Thursday, 26 April 2012


I've mentioned it before, but I truly loath drawing. Mainly because I can't draw. Or, to be more accurate, I can't draw how I'd like.

 If I could draw how I liked this blog would be full of intricate, smooth, graphic illustrations. 

It is not. It is full of chicken scratchings and cave-drawing. 

Over the past three years I've came a lot closer to making peace with that. But another thing I hate about drawing is white paper. I had a thoroughly un-helpful art teacher who once told me "It's not art if I can still see the paper."

The pressure to leave no white left just freaks me out, so, over Easter I've been playing with using other materials. Brown paper and terracotta tiles to be precise. 

Much happier work spews forth! Off to the reclamation yard to get more yummy tiles.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Food and Film Wednesday

This Christmas I gave my mother a fairly unique gift, several vouchers for a food and film night. The plan was simple, we'd watch a film and eat food that in some way related to the film. So we watched When Harry Met Sally and ate pastrami Reubens. But for the most part, we ate what we felt like and tried to shoe-horn a film theme into it.

 Not tonight, tonight we watched the seminal, the celebrated, the legendary Face/Off. For those of you uncultured enough to not know what I'm talking about, this cinematic masterpiece features the twin talent of John Travolta and Nicholas Cage. The pair, for reasons of plot that literally, aren't worth going into, swap faces. There's a minimal amount of science and reason and then a whole heap of over acting. It's kind of amazing.

 But- dilemma- what does one cook to go with a film in which two people exchange faces through a transplant that seems to mainly be conducted with plungers?

 Well, pie. Obviously.
This is the pastry version of Nicholas Cage, yet there isn't really enough pastry in the world for that chin.
And then the pastry version of John Travolta, complete with cinnamon quiff in homage to his perfomance in Grease.
Then, voila! One chicken and leek, one apple, celery and chicken pie.

 "I want to take the crust... off!"

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Easter Sunday DIY

One of the brilliant things about going out with Daniel is I have access to someone who loves DIY. I'd like you all to meet Brian Clifford, Daniel's dad.
I haven't mentioned this but, about a month ago, I got an email asking if I'd like a kiln from a studio that was closing down. I'm pretty sure the email I sent back, came with teeth and bit off someone's hand. Yes, I'd like a kiln.
Then I went to see it. It was amazing! Wonderful! Wondrous! It worked and had lots of pieces intact and a brilliant technical guide. I formally asked to take the kiln. Then I went to see it again with my good pal Amy; she was taking a wheel and had a pick-up truck. I needed my trusty electrician to unwire it. When he did, Amy suggested her burly friends help me get it home.
One thing that struck me as they wrestled the three-part kiln into the flat-bed was that, in my head, I'd reduced the size of the kiln by about a third. It's an industrial monster. One that Daniel and I quickly had to deal with. We had to store it in two separate rooms. Taking anthropomorphism to the max, I began to worry that the sections would start to miss one another and begin to feel abandoned.
Originally the kiln lid was held up with a little metal arm so you can lean right in without fear of being squished. On one of the kilns adventures the arm got bent underneath and is all twisted, but of all the things that could have happened, it's not that big a deal. I'm sure I'll figure something out.
It didn't take long to decide the kiln needed to be outside. Never mind that firebrick isn't good for you, it was simply impossible to get it through some of the weirdly-sized Victorian doorways. To B&Q! For a shed!
Planning on building a shed or workshop? Here's my advice; do it with someone who knows what the hell they're doing. Brian worried about things I honestly wouldn't have thought of. He saw problems coming and figured out how to fix 'em. Daniel and I would have simply made a wonky shed and cried.
More advice; don't let your boyfriend 'protect' your hair with a shoe-cover and photograph it while you paint your shed. Painting it was difficult; some of the wood was oily and other bits were finickity and other bits were just plain dull. But we got it done.
Daniel and I have this new tradition of making a slow-cooked meal on a Sunday. Today was no different. The bouef bourguignon made the kitchen smell awesome, and meant we were all working towards finishing so we could have a cuppa and eat some wine-soaked stew. Stew makes hard labour fun!
Getting the kiln out of the house was tough; it's awkward to move because the handles rusted off and the firebricks aren't very sturdy. Somehow we did it. We put the kiln together on the shed 'floor' and then lifted - yes, lifted - the shed over the top of it and nailed it together. That wasn't at all nerve rattling.
And then it was done. This photo took about 20 minutes to take. I may be able to orchestrate the delivery of kilns, and sheds, and construct small structures... but take a photo using a timer? You're talking to the wrong girl.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Meet and Greet Monday- Helen Stafford

I've been wanting to have a chat with today's Meet and Greet guest for a while, Helen Stafford's work with print on glass is stunning, here's what she has to say about it.

Use five words to describe your work:


What makes your work different from anyone elses?
I focus on heritage and the deep emotional connections people can develop with their past, and in particular with old machinery. I try to explain these connections by using my own experiences and family history as examples, so I am directly involved in my work. My work is not "cutting-edge" contemporary art, it's more searching for a way I can translate my love for the past so that it is understood by the present, and in turn preserved for the future.

If you had to work in any other medium, what would it be?

Probably paper, I would like to go back to basics at some point and spend some time just improving my printing skills. However, since using metal frames in a piece I made last year, I think I'd like to investigate how to utilise metal further somehow. Thoughts for the future!

What is the biggest challenge you face with your work?

Practically or emotionally? Practically, everything is currently on a strict timeframe. The drawings alone take a ridiculous amount of time to produce and screenprinting - while theoretically straightforward - has a nasty habit of being your worst nightmare. Emotionally, I am probably the laziest person in the world, so I find I really have to discipline myself to keep motivated. I don't often deviate in my interests, but I do very often prefer sleeping! So at the moment the biggest challenge I face is just bringing it all together without any major disasters or mental breakdowns!

How do you want people to react to your work?

I'm hoping to encourage a genuine interest in the past. I want people to remember things that aren't around anymore and I want them to think about what would happen if these things were lost forever. I've focussed on machinery because it's a personal interest, but the idea of preservation can be stretched to all manner of objects. I would like people to feel they can relate to my images and share a sort of "nostalgic fondness", if you like

Helen will be exhibiting her work at her degree show at the National Glass Centre between the 16th and the 22nd of June. If you would like to contact her, her email is or you can have a look at her pro facebook page.