Why Ruby?

I am a big fan and supporter of Brain Pickings, possibly the best website out there, along with TED.

Every Sunday morning I try to spend a luxurious hour lost in the forest, that is the weekly Brain Pickings newsletter. The paths twist and turn, and it is easy to bet lost and not get home until dark, but whatever time I return, at the end of each journey I have a basket full of the very best and tastiest of fungi.

Today I was drawn towards an interview with Ben Schott, author of the original Schott’s Miscellany. and it’s many offspring. I recommend this interview to all designers out there. The original book which I was gifted about 10 years ago is totally unique. But only today did I discover that the design of the book is based on the golden ratio. Schott talks about design with a passion that I wish all designers had access to. The quote from the interview that really got to me today was this one:

I’m a fan Virginia Woolf — I’m a real fan of Mrs. Dalloway more than anything else she’s written. But what, I think, seduces her work is that sense that small things are significant. There’s another great quote [from To the Lighthouse] which sums up one of my theories of design, to the extent that I’m entitled to have any theories, which is: “light and evanescent but held together by bolts of iron.”

[Design] must be, on the surface, like a butterfly’s wing — but underneath it must be clamped together with bolts of iron…

This is what I think is the secret of so much craft — to make it look effortless and evanescent, like a butterfly’s wing, but it needs to have structure, rigidity, purpose.

I always try to apply strong design principles to my own work, it is almost second nature to me to ask why something has to be there. When I first began a degree in graphic design at the end of the 70’s, the teaching was somewhat different to now. there were no computers for a start. But the basics are as relevant today as they were then. A designer should be able to explain the reason for each line, each curve, each dot… it is not enough that they look good, or they work…  not for me anyway, and certainly not for Mr Jessop, the demon tutor! I never finished that degree, the standards were tough and the work was tedious, hand drawing perfect Roman serifs, one after the other, printing and collating the stationary for the final year students, using big old hand rolled presses. Yeah, it was tough, and with no magic brushes to aid us on our way. Still I have not forgotten the lessons of that first year.

To this end I decided to look at my current project, and ask myself some questions, just as Mr Jessop would have done.

What is the theme of my work?

Individuation, the process of finding ones way in life, to a complete self.  Driven by the works of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell.

How have I conceptualised this theme?

I have placed my work within the concept of fairy tales and the hero’s journey. In particular I have focused on the story of  Little Red Riding Hood.  I have used the tale to illustrate Jung’s concept of the shadow, and animus and anima.

Why a forest-like installation?

Fairy tales were often set in a forest setting,many that I was familiar with as a child are set in the dark forests of Northern Europe. The forest represents the shadow, the journey through the forest is the meeting and assimilation of the shadow side of one’s nature.

Why the antlers, the wolf critter?

Ruby’s wolf/wild thing head dress represents the male creature that she meets with in the forest and assimilates as part of her self. When Ruby meets her animus, she comes together with him, and realises that rather than be enemies the strength is in joining together.

Why a trophy like sculpture?

Achieving individuation is celebrated by this trophy. Ruby has come out of the forest more complete. The antlers and wolf like mask represent her achievement, of meeting with, and assimilating the shadow side, the animus. At the same time I didn’t want the cut off head trophy look, like those of the hunter, this trophy is more about creation or recreation. This is why the wolf head dress is a patchwork of women’s crafts, knitting, weaving. The things we gather throughout our lives become who we are, each thread gets woven into our being. By using creative fabrics rather than dead animal skin I am representing life and growth.

Why is she called Ruby?

Her true name is Ruby Tuesday, because I always wanted  a child called Ruby Tuesday.  But none of my children were born on a Tuesday so it didn’t seem right, (Thanks Mr Jessop…). I loved the song written by Keith Richards:

but I prefer the version by Melanie, I have been singing it for years, and years. I almost have it perfect… for me…

And that’s it really, it’s about love and desire. My mixed media painting, that may or may not be part of the installation is called Desire, because that is what it is about. Our journey’s through the shadows are generally led by desire.




Movember and the Wolf

I have spent a good few hours here and there trying to create the perfect for Ruby wolf fur, and so I empathise with all those two legged creatures out there who are attempting to grow their own. Here are some images of a few attempts of late to create Ruby’s Wolf persona.

