Monday 31 October 2016

Samhain ritual- honouring Papa Crow

This is the first Samhain since my Papa Crow died, it's a time when my ancestors believed the veil between worlds is at its thinnest, a time for honouring spirits and celebrating the cycle. He, and I , were agnostic about what happens after death, but it's hard to not feel like he's still around, as my Ma said, I don't have to understand everything, so I've dealt with this the same way I do with anything I can't quite get my head around, ritual making.

Pa was everyone's best friend, when dancing at a festie, over copious cups of tea in the kitchen, or at 3 in the morning when everything hit the fan. He adopted any good person he met into our family, he taught me how to love, hug and be open. He was my best friend as well as my dad, he was so understanding and always knew how to fix thing, I have a rule that if I couldn't tell Pa, I probably shouldn't do it and that has taught me how to be.

This is a plait of my mothers hair, my parents are so intertwined I can't think of one parent without the other, they've both been both my father and my mother, I've never known a romance quite like it and I've been really lucky to grow up with that model of how to love and respect each other.

I listened to music that reminded me of Pa while I plaited strands of Ma's hair, stuff we'd dance to together at parties and nights out (Moby- We Are All Made of Stars, Fatboy Slim- Right Here, Right Now), stuff Pa would quote to me to get me to come to him for a hug when I was sad ( Tom Waits- Come On Up to the House), one of Pas favorite songs that he saw performed at the Isle of White festival and we played at his funeral (Jimi Hendrix- All Along the Watchtower) a song that has special significance between Pa and me (Brian Eno- Put a Straw Under Baby) and a song he'd sing me as a child about where sailors, which Pa was for years, go when they die (Fiddler's Green.)

 This is a locket Pa gave me for my birthday before he died, it's filled with some of his hair I cut off when Ma and me did his vigil until his body was taken away, strung on Ma's plait, wrapped with fabric off cuts from the shroud I made him, wrapped in copper (the three of us taking apart an old washing machine in Ducky Cuddles Cottage to scavenge this wire out has always been a very fond memory.)

 I found an old packet of rizzlas when we were tidying his stuff (he'd stopped smoking a long time before he passed, but we used to sneak cigarettes together.) I smoked one of the rizzlas and as there's only 10 left I'll keep them on my altar.

Recently I went to Robin Hoods Bay to carve Pa's crow symbol into slate, like he used to leave wherever he went (he also used as his signature on his poetry and drawing, everything he made, so I have it tattooed on me.) I climbed out onto a rock surrounded by water, sang fiddlers green and come on up to the house, said goodbye, and threw it in.

Ritual is incredibly important to me, it puts order to what I can't understand, and catharsis to things I have no control over. I keep performing seeing off rituals for Papa Crow, hoping one of them will give me closure, but they don't seem to, he still feels like he's with me, whether that's psychologically or something else, I'm not going to question it. Ritual and symbolism is also very important to my art and writing, which Ma and Pa have always been my biggest champions and influence in, so I'm going to accept it and be thankful that he'll always be with me in some way through that.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Blackout Poems

When I'm stuck with either writers or artists block, or just want to loosen myself up a bit before starting a project so I can experiment a bit more fluidly I grab a newspaper or an old book I keep for this purpose (Dr Haggards disease and the white man's dilema currently) and make blackout poems.

 I first came across them via Austin Kleon who did a whole book of blackout poems and is my general go to author when I'm in a creating/marketing funk.  He's sweary, he's very anti marketing speak and totally into Brian Eno's idea of scenius "genius is individual, scenius is communal."

I find them freeing, whenever I'm a bit stuck with artwork, or if a student was when I was teaching, my course of action is limitation. I get paralysed by indecision and wrapped up playing with technique or tools rather than getting an idea across effectively. So if I've got a line I want to make when I'm drawing someone and I have all my brushes, pens, inks, pencils etc out and I have no idea how best to describe it, I'll usually grab a twig out of the garden and try and use just that and ink, or splat something on the page to contrast against rather than having the scary possibilites of a blank page, it's like telling your brain it's ok to fuck up as you can blame the lack of tools, so you may as well experiment, which is the most important thing to me making in a satisfying way.

Thursday 6 August 2015

An interview with Svan Darc

Some of you might have seen me mention Dan Svarc on here before and if you’re local or into some pretty niche stuff you’ll have heard of his magickal alter ego Svan Darc. Recently I’ve had the pleasure of working with him making costuming bits for his stage shows, photographing him and making colour your own art for his recent communal e.p, I already love him like a brother and adore his music but it introduced me to what else he had going on, something I reckon you lot are going to want to know about, it’s interesting stuff, stuff that I’ve not seen before and Lincoln definitely hasn’t experienced. I've not met anyone who’s brain works the way Dans does and I’m so excited he’s moving into visual art and craft too.

