Wednesday, 24 December 2014

She entered the woods...

...and the woods entered her.

Watercolour, pen and gold on paper 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Reading

Oils, acrylic, coloured pencil, and gold on paper. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Women-only /men-only

I have an inherent suspicion of spaces which are either men-only or women-only. I can see that in some cases vulnerabilities based on past experiences would mean a person might feel safer in a group that excludes one sex. I completely understand and sympathise with this, and think it is totally appropriate for certain types of group. 
My musings below are thinking more about the holding of sacred/ritual or creative spaces. 

My concerns about women-only spaces began as I studied at Sussex University during my MA. I focused on a branch of academia called Queer Theory. In brief, this grew out of both LGBT activism and feminism. Put very simply, it's aims are to question the things general society holds to be 'normal'. The focus of this questioning lens is sexuality and gender, but it is applied by theorists to all sorts of research areas (for example I recently read a paper which 'queered' a religious movement). 

As I studied the world of the Queer -the sexual dissidents and outsiders in our culture - I realised two things in regard to women-only spaces. Firstly, because I am cis gendered (this means I am not trans, rather my biological sex and my gender 'match' according to the constraints of culture) I had never paid enough attention to trans women and the issues they face. Secondly, when a group assumes that there is a deep connection between women (often seen as spiritual) there is a danger that the differences between women are ignored. That might sounds like a positive thing, but that is not always the case. Ignoring differences can mean that certain minority aspects of identity become silenced in favour of a dominant 'voice' (for an example of this, see bell hook on feminism and race in 'Ain't I a woman?' 1981). 
There can also often be (though not always of course) an assumption of heterosexuality between all the women in a group. This assumption contributes to the sense of neutrality in the group, where it is believed that the group is free from sexual attractions, advances etc simply because there are no men present. This can be an isolating or alienating experience for bi or gay women. A friend of mine described to me how when faced with a meditation group that split practitioners into men and women (to avoid the 'complications' of sexual dynamics) she went and sat in the aisle, alone, as she felt she fit in neither group. 

In pagan groups I have also noticed certain female archetypes being used to create a sense of shared identity. Having lost a baby and spent a brief time not knowing if I would ever be able to have children (I very luckily am now blessed with a daughter), I can now see how mother archetypes could be both painful and, once again, alienating. 

The physical experience of being female could hold a place of substantial common ground, but once again I see more difference than similarity. Even in an experience like menstruation (and not all women experience this either), the variations of sensation and attitudes towards the process vary so much, that they might as well be describing utterly different events. Which they sort of are. 

So, I think my question is this: what is it that makes a group of women a sensical group? Is it having been socially conditioned as female? (Again, this experience will be VERY different depending on race, class, where in the world you live, sexuality, personality, family-history etc and excludes trans women which I don't agree with). What is the common thread which binds women? Or which binds men? Is there one at all? 

Are women-only spaces there to facilitate women to feel empowered to speak out, unhindered by listening men? If so, wouldn't it be better to all meet together and start exploring an escape to culturally created bullshit which we find inhibiting, which we're over, done with? 

I wonder sometimes if the only thing we have in common with our fellow humans is just that - we are humans. We have everything, and nothing, in common. 

Friday, 31 October 2014


I have always been drawn to stories of the otherworld and the subject of death - my art is filled with these things. 

Today, on Halloween, we walked down to the sea. We watched wild grey seas beating at the cliffs. On our way home I observed the trees, some still golden with autumn, others stripped bare by the winds. I thought about the dying back of life that we witness every year. Somehow it is still always a surprise to me. 

On this night the veil between this world and the other world is meant to thin. It is as close as our culture gets to a night when we can think about death and therefore I now use it to remember our lost ones. Last year I was deep in grief for my first, lost baby girl. This year, whilst I still mourn her, I am also remembering the magic of this night. Because if we pass away and fade into the other world of our stories, we must also spring forth from there. And this year I am watching my daughter explore my mothers kitchen. 

Here's to our lost ones and to the dark creatures of our dreams and fables. Here's to things that vanish into darkness. Here's to that which springs forth. 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Spirit House: Ocean in a box

This was inspired by spirit houses, witch bottles and a portable shrines, all of which I have long been a little bit obsessed by...
It is a sea spirit, a drop of ocean in a wooden box. I made it as a gift to my sister who loves the sea, but who has recently had to move (temporarily) to a city.
This, I hope, will help her bring the outside, inside. 

The inscription on the lid is anglosaxon, taken form the Bosworth-Toller (my favourite book in the Bod when I lived in Oxford). 

It reads "I come from the arms of the sea". 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Roll up, roll up! Winged Maquette

Technically a maquette is made in preparation for a final piece, but I am enjoying these flat little paper puppets so much on their own. 

Here is a companion for the green stag, a winged-haired aerialist.
I think I can feel a whole circus troupe coming on...

See her climb...straddle...and wrap 'catchers' (I never thought my aerial circus knowledge would be used like this...)...

...and perform tricks with the Green Stag!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Green stag Maquette

My first maquette, inspired by the work of the excellent Clive Hicks-Jenkins, has torn himself from the page and is ready for action. His first job is to promote an evening of masqued French and Breton music and dance, see more here.
His second may well be to appear on some Yule cards - we shall see if I can pin him down before he makes off across the moors.