that I do have a Jekyll and Hyde relationship with my appearance at the moment. Part of the time I am unapologetically Mrs Hyde, prowling the factory floor in my three for a fiver t-shirts, feet in filthy trainers, all mad hair and caked fingernails. At other times I am Doctor Jekyll in the shape of an arts consultant for Wycombe County Council. The job entails charming the business community into working with artists and for this I have to look more business than artist: tidy and glossy, all briefcase and heels.

Every time I come home there's a scuffle to switch roles. This extends to my laptop, mobile and diary, all of which have to be cleaned of incriminating grime and fingerprints. I quite like the switch, enjoying the clean white shirts and dust free internet access. I do notice however that I slip more comfortably back into my factory persona, it is, I admit, my more natural habitat. So you were right Andy: I can look like a lady, given access to the showers and a scrubbing brush, but it doesn't mean I am one...

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

sticky stuff

Since everyone is handing out financial advice these days, I feel obliged to pass an insider tip - buy 3M shares and buy them now! I am walloping through their masking tape at such profligate speed that I predict a massive upswing in their market share. I use the masking tape as a kind of stencil which allows me to bump a wet colour up against a dry colour without needing it fired first. This speeds things up enormously and also cuts down on the expensive end of the equation which comes in the shape of Kevin and his fiery furnace.

We bought our first flat back in the eighties which, for those of you who remember, was a time of burgeoning enthusiasm for paint effects. I think I did them all: ragging, rolling, stippling, sponging and stencilling which, given the size of the flat, was possibly a mistake. I used masking tape a lot back then, but never on this titanic scale. Mercifully enamel behaves immaculately in conjunction with the tape: it doesn't bleed or lift or flake which gives me a clean separation every time. Considering that this is big, wide masking tape for the working man (none of that girly low-tack designed-to-go-round-corners TV makeover style nonsense here) it's a miracle for which I give daily thanks.

I also have my own wheelie bin for masking tape disposal. By the time I throw it away it is coated in wet paint and swiftly fills the bin with multicoloured loops. This loose mass can be repeatedly packed down into a pleasingly small lump. This it is best done with due care when the factory floor is empty. The first time I decided to have a go the bin was half full and I enthusiastically leant in and pushed it down with my hands, totally underestimating the slick wetness of the enamel, the stickiness of the tape, the height of the bin and the lack of my balance. You can see why I am an artist and not a physicist, though I could probably have sold the idea to the Arts Council as a performance piece guaranteed to leave the audience with a memorable and amusing impression.

Monday, 15 September 2008


One of the things about being on the Isle of Wight alone is that, come the evening, I have to rely on broadcast media for company. I have forged a new relationship with Radio Four's listen again facility and now take the laptop into the bathroom for a swift half hour's entertainment while soaking away the day's grime. I have a great fondness for Dixon of Dock Green, although the acoustics on my laptop reveal that the programme, as is the case with many others, is recorded from the interior of an empty catering sized tin can (one can only imagine pineapple chunks for the DG's lunch). I think that the sound system on the laptop may be helping with this impression. It's not the fanciest of machines and came second hand from my brother who kindly 'altered the programming to something more primitive' for me. However it works fine when I drag my knuckles over the keyboard and as long as I can hear George Dixon clouting the odd youth on the back of the head I'm happy.

I have a rather anxious relationship with the TV as it has a sort of sat-top-free-box thing which is not at all the same as our Sky Box. My ignorance is largely to do with impatience and total disinterest in any form of instructions. Interestingly, while I loathe people who shout loudly in English at foreigners, I am perfectly happy to do the digital equivalent by hitting buttons at random asking the screen why it isn't working in ever more excited tones. The other night I gave up and watched Eastenders in a torpor, ignoring the fact that I had no idea who was who or what was what. I was once an avid watcher, but in my day there was Dirty Den whispering evil nothings from the side of his sneering mouth while A-nge registered wronged wife at the upper end of the Richter scale in purple satin self stripe. The only things I concluded from the recent episode were that Albert Square's housing still packs unfeasibly huge families into all too believablely small terraces, that the cast fails to learn from the lessons of history and remains about to get married or murdered, and that jobs are eternally passed around like babies with a 'mind the caff' or 'look after me stall' as nobody ever, ever just gets on with their work. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

