Fitcher’s Vogel: A Grimm tale in a Small House Gallery

Whitstable Biennale 11 to 19 June 2022

A Small House Gallery project for the Whitstable Biennale Satellite. The Small House Gallery is a mini contemporary art gallery curated by Eldi Dundee since 2016.

During the Biennale, I am telling a Grimm Fairytale, using textile dolls/puppets and photography and animation and whatever is to hand, to illustrate the story, with each of the Small House Cottage rooms marking a chapter. The Chapters will be added from 11 to 19th June 2022, and shared here and on social media. The dolls house itself has come on summer tour to Whitstable, where it will reside in my front room visible from the street for the Biennale and beyond.

Now, are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

Chapter 1

In which we meet the sisters

The three sisters led a secluded life at the edge of the forest. They tended their herbs and befriended wild animals in preference to the people of the town.

The townfolk in turn let them be. The towns’ women tending to consult the sisters when necessary under the cloak of darkness.

Chapter 2

Stories of the sisters’ charms spread far and wide. A beggar soon comes to call.

Chapter 2

The eldest sister, kind hearted and forgetful invited the beggar indoors on hearing his plea for a crust of bread.

Once across the threshold the beggar wastes no time. He grabs the girl and bundled her into his trunk. And then, a quick as a flash, they are gone.

Chapter 3

The Sister awoke confused, trancelike. She had been enchanted.

The Beggar was a Hexenmeister, a sorcerer. A sorcerer of the worst kind: a thief, a liar, a cheat. He wanted a wife, a true and skilled bride. For that he needed to use all of his considerable cunning and trickery.

He gives her an egg that she must never set down and a key that she must not use, and leaves her alone in the house.

Chapter 4

The hexed Sister explores her surroundings.

Carefully and unquestionably cradling the egg, the girl roams around the house. She admires the richness of the rooms and the treasures within, wondering ever so slightly as the haphazard nature of it all.
Eventually she comes to a locked door. Without thinking, she fits the key to the forbidden lock.

Chapter 5

The beggar returned to the house at the edge of the forest.

The second sister is kidnapped swiftly and easily. She had been picking flowers and thinking about her elder sibling, and missing her, and had not seen him appear.

Again , after a few days, he says he has business to attend to elsewhere and leaves her alone in the house with an egg and a key. Never set down the egg, he tells her. Never use the key.

The second sister explores the house, admiring the richness of the rooms and the treasures within. Eventually she reaches the locked room. She used the key, opens the door and screams, dropping the egg.

The crash of the breaking shell shakes the house and the beggar returns.

Arghhhhhhh!!

Chapter 6

The Beggar returns once more to the house of the 3 sisters. The youngest sister is harder to kidnap. She has mysteriously lost two sisters, and her trusting nature alongside. She’s suspicious. She will not invite him in, and his spells cannot cross the threshold. Eventually he persuades her to open the window to pass him some bread.

He grabs her hand. She kicks and fights, but he has hold of her and soon enough she is in the trunk, and then to the dark house.


This sister is perhaps not as pretty. Her dress more patched. She has pockets. In her pockets she has all kinds of stuff: string, a needle book, wax, matches, crumbs for the birds, leaves for the deer.
The Beggar Groom can change all that with a click of his fingers, but later, he thinks, after her test. No point wasting good bad magic.

Before long, she is alone in the house with the egg and the key. The trance has not taken complete hold of this sister, she twists those leaves in her pocket. They are mugwort, a powerful herb of protection, sacred to the moon goddess Artemis. She bides her time.

The third sister doesn’t move for some time. She waits to be sure she can hear nothing, then begins to explore the house.  She looks but does not admire.  She wanders and she wonders “what goes on here?”

She empties one of her capacious pockets and pops the egg inside for safety. She stares at the locked door, takes a deep breath and turns the key.

She is greeted by a gruesome sight: blood everywhere! Splattered up the walls, puddled on the floor, and in the centre of the bloody chamber, a large bowl thick with more blood and decapitated bodies. Women’s bodies. Her sister’s bodies. She recognises the scar on an ankle where her eldest sister freed a trapped wolf and it bit her for thanks. 

Chapter 7

She lovingly collects the sum of her sisters, removing her own frock to avoid more blood splatters, and sets to work with her needle and string. As she sews, her sisters’ severed limbs help too, and the bodies begin to heal themselves.

Not all magic is bad magic.