The first one is kind of cute and scary and wild thing, but maybe too gonky…  I worked out that it was because the nose fur is too long… needs to be more close cropped.


The knitted texture I think works well, it is important to my work to have the element of craft within the Ruby/wolf/animus persona. The following is a quote from an interview by Christine Kuan with artist Kiki Smith. It illustrates my own reasons for wanting to have an aspect of craft or woman’s work.

CK: Speaking of the ‘burden of history’, some your work incorporates materials and processes that have traditionally been identified with women’s productions for example, embroidery, sewing, etc. Do these materials and processes still retain vestiges of the art/craft divide today, or is that a barrier that’’s been broken down?

KS: Oh, I still think it’s a barrier, but one can still have a playful attitude towards it and try to some extent to disempower and disassemble it. Maybe in one or two generations it won’t exist. Those things that are barriers can give you energy as much as they can thwart your ambitions.



In the images below I changed the nose fur and played around with some of the different textures to try and create the Wolf like appearance, yet not totally wolf. This is animus, not just wolf, and I must remember that there are antlers to throw into the mix too. I need to experiment with the wolf mask and the antlers. The ears are still to be arranged!


I think with ears this will definitely look much more like the wolf/animus mask I imagined in my earlier sketches.


I like the bits that hang down at the sides, they give it a feel of the hunter and yet not being fur they subvert the traditional hunting to kill, and turn it into more of a creation process.


This last photo below really gives me an idea of the way forward. I think I know just how to attach the fur on the back of the head now. Many thanks to my beautiful daughter and close companion Phoebe Rose Anastasia, for her modeling and understanding of  her crazy mother. Nothing I do is strange to my children, all weird behaviour has it’s own category, entitled: The sort of thing mummy would do.


Quote sourced from: http://www.oxfordartonline.com/public/page/smithinter

The Big Picture has arrived…

Wow, unbelievable service from Diamond Photo! I ordered a large canvas print of my artwork on Tuesday and it arrived today – Friday,… how awesome is that? It is huge! I am really pleased with it, cant wait to see it in a gallery setting. Meanwhile here is a pic or two to give you an idea of the size:


Look at the size of my head next to Red’s!


I like this spooky black and white hand effect, and it is Halloween in some parts of the world…

Desire B&W I - Version 2

My Gallery Space…

Phoebe and I went to check out The Refinery today, to view the space that one of our curators suggested might suit my installation. It is perfect! Enough room, dimmable lighting and I can hang stuff from the ceiling! There is an artist installation in there at the minute, as you can see, which is not connected in any way to my work. The photos are just to give an idea.


The photo below shows the entry to the space:





New Tarot Bags…

I have had three commissions for custom Tarot Bags in the past couple of weeks, so I thought I would share them here. Two were for the Thoth Tarot, but with very different requirements. The images below were for a regular size Thoth deck, and the client wanted an embroidered bag to reflect the energy of the Two of Disks card, she was delighted:

The bag arrived today!! I was surprised it got here so quickly. It is exquisite! My husband says it is the most beautiful Tarot bag that I have and I agree! Love all of the different colors in it and the way it reflects the 2 of disks card. I love holding it in my hands and feeling the wonderful energy from it. The cards fit perfectly into it. My husband and I were just looking at the amazing bag again. He is an artist and I thought you’d enjoy hearing one of the things he said. He said, “It’s like painting with thread and fabric.”

Here is the bag, front and back:



The bag pictured below was for a Tarot reader who wanted his own sigil embroidered on a heavyily padded velvet bag with wraparound spread cloth. This was for the large Thoth deck.



And finally a bag for my friend Beth of Little Red Tarot, for her Wild Unknown Deck:


Ever feel someone is tapping your dreams?

For the past few months my dreams and my days have been filled with Ruby and her journey through the forest, into the shadows with her animus. Soon this stage of her journey will be captured in the big end of year final thing… except Ruby will keep going, the journey is never over.

Just a few minutes ago I came across the work of Pierre Huyghe. Don’t tell me there is no collective unconscious… geez it feels like this dude and I have been invading each others dreams…. I looked at a couple of images of his work and felt I knew it… check these out:




He even has the red ribbon/rag thingy…! I must look further into his work because the write ups I have read so far are totally fascinating, and deliciously inspiring to boot :)

Images retrieved on 22/10/14 from:


The Hood or the Hair?

