Happy World Collage Day – 15 May 2023

Cut, Torn & Mended

Rebel – Mixed media collage, 42 x 29 cm

International Collage Day, saw Split Milk Gallery launch it latest online exhibition, Cut, Torn & Mended.

I was grateful enough last year to be in residency within the gallery for a week in August, that set me up well for my contribution to the BALTIC’s Hinterlands Group Exhibition, The Country Journal of a Blackwoman (Northumberland).

Cut, Torn & Mended is an online exhibition which celebrates the contributions of (m)others to the collage community. With a range of different styles and techniques, this exhibition allows us to explore the diverse ways in which contemporary artists use collage in their practices. With many of the artworks for sale at affordable prices, it is a wonderful way to add to your collection and support these wonderful artists to continue making.” Lauren McLaughlin, Founding Director.

To accompany the exhibition is a limited edition Cut, Torn & Mended Zine.
A5 (210 x 148mm) Full colour zine, 42 pages, perfect bound with laminated silk cover.

Each zine includes an A3 full colour cut-out sheet so you can make a collage inspired by the exhibition!

Pre-order your copy before 21st May and get 20% off with the code COLLAGE20. You’ll get it for £8 instead of £10.

There are 30 artists featured in the exhibition. My piece is within the Mended section. The artists include:

Adele Annett, Amy Whiten, Alexa Mazzarello, Alexandra Kiss, Ashley Fotheringham, Beverley Hood, Diana Salomon, Ellie Shipman, Emily YCL, Jan Ferguson, Jennifer Milarski-Stermsek, Jessie McNeil, Jodie house, Kate Cameron Reid, Kate Marsden, Kathryn Rodrigues, Kim Hopson, Kirsty Whiten, Lauren, Evans, Lynn Murphy, Megan Jacobs, Montserrat Serra Nonell, Rebecca Clouâtre, Sally Butcher, Sana Burney, Sarah Shotts, Sharon Lee Hart, Sheree Mack, Twiggy Boyer, Yagama.

Go check out the online exhibition for yourself. It’s wonderful.

I’m thinking of creating a fungi zine …

dark morels


against roots

of ash trees


in gathering dark

night air leaning

into a textured silence

well-earned through

a receding wall of trees

I have a little series of poems inspired by fungi: mushrooms, toadstools and the like.

I’ve always enjoyed looking at pictures of fungi. I’d draw them from books and colour then in with coloured pencils. I started a collection of them, when a child. In real life, I’m not too sure, I like fungi up close. I think something the way they feel puts me off. And that they are alive!

Also the idea of spores frighten me. Obviously, the fear comes from a lack of understanding and knowledge about them.

What I do know is that they are vital to life. And that whole underground system they have going on of passing nutrients and messages between plants and ecosystems and other organisms is truly remarkable. And has to be respected.

Anyway, I was thinking of pulling these fungi poems together into a mushroom zine. I do love my zines. What do you think?

Of course I have to find the time to create it. But now I’ve stated it here, it lends some kind of accountability to completing the task.

Anyway, above is a brief extract from one of the poems. I think I have about 5 or 6 of them. So I’ll keep working on them and start thinking of some cool design to go with them.

Of course being here now, saying all this, is me thinking out loud. Making some kind of commitment to a dream and making steps to seeing it through.

I’l share some more of the poem in the next post.

Poem A Day – Reflections

New Visual Journal for May

April was National Poetry Month in the States. I attempted to complete and share a poem a day for the month.

On the whole, I just missed a few days towards the end of the month. Things went a bit off the boil, when things got a bit busy. What with birthday celebrations and friends visiting, my attentions were distracted and my energy levels were depleted.

But hey 20+ new poems which didn’t exist before this month is always a win in my book. I feel when I do these challenges, what I produce is hit and miss. Because of the necessity of creating something everyday, the time needed to go deep into a subject or issue is lacking. Surface shenanigans are usually the case.

Speed is needed rather than depth. But now, as May rolls along there is time to revisit and redraft and build upon what is already there.

It’s time to slow down the poetry creation process and spend some quality time going deep. Do some more research, collect some more stories and facts as inspiration and see what happens from there. Let the poems sit and fester and start to speak for themselves.

My poetry writing muscles have been flexed and they’re primed to continue lifting heavier weights of meaning and impact now.

I’m looking forward to see which pieces develop, which ones will fall by the way side and which ones will become pure steel.

Spring Blossoms

I’m not sure when my love affair with cherry blossom came into being. I’m not sure where I was when my heart began to swell at the mere beginning buds of cherry blossom on the trees. Bradford, where I was born and stayed until I was 10? Or Newcastle, where I enjoyed my formative years before escaping to London for my degree?