Dan Svarc, Svan Darc

So Dan, Andrew W Kelele is probably your most easily graspable project, what made you want to pretty much become Andrew W K for a bit?

It was just something I said as a joke after people were making fun of me  for my interest in his party philosophy, but the idea of doing that, as a live show, on an immediately accessible instrument such as the ukulele became more and more feasible and it was like you know what, lets run with this. After trawling the internet for ukulele tabs and finding none (because why would there be,) I took it upon myself to work out some new arrangements of his hits for a solo performance. I can still remember most of the arrangements, if I do another I’ll get some ukulele lessons up online and we can all party together.

Promotional flier for Andrew W Klele and friends playing live for General practice, artwork by me.

Could you tell us a bit about the purge e.p? what kind of things inspired you? what kind of themes were you playing with? any kind of story or narrative?

Purge was written in the midst of fall out from working and commuting in a call centre environment and even though I’d left to pursue my own business and my own creative endeavors the isolation and mental illness you typically get dealing with those environments stuck with me.  The idea stemmed from a need to remove that from myself, a kind of cleansing ritual, removing sickness through sickness. Because of that, the narrative is more of an abstract, but the story is of existing as a non-participatory organism, present in life without living it, the loss of control inherent within that and the journey towards awareness of self.

Svan Darc performing and live mixing the Purge and "Penny A Purge projects at X-church X-24 festival, photography by Fenia Kotsopoulou

Aside from a few sketches the cover for purge was the first bit of visual art I’d seen from you, what sparked you to go more down the visual route? 

I wanted to release it and I just figured I’d have a bash really. I’d kept seeing reoccurring images in my dreams and I knew I wanted something like that so the themes were already there, all that remained was the execution. I like working visually. I’m teaching myself all the time.

Cover for Purge E.P by Svan Darc

As well as photography you've started making glitch art, what is it and what's your process for making it?

The term glitch art is itself a wide umbrella of media and process. I read a few tutorials (google is your best friend), started importing uncompressed images into software they shouldn't go, like Audacity which is predominantly used as an sound editor and then re-exporting back out into an image file. Sometimes I'll glitch using a hex-editor by adding in values that corrupt the way the files read, it's a bit hit and miss but sometimes comes out with great results.

I've used the sound of the raw data of images in my own live performance since, taking that sound through the same process in audio production software and that seems to yield distinctive results.  

Bent selfie by Svan Darc, the sounds from the image were processed in his piece "THEY BENT MY FACE"

The Penny a purge e.p was a fantastic idea, what made you want to make it communal and multimedia?

Purge was deliberately a very open concept and I still find that some people relate to it in a very different way to myself, the idea was to highlight that inclusivity. It always was supposed to be for everyone. I don’t envision a world where the separation between musician or artist (visual or otherwise) has to exist within a binary. I believe people have the right to make what they want to make and see themselves how they want to see themselves. It’s an ongoing project and the individual files that I used to make the EP are still available online via mediafire and the Penny A Purge facebook group.

Penny a purge album cover, a collaboration between Svan Darc and myself

Any advice for artists and musicians putting on communal projects?

Be patient and cultivate freedom.

How are you finding the art scene as opposed to the local music scene? Is there much difference? anything that's helped you feel more at home there?

I’ve received a tremendous amount of advice and support from Lincoln based artists General Practice, Over+Out and of course  G Â S T.

The fundamental difference between art and music seems to be approach, but I wouldn’t consider that universal in the least. Everyone I know has been really supportive, even if they haven’t entirely understood where I’m coming from or think some of my ideas have been dumb.  It’s not just about me though, it’s bigger than that, it’s about having an extended network where we work as a collaborative community generating content without getting to bogged down on details like is it a music piece or is it an art piece. I’ll leave that to people that want to work in marketing.

"Purge 8" by Svan Darc available on Bandcamp

I’m not even going to pose this one as a question, tell everyone about your new project, I love it so much, they need to know.

I’m going to be exhibiting some digital artworks that I made for “Penny A Purge”  in association with glitch artist Dec Ackroyd.  All of the works are going to be designed to fit onto a stack of floppy disks and as a result will only be able to be viewed on a computer screen which forms part of the installation itself as we seek to address questions regarding the nature of the way data is collected and viewed around us, using the tactile and nostalgic (for me at least) of the insertion and ejection of physical media. If anyone would like to also exhibit feel free to contact myself, date and venue is currently to be confirmed but I’m hoping for mid September. Because of storage limitations any files sent in need to be less than 1.44 MB to be considered eligible, other than that the more the merrier! 

