Monday 29 August 2011

The value of your words

Having feedback about your work is always helpful, and can be very positive. But to inspire creativity through your own efforts is a wonderful feeling!

I was absolutley thrilled when Joanna Webster was inspired by my online serial, Mrs Brown's Diary, to put pen to paper. Joanna is a poet, song writer and singer whose work has been published in countless poetry journals. I really enjoy her approachable thought provoking poetry which covers her many interests from Beatles mania to Easter egg excitment! I am particularly impressed with this work which I feel captures a whole new angle on the Mrs Brown story. For this new poem Joanna explains her reaction to Mrs Brown:

'This is my interpretation of her as if she were a real person and as if I really had discovered her diary in present day.
So I've not gone into specifics, just what I think and feel as I'm reading.
And it's quite a different style of writing to what I normally do'

Mrs Brown’s diary 
By Joanna Webster

Mrs Brown, if only you knew
As you sat at the mirror, some years ago, thinking
Pen in hand and sending questions out into the cosmic void
Viewing your dreams as art on someone else’s wall
And wondering whether to worry that the life you lead is small

If only you knew the value of your words
And how all the nothings that mean more than so many something’s
Will become the gossip point as I talk on corners with friends
Like the starry eyed keeping up with Hollywood trends

If only you knew that I’d get beautifully lost
in finding you in the here and now
And if everlasting could be somehow
Then you’ve pioneered and as I blow away the dust
Your heart, in my hands, still beats

You can read more of Mrs Brown's Diary now! The story is currently up to Installment 19 . I am updating her blog every other day to coincide with the end of the dressing room display which is on show at Stoke Potteries Museum and Art Gallery until the 11th Sept.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Bits and bobbins

Detail of my portrait of Noel Toy

I'm working on lots of projects at the moment; My portrait of Noel Toy (remember that?) had to be put on hold for almost 6 months while I focused on other work that took me out of the studio and in front of a computer. But now she is near completion. I am still working on her beautiful green tinted visage between other work and I hope to have the finished thing for you to see in the near future. I am currently looking for non clear shellac to finsih off the meatl leaf details on the painting. My regular brand is no longer in manufacture, if anyone knows where I can buy NON clear shellac from please get in touch!


I'm working on a small gift painting for someone who has really helped me out over my career as an artist. He is due to retire soon so I thought I'd do a special piece for him. He used to be in the Navy so I've designed a sailor tattoo style with the words 'Last Port' to symbolise his retirement. The work is only a third of the way through but I thought I'd show you where I'm up to:

The design first drawn out on tracing paper and put in place on the canvas

The background colour applied and the first layers of colour on the mermaids


I've been spending a lot of time applying for things and putting proposals together which can take a lot of time away from actual creating things hands on. I was trying to think of ways around this when I had a brainwave about embroidery. Yes, embroidery! Providing the piece is small enough, you can carry it around with you anywhere and it will be a great way of passing time in situations where I have a few minutes to spare.

My love of sailor tattoos came to mind as the defined black outlines would transfer beautifully to stitching and line work. I designed this image during another few minutes I had to spare, which I plan to get on embroidering tonight!

It's based on an image of Taiwanese fashion model Jeanine Chin Hsi. I made her rather piratical, and she will have applique hair and shirt before I'm through. I plan on doing some nautical patterns in the background and can't wait to get to grips with the black thread outlines!

Monday 15 August 2011

Heads Up!

Just a little heads up that Mrs Brown's Diary is going to be updated several times a week between now and September 11th (all assuming I have no more technical difficulites). The diary is based on the collaborative art project I did with Stoke Potteries Museum and Art Gallery resulting in the 1950's dressing room on display until this date. Installment 14 is now online, and I'll continue to update through the week as her personal story progresses.


Also, don't forget it's Dr Sketchy's this Friday at Manchester's MadLab! I'll be performing as part of my burlesque act The Chantilly Belles in this special life drawing class come burlesque night. Tickets are to be booked in advance. Find out more in the post below or by visiting Dr Sketchy's Manchester branch website.

Have a fun week and keep reading!

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Back at last!

I've been experiencing some technical problems of late, hence not updating my blogs for a while. So Here's the latest news:

Photo by Candee Photography

The Chantilly Belles to perform at Dr Sketchy, Manchester

Friday 19th August Dr Sketchy presents 'Oh Foxy Lady'. We will be performing our routine 'Never Outfox the Fox' and also posing for some fab drawing sessions with games, music and prizes thrown into the mix. If you enjoy drawing and burlesque and want to attend a life drawing class with a difference come along and join the fun.

Dr Sketchy takes place at MadLab 
36-40 Edge Street, Manchester, M4 1HN in the Norther Quarter (just opposite Common)
Tickets need to be booked in advance


Mrs Brown's Diary

The installments 12 and 13 are now online!
This story is inspired by the 1950's dressing room which is on display at Stoke Potteries Museum and Art Gallery until 11 September. The dressing room display is the outcome of my collaboration with the museum's decorative arts department and belongs to the fictional character Mrs Brown, a young housewife from 1951 living in the town of Hanley. Taking cues from the fashions of the time, social dynamics and historic events from Stoke, her story is currently being told hrough her diary.
This week Mrs Brown finds herself the subject of a cooking drama, and finds escape from her small existance through the magazines of the time. What ideas will they put into her head?...

