Painting with the body

Third year BA(Hons) Jewellery student (Jarrod McCracken) is using a painting created by myself and a HCA dance student as a basis to create his Final Major Project work, which will be displayed as part of the Summer Show at Hereford College of Arts in June 2017.

Together with a dance students I moved to Gabrielle Roth’s 5 Rhtyhm’s with black ink to begin with. Guided by Jarrod we then started using coloured paint, as well as focusing on very specific pathways. To end the creative painting session we used powder paint.


The little Black Fish Project Day 5 – First character complete

The ‘Beast from the East’ and storm Emma meant that my Friday was an unusual one. Instead of going into College and teaching my Performing Arts degree students I was stuck at home – literally snowed in.

I managed to get several administrative tasks done in connection with the Little Black Fish project and I realised that I am communicating with well over 20 people to make this project come together, from the Tiny Owl Publishing Company, to the Hay Festival, to the Fetch Theatre company, to communicating with at least 4 Course Leaders from various courses, as well as the Marketing team at Hereford College of Arts, to the individual students who are involved in the project and who are currently making the various characters for our performance.

Looking at the character list and who is making which character ‘the neighbour fish’ is one character that has currently not been allocated to anyone. The neighbour fish was envisaged by Purvin and myself as a wool ball that is in the process of being knitted into a black sock. This would make the unfinished sock still have the 3 or 4 knitting needles stuck in it. Given that the neighbour fish isn’t a particularly pleasant character we thought that the knitting needles could make the little black unfinished sock look quite fierce.

My mother is great at knitting socks and currently visiting me from Germany. With the snow also having her stuck in the house what better way of spending your time than knitting a sock?

Sadly I only found a small ball of wool in the house, so I contacted my lovely neighbour and found that she indeed did have some wool available.




A quick visit (after spending a good half an hour wrapping up warm and finding a method of transportation) meant that the work on the ‘neighbour fish’ could begin.




A couple of hours later…here is the first complete character for the Little Black Fish performance.

The little Black Fish Day 4

Today’s task: Making puppets at the Fetch workshop in Leominster.

Due to the snow warnings, today has started later than expected. We have, however, managed to get to the workshop in Leominster and a group of Hereford College of Arts BA(hons) degree Contemporary Design Craft and Performing Arts students have continued the work on the giant puppets that we are creating – a crab and a pelican.

Jess has also started creating the face of the ‘little old lady’ puppet who will be imagining and telling the story of the ‘Little Black Fish‘ throughout the performance.


The day was incredibly productive with the crab now having 8 legs and the pelican having a head and a couple of feet.

We are having to work quick and think on our feet using materials available that are light, so that our giant puppets don’t end up weighing a ton.

We have left the workshop with the glue on our hands that just can’t be scrubbed off and smiles on our faces with the knowledge that our creatures are taking shape.


The Little Black Fish Day 3

Today’s production meeting has been super productive. In preparation for the meeting BA(Hons) Performing Arts student Andy Sims had worked through ‘The Little Black Fish’ story and created a draft script that we can work from once rehearsals begin in April.

We also used the script to determine the characters that will need to be created in preparation for our 4-5 week rehearsals.

We discussed how the puppetry will tell the story and how the various characters will come to life and transform throughout. Set design ideas were discussed and a clear list of things we need established.

Set sketch
Set sketch by Purvin

The Little Black Fish Project Day 2

I was very excited to visit The Fetch’s workshop today with a handful of Hereford College of Arts students.

We spent the first 35 minutes or discussing the two characters that we wanted to work on – a crab and a pelican that are to be created into two very large puppets. Purvin made some quick sketches as a result of the conversation and some pictures of the animals were looked at. Then back to the workshop to commence the task for the students and back to College for me.

A few hours later I returned to the workshop to find these having been made:

…how very exciting is that.

Both the pelican and the crab now have a body structure.

I was struck by how much could be created and made in just a few hours. The students I met on my return to the workshop were equally excited about their creation and very keen to return next week to continue to work on their ‘beasts’.


The Little Black Fish Project Day 1

Today Hereford College of Arts BA(Hons) degree students from Performing Arts, Textiles and Contemporary Design Craft Design came together to be introduced and guided by Andrew Purvin (Artistic Director of the Fetch Theatre Company) to three different forms of puppetry:

  • Bunraku (a form of Japanese puppetry)
  • Shadow puppetry and
  • Object puppetry

Throughout the day the students got to operate and play with all three types of puppets to understand how to bring the various puppets to life.

