From leather to latex

So I finally graduated and with that comes new adventures! I’ve started to look into latex as a making material. This is something I briefly explored aboout 15 years ago when I made underwear but didn’t continue. I think the combination of leather and latex will be interesting in my work. I just need to find time to experiment!
I’ve purchased a number of different thicknesses and colours to try and learn different skills and techniques. I’m currently at the experimenting stage, in terms of learning about the stretch and the tolerance of the materials depending on their thickness. I have a tendancy to rush in and start lots of things at once with no real structure, so I need to get this out of my system and then take a step back to learn the technical side, but right now i’m enjoying the playful bit!

I will then hopefully be able to come up with a question as to what i’m trying to achieve or discover. There is little written on latex. One text book from 2004 exists but then little else. There are youtube clips by amateur makers and downloadable information at a price but again this is a lot of information at once and hard to process. I will go through these elements when I become more in tune with the material.

Photos will follow!


The final furlong

It’s been a while. I can’t actually believe it’s been over a year. It has been a crazy year too. I had originally planned to get submitted by last Christmas (2020) but due to the year and teaching commitments in a Covid environment life took over and so the write up was put on the back burner. I did try and get submitted for Christmas and had a solid final draft.

I’ve been tweaking and laying out for a while, adding here and there, continually reading and thinking until it got to its current state in august.

Then, after the proof reading by my lovely mum, her health took a turn for the worst and she passed away. I have experienced a number of losses of participants and craftspeople throughout my PhD, which has been painfully sad, but the person who taught me all of her skills has been hard to comprehend.

As I reach this final furlong and hopefully imminent submission it is filled with both happiness and sadness. Mum was so pleased that it was nearly complete and I’m so happy she got to read it through… the acknowledgement made her cry. I’m just very sad she didn’t get to see it handed in.

This is where this part of the journey ends and I look forward to the viva and discussing my practice with my examiners.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey

Writing up findings

This is it. It’s the findings chapter… what I have done and what I have discovered…! Eeek!

Although this is supposed to be my summer holidays I’ve tried to dedicate some of the time towards getting the write up of the PhD done, because as soon as term starts I can guarantee it will be the last thing on the agenda. In some ways I wish I had just spent all of my time doing it but in other ways, I’ve needed th break. There is still the opportunity to finish it so this is what I’m concentrating on this week.

My friend who started at the same time as me is also on the same trajectory. It’s been really nice chatting as we have kept each other on track, although at the moment I can’t match her 4.30 starts! Will try for an 8am start tomorrow though!

I’d like to finish the findings chapter if poss by Monday, then it’s the conclusion and recap on the introduction. I know there will be many changes to come but a working draft at least will be a bonus to have by mid September if possible.

That’s the plan anyway!!! Onwards and upwards! Then I’ll have all the time in the world to get one with some making! Wahoo!!!

Writing a PhD and coping with PBC (and AIH!)

After my last post about getting back into it, I have managed to keep thinking about writing that’s for sure. And after a supervisor meeting regarding my methodology and me still not fully getting it I’ve been trying (and I think actually understanding) to rewrite and edit since (a week ago!).

I didn’t think it would be this tough, but I have a supportive team and my friends and family keep spurring me on. My goal is still to complete and submit by December 31st, however this last week has been crazy at work with all the differing planning and elements brought on by Coronavirus that this time I would normally have for planning is now not being used for PhD.

The other issue because of this is that I am having a bad patch of fatigue and brain fog which, unless you have experienced it, people don’t quite understand. Until I got auto immune hepatitis and primary biliary Cholangitis I would have said I had fatigue or was a little confused if I’d had a late night or was over tired. The problem is now that I actually have it I realise the difference.

Fatigue creeps up on me and then hits me hard. I can sleep an 8 hour night and still wake up feeing exhausted. I want to do things but my body physically and my brain mentally can’t. I even went back to bed at 9.30am today and slept till just after midday and still I never feel refreshed. The only relief is that for the moment, I seem to get fatigue in patches and then I feel better again. It’s weird I normally only seem to recognise it when I’m coming out the other side, but my skin has broken out everywhere on my face, my body is tired and skin is dry and I can’t even think about anything too challenging so I’ve realised earlier this time.

