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

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.