Hibernate and reset

As I write this, it’s Christmas Eve eve. I’ve finally sat down after making an Earl Grey tea chocolate mousse for tomorrow and unblocking a drain. What a way to spend my first day off.

By the time you’ll read this column, it will be 2021 and another typical year. No? Anyone wake up on 1 Jan wishing everything back to normal, as though 2020 was just a bad dream? And to top it all off, I thoroughly struggled to write this column.

If I’d had a typewriter, I could imagine myself ripping the paper from the typewriter, scrunching it up and throwing it at and missing the bin, and laying discarded with other failed edits. I think it’s reflective of how I’m feeling; it’s the end of the year, I’ve had enough of looking at the four walls of my house, and I want to down tools. I can’t travel to see my parents for Christmas as Italy is locking down even more, and at the time of writing, my area moves into tier 4 day after Boxing Day. Oh, joy. I feel that I’m running out of new content to share with you too, as things aren’t moving quickly in my career change.

I’ve paid for the course I mentioned last month, but I haven’t got very far with it. I feel disheartened by the many messages in the course’s FB group talking about successful pitches, new clients etc., whereas I am hamstrung by a full-time job. I’d planned to study over the Christmas period and get myself into a position to start recouping the course’s cost, but I have a dilemma. If I manage to complete enough modules and start pitching for new business and am successful, how will I manage it with full-time work? I’d need to work every Friday afternoon and weekend, and frankly, I need a crying emoji right now because I’m baulking at that prospect.

I hear it all the time; you work all hours to build a business on the side – it’s the only way to build a business. I don’t think I can realistically deliver client work in my evenings, on just one weekend or even with an extra day if I get Friday’s off, without it having a detrimental effect on my life. More importantly, I’ve had enough of looking at my computer screen during the day for work, so I’m railing against looking at it in the evening. The course tutor says to try and make time for it, even if it’s for 15mins a day. I know people who combine their professional and personal work during the day; when they have free time, they crack on with their own work, laptop set up next to their work one.

Working from home has its perks, the commute is non-existent but with fewer distractions, the time I’m racking up in front of the screen is increasing, even to the point where I now need reading glasses for the first time. I’m fuming! It’s why I want relief from it, so the thought of two screens on my desk feels me with dread.  If I have a break at work in between meetings, I grab my coat and wellies and tramp around the village and fields, in desperate need of fresh air and vitamin D. In the evenings I’ll train or eat and curl up on the sofa with Pete and switch off. I need a break more than ever it seems, and the dark mornings and nights aren’t helping. I just want to hibernate, squirrel away. They say you need less sleep as you get older, I’m very much the opposite.

When I was doing my career change course earlier this year, I made time for the missions and exercises I had to do each week. Every Saturday I had a 10 am call which I never missed, this time though I seem to have lost the impetus to instigate the same rigour and routine to my new course. I think it’s because it’s self-paced. There’s no one pressurising you to have completed homework during the week.

By mid-January, I’ll know if my 4-day compressed week is approved, which will give me time to do my course. I have a new boss who wasn’t that keen about it when I mentioned it to her. She seems open to doing at least a six-month trial, so we’ll see. If it isn’t a reality, I’ll shut up as I’m bored of talking about it, and you’re probably bored of hearing about it.

It hasn’t been all doom and grumpy childlike sulks though. Instead of a website, I’ve created a portfolio which I’m going to add to my LinkedIn profile. I’ve added more projects to The Dots. I’ve been re-editing a client’s emails after doing his web copy earlier this year so continuing to learn. If my portfolio’s posting or sharing brings in work, then I’ll be happy, so long as I can manage it.

In the spirit of only focusing on what can help further my career, I’ve decided to delete job alerts for copywriter roles. Until I start getting more experience under my belt, I won’t have a chance of getting a position, and the more I look at job adverts for companies I like, the more disheartened I become. Best to switch off the distractions for now. I don’t know about you, but far too many emails come into my inbox for things I either forgot I’d signed up for or I’m just not interested in anymore, so it’s digital detox time.