I’m not really sure when or where my deep appreciation and joy at seeing these puff balls of pinks or white or cerise came to be part of my being. I just know that I experience a child-like delight when I come across a tree in full cherry blossom bloom. My heart skips a beat and I’m jumping with glee, inside and outside, when cherry blossom comes into view. And the blossom is never here long enough for my liking.

Using the delicate pinks of cherry blossom, collaging with the images of cherry blossom in my visual journal, is my way of keeping the blooms alive, in my eyes and in my heart. Not just the sight of cherry blossom in my journal keeps these fragile blooms alive, but the feelings of joy and delight that they bring to my heart is kept alive too.

I created a special spread of cherry blossom for the BALTIC commission last year, that ended up being blown up from an A3 spread in a journal to an A0 poster size on a gallery space wall. In the middle of that spread is a Black woman smiling, almost dancing between the blossom, exuberating lush joy. This is me sharing my jubilation and love of cherry blossom with others.

This is my love letter to cherry blossom as well as giving thanks for the beauty of nature and how we are connected. How we are one.

Reading Poetry Too

Filling My Pot

Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.

Annie Proulx

April is National Poetry Month. Yes and as I’ve mentioned a good time to write poetry. But for me writing and reading/ reading and writing goes hand in hand.

Not only am I inspired by other people’s words, I’m invited into other worlds, internal and external worlds. Possibilities around structure, themes, ideas and voices are opened up for me.

Reading feeds my soul. Something I forget from time to time when things go awry ( I love that word ‘awry’. I first came to this word through Lucille Clifton’s poem, ‘Signs’).

You see what reading can do to my writing? Introduce new vocabulary. Expand my horizons. Make me smile.

So along with the writing this month, I’ll be reading poetry. I usual read at least one poem a day, after signing up to Poetry Daily , a few years ago now and not unsubscribing as I have in the past.

Add to that one poem a day, collections of poems, whole book collections and then you’ve got yourself a sweet honey pot of inspiration and ideas and joy.

So look out for the poetry I’ll be reading and sharing here over this coming month.

Today, I dive into Katie Marya’s debut collection, Sugar Work, which came to my notice through Poetry Daily, with her poem titled, ‘A Response to the 2018 IPCC Report’.What I loved about this poem was how issues about the environment through the report were being looked at from a slanted angle. Through our bodies and babies and families and friends. How in order to see what we are doing to the planet it has to come to our doorsteps, our bodies first. But of course we are all connected.

I’ll let you know what I think as I go on with Marya’s collection. I’m looking forward to diving in.

Hinterlands Finissage

Blessed Martin

As you know, I had the honour of being part of a group exhibition at the BALTIC this winter, Hinterlands, with my creative archive titled, A Country Journal of a Blackwoman( Northumberland).

I’ve enjoyed revisiting the exhibition throughout it’s installation, alone and with others. What has been so rewarding has been the responses I’ve received from individual directly, as well as through the BALTIC in relation to the exhibition and my contribution.

Once such response or experience really made me laugh out loud with joy and surprise and involved the statue of Blessed Martin, pictured above.

I argue that creating alternative labels for each item within my archive as a must, as a means of extending the conversation, bringing in a chorus of diverse voices into the white cube space as well as pushing back against the standard, expected practice and pushing back to decolonising the space.

The label assigned to this artefact of Blessed Martin reads:

Blessed Martin ~ Patron Saint of Racial Harmony

“Take Blessed Martin with you. In your pocket in you bag, whatever. Whenever you go outside, traveling or just walking. Take Blessed Martin with you. He will protect your journey. Keeping you safe with the ancestors as you journey through this world as a Black woman; present and absent.” Advice from Mother given to her sojourning Daughter.”

On one visit to the exhibition, I was told the story around one woman who took the time to really read this label and then proceeded to take the statue down from display, place him in their bad and walk out with him. Luckily, they were spotted doing this and were stopped before they could leave the building.

This individual believed that if they literally took this saint and carried him with them that they would be safe and protected. My response to hearing this tail, after a full belly laugh, was that they must have needed him, at this time. And I felt humbled that they wanted to be part, gain something from this archive also.

The exhibition ends April 30 and to mark it there will be a closing event at the BALTIC.

Hinterlands Finissage

Saturday 29 April 11am, Donation & free tickets available. This is going to be a whole day event where you’ll get to hear from the artist who have been part of the exhibition. Some will be performing, reading work and sharing natural rituals.

I think I’ll be sharing around building an archive for ourselves so we start taking back the power around who gets to decide what is collected and preserved for future generations. Who’s histories and stories are worthy of being part of an archive?