Read the original article that inspires Mrs Brown below. It is a wonderful snapshot into a world where careers for women were still new, and young people took a pride in their jobs and acheivements. It's also quite funny to read how the experience of clothes shopping has changed since the 1950's along with our attitudes to fashion for the larger lady. Enjoy:

Godfrey Winns portriat of a modern shopgirl.
She's proud of her job
Picture Post circa 1947-51

I have two new neighbours in my street. I went to supper with them last night, and took a bottle of light white wine with me to christen their new abode. I hope they will be very happy there.

Their flat is at the corner, opposite the Westminster Bank, but they are their own bank, counting out the rent, they told me, as soon as they are paid each Thursday and sharing all their household bills exactly.

The ground floor of their new home is the shop window of the women's tailors, full of lengths of cloth. But Pam and Tilly are used to shop windows, of rather a larger kind, since they both work in the suit department of one of the finest stores in the West End, Peter Robinson's at Oxford Circus.

They think they are very lucky in their bachelor flat, with its all electric kitchen, because they had been home-hunting for a long time, in fact ever since they made friends.

'It's bliss,' exclaimed Pam, as she led me up the two flights of stairs. 'We don't mind what sort of day we've had at the store, we've got this to come back to. Tilly is a wizard cook, though of course we take it in turns,' she added as we reached the sitting-room.

A moment later, Tilly, or Miss Daphne Till, to give her full name, dashed in from the kitchen to say she was about to dish up, and she did hope I liked fish. I should have been mush too tactful to say that I didn't these days, whatever my tastes, but as it happens I do, very much - especially when it is cooked so well. It almost made me want to turn vegetarian like my other hostess, Miss Pamela Guard, known as Pam to all her friends, though she answers to the cry of 'Blondie', from any of her dozen departmental companians.

'They call me anything, but I don't mind' exclaimed this twenty-year old career girl, who has already crowded a great deal of experience into her pursuit of independance.

As a small girl in the war, she was evactuated to Devonshire, where she had a heavenly childhood, living in a village, messing about with boats, never going near a town of any sort. Her passion, then and now, is dogs, and at the moment she has two, both boarded out with friends, a boxer and a golden spaniel, but she is hoping one day to be able to make a home for them, too, just as she is hoping to prosper in her career.

'I am determined to make something of my life, on my own' Pam keeps on repeating, like a battle cry. I don't think she has done so badly already. In fact I admire very much her passionate ambition to become as expert a saleswoman as her mother, who is in the same store.

Probably the best ambassadors of all for our country during this Festival Summer will be the countless unknown girls who will serve foreigners from abroad with all sorts of goods marked 'Made in Britain'.

Moreover, there are big prospects and good openings for keen, intelligent girls in our retail stores, as Miss Ryder would tell you.
I must explain that Miss Ryder, who is one of the most charming women I have met in a long time, is in charge of personnel at Peter Robinson's. And she amused me very much describing what so often happens when a girl, about to leave school, comes for an interview with her mother. 'Somethimes the mother talks so much I have to lean forward and interrupt gently, "Am I wrong, it is your daughter isn't it, who wants to come to us?"' 

Actually, my portrait subject this week entirely made up her own mind after trying something else out first.
Pam Guard spent two years serving her apprenticeship in a West End hairdresser's. But at the back of her mind was a longing to get out among the customers and use her own initiative.

Her mother warned her that it would mean clocking in before nine each morning, a working day till half past five with only an hour's break for lunch, and Saturday morning often the busiest time of the whole week.

But Pam was undaunted. And is still undaunted even now when she confesses that she keeps two pairs of shoes at the store, and changes after lunch, to give her feet a better chance. 'And I do wear them out quickly' she exclaims. 'All the same, Tilly and I do think it's worth it, if only because two days are never exactly alike. You never get that feeling of being stuck.'

'And what about the customer?' I asked, 'you are not disillusioned yet?'

'Oh no, I like the customers, especially the big ones.'

'You men the ones who spend a lot?'

'No, I mean the ones who take big sizes. They are always so grateful when you can fix them up with something that really fits them and makes them look slimmer, too.'

'Can you always tell at once if a customer is really serious?'

The two career girls looked at eachother and nodded in unison. 'The ones I always dread,' Tilly confessed, 'are those who have brought a woman friend along with them for a second opinion. Somehow you always feel from the start that it's not going to be possible to please them both at the same momnet.'

 'The only one who can cope with them' Pam broke in, ' is Miss Solomon. She always says that if you can once get the jacket of a suit on a customers back, then the battle is almost over.'

I had already met Miss Solomon when I visited Pam's department for it was whispered in my ear that sometimes she earms, with commission, as much as fourteen pounds a week. And the buyers oftem have salaries of thousands a year, yet thay all started exaclty the same way as Pam and Tilly have done.

When I asked Miss Wilson, Pam's immediate boss, who is happily married in private life, and therefore has two successful careers, what the secret was, she said, 'There is no secret. It's personality plus concentration, plus a real liking for people. I don't look upon this as work,' she added, 'it's too exciting for that.'

And I think Pam feels the same, yes, even when she is dashing down our street to catch a Number 25B bus at Victoria every morning at twenty past eight. But in her heart she has pride in the knowledge that she belongs now to that army of her countrywomen, who in peace and war, do so much to keep up our credit in the eyes of the rest of the world that will be especially turned toward us this Summer.
Good luck, pam and Tilly.  It's nice having you as neighbours...