So why is this to do with my PhD? Well, on Friday I had a good go. I worked out what I needed to finish reading and writing about. I worked out how to do the structure and wrote myself a list of the things I wanted to do yesterday and today and then it didn’t happen. Then I panic that with 6 months remaining how will I get it done? I’m loathe for an extension because of my condition and still want to meet my deadline, however how I get there is another thing! I’ll see how things go. Hopefully this week I’ll be able to get back into it and finish the methodology for the 4th time 😉.


Eat, sleep, breathe PhD!

It has finally happened. It clicked into place last week, I realised I had to stop pushing paper and get writing my final thesis.

It’s been a funny few months. It’s hard to get your head out of teaching and into your own stuff sometimes, but as lock down took hold and teaching came to the end of term I started crafting a bit more again. Mainly for my sanity and also I was asked to produce some leather handles for someone. It made me remember what I’m ok (good) at and got me motivated. It also allowed me to switch off after a long day in the spare room office, which was a good thing!

I had asked advice of a colleague a couple of weeks ago and we scheduled a chat for last week. It actually ended up being the conversation where my supervisory team changed, 7 months from completing! Although I had thought about this for a while and was quite nervous about what added pressure a change in team could be at this point, the positives have totally outweighed the negatives! In fact now I think of it, there aren’t really any negatives!

I’ve gained a new second supervisor. Practice based which has helped me re engage with the practice and put this to the forefront of the research. I think I forget about what I’ve achieved to date (over the 5.5 years) and so taking it through fully and being questioned about it helped me to reconnect. I also have discovered over the past 2 years that recording tutorials allows me to re engage with the moment, much like the narratives I have worked with!

I realised I was treating the PhD as an extension of work, something that had to be done as part of my job and always took second place to my prep and teaching etc, however something clicked and I began to schedule time in first thing, before checking emails or getting engaged in other tasks. I started to take ownership and face issues such as ‘what the heck is a methodology’ head on. I’ve found that these two hours in the morning give me chance to do a little, bit not overwhelm myself, and it’s started to re engage me with what I have already done, so I can work out where best to place things, how to fill gaps.

Even this small amount of time (in some cases more or less) has made me feel excited and want to get it done. I actually spent every morning of the bank holiday weekend writing, sorting etc. I felt so good!!!!

I also had a fab meeting with my main supervisor who is great at helping me fill gaps, answer questions about already written material and make me feel like I can actually do it so I feel now my team has finally come together.

So I’ll keep going… hopefully I won’t drop off the radar. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a couple of days off on my annual leave next week, but actually I think just a little connection with some element of it each morning, even if it’s just a bit of reading is really helping.

Better late than never hey!

Dark days and time on our hands

It’s been a while since I wrote, I think because generally I have been working on my write up of the thesis, which doesn’t involve uploading any pictures so, writing like this is just a little bit self indulgent I find.

However, sometimes the need to get out what you need to then helps you move on from a stalemate!  Which is where I appear to be!

With life suitably changed for the time being, it’s taking me a while to adjust to, both working from home and living from home.  Also I had set aside the Easter break to concentrate on nothing but my PhD.  However, with the new digital transition of teaching, I’ve found it hard to not become engrossed in teaching, but also to settle into reearch.  I long for days where I could read a book and write notes sitting in the sun, but it just doesnt’ seem to happen.  I sit at my desk and wonder what bit to get on with!

I had a great supervisory meeting on monday so I know what I need to do, it’s just how to do it.

SO. I need to remember.  Firstly…this is time I can be getting on with my PhD.  Also to take breaks away from it and to break down into managable chunks.

Although I will be on Easter break tomorrow, this PhD is my baby and I want to try and work on it when I’m feeling like I can.  I need to managage my AIH and PBC fatigue and see when I feel like I can get on.

Right….off to do 500 words…That’s todays goal 🙂

Keep smiling!