Chapter 8

The girl hides her sisters, washes and dresses and rushes to be exactly as she was when the beggar left her. She waits for his return. He is away longer than she expected, and she is tired. She jolts awake when she thinks she is dropping the egg, which she is now holding in her hand.

Meanwhile the beggar also waits. He waits for her to use the key, for the Earth shattering sound of the shell breaking. He returns tobthe house and hides in the hallway. Still he hears nothing. He storms into the room. there’s the egg, intact, there’s the key.
He will marry this girl. And soon. Let the preparations begin!

Chapter 9

She agrees but insists a dowry be taken to her sisters. A trunk of riches.

He laughs “of course”. He knows where her sisters really are… He’ll take the trunk and fetch it back later. He’ll humour his bride, enjoying her bossy fussing. It is refreshing as everyone is usually terrified around him.

He lifts the trunk and makes ready to depart when she asks for one more thing. He frowns but obliges.

She swaps the trunk for the one with her sisters inside.

Chapter 10

She waves the Beggar gone, telling him to hurry and that she’ll be watching. Then she hurries upstairs to place a skull in the window, dressed in veil and flowers so that when the Beggar looks back, he will think she is standing there watching him, as she told him she would. He can hear her too, cajoling him in his ear. It is of course the sisters in the trunk, but he does not know this.

He struggles under his burden, heavy even for a sorcerer, and contemplates his wife to be. She will be useful. Or else she will be in the bloody chamber.

Chapter 11

She grabs a bedroll and makes her way to the kitchen, locking all the doors and windows her way.

She rips open the bedroll and lets the feathers fly everywhere, then she covers herself with honey and rolls in the feathers until she becomes a fabulous bird.

Chapter 12

The feather covered sister dances out of the house.  Each step is a sticky honey trail. She leaves the front door open to greet the Beggar’s guests. A disparate bunch of disreputable, dishonest and thoroughly disgusting folk, the sidle inside.

They ask after the bride and the bird points a feathered arm up to the skull and dances on to gather twigs for a nest. The returning Beggar swears at her, but is eager to join his party, so leaves her alone.

NB: this is a fairytale so no one bats an eyelid at a giant pink talking bird

Chapter 13

As soon as the door slams behind the Beggar Groom, she ignites her nest. Whoosh – the house is ablaze.  No amount of trickery will save the Hexenmeister and his gang now.

The Bird Woman finds a perch from which to watch the inferno. Her sisters will be ok, they are safe now and will never want for money. As for her, she plans to fly away, and be free.

The END

A Grimm Tale for the Satellite, Whitstable Biennale

Perhaps it is no surprise I mostly have no idea what day it is, when you consider that actually what I’m doing today is something I was doing two years ago. I don’t think it is just the Pandemic that has caused this glitch in time, it is something I had begun to notice in the year before. Notes and details in my sketchbooks, plans, galleries booked, whatever, often took a twisty turny time before they became a Thing. Often a twisty turney two years.

The Whitstable Biennale was morphing into the Cement Fields (not, as I have mistakenly called it, Concrete Estuary), a larger project involving more of the Thames side, butduring a 9 day period this June, it is back in Whitstable, and alongside the Biennale programme is the Satellite. An uncurated and feral affair, that allows artists, local or otherwise, to rock up and join in. Well, it would be rude not to, n’est-ce pas?

Whatever day it may actually be, it is in fact a day where I am racing to finish the Small House Gallery Dolls House installation for the Satellite (programme details here). The Dolls House will be staying with me for the summer, before moving on to another exciting installation.

The story inside the Dolls House is Fitchers Vogel. An interesting Grimm tale, dark even for a Grimm, but hugely satisfying. The Beggar Groom is actually a sorcerer, or in the original German, a ‘Hexmeister’, which says it all really, a Master of the Hex. That is until you discover that the Hexmeister was also the word used for a Witch Hunter.

The story is categorised as a younger sister saves the day or a locked room sort of a tale, but it is much more than that. I’ve taken a few liberties myself as I have played with the tale and my dolls and the dollshouse, but it is so not a Disney tale that my alterations are minor. I’ve added some pockets. Women need pockets if they are going to rescue sisters.

My front bay window (without the lavender – that got the chop recently I’m afraid, but it does make seeing whatever is going on in the window a lot easier) will be home to the Dolls House from this Saturday, 11th June, for the Biennale Satellite. During the afternoons of Thursday 16th June and Friday 17th June, I will be ‘open’ for anyone to come and view the house and story from the inside. The Dolls House is double sided, and so I shall be turning the house on a daily basis so the story can be read while passing by. If you would like to see the Dolls House an another time, please use the contact form on this blog, and I will email you back to arrange that (do please check your junk folders).

