Rabbit, Rabbit

It’s that time of year…

Thank goodness for the Year of the Rabbit.  I can now say “happy new year” without feeling awfully late. Like another rabbit we know, a Not-So-White Rabbit as I often make them, the ones that fall down rabbit holes with no notice. Or is that just me? 

Now, where was I? ah yes.

Well, things suddenly got awfully busy, and the first exhibition of the year is charging up behind me like a white rhino thinking David Attenborough is going to give them a googie. A googie is all those snuggly tickly nice things that animals like, preferably accompanied by a biscuit. I quite like googies myself. My laptop doesn’t, as it has no idea how to spell it, and keeps trying to make it something it can understand.

I am of course suddenly bashing out this blog update when I should be doing something else (number one business of this hour is walking and googying the Dog That Isn’t Mine) but I know if I don’t do it now, I’ll not do it, so I’m afraid it will be what it will be. And the whole point of this post is to say that the Profanity Embroidery Group annual exhibition is on VERY soon.

This year the group is tackling Domesticity in our embroidery. We are also extremely delighted to have participated in an Open Call with Vanessa Marr’s Domestic Dusters project, and can’t wait to hang up all the fabulous dusters we are receiving from all over the World! The PEG exhibition will as usual be in the Fishslab Gallery, and the Open Call Dusters will be in our favourite gin bar, The Twelve Taps.

The exhibition opens at The Fishslab from Wednesday 15th February to Monday 20th February 2023, daily 10am to 5pm.

The dusters at The Twelve Taps also opens on Wednesday 15th February, but being a bar, does not open until 1pm, but stays open until late. On the 16th, the bar is open 1pm to 10pm, on the 17th and 18th, 1pm to midnight, and then on Sunday 19th, from 3pm to 9pm. The dusters will remain at the Taps until the end of the month, but please do check the opening times before setting out to visit, as they do vary.

Do come and visit the exhibitions – there really is some fabulous stitchery and swearery on show. (Of course if you don’t find Profanity Embroidery entertaining, then please do stay away).

It’s definitely beginning to feel a bit like…

We had a thoroughly festive weekend for our Christmas Art Trail pop up shop. So much so, that I decided to do it again this Saturday. It did, I must admit, seem somehow easier to stay as we are rather than putting everything back where it should be. Then of course, being me, I complicated it all by rounding up a host of other artists to join in my pop up. No rest for the wicked and all that, as they say.

“They” do say an awful lot, don’t “they”. Not usually terribly helpful stuff either.

This is therefore a very short blog post, just to say that I shall be Open again this Saturday, 3rd December 2022, between 10am and 3pm, for more fabulously festive shopping. All gifts beautifully created here in Whitstable.

Another reason for re-popping is to get myself in the habit. I have been saying for quite some years (sixteen, if you really want to be picky) that I am going to use the front room as a gallery or installation or salon on a more regular basis. It would be hard to be less regular, what with the past couple of years and all that, but I have plans.

Don’t laugh. Some of my plans do come to fruition. And she who laughs last, laughs. Hopefully with friends, and not all of them fabric ones.


Has she nothing better to do?

Well, what about Santa? he plays with toys all year…

Driftwood tree by Sharon Cavalier, mermaids by Annie Taylor, glass baubles by Alma Caira

It has just occurred to me that had I been a child in a fairy tale, the story would have been something of a non-starter.

I’ve always been rather a scaredy-cat, a goody two shoes. Or at least most of the time. Given the right wrong influences, I could be as wild as anyone could wish to be; but I needed that encouragement, that hand holding to step through the looking glass. I would never have followed anything down a rabbit hole, not on my own. Not unless I’d been taken there before. Several times. And I knew exactly how to get out of there…

At least, this is what I think. Others of course may see things differently. I remember filling in some “what kind of person are you” questionnaire at work one day, and my colleague crying with laughter at my answers.

Whilst working away various projects I have been listening to Nick Cave and Sean O’Hagan read their collected conversations that is the book Faith, Hope and Carnage. They talk of how important conversation is, how it helps us know what we think, and if we don’t talk about what we think, how do we actually know what is that we do indeed think. Lately I felt I had lost my voice, again, that I have nothing to say. That the world is going to hell in a handcart. That there is no point.

I make dolls. I stitch profanities. What ridiculous past times. Why am I doing this? Well, we come back time and again to the ‘because I can’t help myself’ answer. The old ‘has she really nothing better to do?’

It is all too easy to get negative. So here I am pulling myself back out of that nosedive, or rather, the lovely people buying my mermaids and rude birds and fairytale prints have put the smile back on my face with their lovely warm comments and enthusiasm. And so with newed purpose, I’m getting ready for our Christmas Pop Up Shop next weekend.

As part of the Made in Whitstable Christmas Art Trail, I’ll be once again turning my front room into a Christmas gift delight, along with Alma Caira and Sharon Cavalier. Glass baubles and glass gifts and refashioned beach combed finds will snuggle up to some sweary angels and happy mermaids. Do come along and visit – you’ll be sure of a warm welcome.

Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th November, 11am to 5pm. There are 12 houses taking part, with full details here, as well as the Whitstable Christmas lantern parade on the Saturday, so lots of reasons to shop local.

Hope to see you!

Grey Gardens and Little Edie

So, what happened next? Obviously after Dressing Up with Kathinka, I flumped. The Engineer looked at me after I had demanded a post-exhibition Bloody Nora sundowner at the Old Neptune, and said “you are going to droop now aren’t you?”. He is very familiar with my creative process.

Droop I did. Apart from walking the Bunty Dog (who isn’t mine) I was either in bed or on sofa. Flumping. However, not-doing time is important. I finished The Chiffon Trenches by Andre Leon Talley, watched his documentary, and then remembered Grey Gardens, which I had never seen.

Now that is one BIG Rabbit Hole. I’m still not fully out of it. Not sure I ever shall be. I watched the original 1975 Grey Gardens documentary, then the 2009 film. Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange must have watched the documentary for hours and hours and hours to get the women so right. and then read almost anything I could find on the internet, and started rummaging through my own books like a woman possessed. Little Edie was familiar to me as a fashion icon. So many fashion shoots have over the years used her as reference. John Galliano even designed a whole collection based on her. Little Edie’s style is unique, imaginative and inventive. Not to everyone’s taste obviously, but then again, what is?

Before you could say Crazy Cat Lady, I was opening the Trunk of Clothes Past. These are clothes relegated to the dressing up box, together with much beloved treasures that do not fit any more. But they would fit one of the Big Gals. Step forward Little Edie as the purple flowery doll is now named.

I had great fun playing Dress Up and taking photos. It reminded me of why I began making dolls in the first place – it was as props to draw and photograph. Then I was asked if I would sell the original Alice. Obviously not, you know what I am like with attachment issues, but I made another one. And another one. And so on.

“This is the best costume for today”

Little Edie wears Sara’s mother’s shrunken cashmere cardi as a skirt. She might later wear it as a cape. I crocheted the top, I don’t follow patterns. It needs a little work to make the front sit properly. It suits Little Edie better than I.

Little Edie is modelling my favourite Pam Hogg dress, and now wearing the cards as a very fetching head wrap. You can never have too many net petticoats. The red one with the black lace is an original 1950s number, which my mum used to wear. I wore it to a Spanish lady when I first started school. I was beaten to the prize by my friend Linda who had been to Spain and had a real flamenco frock. Clothes hold such memories and stories.

Obviously delving in the past like this, I had to get in on the act, and so did Big Alice. My wedding dress is a new version my clever friend Heena made of an old favourite. With some of the fabric left over, I made a frock for little Ivy. Of course I have two feather boleros, don’t you?

I think this photo is a good outcome of the week’s playing. It is definitely the best costume for the day.

Too old for playing with Dolls? depends on the dolls I guess

Or on the age of the person playing. I’ve always liked the “act your shoe size not your age” idea, and seeing as I’m now in the age bracket where my brain is shrinking not growing, I may as well embrace things with a smile.

The Big Dolls have been doing a rather fabulous job of being both very serious mannequins, keeping still and posing beautifully, and of being just cuddly oversize dolls encouraging nostalgic play. These photos are from the “Dressing Up” private view with Kathinka. They are, I think, a lovely capture of a really delightful evening in splendid company. Thank you Andrew Hastings for being on duty with your camera. This is only a tiny selection. Thank you so much to everyone who came along and cheered us along.

I must admit that on a dreary wet day, looking at these photos has made me feel very warm and happy. Hope you find the same.

This collaboration with Kathinka was an absolute delight, and her and David’s generous and welcoming spirit creating a joyful Open House indeed!

Final weekend of Dressing Up: A Collaboration

Time flies when you are having fun -we are already approaching the final weekend of Dressing Up, a collaboration between Kathinka with her Scandinavian elevated take on closet essentials, and the Big Gals.

We shall be open again tomorrow, Saturday 22nd October and Sunday 23rd October, from 11am to 5pm. Kathinka is in on Saturday; it’s just me and the Dolls on Sunday. I shall of course have an activity bag with me, ready to steam into the ‘what’s next’ on the To Do list. What is next? well may you ask. Where exactly is that List…

She’s a Model and she’s Looking Good photograph by Andrew Hastings

The Big Gals are as glamorous as can be posing in the windows. The Little Gals, are more lively, in their mini Kathinka garments and I’m sure if you watched them long enough you would see them move.

Kathinka designs, cuts, stitches, and makes every single piece of her garments. Each one a real individual. Much like my Gals.

Do come and see us at Kathinka, 37 High Street, Whitstable, CT5 1AP (Opposite Sainsbury’s)

If you do come to visit, make sure you have time to see some of the other artists who are opening their houses and studios for East Kent Artists Open Houses 2022

Dressing Up: a collaboration

photograph by Phil Miller

Right, well, regular readers of my random blog will be aware of the fact that I never ever expect my Dolls to behave, even when I promise they will be at their very best.

