studio diary

The other day while exploring the studio Otto found a long polystyrene piece of packaging. Without hesitation he broke it into four pieces, piled them from largest to smallest on the table, then went and did something else. I was at once amazed and envious of his creative certainty. Of the instant following through of an instinct to change something, with no expectation afterwards of that change.

Have idea. Make it. Walk off.


Working on this residency has started to change my attitude to staying in one place. Before I would go out to look for ideas, inspiration, community. Now when Otto is still asleep in the morning or naps in the afternoon, I work upstairs. This rhythm has expanded our home from being a place which was the opposite of being out in the world, to being the place where a million different things happen. I am grateful for the obstacle of non-movement. The narrowing of my palette has revealed new materials that were there but I hadn’t seen before; the moons that appear from next door or the rhythm of domestic days.

I have started to become aware of the ebb and flow of objects that arrive in and leave our home. Each week I bring things home from the thrift store, and every week I take a bag of different things back to the same thrift store. Groceries comes in, rubbish goes out. Tired boy in, rested boy out. Bills in, cheques out.

The cat has a special door so that no other animals can come in, she wears a magnet on her collar to activate it. In this way, every so often she brings me small magnetic gifts from outside. This morning two rusted drywall staples, last week a three-inch nail from the ash bucket. Before that a dinner fork that she dragged up two flights of stairs to my studio.

A few years ago I was given this empty metal card-index box that someone had once marked “metal detecting” with biro on a strip of masking tape. I filled it with rare earth magnets so that it became magnetic itself and have been wondering ever since what it is for. Now I realise that it will hold the collection of things the cat brings in.

Once every few days I receive an email from a woman, often a stranger to me, that shares every moment of a specific day lived as a mother somewhere in the world. This may be the job I used to dream about having when I was a child. I have just typed up three new reports as part of the work Mother’s Days. You can read the current collection of ten reports here. Fifteen more women are recording their days over the next couple of weeks, please watch out for new reports. If you’d like to know when new ones come out please like my facebook page and I’ll post them there. This project will continue until I have reports from one hundred different mothers. Please get in touch if you’d like to take part. Thank-you.


Today for the first time I completely and unexpectedly lost sight of Otto. I looked at where he just was and saw this;

I ran and found him crouching behind a bush looking at things and laughing. I had imagined everything else.

Every day Otto asks me a thousand times what things are. He knows now that everything has a name, but not that the names stay the same. He points at an object several times with the same quizzical/hopeful expression each time. In order to be the patient parent I pretend to be, I imagine my answers as experimental poetry and mentally collect the accidental groupings of things. Today;






Goose’s foot.


I am trying to imagine all the things that this hand-drawn sign might once have said, as well as the reason that two small torn pieces of it ended up on the ground in a back alley in Pittsburgh.

This is an image I have imagined a hundred times. Our kitchen window overlooks a set of public steps and has no opaque curtains. Every evening I imagine our teatimes as tiny, absurdist plays. When Otto drops his spoon I wonder if at that moment perhaps a jogger passed and watched briefly. My tuesday open studio feels almost exactly like this, but with people in chairs in place of passers-by.

Otto started school today, the first institutional care he’s had. From now on and for the duration of the residency, I will have four hours each on Thursday and Friday mornings of studio time, as well as studio-Sunday. This new rhythm delights me. And to think I used to have twenty-four hours a day and didn’t notice. One very good thing about the school is this wooden Hoover.


I decided to find out what proportion of the day Otto spent doing things. Playing; with what & how? Tipping, drinking, pointing, jumping and so on. I imagined a complicated pie chart. I ordered a stopwatch and waited for a day my dad visited so one hand would be free to press start and stop and write down numbers. I stared at midnight. Otto started teething that day, four molars. He woke at 4:34am, and then six more times before I took him downstairs at 8:34. I timed everything until 9am and then gave up.