The workshop formed a very important part of the project, as Contemporary Design Craft  and Textile students will be creating puppets for the rehearsal and performance of ‘The Little Black Fish’ and therefore need to have an understanding of how puppets work, as this will inform their design decisions.

Tom bringing puppet to life


All students created short puppetry performances in groups that were shared with their peers at the end of the day using all three forms of puppetry.

20180216_143834Playing and experimenting with the puppets

A fantastic first day that has inspired some students to take up the challenge to make puppets for the performance of The Little Black Fish that will be presented at the Hay Festival.


I am now looking forward to having more in-depth meetings with Purvin, James Smith (CDC) and Claire Andreson (Textiles) to see how we can shape this story into a performance.


How are you? First research poster for the Everything Matters Conference 2018 at Warwickshire College Group

It is so wonderful to have a tangible, creative visual representation of the research (literature review) I have conducted to date. I am very aware that my drawing skills aren’t fantastic, however having access to a network of fantastically talented artists at the Hereford College of Arts, I would be silly not to make use of this amazing resource. Andrew Charles Graham – Illustrator came to my aid in the visual representation of the research to date.

Creating a poster has forced me to think about my research in a different way. A skill I suppose that I use on a daily basis in my teaching when explaining something to students in as many different ways a possible to ensure that everyone understands. Also very aware of how important the storytelling is – especially with the interdisciplinary nature of my research area that links psychology, dance and business – to ensure that my thought process is fully understood by those who have a background in one area, but not from another.

10 things that made me enjoy my first year of my PhD

One year into my self-funded part-time PhD, which I am completing alongside my close to full-time lecturing and course leading job and being a single mum, I ask myself how am I feeling about it all now?

I can honestly say that I am enjoying the journey tremendously. I am excited about the prospects that are developing and am more than ever aware of doors that are being created as a result of the work I am putting in to my continuous development. Doors I hadn’t even considered before commencing on this path. I knew it would lead me somewhere, but where exactly is only starting to take shape in my mind as part of the process.

My first years has been an incredibly positive experience and I believe this is down to a few things:

  1. I have the most fantastic supervision team (Dr. Rebecca Jones, Dr. Holly Andrews and Professor Jan Francis-Smyth), as well as expert advice from Dr.Carol-Lynne Moore ; all with whom I am in regular contact. So far I haven’t experienced the common ‘I feel alone’ that I hear so many PhD students refer to. My supervisors are right there at the other end of an email and having a busy job and being a single mum means that I don’t really have the time to reflect on whether or not I feel lonely in my studies. I cherish the times when I get a chance to get on with it.
  2. I spent lots of time planning and preparing Gantt Charts and it did the job of keeping me on track throughout my first year. (Also I like structure very much, so in a way this whole planning thing and creating structure made me quite happy)
  3. I set myself challenging, but realistic deadlines and shared these deadlines with my supervision team to give me the sense of needing to be accountable.
  4. Switching between topic areas during my reading phases. The beauty of my research project is that it combines a range of different topics that stretch from movement studies to psychology to well-being to management studies to history to new technologies, which means it is easy to switch topic without feeling that I am wasting time reading something that is not relevant.
  5. Having supportive family, friends, work colleagues and employer.
  6. Allowing myself to think creatively and outside the box, even if the ideas are totally bonkers. I have allowed myself to make connections in all sorts of different ways with the things I am learning and reading across disciplines, allowing myself creative thought without judgment and once the thought is there then start considering these.
  7. Allowing myself to have downtime and not putting pressure on myself when my brain is stuck – I simply left things as they were and came back to it when the motivation and flow was back.
  8. Recognizing when the work flow and motivation is there and pushing myself to get lots done during those times, often spending many hours working in one go.
  9. Implementing what I learn. For example implementing well-being research findings into my day-to-day life. This has included daily meditations, daily yoga, daily exercise that gets my heart rate into the ‘Cardio’ zone, walking, getting up from a seated position when working at the computer at least once an hour, although it should be every 20 minutes.
  10. The Universities library (and by that I mean the physical as well as the online library), as well as the communication from the Research school has been incredibly positive.

So having identified the above points I hope to continue feeling equally positive and fulfilled at the end of the next 12 months of study.


Image by Sean Crawford PhotographyHCA Dance students performing ‘Alarch’ by Clare Parry-Jones, Newport House – Out of Nature, October 2017