And as the New Year rolls in, how many of you will set new year resolutions? Do you stick to them? I’m not one for resolutions. I tend to focus on the positive and ask myself what I’d like to do more of. You all know what I’d like to do, so my added resolution is just to see how things pan out and take it from there. There’s not much else I can do. Just as we’ve had to adjust and flex this year due to COVID-19, my career change will need to do the same. Patience is a virtue; I happen to have none.

I hope you had a good Christmas even if it’s been quite different and you’re ready to cope with whatever 2021 throws at you. Fingers crossed it’s a better one; it can’t get any worse!

Facing Empty Lines

About the work:

Defined as the removal of information from a text before it is printed or made public, redaction can also be applied to forms and images. The Lino print Facing Empty Lines expresses the empty spaces in between what we see every day. The emptiness in our age lines, our expressions, thoughts and movements. I explore the spaces that have been forgotten, by removing sensitive information from the forms of three faces. These sensitivities are an individuals radical thoughts, removed. They are negative expressions removed. In relation to George Orwell’s Doublespeak, this work shows the deliberate distortion of the words that leave our mouths, with the hope of self preservation in an increasingly online globalised society.

In every interaction, we are actors on a stage, often hiding our true thoughts and being. I attempt to remove these masks and delve deeper into our truths. With my lines, I trace the journey of a thought, born a truth only to become a redacted voice. I cut away to reveal these empty spaces in between. The question remains, what is left when these elements are removed?

A little bit about the artist:

Mia de Las Casas is a textile designer based between London and Ireland. Focused on print design, for fashion and interiors, she has also exhibited textile installations and Lino prints. Having recently graduated from Chelsea College of Arts, London, she is working as a freelance designer and artist. She has worked in fashion couture houses and artist’s studios.
Her concepts range from personal to global themes. These include the exploration of tragic emotions, commenting on human interactions, and exploring the overlapping of science and nature. Her work has a basis in nature, borrowing natural forms and making them her own. Moreover, using sustainable materials is very important to Mia’s work. As an ecoresolution, she has resolved to not use synthetic materials.

How Young is too Young?- A rant piece.

I think it’s safe to say that this Generation are more tech savy than any others. The majority of us aren’t exactly technical engineers like our parents believe we are but we know our way around apps and connecting to wifi is never a problem. With this tech accessibility it has become much easier to get your art out there but also it can be seen that many young people go ‘Viral’ over night on platforms like Tiktok and Youtube, from 15,13 or even 10 years old. However, from this demystifying of how to become ‘popular’ online ( Thank you Uni Degree for the terminology) it opens the possibility of young people now being exposed to the same toxicity and negative atmosphere found online that targets people in the spotlight that we have become desensitized to.

Popular tiktokers, such as Charli D’amelio who became famous overnight for her viral dances, are forced to put on a business persona and develop a thick skin, despite being of a very young age, e.g. Charli only being 15. Not to mention the sexualisation based on her appearance based on her choice to wear more form fitting clothing. The constant sexualisation of young artists both male and female takes away the value of these young artists and makes them more into models than creators. Something to look at rather than be able to resonate with the young people of today as someone like them rather than something to nit-pick.

For this I turn to the recent image of Billie Ellish coming out of her house wearing comfortable clothing rather than her signature baggy style. Now, I am a fan of most of Eillish’s work ( even though I don’t like bad guy- I’m sorry I had to say it) and frankly I think she is an incredibly beautiful young woman. Her music speaks to many people, including young people, they resonate with lyrics about struggles with mental health and negativity and her soft spoken tone of voice has inspired many to give it a go as well with covers of her songs or creating their own original content. Many find a voice through her music and like her are able to find their start online too (check out Chloe Moriondo – her ‘le vie en rose’ cover is… chefs kiss) . However, there have been quite a bit of instances when people would comment on Billie’s boday using phrases such as ‘wine mum body’ or even saying that she is obese. Eillish is 18 years old and comments like such damage more than her own body image and confidence, they do hurt people who look up to her or even view themselves to be similar-looking to the young artist.

And that my friends is what is disgusting about the sexualisation of young Artists.

Many can chalk this behaviour up to be the work of supposed internet trolls but I feel it goes beyond that to the ground view of how we’ve seen someone once they begin to gain attraction. This massive amounts of pressure led many of these young people to be backed into a corner and due to their age they potentially have not dealt with such situations in an appropriate way. With a lack of life experience and more hate piled on top of them it makes many feel the need to take a break – a break from being forced to grow up too fast.