Friday, 5 September 2008

Talking dirty

Enamel is a dirty business. Mainly it's dust that's the problem and I think I probably raise more dust in my bit of the factory than the rest of the printers put together. Part of my work is to free-hand draw though the enamel to give the landscape life and interest. I can do this because the wet enamel, after fifteen minutes in my dryer, comes out as a hard powder coat which is perfect for scratching through with a wooden tool (have a look at this on my web site).

The down side of all this creativity is the gritty muck that coats me daily from head to foot. As it's a landscape it is unfortunately mostly green dust. The general effect is not so much Incredible Hulk as 'exhausted woman in the late stages of consumption' leading to kind enquiries from Kev and Colin about my state of health. 'Oh you do look tired' are dread words for any forty something woman to hear; we're all supposed to be clear, satin-faced beauties 'because we're worth it'. Right - try that in an enamel factory Claudia.

Yesterday for variation I scratched out a big stand of autumn trees which gave my face a coat of orange. I could have been Dale Winton's sister, though in matt obviously rather than the gloss finish favoured by Dale himself.

The other thing about this dust is that it works its way all over. Those of us less favoured in the bust department will have suffered the advice that 'clever shading can enhance the cleavage' (not something I have ever cared to believe). By the time I get home for a bath, the enamel has worked its magic and it looks for all the world as though an overly optimistic makeup artist has attempted to give me the boobs of Dolly Parton by trompe l'oeil alone.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Chicken Hands

I thought enamel would be bound to do for my hands. At the start of the project one of the managers pressed large black rubber gloves on me along with a big tube of barrier cream. I was grateful and they have sat in silent reproach on a shelf ever since. The good news is that constant exposure to enamel hasn’t resulted in any effect whatsoever. My hands are fine, as my hands go, but then they were done for long ago.

My son met me coming in one day a few years back from winter digging the vegetable beds. I was cold and tired and horribly muddy and was grateful for his look of concern. I went so far as to imagine the steaming cup of tea which would doubtless result from his anxiety. However, after examining me intently for a few moments, he looked me in the eye and said ‘Ugh! Your hands look just like chicken feet’ and then departed repelled.

He’s absolutely right, I babysat my sister’s chickens recently and I checked. The price I guess for never bothering with gloves for anything from shovelling gravel to fishing etching plates out of acid.

Enamel is the most extraordinary stuff, quite aside from being reasonably hand friendly. The more I work with it, the more I want to experiment. It has aspects of printmaking in its application which makes it user-friendly for me, but it has the sensitivity and luminosity of watercolour. The slightest overlap or variation in thickness is apparent and its delicacy a challenge. I think it would lend itself marvellously to seascapes which I am thinking about for the first time (helps being on a small island) but not for this project. Sadly Aylesbury Vale is as far from the sea as anywhere in England.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


It's my first day of a new shift and I didn't get much sleep last night.

I do tend to go through periodic bouts of insomnia which I accept with the help of cups of tea and the extraordinary offerings of late night satellite TV. The delight of my cat helps: he embraces my three am arrival with all the enthusiasm of an Enid Blighton school child. 'Crickey! A midnight feast! Ripping, let's open the sardines and condensed milk!!'

Last night I was woken up by a fight outside, I think in Polish. I had a look and was horrified to see two huge skinheads towering over a tiny girl. After an anxious moment during which I ran through all the things in the rented house I could use for hitting (nothing much except my heavy set of template drawings) it became clear that the men were getting the worst of it. I'm no expert in body language, but I've read enough Desmond Morris to see that whatever these guys had done, it wasn't big, it wasn't clever and their sister (?) was considering writing home to mama in painful detail. The men waved their hands about in appeasing gestures and shuffled from one foot to the other until things calmed down. They were then permitted to get into a pimped red hatchback which they drove away very slowly and very quietly. The girl dusted her hands together, something I thought people only did in bad films, and went inside.

