Car Doctors and broken boundaries by Karen Alderson

2017 has so far been a turbulent year, I am emotionally worn out and have found it hard to concentrate on the project. For me, creative practice requires space to contemplate and engage in the deeper aspects of the work.  I am fixated on the image of the railings and keep going back to the shapes made by the lines. In January I wrote notes regarding experiments putting stabilisers in fabric, similar to bones in corsets. The aim was to play around with distortion of shape by bending the wires in the fabric.


Here I used wire inserted in between two sheets of fabric.



The shapes in the fabric that emerge between the inserts also attract my attention.

I make a wire stencil of the  broken fence,put it on some white sheeting and spray it with grey and white car paint. Later I use red car paint and whilst the stencil is still wet I place it on more sheeting.



p1080575I wrap wire with hand dyed grey cloth and place it on a film of latex.


At the time of writing the latex is still wet & has dribbled on the floor so I’m looking forward to how it will be tomorrow.

I find a piece of broken fencing in the fields and photograph it. I love the distorted squares & angles.


In 2015 as part of a project called Subways, Street & Sidewalks I became interested in fencing on a derelict site. Fencing is about boundaries, broken fences represents transgressed boundaries, inside and outside merging, fusing, separation breaking down, sealed entities spilling their contents, material moving across the threshhold.

I was thinking about the point at which a barrier, like skin, is cut and the outside comes in (& the inside goes out)  and you are no longer a complete whole. No longer safe, unable to maintain the boundary, the prior identity changes it’s form. Even after the skin repairs a scar can develop and, if deep enough, a worry that it may happen again. One’s inner sense of self has now a memory of being entered, of the barrier being cut or torn, violated.

I want to amalgamate the hard and soft of metal and skin, both boundaries, both able to be transgressed, the car being an extension of our personal boundary, acting like a metal skin, yet with our skin inside. I wanted to have something physical to carry around than an invisible feeling, something tangible that others could see than this ephemeral sense of distorted & broken incompleteness, a container that cannot contain, a safety barrier that isn’t safe.

A have a new friend who repairs the body work on vintage cars, he sees himself as a car doctor & calls rust “car cancer”. I like the medical metaphors and ask if he has any rusty metal panels I may have. He does and now I intend to shape a sheet of metal into a sphere that is open at the top, like the fontanelle on the top of a baby’s skull. To do this I will have to chisel a round depression in a block of wood so that I can beat the panel into shape. If and when I manage to do this I want to cover the metal with softer material and a layer of latex to signify skin. This feels like a shift away from the warped fence image, things are finally moving.

The End of the Beginning by Jane Pugh

I am still exploring and researching. I have not settled on one area to develop for the exhibition but am hoping that my route will evolve and resolve itself soon. During my final major show at college many years ago I found myself in a similar position, and I remember quoting Joshua Reynolds, who was in turn quoting James Harris (1709-80), an author of philosophical treatises, ‘Shall I feign a relish till I find a relish come?’ So, then, I did feign a relish, but this time I am hoping that I will find a relish come!

I spent some time examining the embroidery further; I am getting quite excited about this piece – which will become apparent shortly. First of all I spent time looking at the two buildings near the top, at either side.




Then I looked at the creatures illustrated in the embroidery – birds, caterpillars, bees and a lion as well as a mythical creature which I decided to look at first. At a cursory glance I thought it was a griffin (Griffin is coincidentally my maternal grandmother’s maiden name.) It took me some time to identify the creature. Eventually I came upon the details sketched out here in my notes. I have split the next page of my sketchbook into two parts so that I can explain the content – as I say I identified the creature by searching for ‘head of hen, tail of dragon.’ There seemed to be very little information about the cockatrice on line, except for lots of dungeon and dragon images.


Then – a breakthrough from Wikipedia – useful pieces of information, most interesting to me being the sentence in italics:

The cockatrice was first described in its current form in the late fourteenth century.


It has the reputed ability to kill people by either looking at them—”the death-darting eye of Cockatrice”—touching them, or sometimes breathing on them.