I Want To Make Things …

“I want to make things that are beautiful, seductive, formally challenging and culturally meaningful… I‘m also committed to radical social change… Any form of human injustice moves me deeply… the battle against all forms of oppression keeps me focused.”

Carrie Mae Weems

I’ve just sent out the December Studio Notes. I feel it was an epiphany moment for myself. It happened during the process of writing the newsletter that I realised what’s wrong with me. Why I’m experiencing a bit of a funk. And I’m not fighting it either. I’m allowing myself to feel all the feels because that’s what being human is about but also through the process I learn stuff. True.

I’m experiencing a funk at the moment because I’m exhausted. Bone-tired. I thought I’ve been looking after myself and resting when needed etc. However, what I realised today is that it’s not just the physical tiredness I’m experiencing after a busy November of lectures, presentations and workshops. Nah man! I’m also emotionally and psychologically tired because of the type of practice I’ve been doing lately. It’s been focused around agitating, pushing back against the system, white supremacy culture, through anti-racism teaching, anti-blackness rebellions, and holding space for difficult conversations where my blackness is totally exposed. My vulnerabilities have been out there. I realise I’ve experienced re-trigging of trauma and oppressions. And it’s tiring. The work has to be done but back to back gigs of this kind of work is exhausting and at times soul destroying even though I know I’m doing good work at the same time as protecting myself.

But obviously not well enough.

It was already going to happen, but this epiphany has just reinforced my decision to hibernate this winter. To go within and rest and {BE}. I want to fill my pot with readings, books I’m been wanting to read for ages. Writings, my own, for pleasure and seeking beauty within nature and artworks. I’m going back to the beginning in terms of craft and creativity and embracing everything with curiosity and wonder. I’m centring me.

Let me say the again, I’m centring me.

Taking my inspiration from AfroFuturism, I’m centring me and speculating about the future of Blackness. I’m adding my fuel and energy, though rest first and foremost, to me and my creativity. I’m allowing myself the time and space to go with my flow and letting my practice speak for itself.

The message hasn’t changed that we need to burn down white supremacy culture; that we need a revolution. But the delivery will change. I’m using my voice to seduce my audience through my practice.

This isn’t a new thing for me, but it is in the sense of no longer being prepared to do the singing and dancing routine of making white people comfortable around race. I’m realised that a lot of people think that’s it, that’s doing the work for them. Listening to me talk or present or coming along to a workshop, they think that their task is done. Done and dusted, move on.

I want the thorns, the pricks to the conscience and hearts to last long after my disappearance from their view. I want the truths I’ve whispered or shouted into their ears to riddle them with uncomfortableness. If their eyes have been opened to the state of the world, to the system created to keep whiteness superior, then I want them to stay open. That they have no choice but to keep their eyes open and so do something about it. Like I have to be with my lived experience.

My practice can do this, if I give it the time and space to grow and blossom and stick like the barbed sticky burrs from the Pirri Pirr shrubby plant that carries warning signs on Holy Island. These burrs stick and spread, causing a problem which is expensive and time-consuming to eradicate.

As the Carrie Mae Weems’ quote echoes, I want to make things that are beautiful and centre Blackwomen in all our glory for us, not any white gazer saviour, but for us, for myself.

My Mother was the Moon, the Earth, the Song

As I pull into the roadside drenched in memory, I practice breathing. Cycle through the minutes trying to gain ground.

She was silence behind her smiles. Behind her ample flesh. I burnt down our bonds because she dropped before her time.

I’ve too much fire to ever accept her truth. Too much sense to feel the moon held her fullness.

Late into the night standing by the window, she waited for my return. Without fail. I took her love and joy without a backward glance.

I am dark. Too dark. But meaning comes with the light. My own light, learning to shine from the inside out.

I wish she had her chance. I take her picture sitting in the grass amongst the trees and seal it into memory.

The earth she could not give me. She didn’t know how as she laughed her soul into existence.

I am red. All of it. And not at all. But with eyes wide open, body claiming space daily, I listen to her song and bathe in the moonlight.

In the dark with my own sacredness

So I close my eyes. Allow the dark to fill. Feel flaky dust around my ankles and know they are ashes.

Everything has burnt down. To leave fertile ground from which to stand. To rise. But when?

I am indigo. I am not indigo. The stars are not enough. And yet they draw my eyes and heart.

I came close to love reaching from the shadows of a mountainside where women of my family fell.

Memories and pain etched on the skin of my bones, I know what I need and want but I don’t know how or who.

Raw, I cannot dream enough colour to hold me. And yet ripe full of longing, I walk the landscape holding my power with an open heart and listen to the blood rain blooming.