The Sad Doll

soft sculpture doll with sad face and blue hair, with self harm to her arms
Large soft sculpture doll representing the lyrics of Martha Wainwright’s lyrics from her song Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole

Funny as it may seem, I hadn’t thought of Martha as exactly sad, but that is how others see her.

To me she is defiantly, angrily, not happy; and that is something different. Curled up in the corner, demanding to be left alone but not to be ignored.  She will not say she is alright for you.  Whoever you are.

She is not alright, we know that: but she knows a Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole when she sees one.

Now hugging her knees in the corner of Whitstable’s Fishslab Gallery, taking her place at the Profanity Embroidery Group’s Third Annual Exhibition, she glowers out at visitors.  Come see her.

Profanity Embroidery Group exhibition open daily from 14th February to 20th February. 10am to 5pm daily; Sunday until 4pm, and closes Tuesday 20th at 2pm

Fishslab Gallery    11 Oxford Street, Whitstable CT5 1DB




Struggling with Martha’s body

The floor contains a pile of folded cut up white sheets. They are Martha. Or rather, they will be Martha.  They are, at the moment, Martha’s body parts. I am currently tacking them. I have tacked one leg, and the pile of body parts is consequently looking no less than it did a while ago.  It is therefore time for this blog – my log of displacement activity.

Martha is one of my current works in progress for the upcoming Profanity Embroidery Group exhibition.  It will be our third Annual Exhibition, and this year takes song lyrics for its theme.  Some are spectacularly misheard, and some are powerful songs that already contain profanities.

My latest fabric friend, of a large size, is host to lyrics from Martha Wainwright’s Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole: a song of cathartic defiance.

I will not pretend.  I will not put on a smile. I will not say I’m all right for you.  Whoever you are…



This is stitched on her head. Her head is sitting watching me.  Defiantly.  If she had fingers she would be drumming them impatiently.  If she had feet, she would be tapping her toes.  As it is I can feel her painted eyes drilling into my back. Get on with it she says.  She sighed and muttered expletives from her smudgy watercolour mouth as she heard the keyboard dancing and saw the needle stuck back in to the pincushion.

textile art head, hand painted in watercolour on recycled sheet, and embroidered with the words I will not pretend, I will not put on a smile, I will not say I'm alright for you, whoever you are. These are lyrics from the song Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole by Martha Wainwright. The head is part of a work in progress for an exhibition of work by the Profanity Embroidery Group

The head ate up one whole mattress topper. Too lumpy to sleep on, it arrived freshly laundered just in time to save me tackling the un-stuffing of an even lumpier duvet.  Martha is another of my soft sculptures made entirely from re-cycled bedding. Duvets and pillows turn up at regularish intervals, left tucked under the lavender bush and watched over by Jesus, each one meaning another character can escape my head, and join the others cluttering up our house.

I shall now pick up the other leg, and continue tacking.


Sisters, Sisters: there were never such devoted sisters

conjoined twin gothic style art doll wearing purple ball gown, handmade and hand embroidered

Once upon a time is a good way to begin a story.  Twice upon a time is usually trouble.

This is of course, one of the Twice Upon A Time stories.

It is a given that in stories of two Sisters – especially if they be Twins – one must surely be good and one must surely be bad; one is the light, one the dark; one hardworking, one lazy; one beautiful, one not; one selfish, one kind.

But not in this story.

Not these Twins.  For both are lazy, selfish and thoroughly bad.  Proud too.  They may be beautiful, but the old saying ‘handsome is as handsome does’ has no place here.

The bickering began in the womb. The two tiny creatures kicked and pushed against each other, only happy when back to back when they could pretend they were the only one – but always keeping those little backs pressed firm together, always knowing each other’s every move.

As children they would sometimes stop fighting each other long enough to stand back-to-back against the World.

Jealous of each other, inextricably linked they grew.  Anything one had, the other wanted. Not the same as, it must be the very one. Each must have the very best of the best, yet constantly presumed that which the other had was somehow better.

Handsome to look at, grasping, greedy and grotesque of nature, they went sent to live at the edge of the Kingdom, far away from gentlefolk.  But this is a fairytale, and so we must have a Prince, and we must have a Grand Ball to which everyone from every corner of the land must be invited.

The Twins were beside themselves.  They would be the triumph of the Ball, the two of them in beautiful gowns outshining every other woman in the palace. The two of them against the World, united once again just for a moment.