This begs for the question – How young is too young to be a ‘Artist’ ?

We, as young people, have more power than ever when it comes to the online sphere. We are responsible for climate change strikes, changing the way we view gender, sex and pronouns, understanding and accepting and talking about our privilege and marching with the marginalised and so much more!

 From this I have hope that in our world, we as young artists have the capacity to change the tides on how people in the public eye are seen… as just people with bodies, minds, souls who are all beautiful and create art for the whole world to see.

To all young artists – you may feel the weight of judgement on your back for who you are, but you aren’t defined by it. If you are you – your art will thrive and so will you.

As no one is too young to be something- as long as they are treated and treat themselves right.

Em x

Em’s Tip

Put yourself in your art. All your personality smooshed into one. If you can be true to yourself in your art then you may find it helps you to be true to yourself… people like authenticity and ‘strangeness’ much more than you think.

(I write about robots a lot… I wonder what that says about me? Beep Boop)

London Fashion Week17th – 22nd September 2020

London Fashion Week (LFW) 17th – 22nd of September 2020 was quite different from the previous years. Designers looked for new and innovative ways to show their collections. This season, the schedule was split into three sections – brands that showed digitally, physically with catwalks or both combined. It was also the first year that many collections were gender neutral.

With Covid, the traditional form of a fashion show with a runway lined by influencers and fashionistas, students competing for the back row, or paparazzi hustling with flashing clicks at the entrance, could not be achieved. Instead, brands opted for intimate shows, live streamed catwalks, or decided to create films and innovative digital performances. The world must go on, and LFW 2020 has shown how we can adapt to our current situation in interesting ways.

The schedule includes exclusive multimedia content from designers, creatives, media and cultural institutions. Through these collaborations culture, technology and design have been merged.

The LFW website contains podcasts, videos, music and covers areas such as sustainability. To catch a glimpse of the best and newest fashion designers, or to listen to thought provoking podcasts, check out the website here: https://londonfashionweek.co.uk/

Over 80 brands large and small gathered to show their Spring Summer 2021 collections. Most chose digital film to show their collections, while others live streamed a catwalk show. Only a few chose to have physical performances, with select appointments and limited numbers attending.

Designers such as Erdem, Burberry, Molly Goddard, Simone Rocha and Bora Aksu made the event mixes of digital and physical.

Burberry’s collection walked naturally through a forest, one by one, to meet at a central stage with a choreographed dance and live singer. The garments themselves were not ethereal, as you’d imagine for a forest setting, but included a mix of white fabric with graffiti like patterns, silver sequin dresses and orange jackets. The collection was more like style in the city with nautical features. The creative officer Riccardo Tisci said that he was inspired by “a love affair between a mermaid and a shark, set against the ocean, then brought to land.”


Molly Goddard, who’s recognised for her signature tulle designs, brought a flash of colour and texture to this years fashion show. Her catwalk was small and digitally streamed. Garments with blocks of colour look forward to next summer’s style.

Molly Goddard

Erdem, one of my favourite brands, is famous for its floral prints and elegant feminine silhouettes. In Erdem’s world, women are not going to stop dressing up. Erdem Moalioglu was inspired by Susan Sontag’s novel The Volcano Lover. He said that “It begins with three people dancing on the lip of a volcano.”


Live streamed from a forest, the models walking were straight out of the 18th century, when Sontag’s novel was set. The fabrics include embroidered muslin and organza dresses with 18th century floral forms and treated with creases. The collection shows beauty in a time of uncertainty. When entering his showroom, Erdem said “When it feels like the end of the world, doesn’t someone need a pink moiré hand-embroidered gown?”

Bora Aksu was one of the few to have a show with seated guests. Set in a rose garden behind St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, the guests sat apart from each other and the models wore translucent masks. The collection is an optimistic look at a world of prosperity post Covid. The collection was split into three parts – WW1 and the influenza pandemic of 1928, the grieving period afterwards, and into the roaring twenties. The catwalk show began with models wearing white cotton dresses, reminiscent of nurses. The grieving period is represented in shades of blue, only then to be followed by hope in the form of light ruffled lace dresses.