I didn't really mind waking up for that, it was great. Besides I slept on the ferry coming over. I may not sleep at night, but there's something about Red Funnel ferries that knocks me out cold every time. I slept through screaming kids and yelling parents on a ferry so crowded that I had to fold up small to share my bench with two grannies and their packamac collection. When I woke up one said to me 'I expect you're tired dear, a nice rest on the Island will do you good'. Yeah, right.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

The Colour Purple

I should say, before I go anywhere at all with this, that I am no expert in enamel and its various properties. I could have done my homework on the net and filled you in on the technical stuff, but I had a bubble bath instead. Doubtless there will soon be a waterproof laptop and then you'll be better informed.

I am working with enamel in a liquid paint form. It comes in various types for spraying, silk screen printing and painting. Most of my colours I apply to the panels with a roller and for this the enamel is mixed to emulsion paint consistency. (I was going to refer to cream here, but cream seems to get thicker and thicker these days. M&S 'not just' double cream being more like clotted cream and their clotted cream presumably solid as a house brick).

I chose the colours for this project sat under a borrowed street light with a newly bought and heart stoppingly expensive pantone chart. Great Western Street is to be lit with elegant white light from liquid halide lamps and I decided on the colours to work accordingly. The lighting company then took back the light, which I quite fancied for my studio, which was a pity. Even more of a pity is that nobody will take back the pantone chart - it would have almost funded a weekend in Paris.

Printer Lucy mixed the twenty chosen from an engaging mix of stock London Underground colours and pantone bases. I can tell you now that all the rape fields are pure Circle Line yellow and as the artist, concede that this is a subtle but considered interplay on the urban and rural within my work (or perhaps not). The colours go on one colour, dry to another, fire to a third and cool to a fourth. This kind of painting is not for the faint-hearted: there is no confirmation, other than the pantone number on the roller tray, that I have it right until the fired panel cools from a shimmering purple haze (as was the case when I happened to pass the furnaces last week) to a down to earth ploughed brown. Greens are red, pink and orange at heat. I have yet to see what red or orange do, but I'm sure it'll be worth watching.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Meals for One

Up until now I have never had much need to cater for one. Even as a student I was cooked for as part of my halls of residence deal. Bizarrely (we are talking Aberystwyth I'll admit) I was stuck on a campus populated with librarianship students and boys from the surrounding hill farms, sent down by their parents for a bit of taming and a diploma in animal husbandry. It wasn't a marriage made in heaven and led to much shrieking by the librarians as they found dead lambs in their baths and their carpets doused in slurry. Sadly no one ever retaliated by balancing Library of Congress indexes on the tops of barn doors or stamping 'overdue' on the pregnant cows, but the food was good and aimed at the farmers.

Later I shared a house with three Northern vegetarians. They didn't like me much: I was from the south, my dad wasn't a miner or steel worker and I came from public school. To maintain the status quo I became vegetarian and shared cooking. It was OK until things in the house got so silently aggressive that I had to make a small stand. I went out to the butcher and bought a bloody and substantial ox tail and slow cooked it in Guinness with herbs and dumplings, moving on later to rabbit pie, pig's trotters and chicken livers. I was tempted by the thought of a pig's head, but the oven was too small. The vegetarians were livid, but hey, what could they do? Funnily enough they all forgave my soft southern ways around the time they left college and wanted jobs and accommodation in London.

I've not really got the energy or the need for retaliation cooking while on the island. I certainly haven't got the time for the slow cooking of slightly controversial cuts of meat. No, after a long shift at the factory heaving mild steel and sweating in the heat of the furnace, I'll be coming home to a veg based stir fry. Oh how my old flat mates would be proud...

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Can you see what it is yet?

The answer to that, when it comes to this project, is nope, not a chance. We don’t even get to see the daily six panels en masse. The constant dance of painting, drying, trips down and back to the furnace and the need for space mean that the panels, like men on the swing shift, cross paths but never manage to all get together at the same time. There’s the odd tantalizing glance (we managed five together on the first day which you can see on my web site), but that’s it.