We had our third critique session in studio today. I presented Ruby in her current state of half fur, and a couple of versions of my mixed media painting.

I wanted to know which version of the painting they felt looked best, the red hooded Tabby or the red hair Tabby. Leigh liked the red hair best but the other two group members liked the hooded version the best. I am posting images here in case anyone out there cares to give me feedback!

This is the hooded version, I do like it because it blends in well with the rest of the image which was the main gist of the feedback I got from the those who preferred this version.


This second version I also like a lot, and Leigh liked it because of the contrast and shine of the hair. It actually printed out very vibrantly. I actually dulled it a little here to blend it with the back ground a bit more. I do like this, I like how it is a step away from the Red Riding Hood, but I wonder of it looks a little too real, a little too like a glossy advertisement? But then she looks very contemporary, whereas the animus looks earthy, and woodlandy, slightly musty which does work well with my narrative, as the animus is musty in many of us and needs unearthing. I will definitely adjust her eye colour in the hair image if I use that one, make them greener.


The fur effect with knitting faux fur etc was approved by all. I totally forgot to take in my red cloak remnants, but they will be part of the finished installation for sure.

I had a chat to Jose one of our tutors later, and she agrees that the trees/installation works really well, as opposed to just having the painting on a wall.  I have been very tempted to go this route just to fit in the studio more easily. I had doubts about Ruby and her chopped off head, but after some discussion Jose suggested a plinth on its side. I tried this and with Ruby at one end almost imitation the *animus* dude in the painting, it totally worked! It could almost be used to bring the painting into the scene, like the two would be facing each other. I would continue to drape the wolf *pelt* around the plinth a bit and mayeb add some more red ragged pieces (signifying the cloak remnants but also with a deeper story of coming of age, menstruation…).


I couldn’t get the space I wanted, but I have another corner. It has a large radiator on the wall but the tutors will have to ignore that. G-Block may be a nice design in the atrium etc but for an art studio with a view to having to exhibit end of year work in a professional way, it totally sucks. There is so little wall space in the studios.

So… I shall carry in knitting/stitching/shredding Ruby, and trying to decide on hood or hair!

Your opinions are highly desired and more than welcome!

Knit Your Own Wolf…

I am experimenting with Ruby’s pelt, as it were. I have been playing with scraps of various types and colours of fake fur fabric, and also knitting with a variety of yarns to create a wolf/beastie/animal like feel, without the killing.

The good news about the wolf head hat mask is that it just about fits me… which will come in very handy for the New Years Eve fancy dress party!

Wolf Knit 2

Here is a close up of the Wolf fur… I like the idea of different pieces and a combination of stitch, knitting and fabric, it adds to the layers of Ruby’s story as a female who confronted and assimilated her animus.

Wolf Knit 1


Pale Blue Dot

I had to share this awesome video by astronomer Carl Sagan. It addresses the whole environment issue from a different angle, looking at the BIG picture. The message is a strong one: If we don’t look after this home we have here on this planet, then there sure as hell ain’t anywhere else we can move on to once we have destroyed it. Please share this video folks, reblog, it… Facebook it, tumblr it, whatever.

It is worth sharing and the message cannot be repeated enough.

The making of a wolf nose…

Well, after trying a zillion methods of trying to construct the wolf head mask for Ruby, I came back to good old cardboard and that most faithful of household staples, duck tape. I drew a shape, a sort of birds eye view of a wold head outline,  and then cut s strip of card about an inch wide, and folded it around the drawn shape. I fixed it with duck tape. Then I shaped more card strips around it using Ruby’s head as a guide.


Next I worked on the ears but they are a bit strange looking:

Wulf 2


Finally I covered the whole thing with tissue and dilute PVA. I had to gesso over the duck tape first as the PVA wouldn’t stick to it.


I think the nose looks a bit odd and long, but I will work on that when I add the furry bits! Wolf ears change in every picture I look at, so I decided that as cat ears are similar I would study my cats… but their ears change a lot too…

Pookie & Oscar

Incidentally if anyone know the correct term for those wolf mask/hats I would love to know!