Bora Aksu

In a much simpler presentation, Simone Rocha exposed her collection as a series of photographs set against a white background. Her collection contains large pearl-like ornaments and a reference to the Victorian era. The pearl bags and intricate headpieces show that these garments were made with a great attention to detail. Rocha explored themes such as fragility and strength – shown with the seemingly heavy pearls held by delicate straps. The models remind me of old portraits, where the sitter would have to stay still for a considerable time. This collection takes us out of this world and into an ethereal dream.

Simone Rocha

Needless to say, this pandemic has had crushing effects on all English fashion labels, in particular independent designers such as Simone Rocha. Many have scaled back their collections, with time to work and concentrate on details. However, the talent shown at this London Fashion Week is a testament to the creatives reacting to our changing times. The designers look forward to a brighter Spring and Summer of 2021, as we all are.

What is Textile Design?

As a Textile Designer, I have been in many situations where people don’t really understand what fabric design is. When I say that I’m a textile designer, questions like ‘what is that, exactly?’, or ‘does that mean you are a fashion designer?’, are pretty common. Many people don’t realise how versatile and broad the subject really is. So, I’m going to give a brief insight into this creatively vast field of design.

Everywhere we look there is cloth.
Look down and you will see that your body is covered in textiles. Perhaps you are also sitting in an arm chair, or leaning on a table cloth. Wherever you look there are fibres of different types, colours and textures. So, how can we know so little about it? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that this brief intro will only skim the surface.

Fabric, in fact, has shaped and defined the world we live in. We sleep in it, wear it, eat on it, sit on it, repair ourselves with it, even go to space in it. ‘Textiles’ is defined by the Cambridge dictionary as ‘cloth made by hand or machine’. This definition is simple and endless. Three areas where textiles are prevalent is in fashion, interiors and fine art. Fashion needs fabrics to clothe us; interiors have patterned walls, chair coverings and pillows; and many installations in fine art today are textile based.

From the linen wrappings of Tutankhamun’s mummy to the worms that make our luxurious silks, our constant use and reinvention of cloth offers a unique story in human history. The first principle natural fibres were cotton, silk, linen and wool. These have been crafted by humans forever for warmth and protection, status, for decoration and identity.

Only when I started to study textiles, did I realise the differences in the make up of our everyday fabrics. When you take a closer look at their threads, so much is revealed. Cloth is made mainly from the techniques of weaving, knitting or felting. The difference between them depends on the amount of threads used, or the way they are connected together. When a fabric is woven, there are multiple yarns crossing over and under each other. This technique is made with a loom, a traditional machine that can be large, wooden and loud. Of course today, the making process can be made easier with digital looms. In comparison, a knitted fabric is made from yarn being wrapped around itself. Have you ever wondered why your jumper starts to unravel before your eyes from one small hole? Felt, on the other hand, is is made from wool that is still in its fluffy, fleece like form. With a felting needle, the wool is punched multiple times until the material begins to stick together. Knitted wool can also become felted with a high heat. Perhaps that holey jumper was also washed on a high heat, only to be returned pretty stiff.

From the basic structure of these materials, colours, patterns and embellishments can be added. These include processes like printing, dyeing or stitching. The former basic fabric enters a new world of design and colour, which makes you forget the fibres could have once been a plant, or come from an animal.

In print design, for example, there are practical and digital sides. Within these are many
techniques including woodblock printing, screen printing, potato prints, dyeing, batik, digital printing, sublimation printing, laser cutting… the list goes on. Having specialised in print design, I found that more painterly and raw effects are created by hand with wood blocks, batik or screens. For centuries people have pressed repeat patterns onto fabric from wood blocks dipped in ink. This technique is famous in India, where small irregularities in colour or shape are part of the cloth. Batik is an Indonesian technique where wax is used as a resist when the cloth is dyed. The marks are made from the undyed areas. Screen printing, widely used in the UK, is a technique where a squeegee tool pulls ink through a metal gauze frame on which you place your pattern. With digital prints, the effects are endless. A process I enjoy is turning hand drawings into digital
prints through photoshop and illustrator.

