Sunday, 9 October 2011

Amulet #43 - Get Better/Stay Better

Over the last week, I've not been very well. After a nasty bout of food poisoning, it has taken me quite a while to get better. Over that time I have been semi-house bound, under strict instructions to rest and this has meant I have been watching quite a lot of films, videos and TV programmes online. It has also been the first chance I have had to really catch up with the footage and reports coming from the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York.

While watching Alex Mallis and Lily Henderson's short film Right Here All Over (Occupy Wall St.), I was struck by the way in which people in the movement are beginning to organize themselves to address daily and basic needs like healthcare, food, shelter and sanitation. Today's amulet is an echo of the red crosses worn in the film by members of the first-aid working group (theirs are fashioned from red gaffa tape), worn in solidarity with those who are protesting against social and economic inequality in the USA, an amulet to protect against forgetting how well provided for I am as a UK resident (a beneficiary of the NHS) and as a personal reminder to get better and STAY better.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Amulet #41 & #42 - Forget Me Not

My very lovely friends Sarah and Ulysses are both moving away... to different parts of the world. Just before they left I made them this pair of amulets to remind them of the times we have shared together and to protect them on their new adventures. This now officially makes Sarah the most-amuleted person I know (other than myself) as this is the 3rd amulet she has received (see also Amulet #37 & #35. She obviously needs a lot of protecting!

I obviously *should* have also been wearing my "Never Can Say Goodbye" amulet (#11) at the time too (how could I forget such a thing?) which I was wearing when saying goodbye to Ulysses last time (on leaving Berlin). All of this does give me faith, however, that all of our paths will continue to cross in the future... hmmm, that gives me an idea for another amulet. And so the world continues...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Amulet #40 - Play The Ukulele

I thought I'd just blog this amulet quickly, as I need to maintain the little bit of momentum I've got on OPERATION CATCH UP and because this is an amulet that recently had to undergo repairs. Around the same time that I started this project (yes, back through the mists of time in December 2009), I was given a bright green ukulele as a Christmas present. I am a little embarrassed to say, but I can still only play 3 chords. I know that all I need to do is practice, but somehow this still seems beyond me. The best inroads I have made were learning bits of the Leonard Cohen song Hallelujah when I was confined to bed with flu for 4 days last spring.

I made this amulet in March 2010 as a reminder to practice and to combat my recurrent excuse about having to tune up continuously. It is a uke pitch pipe and it has lived for a long time on my polka dot coat. This amulet (possibly above all others) is a classic conversation starter, with many folk leaning down to blow into it in a surprisingly intimate way. It has had so much use that I recently had to repair it (as it fell to bits).

I'm glad that this amulet combines a kind of cheeky sauciness with quite an earnest wish to become better at playing musical instruments. I can't help but feel that George Formby (my inspiration for wanting to learn to play) would be proud!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Amulet #39 - One Bite At A Time

Today I'm blogging another amulet from OPERATION CATCH-UP (made in March 2010) and this one I can give a very specific date to, as it was made as a birthday present for my long-time collaborator Hannah Jones (the other half of LOW PROFILE). This amulet consists of 3 fridge magnets specially made to hold Hannah's "Schedule of Dreams" to the fridge in her kitchen.

As you can see from the snippet of said 'Schedule' shown in the photograph, Hannah is quite a busy person. She has often found herself overwhelmed by the number of things she has got going on at one time and makes a series of lists and schedules for herself to keep feelings of panic at bay. For this one, I took the well-worn advice that answers the question "How do you eat an elephant?" as a starting point. At the moment (when I find myself again in a time of having lots of different projects on the go at once), this amulet seems quite apt.

You'll be glad to know that Amulet #33 (the one that reminds me to finish what I've started) is working really quite well. I've been wearing it everyday since I made it and seem to be achieving lots. You never know, I might even get to the point where I have a new nickname and become known simply as 'The Finisher'! This, however, is possibly a long way off...

Monday, 29 August 2011

Amulet #38 - 1x500+5x100

My friend Ria Hartley is embarking on a project. An excellent project. A project that she has wanted to undertake for a long time. Ria intends to spend 14-days-straight traveling on trains around the island of Great Britain. Unlike a regular tourist, Ria will not be leaving the train stations she arrives in, she will remain confined within them for all of this time. During her time on the trains, her routes, choices and decisions will be swayed by chance encounters and personal exchanges

I think this is a project with a huge amount of potential, and I have become really interested in how Ria is making this happen. Rather than approach standard arts funding bodies or research boards, she has adopted a crowdfunding model where patrons (anyone willing to invest £10 or more) enter into a 'contract' with Ria when they part with their money. This is a challenging way to secure project funding - challenging because it takes vast amounts of energy and enthusiasm to make people aware of your project and convince them to 'invest' in it, but also in that it poses a series of challenges to our ideas about who the 'stakeholders' might be in the support of research and development of new work in the arts.

I have made this amulet to try and help her in her quest. When I started coming up with the idea for it (a few days ago), Ria still needed £1000 to achieve her target. In conversation I was helping her break this down into just needing to find 1 person who would invest £500 and 5 people who would invest £100 each. I'm hoping that the amulet might assist in some way. I've got my fingers crossed too.

Have a look at the website for The Train Project ( and of course, if you feeling generous, please do support the project!

Amulet #37 - Don't Let Plymouth Get You Down

This is another of the amulets I made sometime around last March (mid-hiatus on this project). It was specially designed for my friend Sarah (also the more recent recipient of Amulet #35) who was having a hard time at work in Plymouth at the time.

As readers of this blog may or may not know, I am a little bit in love with Plymouth. So much so, that I am currently working on a new project with my partner-in-crime (and other half of LOW PROFILE) Hannah called Would You Like This Badge?. This project (a series of badges developed in response to our experiences of living and working in Plymouth, thinking about how people view the city, from the inside and outside) follows on from our previous (slightly ridiculous) attempts to get people we know and like to move to Plymouth, by writing letters and making videos for them.

So, this amulet forms part of a series of on-going efforts I've been making to improve the experience of living in the city that is now my adopted home. Remember, if you need an amulet to protect you against the perils of your own city, do let me know. I am taking requests!!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Amulet #36 - Not The British Museum

My friend Cara is, to say the least, a little obsessed with archiving and archives. This is another of the amulets that I made last March or April but never quite got round to blogging about. At the time, Cara and I were studying together and both getting lost on our own research journeys. During a group presentation, in response to Cara's feelings of frustration at the difficulty of finding a format in which to realise her work (and communicate a complex set of ideas), one of our tutors said "Cara, you need to remember that you are not the British Museum".

I loved the sentiment of this statement - the notion that any of us might need reminding from time to time that we are 'just one person', that sometimes projects grow and spiral out-of-control more quickly than we realize, that we (as individuals) don't need to replicate things on the scale of large institutions and that any one of us does not need to cover absolutely everything. Some things are always going to fall by the wayside, feel too large to even start or have the potential to become too cumbersome to ever complete (ahem... still not letting myself off the hook for not finishing things though! - see Amulet #33).

However, over a year on, I'm not sure how well this amulet has worked. Have a look at Cara's current project (where she has locked herself away in her loft for the last 3 months, investigating and archiving every object it contains) and judge for yourself. As you can imagine, even this amulet has been described, archived and added to the inventory, as has Amulet #17.