Since delivering the Big Gals to Kathinka, I have been proved wrong. In fact, I am struggling with the fact that they have behaved far better than I.

All kitted out beautifully, chic from the top of their fabric swathed head, to the tip of of their custom created shoes, the Gals have behaved impeccably, every inch the fashion model. Even Mabel. She sits in her designated pink chair with no slouching, no heading off for the last of the wine. Just goes to show what a positive role model can achieve… I wonder if Kathinka’s calm stylishness might yet rub off onto me?

East Kent Artists Open Houses continues for the next two weekends, 15/16th and 22/23rd October, open 11am to 5pm. Other times possible by appointment. The Big Gals are in the window, so can be viewed at all times. You can pull all the faces you want at them, they’ll not respond. Best behaviour all the way.

Kathinka, 37 High Street, Whitstable CT5 1AP

It’s All GO!

Yes, it is that time of year again, when panic sets in and I am either frantically ‘doing’ or staring into the middle distance like a rabbit in the headlights, muttering darkly to myself. I’m dropping things, and stabbing myself with needles and pins and scissors and anything else remotely pointy, and forgetting why I cam into the room. And the Cat That Isn’t Ours is alseep on my To Do List, and is far too comfy to be disturbed.

So I thought I’d update my blog. I was going to do the Newsletter, but Mailchimp has crashed, so blah.

This is clearly not going to be my most eloquent blog post. Far from it. Which reminds me, something else that I need to address is how to put an index and a search into this blog, because I didn’t when I set it up, because I didn’t know what I was doing. Can’t say I know a lot more now, but I have done quite a lot of posts, and it would be useful, for me, if not for anyone else.

The panic stations behaviour is because it is almost East Kent Artists Open House time. Very almost. Two weeks. I am, as I have said previously, not at my house. Repeat – I AM NOT AT MY HOUSE. I shout this rather as whenever this has been the case, people have still turned up, at my house. So please don’t.

I shall in fact be at Kathinka’s in the High Street. Kathinka, if you do not know, is a fabulous fashion designer and maker, creating custom made clothing. She is currently fashioning gorgeous outfits for my badly behaved gals to wear. Yes, she is now harbouring four Fabric Friends, who wish to be fashion models. Each has their own little doll to keep her company. They are all in their element.

The East Kent Artists Open House is on three weekends 8th and 9th, 15th and 16th and 22nd and 23rd October 2022. Kathinka is at 37 High Street, Whitstable. Do come and visit. The dolls will, I promise, be on best behaviour. Quite what that may be, I really have no idea.

Dressing Up: a collaboration

Come and meet us both in Kathinka’s studio, creating. Join us for the PV on Friday 7th October from 5pm.

Near and Far Away

It is all about proportion. The Big Doll I am currently working on, is very near to me. The Tiny Books I made for the House of Smalls two exhibitions, which open today at the Frontier Gallery‘s Independent Art Fair, are very very small.

Big Doll, Cat That Isn’t Ours, and the Fairy GM. And a big bag of crisps. Late night working in the studio.

Near and far away explanations would be confused even if I put the tiny books right under your nose, and the new Big Doll at the top of Borstal Hill, the steep hill that runs down into Whitstable at which point you first glimpse the sea and shout “there’s the Sea” with childish glee every single time.

I can see Borstal Hill from my open studio window. At the moment I am glad to say it is not really visible because of the trees being in leaf. One winter’s evening my friend Diane phoned me from the top and then flashed her lights as she came down, Morse Code style, to see if I could spot her. It was not entirely a success due to other traffic and tree trunks and what not, but like most things, it made us laugh a lot.

The Big Doll is going to remain near. The tiny books have already gone far. One of the tiny books is going to a new home. Staying far. Fat chance with the Big Doll, I can tell. She’s a home body. (Head is coming along).

The House of Smalls exhibitions are the Time of Her Life II and Shadows. I thoroughly enjoyed making the tiny books, and can honestly say if I had stopped to think, I might not have done what I did. I really like them. Sometimes thinking is not a good idea. Over thinking can lead to inaction. Or displacement. Which is essentially the same thing.

Right, where are we. Details for the House of Smalls exhibitions, check. Details about the Big Doll, nope.

The Big Doll is for East Kent Artists Open House this October, where I am joining Kathinka in her lovely Whitstable High Street establishment. The Dolls WILL be on their best behaviour. As I write that, and repeat it as a constant mantra while I cut and sew, I sigh. No point lying to myself.

Due to a recent rabbit hole involving a conversation about my family and my Great Aunt’s Wrestling Production company (I’ll not explain, I could be here all day) I found the following image. It is not one of my Auntie’s matches, but I wish it was. Instead it means that the Big Doll on the work bench, well, not really on the bench ‘cos she doesn’t fit, is named Mabel Syrup. Now you see why she isn’t likely to be a delicate flower. Come and see her in October. And go and visit the Independent Art Fair this weekend, if you can.

wrestling poster (not my Auntie’s)