Just for a moment.

Then there was an explosion of such jealously and viciousness that even the Bindweed Forest quaked. With such malevolence did the sisters fight over which was the best costume, a dark storm rose over the Kingdom, and the Fairy GM smiled. The World shook and lightening and thunderbolts rained down on the edge of the Kingdom.

The air cleared and the Sisters stopped fighting. They were both wearing the same gown. The very one they had both decided was ‘the best’. One dress. One dress to fit one body. They looked down. One body, one set of arms, one pair of legs, one fashionably small and neat waist. Two heads. In their struggle the two Sisters had ceased to be two – and had become one.

They glared at each other.

They could not turn their back on each other, for they only had one back.  They could not flounce off in opposite directions – in fact, they could not flounce at all.  Flouncing is awfully difficult when you only have control of half a body.

And so they remain to this day, forever as one. Their dislike, distrust and jealousy remaining as strong as ever.

Yet this story has a happy ending (at least at this point) for although they would never have admitted it, they are actually quite content.

For you see, they always wanted to be each other.

The Ugly Sisters art doll is currently at Story Interiors, Margate. They are hanging about by a silver mirror, watching people contemptuously.  They are quite happy for now. 

Wish you were here..

fairy in a bird cage with two colourful birds

In another land, across the Kingdom, lives the Prince Who Doesn’t Sleep.

Bored and unhappy; he’s too tired to sleep.  Its been such a long time, he can remember nothing positive.  The light blinds him, the darkness too.  He drinks of his special water and stares at nothing.

The special water has always been carried to him by a two headed Frog, in a sieve with the holes blocked by mud and moss. The Prince pays heavily for this water, but it nulls his pain and he forgets what he paid. He thought it the pure water from the Well of the World’s End.  It is not. He should have known better than to listen to the Fairy GM.  Now, he doesn’t care. He wants it to end. He drinks. The empty vessel contains no more.

Around him the castle crumbles.  The winter storms blow hard, and icy cold fingers reach in through the time worn windows.

The Fairy stays in her unlocked cage.  She stays quiet unless spoken to. Smiles when spoken to. She lost her power long ago. Sometimes when the Prince falls unconscious, she lifts her wings as far as the cage allows, and sings an out of tune song.


Let me tell you a story….

Many people nowadays, with their text friendly shorthand, refer to the Fairy Godmother as the Fairy GM.

sketchbook drawings for the soft sculpture work in progress of the big bad Fairy GM

This is not at all a good idea. The Fairy GM is something altogether different, something other…

Consider the Fairy GM’s achievements: pumpkins as big as carriages? Mice as big as men? Lizards that walk on their hind legs? Kitchen girls dancing with princes? Such behaviour is not naturally occurring in these species.

Do not let her hear your secret sighs, your deepest wish, your heartfelt longing for she draws her power from your thwarted desires. She will strangle your dreams and smother your wishes as her briars grow strong, her toxins thrive and her tendrils bind you forever more.

The Well of the World’s End is the last free pure water source. The Fairy GM has hidden the Well, and is busy poisoning the rest of the Kingdom. She wears at her girdle the lost flower children of the F1-Hybrids, those that will never come true, and enjoys their painful efforts to grow.

She surrounds the Well with a thicket of beastly Bindweed which grown so fast that anyone trying to force their way through will be smothered by a many stranded stem and twisted high above the suffocated forest until their pale dead face smiles at the sun.

The Kingdom is dying.  A land smothered by Bindweed, asphyxiated and bled dry.  It needs the water from the Well of the World’s End.

There are ways past the Bindweed, past those double-headed pets of hers: the Guardian Dog with eyes bigger than an Olympic stadium full of drugged up athletes cheating to the death; and the Cat of Nine’s tails would make the Torquemada blanche. It is a long and twisted journey, and to drink from any but the Well of the World’s End will enslave you to the Fairy GM forever.

Far away a girl, a child of the ancient unmodified seed, untouched by fertiliser and glyphosate, is chosen to ask the Fairy GM for water. The Girl walked until she reached the edge of the Bindweed. There she chose a small fresh green tendril and bit hard with her sharp little teeth. As the weed started to wrap itself around her, she pulled free her bag of Nine Herbs Charm and flung the contents far and wide. The Bindweed recoiled, dropping her on the barren ground, surrounded high on all sides by a Convolvulus castle.


