Friday 31 May 2019

first month at haarlem artspace

The 1st of May was my official first day as a studio holder at Haarlem Artspace in Wirksworth. Haarlem Artspace is at a point of growth and transformation - expanding into the ground floor as gallery, communal kitchen and studio spaces and rearranging/rejigging the second and third floors, with new creatives joining Haarlem artists. Along with a palpable unease around such changes, there's also an expansive, outward and welcoming energy, of invitation, of question - who are we? What do we stand for? What could we conjure within the walls, beyond these walls?

Haarlem Mill is a building with presence. It was built by Richard Arkwright in 1780 and was the first steam engine powered cotton mill in the world. Haarlem sits in beautiful surroundings, green space footsteps from the door and Wirksworth, a short walk away is an attractive ex-mining town, with shops, cafes and a cinema. I get the bus to the studio and watch the landscape roll by, during the 20 minute trip the realisation that I live here creeps into me again and again... I've not quite landed yet, having moved from London nine months ago. 

A week after moving into the studio Haarlem hosted 'Collectivism', a four-day residency and one-day Resilience through Collectivism Conference, bringing people together for an exchange of ideas on the themes of collectivism and collaboration. The residency was jointly facilitated and co-curated by artist Alice Gale-Feeny and artist and Haarlem Artspace Director Olivia Punnet.

The ground floor space was so new, having just been made useable the weekend before. It was wonderful to see the space animated and full of people, greeting each other, sharing the pick and mix breakfast on offer and beginning to create a shared space. We each introduced ourselves with an image of our work, and I loved that, connections in practice were revealed, links tentatively formed, potential given breathing space. As well as Haarlem studio holders and associate artists, there were four selected artists who'd answered a call out on Arts Jobs (Arit Emmanuela Etukudo, Hayleigh Longman, Penny Newell, Adam Moore) plus guests from Instituto Procomum from Santos, Brazil - Haarlem's partners on the British Council's Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies programme.

Memories that have lingered since the residency/conference are 'dialogue and ways of meeting staring from a fishbowl conversation format' a workshop led by Alice. Five chairs were placed in a circle within a larger circle of chairs surrounding them. People sitting in the inner chairs were invited to talk about the 'spaces they share', and people sitting on the outer, larger circle of chairs were asked to listen. 

There was an air of tension as the inner participants began the conversation. There was one empty chair in the inner circle and a number of empty chairs on the outer circle, everyone had the choice to move from a speaking chair, to a listening chair. As the discussion flowed the room became dynamic with movement, then stillness, as the group shared and listened with intent. The conversation took fascinating/unexpected directions, more so than if everyone had been allowed to speak at anytime. It also meant that at times, those on the outer circle might have a response but the opportunity to move into a speaking chair would be missed, or the conversation had moved on by the time they got there...

A highlight from the morning of the conference was the 'On Resilience' workshop with Lottie Randomly, leading to deep sharing and connection with conference participants. During the afternoon it was fascinating listening to Georgia, Marilia and Simone, directors from Instituto Procomum share the work from their hub in Santos, and their new Colaboradora project. Introducing the idea of the Commons and commoning as an institutional practice, a way of seeing, a framework.  

Haarlem Artspace created a space of care, with a variety of food and drink available during our time together, releasing the group from a mundane daily task... The indoor and outdoor spaces around the mill building provided breathing space, communal space to share informally and be together, to wander and wonder.

Such a precious gift.
Watercolours in response to our fishbowl conversation

Thursday 30 May 2019


On a spring walk with my sister from Matlock to Cromford we spotted broken crockery at the edges of a soil path. I've sometimes watched my sister on a beach, crouched down, contentedly searching through shells and stones for hours and we had a mini version of this on our walk. Together, fingers picking through soil we collected pottery shards - of plates, bowls, cups - domestic stuff, now broken, once precious (maybe), once whole. Blue/white patterns emerged as we gathered and I rejected brown shards, returning them to their soil resting places. At home I carefully washed the chosen shards and lay them on a paper towel to dry.

Later, in a Bakewell charity shop I saw a boxed flower press. Thinking it may be useful for lino printing I paid £2 for it. At home I unscrewed and opened up the press, revealing green blotting type paper and to my joy, layers of flowers, placed by an unknown someone.

An idea began to form of broken pottery and pressed flowers, things that were once whole, alive but now hints, shadows, suggestions of what they once were... 

I decided to paint them in watercolour. I'd always been nervous of watercolour, hearing that it was an unforgiving and difficult medium... I've found the opposite, it is forgiving (except when the first layer is too dark) and joyful to work with. Dried mixes on the pallet awaken with water, the colours blend beautifully and with my smallest brush are straightforward to work with.

I'm painting to scale, my drawing, textile design knowledge and colour mixing training kicking in... taking me back to a younger self, building on what she learnt during a BTEC Diploma in Art & Design in the late 1980's - a lifetime ago.


Paintings in my studio space at Haarlem Artspace

Friday 24 May 2019

uncle fred

Since beginning my Close Knit project in 2009 I've been searching for my Uncle Fred's burial place. Yesterday I visited his grave in East Finchley Cemetery! 

Fred was the oldest son of Frederick and Ada Furmage, there were three daughters before him, two sons after him and my mum, Doreen was the youngest. 

Fred had a mischievous twinkle in his bright blue eyes, always ready for a quip or joke. I remember him as a neat and dapper man with carefully combed dark hair. The life and soul of the party. People liked Fred.

Every now and again I'd have another try at finding Fred. In March I joined for a month and discovered a family tree by a man named Kevin which had Fred's wife, Auntie Marge on it. I emailed Kevin and hit the jackpot - he knew where the grave was!

I'll finish Close Knit: a body of work this year. I'm currently re-knitting George's yellow gravestone cosy after it got damaged, and have Henry and Fred to knit for and then Close Knit will be complete. When I began knitting in 2009 I never imagined it would be a decades work, I'll think about next steps when I've completed the knits - how to share the project? Where? With whom?   

Friday 10 May 2019

summer lodge

I'm excited to share that I'm participating in this years Summer Lodge at Nottingham Trent University. 

For ten days each July, the Fine Art studios and workshops of Nottingham Trent University are transformed into The Summer Lodge and play host to a gathering of thirty diverse artists. It is intended as an opportunity to think through making by being able to work for a while without many of the usual constrains and distractions. It is a collective space in which to undertake experiments, pursue new ideas and allow unexpected leaps of imagination.

belper arts trail

My first arts trail went fantastically. Visitors were so positive and I enjoyed many interesting conversations about linocut, print, dry stone walling and hedge laying. I sold a good number of prints, and it's heart warming knowing my work depicting local landscape is in local homes.

Below are images of my stand, showing inspiration, linocuts and prints of various sizes and colours. If you would like any further information or wish to purchase a print, please contact me at

 Sketchbook & linocut

Boundary lino prints

 Square lino prints

 Peak Tor & Essex Hawthorn lino prints