The first time I walked into the dye lab at Chelsea College of Arts, it felt like a science lab. There are recipes to make dyes, along with chemicals and big dye vats filled with hot water. Specific quantities of pigment and chemicals are tested to achieve your desired colour. Of course, natural pigments too. This process of design and experimenting can be meticulous. Colours always look different from paper, to screen to fabric. Many tests are done for the perfect combinations. When it comes to pattern, you need to think about repeats – what will it look like on the finished piece, and will it work? After that, you need to make sure your fabric collection is cohesive, and not a mix of different shapes and colours. Imagine the amount of thought that has gone into every piece of fabric you are wearing right now.

Not only do textile designers make cloth for decorative purposes, but there are constant ground breaking fabrics being developed. Extreme sports fabrics, or even the automobile industry involves fabric designers. Moreover, today there is a growing concern towards using natural and sustainable fabrics, especially among young designers. Not only that, but new textiles are being made for animal leather alternatives – such as mushroom or pineapple leather. Textiles is an ever evolving subject, that works in tandem with time.

The book ‘The Golden Thread – How fabric changed history’, by Kassia St Clair, was a complete eye opener for me, and a great read if you are at all interested in cloth. One section that I found mesmerising was the inherent connection between our daily spoken word and the language of textiles. In only a few pages, Kassia St Clair describes some words we use every day, that have roots in textiles. For example, the words ‘line’, ‘lining’, ‘lingerie’ and ‘linoleum’, are all rooted in the word ‘linen’. Moreover, ‘text’ and ‘textile’ share the same ancestor – ‘textere’, which means to weave. It is so interesting to unpick these lineages. The written word and textiles are completely interwoven. Paper was even once made with rags.

From a traditionally female domestic activity, textiles have grown enormously to be intertwined with our growing culture and technology. A textile designer can be involved in every, or any single part of the fabric making process.

Take a moment to feel, observe and appreciate the design of a piece of fabric, and you will see that textiles are more important than you ever imagined.

Reigning in the magpie tendencies

I had a bit of time off in the last month in Italy, which allowed me to take stock and think more clearly about what I was doing to enable my career change. In my previous column, I was pouring over creative job descriptions, looking at the skills required and what I needed to upskill in. In Italy, I looked at copywriting websites, found copywriting podcasts, did bitesize SEO courses, and finished off copywriting work for two clients. I was busy, and enjoyed it, but frankly, I feel like I need a good month off to make a dent in my career move. I’ve been building up my portfolio and upskilling, but it seems a bit organic, piecemeal and lacking in an actual plan.

I remember two images that were shared in my career change course that I feel justify my randomness and how I’m feeling. One showed points A and B with a direct line from A to B. The tutor said that people think a career change is a simple process or step. The other was an absolute mess of squiggles and swirls from A to B. This is career change she said. Ha! She is so right.

And so, I am pondering the following:

  • Do I go part-time in my current career and build my copywriting work on the side or apply directly to a perm or freelance copywriting role?
  • Do I try to find a job back in a communications agency, an environment I loved with variety, creativity and real teamwork?
  • How do I update my LinkedIn profile or re-write my CV if I don’t know what I am aiming for, and crucially not alert my current company?
  • Do I move to a four day week at work to give me the time to do more thinking and action things and limit the amount of ‘other career’ work that is eating up my free time?
  • I am planning to move closer to Bristol early next year and currently have job alerts set up for the local area to me now and Bristol. If I find a role close to me and I move next year, how will that work? Or I might find a position in Bristol before I move? Should I even be looking?!
  • The timing. COVID-19 timing. With so many people being made redundant, should I thank my lucky stars that I have a role and sit tight?
  • How do I carve out time to do relevant courses or training?

So many variables! And these fly around my mind regularly. What do I do first? What’s necessary? I must gain some semblance of control, rein in my thoughts and stop flitting between things like a magpie attracted by the next shiny thing.

On my flight back from Italy, I decided to act. I looked back through all the notes I had made, the interviews with people, websites I needed to look at, margin scrawls, starred sentences and got stuck into pulling out what I thought was important and put them into a list. I don’t know about you, but a list makes me feel calm, organised, and able to think clearly. A step closer to having some control because I am a control freak. With everything all clearly laid out on a page, it was easy for me to step back and look at what was essential and would help me further my progress. My list went into double digits which could have felt overwhelming, so I wanted to be quite tough on what could wait based on how much impact it had on my progress.

