Like a cyber-sketchbook, this page is a place for ideas, and snapshots of possibilities that might end up on one of the portfolio pages one day, in some shape or form…

To blindly go where no earth worm has knowingly gone before

Thinking about underground paths that we don’t see and rarely think about I started thinking about animals that live underground and exist largely undetected. This led me to think of worms, who are blind and exist by instinct, and then to wormeries, created by humans to observe these curious wormy creatures going about their subterranean existence.

Thinking about this instinctual / oblivious behaviour, and the addictive intrigue that it brings about led me to think of other ‘great adventures’ and to to the introductory text that was spoken at the beginning of many Star Trek television episodes and films, from 1966 onward:

Space: The final frontier
These are the voyages of the Starship, Enterprise
Its 5 year mission
To explore strange new worlds
To seek out new life and new civilizations
To boldly go where no man has gone before

Which is where the idea behind the adapted title of this piece came from.

As a child I remember trying to ‘dance’ worms out of the ground, pouring water on a spot and dancing on that spot in an attempt to replicate rain fall that would lure worms out (what I thought I’d do with the worms once/if they surfaced, I’m not entirely sure!). Anyway, thinking about it now it just feels like taunting the animals – raindrops keep falling on my head.

This led my thoughts on to other animals that live subterranean, parallel lives to ours and yet are rarely noticed by us led me to think of moles. Like worms they’re also blind, and pretty harmless yet seen as pests when they ‘surface’. Consequently horrific traps have been created to capture and kill the moles, and they’re used on a domestic level by ‘normal’ people who seem to think that such behaviour is acceptable… Another parallel, this one with human behaviour and intervention – with the way in which some people think that it’s acceptable to interrupt the lives of others and treat fellow creatures.

Wait ‘til it Settles

Sooo… I **think** I’ve got myself a plan, or at least the basis of a plan for my Jam Factory installation – pen to paper…

Sarah Mayhew Craddock’s art practice is largely concerned with the psychology of space, the way in which people move around space, consciously or otherwise, and interact and engage with their environment. She is interested in pathways, the decision-making process, motivation, levels of engagement, and perception.

Sarah became intrigued by canals, and the history of the canal network when she moved to Birmingham in 2005. Venturing down the Grand Union and along The Oxford Canal Sarah moved to Oxford in 2008 and became enthralled by Oxford’s hidden secrets, notably, Oxford’s canal basin, now buried beneath the Worcester Street car park.

Frequently drawing on adages or aphorisms when entitling her works she reinforces the sense of familiarity, or lack of, between viewer and experience. Wait ‘til it Settles is an installation inspired by the dark layers of mystery that Sarah identifies in the quietude of canals.

Captivated by the idea that charged personal histories build up idiosyncratic languages that are mostly hidden from view, buried in the sediment that lies beneath the slow flowing surface water, Sarah has ‘bottled’ unsettled waters for public examination, as if presenting a science experiment, in the making of Wait ‘til it Settles. In doing so, she highlights the layers of history that make up The Oxford Canal, once one of the UK’s most important arteries of trade, and draws parallels between the canal and the viewers’ own personal histories.

… now to go and collect some unsettled canal waters, whilst they’re churned up and murky!

Caroline Maas

This ethching is by the rather brilliant (in my opinion) Caroline Maas. I’m looking forwards to meeting her after having admired her work for so long! She’s exhibiting as part of this exhibition too – see below…

p.s. Other exhibiting artists included in this group show, Inspired by the canal, curated by Esther Lafferty (Director of Oxfordshire Artweeks), and organised in association with Oxfordshire Artweeks and the Oxford Canal Heritage Project include: Caroline MaasValerie PettsKatherine Shock, Michele Field, and a mystery photographer (TBC I think)! The exhibition will take place at The Jam Factory, Oxford between the 31st March and 28th April 2014.