Now back to sewing little bodies. Headless ones first.

Finchers’ Vogel, Chapter 4

Dolls Houses and Palaces

Its all about dolls houses in the next month or so, with one small piece of work in a big small show, and then a solo show in another dolls house – plus the Profanity Embroidery Group gets Jubbly fever. 

CONFINED at the House of Smalls

This exhibition is now open online.  Appointments may be made to visit in person. I have a small piece in this excellent exhibition. If I were able to shrink to dollshouse size like Alice, and walk around, that would be fabulous. Am now hoping to find something labelled Drink Me.

The piece I made is called Holding Space. A hand holds a small doll wearing ruby slippers and a faded blue dress. Whether the doll is free to get up from the hand or not we cannot tell, nor whether it is the doll or the hand that is holding space. The boundaries for a carer are blurred, the confinement, although freely entered into, can be oppressive.

Finchers Vogel (a Grimm tale) at the Small House Gallery 

Whitstable Biennale Satellite and through summer.   This will be a dark tale told through dolls and embroidery, with each room of the Small House progressing the story. The Small House dolls house will be in my front room window in central Whitstable. It can be viewed from outside, and I will rotate the dolls house daily so that the story can be read from both sides.

Visits to view the Small House will be available by appointment throughout the Biennale Satellite, and at other times, and I will tell you the dark and bloody tale.

And finally, for now, The Profanity Embroidery Group celebrates the Queen’s Jubbly at the Horsebridge Arts Centre, 2nd to 5th June.  Please note, our stitched language may offend.  We are however having the most enormous amount of fun with what we are making, and I heartily recommend visiting. I’ve been channelling my inner Queenie and gone back to Elizabeth I.

I’ve also been having a bit of a sort out on the mermaid front, having discovered quite how many I had squirrelled away in my various tidy ups over the past couple of years. Consequently it is worth keeping an eye on my Etsy shop, as I have been having quite a mermaid Sale. At the moment they are a couple of bigger bonkers mermaids as well as a small one recently freed from captivity. Sale items currently have free postage. Bargain mermaids – who would have thought?

And that really is enough to be getting on with for now. I suppose I’d better see what is next on my every present To Do List.

Busy as an Easter Bunny (before Easter)

Amazingly, the Tri Tri Tri Again exhibiton at Whitstable’s Fishslab Gallery is open! Covid cancelled right at the beginning of lockdown (we were the first to go) and at the end (we were just abou the last) we finally made it. And we think it looks terrific, all our work in 3s or related to 3s, and hope you can come along and visit.

Open daily 10am to 5pm now until Tuesday 12th April 2022, when we close at midday.

We shall be having a PV on Saturday 9th April from 4pm to 5.30pm. All welcome (obviously be considerate and don’t come if you don’t feel well etc etc etc).

Pirate Jenny and Lucy Brown are waiting…. don’t exactly expect a warm greeting from them, they are not at all proper.

Meanwhile, Form and Fibre continues at The Halpern Gallery, Chatham. From the photos I’ve seen it does look a fabulous show with some intriguing, interesting and inspiring work, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it with my own eyes. Dolly is apparently on best behaviour, which isn’t always saying much, to be honest.

See what I mean?

Do take a peek at the other artists in this show – I’m sure you’ll find their work of interest.

Tri-Tri-Tri Again

Third time lucky, they say. Three is the magic number. In Chinese cultures three is considered lucky due to the pronunciation being similar to that of the word ‘alive’, which sounds pretty good to me. We’ll skip over any thoughts about bad luck also coming in three, although I was tempted to make a piece of work relating to ‘three on a match’. Might do, if I have time.

Ah time. Yes, suddenly, we are straight back into ‘where does the time go?’ and ‘what do you mean the deadline is tomorrow?’ In other words, hopefully, business as what used to be usual. Sort of.

Coming up I shall have work in the twice delayed Maps show, now open between 18th to 31st March. A creative enterprise across three galleries, Beach Creative in Herne Bay, Creek Creative in Faversham and the Fishslab Gallery in Whitstable. A fabulous idea involving so many artists, which I am really looking forward to visiting. My piece is I’ve Only Ever Lived in Left Handed Houses. Since I made it, another seven hundred days have passed, and my Dad told me that the first house they lived in, when I was a baby, was right handed. Seeing as I have absolutely no memory of it, he has generously allowed me to bypass that inconvenient truth, but I feel an addendum, or clarification and corrections piece coming along.