I console myself, slightly, with the thought that I will eventually get to see the whole picture. I read once that tapestry weavers in Bruges would weave huge scenes in narrow strips and send them away to be sewn together and shipped, presumably never seeing the result of their labours. Perhaps they didn’t mind their disconnected maidens and unicorns, but I care very much about my fields!

It’s been a successful week all in all. I’ve lost the ‘first day at school’ feeling now that I can find my way about (sort of, though I still find myself confused by downstairs which is a bit dim given that there are two furnaces the size of Luton transit vans for orientation) and everyone has been very welcoming. The only disappointing thing really has been to learn how pathetic my endurance is: I’m in by seven thirty feeling virtuous, trolley Dave has been in since three am; I’m one of a pair lifting the big steel panels and Colin tells me that when he’s spraying them with the initial coating, he lifts them with his fingertips to avoid smudging the wet enamel. I have a horrible feeling that I’m going to find out that one of the guys in dispatch is a Turner Prize winner on the side…

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Some like it Hot

One of the senior men at Wells said to me yesterday that he hoped my time with them would be a pleasant journey. It was a kind thought and conjured up an appealing image of a leisurely drive through the Cotswolds with plenty of stops for tea and antique shops. In actuality the last few days have been like finding myself at the wheel of a Bugatti in the middle of Le Mans - the chance of a lifetime and pretty terrifying.

I am working on six panels a day. The furnaces need a constant feed of work and the best way to deliver that is to work on several pieces all at once so they can be coming and going. Coordinating this is a bit like reversing a car - fine if you don't stop and think too hard or have your dad mouthing instructions through the windshield. I won't bore you with the details here as it's all on my web site, but suffice it to say that it is best done on the hoof. I did try to plan it out on the evening before my first day, but that only resulted in a strong desire to get back on the ferry and sail away again. (If you do check out my site I apologise for how I look. I began with good intentions, nicely brushed hair and make up. Now it's day three and you're lucky I've managed to change my t-shirt.)

I have two new best friends in the shape of Kevin and Colin who run the furnaces. I'd like to say we're a great team, but I think I'm getting an easy ride on the back of their experience. They work in startlingly hot conditions, Colin with music as loud as the furnaces are blistering, and seem totally impervious and cheerful. Conversely I am rendered unattractively pink and shiny by my drying shed which I am told is 'not hot enough to do anything serious'. I am also greatly indebted to Dave who ferries everything down to the furnaces on my six metal trolleys. Trolleys are in short supply and Kevin warned me to label mine. In fact I grow increasingly possessive and now feel like I've adopted six metal children, worrying about their welfare and safe return whenever they leave home.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Beverage Report

As the artist in residence at AJ Wells I have a designated 'area'. It's a bit of factory floor next to the canteen. Actually it's a very big bit of floor, nicely situated by the ladies loo and the coffee machine. It's great and I look forward to filling it with Radio Four. I especially like the idea that Woman's Hour will infiltrate the blokey workforce: I picture the furnace man saying to his wife 'Need a new peg bag love? I hear Kath Kidson's big on polka dots this season.'
In reality I'm a bit out of the way and it'll be me and Drama on Four alone as usual.

The coffee machine is another thing altogether - solitude is fine, instant coffee is not. I went out yesterday and bought a nifty mug with built-in caffitiere along with a mini thermos for my cold milk. I hate myself for being so picky, but I blame my childhood. I went to a boarding school where the (instant) coffee came with rules: no coffee for those under fifteen (too much stimulation), coffee once on Wednesdays for over fifteens (milk compulsory) and coffee Tuesdays and Thursdays for the lower sixth by then allowed black. By the upper sixth, about to be launched into coffee drinking careers at the BBC or diplomatic core, coffee every morning at break in any combination with biscuit. I rebelled early on and refused anything to do with instant coffee on the basis that I wouldn't then have to obey any coffee related rules and would also be seen to suffer for my sophisticated tastes. What I actually did was to nick a pint of milk from the staffroom each morning and drink that instead. A couple of weeks into my thieving, the teachers upped their order by a pint and we were all happy until the day I left when they were presumably puzzled by a milk surplus.