Instantly I could see what I needed to do. If I want to apply for a job on one of the many job alerts I have set up, I must have an up-to-date CV and one that reflects the portfolio work I have been doing – priority number one.

Priority number two; tweak my LinkedIn profile. I have some positive testimonials from the portfolio work I have done that I should share and could help me reposition myself to start connecting with more people in the areas that interest me. My profile summary must be more in line with my passions, the work I have done and am looking to do if I am to attract a different network.

Priority number three; continue to understand SEO. I started a great little course called SEO Nibbles from an award-winning copywriter, Kate Toon, in Italy, and I still have one more ‘nibble’ to do. I also want to find the time to listen to her copywriting podcasts. (COVID-19 has meant my usual podcast listening time, on ‘my commute to work’ has been taken away from me. I don’t have time to listen to a podcast between my bedroom and office!) I also managed to spend time with my sister, who shared hints and tips from what she had learnt about SEO as part of her job and kindly gave me some good material to read and use. Thanks, sis!

And that’s all I am prioritising for now. I can cope with things in threes, and so long as the ‘Do CV’, ‘Tweak LinkedIn profile’ and ‘Do SEO course’ post-it notes remain on my office wall, I won’t look at the list again. I need to focus, and I have time. I need to recognise this. I don’t have to do everything by the end of next week, and realistically I can’t. (My first headline idea for this month’s column was originally going to be ‘I want to be a salsa dancer, now!’ because that’s I how I feel. I’m an impatient person.) I’m lucky to have a job and a partner who gives me space to catch up on things like writing this column and ticking off my priorities, and I have some control back. Career change takes time, as simple as that.

By next month’s column, I will have an up-to-date CV!

Working and… working?

During the lockdown I’ve spent my free time doing what I’m truly passionate about – reading, writing, editing, I have finally started the magazine you are currently reading. A lot of good things came out of the lockdown, I have all the time in the world to simply create all day every day and do all the courses I could think of. Then the 4th of July happened and with my freshly washed uniform I went back to my day job since I don’t make enough money from commissions and the magazine at the moment is mostly a hobby that adds to my bills. I work in a chain pub in the town centre, honestly, I was really looking forward to going back to work after three months of being sat at home. However that meant that I will have less time for my creative work, which at first didn’t seem to be that obvious to me.

We have reopened almost a month ago and I haven’t submitted any of my poems to any competitions or poetry magazines. I haven’t written a single article as a ghost writer and I have not had enough time to reply to all of the emails as quickly as I used to before 4th of July. The lack of time for something that used to be my entire world for the past three months made me think that I’m doing something wrong. It made it difficult to enjoy my day job, even though I adore people I work with, they never fail to put a smile on my face and they are very supportive when I tell them about my creative work.

This is one of the issues a lot of creatives face. When we just start off in the world of creative industry it can be hard to find a job in the art world that pays you well enough to support yourself only from doing art. Apart from pursuing our passion we also need to support ourselves and yes, we won’t have that much time for being sat at home creating but with good time management one can achieve equally as much with a full time position, which pays for your bills. I’m lucky enough to be equally happy at my day job as I am as a creative – that’s a first piece of advice – find a day job that makes you want to wake up in the morning and go to work. No matter what you do for a living if it doesn’t make you happy you have to change it!

Plan your days off and days when you’ve got a late start. I don’t always have to wake up at 8am bu I do. Why? Because if I start at 3pm I still have time to do some social media marketing for the zine or reply to some emails. I have enough time to get ready, have breakfast, work on my creative projects and then go to work. Since I usually write at night if my partner isn’t home I will spend good 2 hours working on the book I’m currently writing. As long as you want to find time for your projects, trust me, you will. Go, get yourself a planner, calendar, notebook. Write down what you want to do during your day off. Make the points very specific so that you have ten tasks to do and then cross out half – amidst creative jobs and working day jobs don’t forget you also need to rest.

Take care of yourself, get those bills paid, stay safe and stay creative!