It was repeated in the late-medieval bestiaries that the weasel is the only animal that is immune to the glance of a cockatrice. It was also thought that a cockatrice would die instantly upon hearing a rooster crow,  and according to legend, having a cockatrice look at itself in a mirror is one of the few sure-fire ways to kill it.

The cockatrice was also said to fly using the set of wings affixed to its back.

In heraldry

Arthur Fox-Davies describes the cockatrice as “comparatively rare” in heraldry.

It was the heraldic beast of the Langleys of Agecroft Hall in Lancashire, England as far back as the 14th century.

It is also the symbol of 3 (Fighter) Squadron, a fighter squadron of the Royal Air Force.

In Shakespeare’s play “Richard III”, the Duchess of York compares her son Richard to a cockatrice:

O ill-dispersing wind of misery!
O my accursed womb, the bed of death!
A cockatrice hast thou hatch’d to the world,
Whose unavoided eye is murderous.


Argent, a cockatrice volant sable, crested, membered, and beaked–LANGLEY, Lancaster


And so, I began to wonder, could there be a link between the embroidery and Agecroft Hall? Looking at the image of the embroidered cockatrice it certainly looks to be confidently drawn with a strong vision. Could the reference for it have been copied from something the maker had seen? My next step will be to contact Agecroft Hall and follow this lead further.

Autumn leaves and eyelash yarn by Julie Turner

I ended 2016 and started 2017 with 2 very different ‘nests’, firstly, a charity shop find which spoke to me: this ceramic tea light holder looked hard and uninviting as a nest but with some clever embroidery with what is often called ‘eyelash’ yarn it changed into a softer more inviting nest. By leaving the ends of the yarns to hang inside and adding more yarn, it became softer more inviting.


During an autumn walk in the scenic Yorkshire countryside my family and I collected some beautifully coloured fallen leaves which I took home to play with. Using an old broken basket that I had hung onto (every artist knows it will be needed sometime! Don’t they? Or is it just me?) I decided to try to weave a nest using only leaves and twigs. This was extremely frustrating! The leaves kept sliding off the twigs and while adding more leaves the twigs would push the already ‘secured’ leaves off. I persevered and after much trial and error I managed to get a nest shape which had no base and was very delicate to the touch. I left it over night in disgust which was a huge error! The following morning all the leaves had dried up and were ‘crispy’ and brittle to the touch! This meant no more playing with these particular leaves and I have not touched them since! The gorgeous vivid colours have remained intact and I have had a few ideas for these new crunchy leaves which I will experiment with and let you know how and if they worked. Some may even make it into the exhibition display areas just for added colour and interest.


Then there were 3…by Karen Alderson

Last week Julie, Jane and myself met with Ebony at Bankfield Museum and set the launch date for the exhibition, this will be on Saturday 11 November 2017 12-4pm in the Education room upstairs.  All are welcome, there will be drinks and nibbles. The exhibition will  be situated upstairs in the left corridor. The launch will take place on the same day as the Calderdale Open Exhibition and so there will be lots to see. This feels both exciting and not so exciting.

I begin to worry as I cannot “see” how I will display the work I have already made. We have 9 months to complete, I’m being premature, a baby can develop in this time, I’m doubting myself. It is a good motivator but those who suffer from anxiety will know, such situations can trigger a sense of being frozen if not managed.

Another big change is that Edie Jolley has left the group due to needing time out to look after herself after big personal changes. We will miss her and wish her a speedy recovery and strength on her journey. On the basis of this change and in line with looming deadlines for publicity we have decided on a new name for the group: Ellipsis… This is defined as “the omission from speech or writing of a word or words that are superfluous or able to be understood from contextual clues. Jane Pugh suggested this name which indicates our changing group status from 4 to 3 artists.