I hope Wells will forgive me for spurning the coffee machine. At least I've made my own provisions and they won't have to check their milk crate every morning...

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Pens perdu...

When I started the final phase of this project I bought a box of twelve permanent markers. Now there are six. I am not very happy about this. I should say that these are specially tested (by the Michael the printer at Wells) markers: markers whose ink disappears in the heat of the furnace. Markers that I can draw with on enamel panels in the full confidence that no mark up lines will remain. Markers that will make me look good and furthermore markers that I hunted out on the net and ordered specially.

I accept that all families with kids lose the pen-by-the-phone, the only roll of sellotape on Christmas Eve, the one pair of scissors that actually cut. I know I was guilty myself - I can clearly remember taking my mum's dressmaking shears and (helps if you read this in a rising octave) using them to cut paper...

Trouble is that my son is on his way to being an artist himself so, instead of growing out of pens-by-the-phone and into motorbike parts, he's grown out of biros and into propelling pencils and fine sable brushes. The upshot of this is that he's had half of my boxed, individually wrapped, pristine black markers.

I challenged him about this, waving the rattling box under his nose while carrying on about my 'professionalism' and 'needing these specially for the factory'. He wasn't contrite and said, justifiably, that I'd let him ransack my sewing fabrics for his bookbinding, use my best scalpels and have almost unlimited access to my paper store, so why would he know these pens were off limits? 'Besides' he said reasonably 'I'm very careful with your stuff - I'd never use your dressmaking scissors on paper...'

Monday, 21 July 2008

bucket and spade

I mentioned my relief in finding a little house to rent in Sandown while I'm staying on the Isle of Wight to a friend who knows the island well. 'Hmmm' he said 'you'll find it a bit bucket and spade...'

This made me think that worryingly he'd somehow overlooked my eight week project to paint a picture longer than one and a half rugby pitches (statistic provided by sport loving friend who tells me the dimensions of my work in relation to various sporting fixtures as they occur to him) and was thinking that, in the manner of all artists, I would dabble with paint on the odd afternoon I could spare from lying down with a glass of absinthe and a distant expression. Or perhaps he simply meant to warn me that I wouldn't be ending every working day by drinking my way around packed bars in a sparkly halter topped micro dress, finishing up dancing in a foam filled club and getting a new tattoo.

Either way, bucket and spade sounds good to me. I'll probably see very little of Sandown beyond the comforts of my rented house with its, thank the Lord, big bath and comfy bed, but it'll be good to know that, if only I had the time, I could sit behind a striped windbreak, suck on a strawberry mivvie and contemplate the final additions to my sandy replica of the Sagrada Familia.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

The Blog Begins

Now that the enamel panels are in production and there's an ever growing stack of blanks awaiting my attention it is time to start the blog.
I will be working on the first section of the street very shortly. My husband Ben will come with me to the Isle of Wight to help set up the projector (I'm transferring the drawings on to each panel from individual jpegs) as well as taking some pictures which we will post here. He also plans to get in some cycling and perhaps a paddle on the beach, weather permitting. I will be seeing how much work I can get done per day and should have a better idea of how many weeks work this will entail.

AJ Wells have been great, they do a lot of work with artists, but never before on a project this big and so reliant on one person! They have embraced all the problems that I have thrown at them and come up with solutions. I have a great space to work, my own drying shed (a sort of open sided hut where the wet panels sit in hot air for a while to turn the pigment from thick cream into a hard powder) and some great custom-made steel gurneys so I can move the panels around (possibly these will make their way to the local hospital after the job, very possibly with me lying on one of them in a state of collapse).

We're all very excited and enthusiastic. Good for Buckinghamshire County Council for being brave enough to seek out a local emerging artist and to give me such an astonishingly huge blank canvas...