Louise Bourgeois and timitidy

Female artists struggle to balance the scale and ambition of their creativity with their maternal and sexual roles, finding themselves in a world of criticism in either role they decide to embark on. Juggling domestic responsibilities with artistic production often result in smaller bodies of work, smaller scales, smaller budgets compared to male artists.

Painter, sculptor, mother Louise Bourgeois is a woman who refuses to live in the shadows of timidity or compromise for her art. Bourgeois has been a magnetic figure for art critics, specifically feminist art historians and theorists since the mid- 1970s. She goes against the narrative of the timid artist, creating pieces which are repellent and sinister as well as erotic and sensual. Her work consists of lumps, bumps, bulbs, bubbles, bulges, slits, turds, wrinkles and holes. The pieces can be slick and shiny, or rough and messy and her themes are highly personal. She expresses, through her art, domestic confinement and transcendence, her interest in a French tradition of hysteria and creativity whilst connecting these personal experiences to larger issues such as gender.

She married an American art historian, Robert Goldwater, in 1938 and moved to New York. In doing so, Bourgeois moved away from a traditional, practical part of her life which was associated with women, memory and her mother, and entered what was to be a more masculine modern, professional and creative culture. She realised that her work was not big enough in this masculine world, ‘there is a timidity in the way the idea is presented’. In 1945, she had her first solo show. She originally titled her paintings in English because she believed that these paintings could have been achieved in France and therefore, could not go by a French name. These paintings, she stated, were American and just like New-York, they were clean-cut, scientific, cruel and romantic. She contrasted her fellow female painters of the 1940s, she was glamorous and elegant, she remained detached from politics, headlines and the news.

One of her major themes throughout her work in the 40s was female confinement in the home. She painted women as houses – femme maison- with the houses for heads, or  the room for bodies. This was a typical trope of Gothic writers in the 40s, of the secret inner room of a woman, which is a source of mysteries, including birth and death.

Bourgeois used female sexuality in her work, but in the 60s, she began to create more androgynous and even masculine art. Her most famous ‘erotic’ work is her latex sculpture Fillette 1968, which plays with the idea of gender. The piece is a 2ft-long phallus, it is comic and diminishing rather than commanding and dominating. She decided to call the piece ‘a little Louise’, using her name as the butt of the joke. In one photograph of the piece, she holds it tucked casually under her arm like a baguette- as if there is nothing obscene about the piece or the act of being so casual with it.

In 1997 Bourgeois exhibited a cage,  perched on top was an enormous spider sculpted in bronze. The legs completely covered the wire enclosure. Spiders became a theme for Bourgeois in both friendly and ominous means. She claimed that all the spider-related art represented her feelings about her mother. Her Maman piece 1999 is enormous and is installed at Tate Modern. This piece clearly shows how she went against the norm of timidity and, using her own language, created art in a more masculine way. Creating something unapologetic, something many people are scared of, something andrognous in a world of female vs male art is something extraordinary. She has disproved assumptions about the careers of artistic women, she is no a timid painter but a loud, proud, mechanic.

School of Hard Knocks

I’d been thinking a lot about how to start my first column and introduce myself to you. I’d pitched this column as a fly-on-the-wall account of my career transition from full time employment to freelancing building on the Beginnings article you might have read in Issue 1. I was going to talk about my wins, fails, and how I was navigating the creative and freelance arena.

What I didn’t expect was for my first column to reflect on mistakes already. And some big ones. Enter the reminder that you’re still very much a novice at this Claire.

Mistake number 1:  if you’re going to write about someone, ask for their permission first even if you truly believe what you’ve written isn’t going to be an issue.

Mistake number 2:  have someone read your work to check whether it makes sense and for grammar, punctuation etc. before publishing.

My first mistake is painful and personal; the second mistake grates me the most because I know it.  In my day job I check other people’s work and others check mine. We all know that we’re often too close to our own work and can’t see the wood for the trees so I don’t know why I thought it was any different this time.