For the past month I have been busy film editing, or, more accurately, learning how to edit film, it is a laborious but rewarding process. My intention is to complete it by early February so that I can concentrate on stitch. I showed the unfinished film to someone who said the film brought to mind the phrase “repairing yourself”. This was a response to one shot where I am mending a T shirt found on Brow Lane.  I took it home, washed and ironed it and then set about mending the holes with a simple darning and running stitch. I had been reading “Slow Stitch” by Clare Wellesley-Smith who advocates the meditative act of stitching. After the excitement of Friday’s meeting at Bankfield and the change in the group I needed something to repair my frayed nerves. The repetitive stitching certainly helped. p1080556

I continued to think about the word“repair’. “Re…pair’ which suggests the putting back together after something has come apart; there has been a split, a rupture, something in pieces that has lost its unity.  So when we repair something or repair ourselves we are attempting to return to a previous identity of unbroken. However, this is impossible as we cannot erase history, we cannot return without having had the experience of damage, it fundamentally changes the nature of someone or something. The quality of repair will also change the prior state.

Post modern theories of illness point out that the medical narrative is one of “fixing” and returning a person to their prior unblemished state of health after a trauma or illness. However, in many instances there are incurable diseases, irreparable disabilities or where people have to live with tragedy, loss of a limb or a function.  These people are misfits in the system as they cannot be returned to their former identity. They challenge the medical establishment’s myth that health can be fully restored & everyone can “go back”. We never do, we’re continually transforming ourselves. Sometimes the adaptation to the new identity is the most important part of the healing journey. c.f. The Wounded Storyteller by Arthur W. Frank.

I like the Japanese practice of Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi, the repairing of broken ceramics with cement mixed with powdered precious metals. It is a philosophy that sees breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to hide. It challenges our culture’s obsession with the perfect body that is promoted in the media via airbrushed images and the focus on youthful bodies.

Visible repair challenges the assumption that we can go through trauma and then return to an identity we had before as if nothing had happened. We are the sum of our experiences, the more life we accumulate the more cuts, breaks & rips we endure. To hide these is tantamount to ironing away our wisdom and our individual repair skills to fashion perpetual emergent selves. I intend to investigate repair and distortion through stitch.

Stuck in the middle of the beginning by Jane Pugh


I am still recording and developing ideas, and researching online.

The Bankfield Tea Cosy

After earlier sketches of me and my family wearing objects from the collection, I am painting a self-portrait with the tea-cosy as a hat. It seemed a good size for the purpose; very decorative, and a possible, even likely, secret life for a tea cosy. Objects can affect people. We can’t usually see how in a visual way, so I am exploring this idea.


I looked online and found a number of other people wearing tea cosies:


David Mitchell. There is, in some years, a national ‘Wear a tea cosy on your head’ day. Various charities use this as a fund raising event and brainstrust, a UK based brain tumour support charity, is encouraging everyone to host tea-related events for a tea-fest from 20th to 27th February 2017, which includes the wearing of a tea cosy.

This one appears to be worked in cross-stitch.


Burt Kwouk, best known for his role in the Pink Panther films as well as Last of the Summer Wine and Tenko, wearing a tea cosy on his head to promote an anti-poverty fundraising event, the Big Tea Cosy, 2009.

The white pattern is embroidered onto a black ground. It is closer in form and design to the one at Bankfield.


I found this image of a man in a woolly hat from the Church of St.   Cadoc at Llancarfan, 15 miles from Cardiff. These late 15th century wall-paintings were uncovered recently. Archaeologists confirm that he is wearing a Monmouth Cap. Captain Fluellen, Shakespeare’s Welshman at Agincourt, celebrated his Welsh soldiers who were wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps. They are still made for general use and   for re-enactments.

The wall painting of the hat has resonances of the painting of the small basket, especially when it is upside down.


Church of St. Cadoc Llancarfan images    The last time I looked for this site, Google information said that the site may be hacked, so check before looking here.


The Seven Stages in Man’s Life


This mural below, showing the seven deadly sins, is also a wall painting from the Church of St. Cadoc in Wales .It must have been a colourful addition to the sermons. The artist has produced the most amazing monsters, similar to ancient and contemporary ones which are still used to teach, terrify and control us. It is in sections, which has echoes of The Seven Stages in Man’s Life from Bankfield.