Thoughts on titles for forthcoming installation at the Jam Factory, Oxford

Let it settle
Settle down
It’ll soon settle down
Wait ’til it settles

and with a little help from Proverbs, Maxims, and Phrases book…

No safety wading in unknown water
Smooth waters run deep
Stagnant water grows stinking
The water breaks where it is not expected
There is no worse water than that which sleeps
Water washes everything

Stream of consciousness thoughts on my forthcoming installation at the Jam Factory, Oxford

Water and history churned up by flooding
Stagnant, slow streams suddenly impassable
Danger – what lies beneath
Underwater, deep, dark driveways
Rarely dredged
Ordinarily slow moving, now fast and furious torrents. Channelling angrily and bursting their banks

Capture this water in massive transparent tubes, reminiscent of test tubes – an experiment of the ages. What lies within? Allow it to settle and let’s see. Create our own channel to explore. Walk amongst the water. An aquatic excavation.

Sensory Maps

Whilst reflecting upon the work of Victoria Henshaw I have just stumbled across a website about the research, analysis & design of Sensory Maps by Kate McLean McLean created the below map with the help of Michael Meighan (author of “Glasgow Smells”) as well as Glasgow-based commuters, residents, workers, tourists, and Glasgow City council. The work went on display at the Glasgow Science Center in September 2012.

©Kate McLean Design 2012

McLean makes really interesting cross-sensory, boundry-less, scale-defying work about the curiosity of landscape, and those that might take an interested in it for various different reasons. She described a recent mapping experience as,

“…a perfect example of exformation; “understanding how little we know.” (Hara, K 2009 “Designing Design”) Exformation leads us to curiosity. Curiosity leads us to creativity. Creativity leads us to knowledge. “To know something is to impregnate the senses with an inspirational, vital, exciting experience.” (Ibid.) Knowledge excites us.

It is time to stop trading information and start using exformation to question what we know, to raise more questions than answers. This is the epistemology driving future smellmapping projects.”

I like Kate McLean – let’s embrace exformation (and remember how many words the Eskimos have to describe snow – I write this with tongue in cheek to make a point about relevance and communication).


I was born with a pretty acute sense of smell, and have long-since been interested (on a novice level) in the relationship between smell and memory, and the way in which interior designers use smell to influence people (think piping the smell of fresh bread into supermarkets) – it’s fascinating! So I was quite excited to hear about Victoria Henshaw‘s new book, Urban Smellscapes whilst listening to Radio 4 yesterday morning. She was contributing to a programme about Landscape and the Community, specifically about what we lose when we sterilise our environment.

The radio programme made me think back to my earliest memories of smell and the way that smells have the ability to transport me to another time and space… the smell of my freshly washed Grandad and his lashings of aftershave as he called in to our house on the way to the pub when I was a little girl… the smell of my other Grandad’s pipe tobacco mixed with the baking smells from Grandma’s kitchen and the cold air trapped within the thick sandstone walls of their farmhouse. The smell of stepping  back in time into a world that I didn’t know on the train at the Yorvik Centre in York – an imagined smell.

The idea of transportative imagined smells reminded me of a brilliant exhibition, If Ever There Was, about extinct and impossible smells that I saw at the Reg Vardy Gallery, University of Sunderland a few years ago (2008, I think). The exhibition drew upon the efforts of perfumers, chemists, botanists and a Nasa scientist.
“What we have created here is a world first, a scientific flight of fancy made up of exotic and strange scents,” says Robert Blackson of the University of Sunderland, mastermind behind the endeavour.

In his book of essays entitled Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony the physician Lewis Thomas wrote, “The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking itself.” I’m inclined to agree, and imagine that Victoria Henshaw is too!

Here’s a link to an interesting blog entry about the exhibition, and a review of the exhibition by Roger Highfield, The Telegraph’s Science Editor. And here’s a  link to an interesting talk about Designing Multisensory exhibitions that took place at the Met.

Canals – stories, and cross-sections

Been thinking about layers within canals – cross-sections of clarity… About the history of canals, what they’ve seen, what’s been done to them, their secrets… And about the word history, the French word histoire – story.

Canal Art exhibition at The Jam Factory

I’ve been invited by Esther, the director of Oxfordshire Artweeks, to exhibit some work at The Jam Factory in Oxford in March/April 2014. I’ll be exhibiting alongside a variety of other artists working in different media all making work about / inspired by the local canals. So homework starts here