studio diary

During these early days of near continuous breastfeeding and not sleeping and tiny constant changes I find myself thinking very often of Mother’s Days. In that community of forty-four mostly strangers’ daily records I am finding solace and sistership, humour and comfort. When I am wrestling with a gassy baby for hours at night I remember everyone else who did too. When I feel isolated and alone the memories of typing up those days reminds me that I am not.

When I have collected one hundred days I would like to publish them as a paperback novel and give it as a gift to women who have just had their babies. Part of the leaving the hospital package. I think it would help. Thank-you so much to everyone who has taken part so far. It really is becoming a very special collection.

I have accidentally started to collect hand-whittled things.

Whittling is worrying with props. And just worrying about one specific thing; a knife or fork, a feather, a little racing car. This collection in my studio surprised me just now by its existence. I thought I was just buying bits and bobs, but a few weeks later it’s a collection of worried wood.

I’m considering limiting the collection to pairs of whittled objects. But pairs that were not made at the same time or by the same person. I will just wait for them to show up. A very slow life-time-long game of snap. Searching for evidence of two unconnected people who at one moment or other had the same idea and acted on it.

At the Dollar General in Alfred, New York I turned around and saw that Otto had made this. Quietly extending the cups from a single package to a perfectly leaning tower by himself while I was looking at stickers. He had stepped back and was considering it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt prouder. I imagined him talking to artist Tom Friedman about all the things that might be done next.

Found, sealed envelope containing a collection named “Natural Bridge Cards 8 for 10c Natural Bridge of Virginia, INC Natural Bridge, Va. ” 3.75″ x 6.75″, paper envelope, unknown contents.

I have never been to Virginia or imagined before a “natural bridge”. There can’t be many things where eight of them can cost ten cents and still be worth selling.

I will make ten versions of things that might be inside this package.


I have been working on a project called One Brown Shoe, in which one hundred married couples from around the world secretly make brown shoes from bits and pieces around the house. I’m looking for ten more couples to take part, please get in touch if you’d like to or know anyone else who might. Thanks!

To take part you and your spouse would make a single brown shoe each. Left or right shoe, functional or not, made from any material that you happen to have lying around. They may take as little or as much time as you happen to have free. A two minute shoe, a one day shoe. The only requirement is that you don’t discuss the project with your partner at all and make your shoe in secret, while your partner also makes a single shoe in secret. When both shoes are finished you reveal them to one another. This part is great.

Then you send the pair to me and I take a beautiful photograph of them and send it to you. In the end your pair of shoes will be part of a collection of one hundred mismatched pairs, made by one hundred couples from around the world and will be exhibited as a collection.

You do not need to be an artist or maker of any kind to take part. The shoes can be as simple, crazy, ugly, odd as they happen to come out. I’m interested in the different ways that people interpret the instruction, and the beautiful mismatching that will occur. All shoes may be anonymously exhibited if preferred. Your shoe will stay coupled with your partners.

(I wish I could include a picture here of the huge collection of wonderful shoes I have so far, but have to wait until all two hundred have arrived and the project is closed – sorry. Perhaps just imagine them, all lined up in beautiful brown mismatched pairs, virtually no two alike)

today I brought home:


A metal cup

A magazine rack

A toy tape measure

A small foldy metal shelf

A new wallet made of eel skin

A small plastic animal like a badger

Some discoloured envelopes and notepaper

25 antique wooden children’s blocks with letters on

A queen-sized stained and old green/white curtain depicting fans

A beautiful old wonky, wooden shelf with eight square compartments

A big rolled-up piece of card with thirty full-colour postcards printed on it

Some notebooks where you could nearly see what the last person using it had last written

When Otto was six weeks old or so we left our house to go and buy bread when a Google Street View car drove past, close and fast. I pictured the jerky photos it took as it went by. A protective new mother looking startled and cross carrying a tiny baby in a pouch. I imagined that for years we’d be virtually trapped in that moment in the back-alley, long after we moved away and Otto left home. Now it’s nearly two years later and the picture’s still not there. Our old house is shown before we ever moved into it, when I was still in England and had never heard of a city called Pittsburgh. I am waiting patiently and check every week. At least.