Here are his two E.P's available on his band camp, you can find more of his unreleased music and   sound art on his soundcloud (including an awesome Daphne and Celeste cover and remix of his dad,  Karl Svarcs poetry written for him, also by the name Purge.)You can find Svan Darc on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday 31 July 2015

7 Yarnbombing Tips and 4 Free Printable Tags for Your Yarnbomb.

These are free downloadable tags, both with space for a website or your name, or without.  Please feel free to use them on your yarn bomb and craftivism. 

1. The long and the short of it
If you’re covering an object get yourself some measurements, from there there’s two things you can do. You can make a swatch, a swatch is a test square to see how many stitches you’ll need to make your yarn bomb fit like a glove, this is affected by the size of your hook/needles, the thickness of your yarn and your own personal knitting/crochet tension. Or you can go the freeform route and cut out a template and sew patches or work outwards in various ways until it’s the right size and shape for your chosen naked object. if it’s an odd shape rather than a square or rectangle I usually go route two, If people are sending me pieces by post (from the whispering part before, remember?) I tend to swatch so I can tell people what size patches I am after so I don’t end up with an odd shaped yarn bomb. 

2. Knitting/crochet is a superpower, use it for good
I’m talking craftivism, craft activism, you can use your knitting and crochet to highlight a cause, advertise a boycott of a dodgy multinational in a friendly, often humorous and inclusive way, or adorn the doors of a local charity/ethical business like a charity shop or community centre (you know people will pop inside to ask about it, giving them some helpful extra exposure.)

3. Wet yarn damages tree trunks.
We’ve all seen those photos of streets lined with gorgeous, multicoloured tree trunks, they look like something out of a dr seus book, just magical. Unfortunately unless they were done somewhere very arid, those yarn bombs probably (hopefully) came down after a day or two and if not they could do irreparable damage to the tree. It’s not just the natural yarns known for holding on to moisture (we’ve all had those stories from older generations of sagging, heavy knitted swimming trunks) but acrylic yarns and plarn (plastic bag yarn) still trap moisture against the trunk that can rot it, leaving the more delicate flesh of the tree exposed to weathering and pests.

4. Get all up in everyone's face about it, or don't
You want to share it with the world and make everyone happy and enjoy their environment just a little bit more that day for seeing. but what environment do you want that to be? A lot of people tend to yarn bomb very public places, which stands to reason, if you worked your arse off to make it and it’s probably going to get rained on, taken down, or vandalised at some point, you want as many people as possible to enjoy it before that happens god damn it! But on the other side of the coin yarnbombing, or any types of guerrilla art/craft is an excelent way to bring beauty to spaces that are under appreciated and bring a free art movement to people that wouldn’t usually bother with galleries.

5. Make like Banksy and tag it
There are still a few people on the planet that haven’t heard of yarnbombing and some of them will presume it’s either vandalism that needs removing because it will harm whatever it’s attached to, or, more often, lost property. You can pop on a note, preferably laminated, with a little information about why you yarn bombed and what yarnbombing is (people like to be in on the secret) maybe your name or a pseudonym, if there’s a bunch of you make up a catchy group name, and that it’s not harming whatever it’s on.

6. Shout about it, whisper about it
I’ve discovered this week local news LOVE yarnbombing, once it’s up send all the local papers, tv and radio stations, you can send in an anonymous tip or offer interviews and photographs about them, you want people to see your hard work and enjoy interacting with it. but before you do you need to whisper about it, send out feelers to those who might want to make parts, help you in putting up your yarn bomb and possibly play lookout/getaway driver. Get yourself a gang or a yarn army but if it’s political, could cause offence (as is occasionally the case with craftivism, some people express some quite polarising opinions with it) or if you think it’ll get taken down straight away due to where it is ( remember, it is often technically illegal if you don’t have permission for it) keep what, when and who fairly secret to stop it being scuppered.

7. Attachment theory
ZIP TIES, ZIP TIES, ZIP TIES, those godly little strips of plastic are fast, don’t require pointy objects and super strong. Plus you know your piece isn’t going to fly off at the first sign on wind. Occasionally you might want to yarn bomb in a place of nature, in that case use a natural string or wool so they will break down easily and safely when they eventually fall off. Wherever you yarn bomb, make sure your yarn bomb is safely secure, doesn’t endanger anyone, and pop on a hi vis jacket, lanyard or carry a clipboard if you can, it’s rare someone questions your authority with a clipboard.