The Fairy GM thus summoned, looked down on the child. ‘And people call my plants ‘weeds’, she though “I’ve never seen anything more weedy than this girl’. She knew the Girl was sent for the water. She could see her dreams of saving her people. The Fairy GM drew her power from these dreams. The longer the girl hoped and wished, the more powerful the Fairy GM would become. She would keep her in the Bindweed forest for now and wring her heart dry.

The Bindweed slips and slides over its own coils, rearranging itself into a maze. The Fairy GM let the Girl go, and told her that when she reached the Well of the World’s End, she would find a vessel in which to collect the water. She was to use nothing else, and take only that which the vessel would hold without spilling.

Having spoken, she left the Girl to find her way, and did not see her unwrap an apple branch. The branch bore one small apple, one flower, and one unopened bud. This was her key – it would guide her safely on the right path – and not the way of the wrong well.

Several weeks of walking later, the Girl wrinkled her nose and recognised a new smell. It was the pure water. A gentle smell, clean and clear, like nothing she had smelt before. She was reaching the Well. The maze twisted tighter, with more paths opening before her, closing and moving as she walked towards them, then becoming still as she held her apple branch aloft.

The Fairy GM watched her through the forest. She was not surprised the Girl had ancient wisdom to help her, it would have been exceedingly foolish had she not, and would make her disappointment ever more sweet.

With one last struggle of wills against the Bindweed maze, the Girl reached a light, quiet opening. A pool reflected the sky above, and around the edge was mud and low growing soft greenery. The Girl had never seen mud, nor the sky in a hole in the ground, and was afraid. The Fairy GM smiled and grew strong.

The Girl sat down heavily on a rock and looked around her. She knew the Fairy GM was watching her, she knew her progress had been permitted. She knew she was expected to fail.

For three days and three nights, she watched the Well. Watched the water gently rippling at the muddy mossy banks, and saw small strange creatures dart across the mud for a drink. There seemed to be one dryer pathway that the larger creatures used, and it began not far from her rock. She had also seen the vessel she was to use. It was small.


Sighing, she slipped from the rock. The Fairy GM positively purred, and grew stronger.

Carefully the Girl followed the path of the creatures towards the edge of the Well. She did not sink in the mud. She did not slip. She tested the bank with her foot, and carefully reached for the vessel.

It was a sieve.

Realising the futility of her task, the Girl knelt down, weeping. Her pure tears added to the clear water below, the tears of those who have failed before. The mirrored clouds shimmered and distorted, and she rocked forward to throw herself into their depths. The Fairy GM whispered encouragement ‘let go…let go…..let go… ’

But she didn’t fall. Observing her progress was a two-headed Frog. A heavy two-headed Frog. So heavy that as it sat upon the Girl’s cloak, she was held fast to the bank.

She turned and looked the Frog in the eye, all four of them. The Frog, as is the way in Fairy Tales, told the Girl it would help. But of course, and also being the way of Fairy Tales, the Frog wanted help in return, and the Girl must promise this help when the time comes, no matter what.

The promise extracted, the Frog gave the Girl some leaves of mugwort. These she was to wrap in her hair to protect her wishes. The Fairy GM must not hear her hope. The Frog then took a mouthful of mud and hopped into the sieve. Using its cleft tongue, it unfolded the mud from its mouth and pressed it into the holes. It then repeated the action with a mouthful of moss. The Girl watched, and then moved swiftly to reach for the thick mud she had been careful not to walk in, and soon sieve was lined.

Dipping it into the Well, she lifted up the vessel filled with all the water it could hold. Not a drop fell from the sieve.

The Girl grinned, and her face shone like the sun coming out after an eclipse. The Fairy GM would see, she would know. Her dream of success glowed too bright for the mugwort to hide.

A Bindweed tsunami ripped around them. The Fairy GM’s yellow eyes bore deep into the Girl’s head, but it was too late. She had drunk from the Well, and her dreams and wishes were her own now. The Fairy GM had never been so angry. She was beside herself and losing control, she slapped the Girl as hard as she could.

The Girl, and the Two Headed Frog in her pocket, and the sieve with the water from the Well of the World’s End flew high, high above the convolvulus, and out across the Kingdom. And as they flew, the life giving clean water fell upon the parched and poisoned ground, and the old seed began to grow. Each drop of water was as much as a condensed storm and the cracked earth drank it in and spewed out fresh springs.