A few thoughts on legacy

Sadly last week I found out that one of my participants had passed away.  ‘Emily’ the rolling pin lady, whose mother worked in a bake house was one of the first people I interviewed and because of this I got very involved in how the making process for all the pieces and participants would be shaped or work.

For this piece I experimented extensively and because of this, I had many interactions with the participant.  I was even able to bring senses of taste and smell into the make by baking her mothers gingerbread recipe.

When I found out she had passed away unexpectantly I felt a great sense of loss.  One because I felt that I had made a fantastic friend through the project and enjoyed working alongside her and experiencing the process together, but also because the artefact I created feels lost.  Like it no longer has an owner.  The artefacts have never felt like they were mine when I had created them and I was beginning to think of their legacy and where they should live.  I had decided that those participants who would like them, should have the artefacts.  They belong with their storytellers.  But now the rolling pin no longer has a storyteller.

Because of the nature of Emily’s story, utilising a recipe for gingerbread and the artefact being a rolling pin I decided to use it.  I wanted to bake the gingerbread recipe and when I went to roll out the dough, I had the overwhelming urge to reach for the rolling pin artefact, rather than my own in the drawer.  The funny thing was all the time I was baking, the same stories Emily had told me, came back to me as if I was making it again.  The actions mimicking her mothers, then hers.  Maybe this was due to the nature of the object being a tool rather than an ornament.

Having made the gingerbread, I can honestly say, each time I went to eat one, I didn’t think about the process, it was only through the making.

The strange thing is, this week has been an odd one in regards to legacy and the friendships I have made for this project.  I had a phone call on Tuesday from ‘Georgia’, the Airforce cross story and her husband (the football story) wanting to go out for dinner at the end of November.  Then the next night from one of the makers who helped me learn how to turn metal, who wanted my help clearing out his loft.  I also banged into one of my participants (brass shoes) one lunchtime and we have text to meet up in the next couple of weeks.  All these people I did not know before the start of the project and now I have seen or arranged to see them all.

Today I went to help the man clear out his loft.  I took some of the gingerbread I made yesterday for him and his wife.  We had them with a cup of tea when we had a break from lifting.  It somehow felt like a circle or cycle was complete…. A recipe from one of my participants, made and passed on to one of the makers, rather than the maker helping me to make something for the participant.

Emily was a fantastic person and a friend and someone who I will dearly miss.  She taught me so much, but I feel privileged to know her story and be able to keep it alive and know that it was saved from being lost forever.

The writing up process all round

I had a fantastic meeting yesterday with my two supervisors, which was really productive.  The best thing I’ve learned on my PhD is to make sure I record my tutorials.  I love how excited I get during a tutorial and try and write stuff down, but actually I find when it’s the next day and I’m siting down again to write up what we discussed it’s all gone out my head!  Very much in line with my research, by re-listening to the tutorial I relive the event and the enthusiasm and ideas come flooding back!


So today I will be re listening to the tutorial from yesterday and scribbling down lots of notes….  then I am going to move onto trying to work out how my main bulk of evidence will fit together.  Starting with a huge mind map!

Literature Review Write Up

Again I find myself sitting at my computer being unable to get anything onto paper (digital paper).  I re looked at my chapter plan after thinking I couldn’t do it and then realised “I’ve done all this reading before”!!!!

I revisited both of my progression points and yes…there it was, all the reading I’d started when beginning this journey.  So having copied and pasted this into the relevant areas it’s not looking so daunting any more.  I do need to revisit each of these like I did within the literature review and add some depth, but also within the literature review situate myself and how I am working and how it is different to what others have done before me.

So this afternoon and the next few days I will be doing this.  I must try and stay at it.  I find it so hard to sit still whilst reading and think of so many other jobs to do!  I think I’ll be ok….after lunch 🙂

Methodology write up

I know it’s only a draft, but I eventually got into it.  Basically I needed to get my head out of the scientific approach I was trying to take and make it much more personal, which I feel like i have.  It was about re ordering information I’d started to gather.  I’ve started to identify holes in my reading so will need to start to fill these as time goes on.