I’m going to blame a behavior, a trait that is a positive and a negative.  The in-the-moment behaviour that has me rushing headlong into things without thinking of the consequences. The ‘jump before I leap’ attitude that I talked about in my Beginnings article. It’s not helped many times and certainly hasn’t helped on this occasion. Being told about and seeing my mistakes felt like a slap in the face and the euphoria of seeing my article in MyBestZine.com disappeared instantly. It’s also left me doubting myself. I’ve read many a freelancer talk about the need to have a thick skin in this industry but I attribute that need for when you receive criticism of your work in relation to topic, argument or style, not to mistakes that have been my own doing.

I’ve learnt my lesson the hard way both personally and professionally but a lesson it is and I shall dust myself off, chin up and move on. After all the deliberating and agonising over the last few weeks about what to write in this column, I’ve inadvertently given myself a topic to talk about. It’s a very, very thin silver lining and I’ll take it.

Not enough hours in the day

Something I’ve been struggling with and thinking about this month is how I am going to do my full time job, writing and turn it into something sustainable. It’s well documented that building up your own business or changing career takes time, years in some cases, and invariably you have to continue to do a full time job on top of working all the other hours and weekends to build a new business up.

Working from home, and with a slightly less hectic role due to changes in business priorities has certainly allowed me to start exploring but since I started looking, connecting with people and talking about projects it has felt all consuming already. I’m only one month in!  I’m trying to snatch time to look at links, articles, respond to people but crucially I need time to think about the areas I want to focus on. I might be missing out on an exciting opportunity but I really need to be honest with myself about what I can take on with a full time job and what I really should be saying yes to. I also spend a lot more time in front of my laptop, a disadvantage of working from home that means I don’t want to look at a screen in the evenings. I want to go outside and have my one hour of exercise, relax or simply just do nothing. But I could miss out on an opportunity, I have FOMO!

Do you ever feel torn? How do you find a balance or do you struggle? I’d love to know.

How did I get here?


I remember my last year in Art High School, and how much I wanted to leave, to go somewhere and “start my life”. I came to England (Farnham to be precise) – to study. I chose an animation course at UCA (University for the Creative Arts) and I was proud of myself, of getting so far.

I was also very anxious… Like many many students from abroad (I can only speak for my fellow EU students as I only know what it feels like from that perspective) I was struggling to find myself in the new reality. How do I get the job, insurance number, flat? Why is everything so expensive why everyone was so hostile to students?


My first semester was rather difficult. I was living two towns away from the university and I was casually late for my classes almost everyday. I spent my whole weekends at work, in a small Polish coffee shop which was run by suspicious and a bit odd middle aged man, who called me naughty Agata and Monyca – mean monkey Monyca.
The classes were interesting, but I felt like there was not enough of them to be honest. I did have a lot of work to do, especially considering that I had a part time job as well and spent a lot of time commuting to and from university but I managed to pass to the next year with not so bad grades. I spend my free time meeting new friends and trying to improve my art and English.


I think the second year is worth skipping, because no one really remembers it. It’s sort of like a transition period. However, back then I started to read more about art history, doing first parts of the research for my dissertation and planning my last year film. I feel like the second year is the time of discovering what we are really interested in, to establish who our friends are and making small projects before the stress of third year creeps in.


At first I though I had everything under control. My dissertation was planned, I spent all summer preparing everything I could for my third year film, sketching, reading and resting. But that was a trap. It starts quiet, but then before you realize you wake up at 6am everyday, work in the library till your classes start, then go to work, and after your day job work on your project more because you are always behind on your schedule. It was stressful, but we’ve all managed to finish in time. The dissertation was done, and I was proud of it, especially that I found the topic that I’m really into now – surrealism and uncanny art.

I think it did put me on the right path in a way, after I’ve graduated (with a first, yay!) I’ve got to throw my hat, finish my film, talk with my friends about where the are heading and get to rest a bit before the next steps.


After that I got lost for a bit. I focused on saving up and resting. I’ve focused on finding who I am as an artist (and I’m still very much looking), I’ve been painting, sawing, visiting galleries across England and going for small trips to find inspirations. I’ve got an internship for a bit and applied for entry level jobs. I’ve decided to continue studying and applied for Masters.

Overall, I think it was a good experience. I did grow a lot as a person and artist and I’m happy to start the new adventure – hopefully after this pandemic passes.

🌻🌻🌻Stay home and be safe 🌻🌻🌻 – Agata