The lost children of the F1 Hybrids (that never come true) that the Fairy GM kept tied to her dress, began to cry, and their tears became pure rivers, and the Fairy GM’s toxins were washed away.

The Girl and the Frog watch the growth, and the rainclouds gather, listen to the sounds of life, free life, and smile. Then Frog reminds the girl of her promise, and asks her to chop off one of its heads.


This story is a retelling of The Well of the World’s End which is an AngloScottish Border fairy tale, recorded in the Scottish Lowlands, collected by Joseph Jacobs in English Fairy Tales.

A Tea-Making Fairy? Yes please!

Here I am, swathed in Bagpuss style dressing gown and slippers, sweeping and washing up, and making the house presentable to OPEN again, and all around me are sleeping bodies.

And as they awake, possibly gently nudged into consciousness by the banging of broom on skirting board,  they blink their eyes, painted, beady or real, and open their mouths, painted, stitched or real, and out comes the plaintive cry of ‘teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeea’ like a marooned mermaid in the Sahara Desert.

fairy tale soft sculptures wait for East Kent artists Open House to begin again
Wake Up!

And so I think, I need a Tea Making Fairy.

And whilst I arrange a grumbling, yawning Mad Hatter on the stairs, I begin to imagine this Fairy.

Obviously it wears a large crinoline style skirt, possibly cream or a nice cheery blue, and it whistles, quite loudly. Although that could be annoying after a while. It will wear its now silvered hair in a large bun atop its head, but with stray curls wisping about like steam. One arm on hip, in a sort of ‘what do you think you’re doing’ pose, the other extended, palm up, open handed.

I can see this Fairy quite clearly, and she, for it is definitely a she now, is a small apple cheeked granny of a fairy, of the no-nonsense but always make you feel better type. She will have several shawls wrapped around her to keep the tea warm…

I’ll show you….

drawing of the tea making fairy
The Tea Making Fairy

Now, what was I doing? ah yes, putting the kettle on…

East Kent Artists’ Open Houses continues this weekend, open from 11am to 5pm.  Tea fairies welcome.



As I sit down to consider the current East Kent Artists’ Open Houses, I find that naturally I am pondering instead upon ‘Open Sesame’.

Hurrah, it is displacement time again!

window display for East Kent Artists' Open Houses, 2017, House No.15
Jesus’s chief difficulty was in managing his flamingo

Why ‘Open Sesame’? Why Sesame, open or not?

Well, sesame is the oldest known oilseed crop, harvested for thousands of years.  Its a hardy, handy little crop, a survivor crop growing where little else will. Scheherazade would have valued her sesame to help her through those long story telling nights, not just as power for her reading lamp but for its many  health giving properties too.  Mind you, I doubt that the Forty Thieves would have been appreciative of the anti-viral or anti-inflammatory properties of this Queen of Oils whilst boiling in their own jars.

When ripe, the sesame seed splits with a little ‘pop’ (I am contemplating my jar of sesame seeds with renewed interest).  Mind you, when I dry roast pumpkin seeds, they pop rather satisfyingly too. ‘Open Pumpkin’ doesn’t immediately have quite the same catchy ring to it, but it doesn’t have the advantage of having been in popular use for 300 years. I have to say, it is growing on me. It is doing this in much the same way as the squash plants are growing over everything in the garden – with absolutely no sense of decorum.

Further research (of an extremely limited nature – I don’t want to displace from my current displacement) gives me the Urdu proverb  “til dharnay ki jagah na hona” which means a place so crowded that there is no room for a single seed of sesame. So definitely no swinging cats. And quite rightly so, swinging cats is not to be condoned – although it is something I used to do very carefully with my old cat and my first big empty living room.

In tilon mein teil nahee“, means there is no oil left in this sesame.  One would use this phrase to describe someone who appears to be useful, but who is selfishly not so when the time for need comes. I wonder if it also applies to inanimate objects, like the phone than runs out of battery just as the car breaks down…

And what you may ask does any of this have to do with Open Houses? apart from the obviously ‘open’ bit.  Nothing else. Just that – that we are Open.

Come and visit over the next two weekends 21st/22nd and 28th/29th October 2017, between 11am and 5pm.  Do not expect to swing a cat. There is however plenty of room for a few sesame seeds in amongst the mermaids and rabbits and suchlike.