Other such monsters include Alien, 1979, the three headed dog, Fluffy, from Harry Potter,screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-19-59-20screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-19-59-27

as well as the Hydra and Cerberus from the Twelve Labours of Hercules in Greek mythology.

My journey continues. I am following a winding path.


Railings & Weaves by Karen Alderson

As part of my “zooming in” process I go back to the railings on Brow Lane. On closer inspection the impact had been such it had knocked one of the the railing panels about a metre back into the grass. As a quick way of securing the boundary the landowner had used garden wire to weave across the space. I took photographs of the weaving, drew it and made a print block from the pattern. I used images of the railings & the weave in the next process of batik & printing.


I hand dyed some cloth to replicate the grey and rust of the railings and then used batik to draw railing shapes.

Using a home made jelly plate (which was a tedious yet rewarding process in itself) I made the following prints.

I took the batik prints, backed them with batting and begun to hand quilt in between the batiked lines, I wanted to bring the railing shapes forward and as I stitched the cloth began to rouche distorting the fabric and which led to a sense of corporeality. I looked at the weaving with garden wire & I saw that it resembled a corset where the wire was like the chords used to tighten it. These two thoughts lead me to investigate corset making and see the railings as distorted ribs emphasising the body metaphor, as if the impact of a car crash distorts the self whether through physical injury or shock and trauma. I begin to plan making a distorted corset as a final piece.






Zoom in again by Karen Alderson


One approach to the creative process is called the ‘Zoom in Zoom out, Zoom in” method (Cracking the Creativity Code by Arie Ruttenberg & Shlomo Maital) where you alternate between really looking at the subject of your investigation, coming away and investigating related fields and contexts then returning to it. I have followed this structure by looking closely at the map, walking the route and am now returning to the original object. I came back to this image of the topographical map.


The area that took my interest was the layers of veneer in the right hand corner. Using a scalpel I cut out the dark layers and made a stencil.


I used the stencil to make some images.



After using the stencil I put a clean piece of card onto it to take a ghost print and this was the result.


This is the image from the back of the stencil after it had been used with spray paint.


I took both of these images and edited them.




I took a copy of one and cut into the edges of the shapes, I inked over the surface and took a photograph of the underside.



I made a print block by scoring the shapes into the surface of a pizza base. These are some of the images I created by inking up the block.


I cut more shapes out of tracing paper and put them on a piece of white card and wiped it with ink, I then removed the tracing paper shapes.


I then cut out the shapes on the card and as I was doing so some of the card shapes stuck and so I decided to cut them all so that they remained fixed to the card at the top and bottom of the shape.



I shone a light onto the back of the card and got some interesting shapes.


I took some of these images and repeated them in a word document, printed them off then put the image over some carbon paper and traced the shapes with a sharp awl, moving the paper as I went.



As I traced over the shapes I daydreamed about being a nurse and suturing wounds. Returning to the card with partially cut out shapes I removed the shapes and added stitches.


I decided to make marks with a piece of card and black acrylic paint on tracing paper.


This reminded me of rows of curved suture needles and the railings that had been misshaped after the impact of a vehicle crash.  I also liked the marks made by the paint on the far right and corner, close up they look like knots or commas. I want to replicate these marks in stitch.

I had some thread left over from stitching so I put it into red iron oxide acrylic paint and made some prints.I then cut out the strip of marks and placed them at the bottom of the print to experiment with pattern.


It felt good to return to visual research after walking and filming. The two types of research are related, working simultaneously with an internal and external landscape. I am not sure how the dialogue between them will manifest, I am not intending to synthesize them into a whole, I’m more interested in the juxtaposition.

I have begun to meditate again and am making decisions about visual research as I work rather than having a plan. This feels less pressured, less controlled, more exciting. I do not “know” consciously what I will be doing next or what ideas will come from the materials. In one sense it mirrors the psychogeorgraphy process where I did not have destination in mind but was open to investigation, to what happens, to being disrupted and being aware of nuances and subtle shifts in experience. It is like a shamanic medicine walk, a shamanic research process, I’m sure there is a technical term. I like the results and am formulating a 3D piece that I want to finish by the end of the year.