Next we have the much delayed group show at the Fishslab, now rebooked for 6th to 11th April. This group show first came about as a bunch of us on the Fishslab cancellation list decided to show together when a cancellation came up. We were the first show cancelled for Covid. Last year we were to be the Repair show, as calling something the Cancellation Show no longer seemed a good idea. The Repair show was axed too. Our (fingers crossed) third time lucky exhibition will reference three. The group of local artists is Alma Caira, Clare Jackson, Max Kimber, Pam Caney, Paul Elliott and Sharon Cavalier.

Our I’m currently working on three dolls, a little larger than intended, representing the three women in the Threepenny Opera. It was the first three that popped into my head, unsurprisingly, given how much I love it. Mack the Knife became a sanitised pop hit, but the Black Freighter (Seeräuber Jenny), whether sung by Pirate Jenny or Polly Peachum, never loses its punch. I have a preference for the song in German – fünfzig Kanonen is somehow so much more satisfying, but Nina Simone’s fifty canons really do flatten the town. Artists who have covered the song reads like my Spotify list of favourite artists, from Marianne Faithfull to Amanda Palmer.

The dolls are also in my mind a link to Tri-ang, the toy makers. The Tri-ang toy works were the big factory in Merton where I grew up, in fact at one time it was billed as “the biggest toy factory in the World”. The factory was a series of triangles, which I always found very satisfying when we drove past in our Reliant three wheeler.

Also at the beginning of April, I am delighted to announce I shall be joining some wonderful textile artists for Fibre and Form at The Halpern Gallery at Nucelus Arts at Chatham. The gallery ceiling is a little low for my Fabric Friends, so more about this exhibition once I’ve decided on what I’ll be showing.

So there we are – a busy March and April. That’s quite exciting.

Hoppla!

I almost forgot: Interntational Art&Found Day on 12th March. Which is exactly what it says it is – a day where all over the world, art is being left for your to find. Click on the map to discover where your nearest artwork will be hidden. I joined in last year, all stealth and social distanced – and it was absolutely the most fun I’d had for ages. Obviously I’ll be leaving my art in a very obvious spot in Whitstable, at a very obvious time. This year I might try and get there before the hunters though.

Keep an eye on my social media posts to find out more.

I’ll leave you here with the original Seeräuber Jenny, the fabulous Lotte Lenya.

Come Closer and See

Although Alma and I have been walking around singing “A Forest” by the Cure for a while now as we work, this theme came to mind as a result of our walks along the beach, splashing through the waves and crunching pebbles underfoot. Our Forest will of course be one on the edge of the sea, where kelp forests reach up out from the waters, and the roots of the silver birch grow down.

Come and visit, if you can, we shall be open daily from Wednesday 17th to Monday 22nd November 2021, from 10am to 4pm daily. On Saturday 20th November we shall be joined from 4pm to 6pm for a magical storytelling event with the wonderful Sarah Lloyd Winder.

Hope to see you at the Fishslab

December 3rd to 31th 2021

I’m delighted that my work shall be joining a host of eco-conscious artists in this exciting pop up gallery and shop, where there shall be 17 artist-led workshops and all sorts of shenanigans! Seems like a damn fine excuse to visit Brighton if you ask me

You can have a look at the wide range of workshops and book online – they promise to be lots of fun as well as caring for the planet.

What am I doing?

It is 1st August, and it is raining and grey. I have my sheepskin slippers on and am looking for my snuggly cardigan. It feels like October. I’ve opened the big window in the studio as it has the sun blind on (ha ha) and I can’t turn the window around to undo it (I’m too short) but it is terribly gloomy.  Smells nice though.

So, what am I doing?

Well, I’m writing lists of course. Things to do for the Made in Whitstable Art Craft & Vintage Trail for the Whitstable Oyster Festival, which takes place over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Things to do for my return to the ShowOff Gallery in October during the time of the East Kent Artists Open Houses. Thing to do for the Fishslab Gallery in November, together with Alma Caira.

The lists are long, and there are also growing lists for Monday and Tuesday, sensible lists. There should be a list for today too, a shopping list for dinner, not forgetting shampoo (not for dinner, obviously) now written on completely the wrong list.

So, I ask myself again, what am I actually doing?