I hope this has been helpful and you now feel ready to go out and yarn bomb the world, or if you're already a seasoned guerrilla crafter I hope you've enjoyed reading how I go about it. Please leave any other tips you think me or my readers could use and if you use the free downloadable tags I'd love it if you'd show me what you've used them for on my Facebook ,  on my twitter or on my instagram.

Love and naughty knitting

Saturday 18 July 2015

Still life photography tarot cards

A little while ago I was asked to make tarot cards for two of my favourite people, James and Blair. These were no ordinary tarot cards, they're getting married and to show what he'd do for Blair, James got all their creative friends to make two tarot cards each on the theme of a certain aspect of their relationship and things he'd happily do for blair in the future. I was given transformation and sacrifice.

As Blair's a fellow witch ( go check out his videos at WitchesMIX, it's full of interesting advice and tips about various aspects of paganism and witchcraft.) I thought I'd take inspiration from spells and mythology, there's salt, charcoal from the yule fire we all shared, egg, rosemary, oil, water, iron and some of my hair before and after I dyed it (for the transformation part.) oh and glitter, because there has to be glitter.

For Sacrifice I took my inspiration from James and his love of literature and his sharp wit (You can read some of his writing at his blog Palimpsest, I can definitely recommend it, it's beautiful.) This excerpt is from a copy of Doctor Haggards Disease I've had for years, every so often I'll read a few pages and make blackout poetry as I go.

Saturday 28 February 2015

The Fantabulous Traveling Steampunk Yarnbombs' third birthday

The Fantabulous Travelling Steampunk Yarnbomb is a collaborative guerilla art project featuring the work of steampunks, artists and craft people from far and wide. Some of you may have read about it in my last blog post here. It aims to inspire people to make, experiment and have their work shown together in a playful and thought provoking way, getting involved is more important than skills or expertise. 
For those of you not already aware of guerrilla craft, graffitti knitting and yarnbombing they are acts of craft and art in public that take back spaces as joyful and playful places for the everyone to express themselves in visually, as opposed to the images we are used to seeing in public spaces in advertising, this project is steampunk themed but there are all sorts of projects out there you can get involved with all over the world or just go make something and put it out there.

the Fantabulous Traveling Steampunk Yarnbomb is now 3 years old and has taken on a life of its own. The yarn bomb went off travelling with the lovely people at Ornamentology and was picked up, shouted about and carted about by the fantastic Jo and Si who run Leeds Steampunk market. All these lovely people took it to lots of festivals all over the u.k

If you would like to make a piece to contribute, display the yarn bomb at a festival or event, or just follow what’s going on and watch its travels as it grows can join the facebook group the pinterest page and there’s a communal inspiration pinterest board. Please do check the criteria on the Facebook group or email me at before making a piece to check it’ll fit the health and safety standards, they're very simple but it will mean we can definitely show your piece.

So without further ado, here are all the pieces sent in so far, please do check out everyones links and see what else they do.

Jane White

Sandi Cowles

Patricia Cook (my Nanny)

Tuesday 3 February 2015


This year we had a very small Imbolc ritual just for Bear and me, the snow was absolutely beautiful (and meant we didn't need to use the snow we saved in the freezer at yule for this ritual.)

We got frozen soil from the veg patch and gave it 3 golden eggs to symbolise the cycle of birth, life and death over the year, or maiden, mother and crone if you follow the goddess, added the hare of the spring wreath to look after it all while we slept and dug a hole for the candle.

We lit the candle to warm the soil ready for spring and seeing as Imbolc is all about the earth/godess being pregnant (it's thought that the word Imbolc comes from "ewes milk" or "in the belly") we said a wish for a couple we both love very much who are planning a family. 

I also made my parents a Brigids cross but unfortunately I didn't get a photo, it was weaved from the Goji berry tree we're growing in the garden and if you hang it in your attic it's supposed to protect from lightning and fire, which seems oddly specific, which I like.

I also made sure to feed the birds that visit my garden, I'm definitely turning into my Pa. This pigeon is my favourite, I don't know if he goes anywhere else for food at the moment but he shouts at me when I come out the house if it's empty, but flies off when I get close enough to actually fill it up, then sits in the tree shooting at me until I go away.

I love this little line of pigeons that come and roost on our neighbours roof, they look so funny sat in a line like that.


Happy Imbolc everyone, hope you're all enjoying the snow and flowers starting to come through.
Love and cake

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