Well, I am contemplating my forever unfinished Fairy GM.  She hangs in the studio, and recently claimed a rather fetching green jacket I was given.  It needs a little work, but I couldn’t reach the sensible sewing To Do box as it was behind everything else, so I popped it around her shoulders. It suits her very well, and now I fear I have lost the chance of claiming it for myself.  She was intended to be rather partial to soy and canola – the two main GM plants across the planet, but it turns out she prefers good old natural Bindweed, and just loves Japanese Knotweed too.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is fecb0e3f-88f8-4935-81a3-a5fd0c93dc6b.jpeg

 

This is a problem with my work, it doesn’t always do as I intended.

The poor little Lost Children of the F1 Hybrids (who never grow true) or at least their bodies, were recently on loan, and are now back in the studio too. I wonder what I did with their heads? I remember thinking I wanted to “remake them anyway” so could quite possibly have ditched them.

Clearly I am sneakily, without admitting it to myself, considering Fairy GM progress. Which makes all the lists I am writing totally pointless. I need to pull myself out of this creative nosedive and stop trying to work out how to make a crinoline hoop skirt cage for the Fairy GM and the Lost Children; and focus on the first list.

Tea first. As always.

Rabbit holes and ear worms

Inspiration and earworms follow the same path. A glimpse, hardly seen and barely heard, reminds the brain of something else, and then the great slow clocks of the mind start turning. Where they will stop, nobody knows. Will it be exciting inspiration, or will it be a song lyric that leads to an entire back catalogue?

My brain of course mostly goes for the latter. Take this past week. A friend posted a comment on social media to promote her current exhibition. She said “another opening another show”, and I was off.

What? Did you not immediately burst forth into Another Suitcase in Another Hall? Most odd.

Well, since then, the whole libretto of Evita has been rattling around in my brain, so much so that one old friend had to comment on the fact that she was previously unaware of my Evita problem. Must admit, I don’t see it quite like that. And it did tie in rather nicely with a late night David Essex ‘best of’. He sang the part of Che in the original (do keep up).

My friend Lynda’s dad bought the Evita album when it first came out. Lynda and I were two halves of one Saturday girl in a local shop, and had become very good friends by the time we were old enough to be two complete Saturday girls. We would lay on their dining room floor with the lyrics and sing along. We knew every word. When we both became students (she, nursery nursing, me, secretarial) we obtained Student Standby tickets to see the show. Student Standby was a fantastic initiative whereby anyone possessing a student card, could buy unsold West End show tickets for a fraction of the price. We had brilliant seats. By then, Evita was sung by Stephanie Lawrence and David Essex had sadly moved on. The show was amazing, utterly spellbinding and never forgotten. And we sang along, all the way through. Must have been awful for the people around us.

One day I may make an Evita-maid, but to be honest, if she hasn’t insisted on being made this week, it probably isn’t going to happen. I am however listening to the sound track whilst I work in my studio. There is much to be done because next Friday 23rd July, the Mermaid crew return to Show Off Gallery and Pop Up in Harbour Street, Whitstable.

This time I shall be sharing the pop up with Alma Caira and Hannah Sydney for Doyle & Leech, and as well as displaying our own wares – mermaids, fused glass, and beautiful hand made leather bags – we shall be promoting the Made in Whitstable Art Craft & Vintage Trail, handing out flyers and maps and answering any questions.

The MiWTrail is an artists open house for the Whitstable Oyster Festival. The Oyster Festival this year is being held over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Full details can be found on Instagram and facebook, as well as the website.

Or pop in and see us at the pop up! 23rd to 29th July. Open daily.

I promise not to sing.

Right, best get back to the mermaid factory.

Neon Blue Tales II

Am so excited I can barely type.

We have an exhibition. Rescheduled from last year, I’ve become so used to things being cancelled, it came as rather a shock to discover that this time we are going ahead! When I say ‘we’, I mean the Dolls of course, but also three other non fabric friends.

Meg Wroe, Bev Sage, Clair Meyrick and myself will be returning to the Pie Factory Margate from 30th April to 4th May for Neon Blue Tales II.  Using paint, print, mixed media, textiles,  spoken word and poetry, our work complements each other while transforming the space into a place of wonder.

Of course I am busy making new work, but there will be some old favourites wanting to get out as well. Just depends how much we can get into Nobby van, and how much we can then get on the walls. Neon Blue Tales was a special show, and I am so very much looking forward to being back together again for part II.

The Pie Factory is a wonderfully spacious gallery, so as long as visitors observe all social distancing measures and behave sensibly, we should all have a glorious time!

Now, back to stitching.

We hope to see you at the Pie Factory Margate