Instinct Is Worth A Thousand Years Of Memory

I see that the last time I posted – or even updated – this website was November 2020.

Earlier that same month, my husband of almost 17 years was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died less than 7 months later.

Followers of my Instagram may well have seen my scant posts since then. As I’m sure you can imagine, I am completely rearranged. Almost everything in my life is different. But I am still making, and in the another of the posts I will publish soon, I invite you to see the first pieces of my new body of work.

In January 2020 just before the pandemic hit, I was in Costa Rica as one of the artists in residence at the Mauser Foundation. Whilst I was there I had an encounter with a snake, which I believe was a portent of the transformation to come.

Like all wildlife, I was delighted to spot the animal, so unhidden in my path. I carefully and respectfully moved as close as I could to take this photo. It wasn’t until several days after that I identified the snake as a Fer-De-Lance – the deadliest, most aggressive and unpredictable snake in Central America.

This experience was so significant for me and I couldn’t stop thinking about the snake, and how close I was, literally, to serious injury and likely death (despite my respectful approach, I was certainly in striking distance).

After completing several other projects, I finally realised I needed to express this experience in my work, and created the personal piece I am sharing here.

Before completion, we got the news my husband would die. After finishing the piece, in a sort of catharsis, I no longer had the desire to make work in the same way as I had been since 2013. It just wasn’t in me anymore, and I didn’t know what I would create in the future.

For many years I had wanted to make masks. Originally the idea was to make Death Masks for extinct species. The reason I never explored this is because I felt too caught up in the process of making my flat and framed canvasses, and felt I didn’t ‘have time’ to step away from this and experiment with making three dimensional objects, a process that may have been messy and unsuccessful.

However, the ‘enforced’ hiatus combined with, despite it all, my compulsion to make and process my life through making, meant that in March of 2021 I did begin tentatively the process of figuring out the mask. I have learnt all my skills in this way – learn by doing – so, now feeling that ‘no one was watching’ anymore, I framed up and drew a shape.

I didn’t work on it more than this until September, when I completed my first mask, named Portal.

I continued to experiment and create, processing my grief through this medium.

Now it is November 2022, almost 3 years have passed since I met the Snake on the path. I am back in Costa Rica as artist in residence at the Mauser Foundation as I write this. I’ve rewritten my Artist Statement, revised my offerings as a teacher and mentor, and updated my portfolio.

The work I’m making now feels very exciting and the most personal I’ve ever made. There is huge vulnerability in that. I still deeply care about the issues I was making work about before, but as I am changed, the work has changed. Interestingly I believe the 3 pillars my work explored before, are still intact: Grief, transformation and divinity are still very present.

Instinctively grief instantiated in me a self love practice I’d never experienced before. Like all practices it takes work and vigilant tending, but I felt I would not be able to go on without giving myself the love that I had been receiving before he died. Part of that has been leaning into my work. Creativity externalises what you can’t voice. Processing my grief has helped me continue the bond I had whilst adjusting to the new life with his physical absence.

Grief opens a new room in yourself. Often an uncomfortable room, but a part of you. Others can meet you there. It is my hope that my masks will ultimately provide a liminal place where viewers/participants/wearers can experience transformation.

In reflection of all this, I am having a studio sale. Almost all my unsold previous work needs to go to make room for the new. Prices are up to 2/3 off the original, please contact me if you wish to purchase anything.

Finally, I am no longer going to be using this blog to write long form essays on methods of construction or meaning. I will update it as and when I feel the need and desire, and will still update it with any news of shows, events, sales etc.

Thank you for reading.


The Emancipator – was £1500 now £500

Hello everyone,

Most certainly NOT because it’s Black Friday (I didn’t realise this) but I am having a Studio Sale. My work has shifted in a new direction and in service to this I would like to clear out the old to make space for the new. Almost all my older work has been reduced, almost all are at least 2/3 off the original price. Please contact me if you wish to purchase, shipping will be extra of course. I am happy to accept payments in instalments.

Head to my home page to browse

The Alchemist – was £700 now £300
Hallowed Ground series – were £895 now £295
Saint Benjamin – was £895 now £295

Remembrance Day For Lost Species 2020

I am very happy to announce the 2020 Lost Species Day exhibition – Beyond Ruin – is now live.

You can visit the online exhibition here. If you can get to Brighton you can also view the exhibition in ONCA’s gallery windows, which features 2 of my pieces alongside poetry by Selina Nwulu, original hand-painted window installation by Ruby Wolfe, and the photo series Amazonas: Guardians of Life by Felipe Jacome.

On the 24th December the window exhibition will change and feature works by Josephine Chime, Denilson Baniwa and Deru Anding.

I’m extremely grateful to the team at ONCA and Remembrance Day For Lost Species for inviting me to collaborate on the curation of this project with them. Please read our curatorial statement to learn more about our aims, challenges and reflections on this work.

My personal ritual of remembrance.

Today, 30th November 2020, is Remembrance Day for Lost Species. This is a project I sewed whilst on residency in Costa Rica in January. 20 names of species that have been ‘declared’ by science to be extinct in the 21st century. Where we knew an Endling, I have also included the name given my their caretakers.

Please watch this video of my person ritual of remembrance:

The cloths are old and used. Some very. Collected and donated to me over decades. The only addition I made are the words and dates. In their former lives they would have been handkerchiefs, table runners, doilies etc. I hope that in the future I’ll be able to share them as an installation, and intend to keep adding to them.

However, in coming to share this work, and this ritual, I thought a lot about it’s irrelevance, it’s futility. I have not spent my usual research time in understanding the history of each of these species. I do not know their significance to the people who lived in their ecosystem. I do not know what specific hurts they each suffered. I just looked them up, and noted their names, and stitched them down. That’s all I did.

This weekend I attended some of the events around Lost Species Day, and more than ever it has galvanised me in my art and activism. As a white person in the global north, in western society, it is violent to just simply mourn, without offering any form of effort to fight for a future in which everyone can live. I often struggle to find the language to adequately express my feelings and intentions, so instead, for now, I am sharing these words from Marcus Coates, offered to the collective on this occasion.

An Apology and a Promise

I address this statement to you, the species, cultures and communities driven to extinction by exploitation, extractivism and settler colonialism.

I acknowledge your historical habitation of this Earth.

I acknowledge your right to have lived your lives without limitation from exploitation, extractivism and settler colonialism.

You had the right as individuals, species, cultures and communities to inhabit this world and to exist in the manner you were uniquely adapted to.

I apologise for my role in contributing to your demise and ultimate extinction.

I apologise on behalf of the exploitative colonial culture I’m a part of, and anyone whose actions have led to your extinction.

I apologise for the actions of those who were directly responsible for killing you in numbers that exceeded the need for personal survival and whose actions were motivated by financial profit or gain.

Your extinctions are defining moments in the history of the world.

As a representative of the exploitative colonial culture I’m part of, I deeply regret causing or contributing to this, however indirectly.

Your absence is an irreparable loss which I will continue to mourn.

I will continue to remember those of you I can name, I will remember your vital part in my life.

For those of you I cannot know, I will imagine and feel your loss, as if you were someone close to me.

Your extinctions are a warning to me that I must be vigilant.

I promise to challenge my own capability for destruction and capacity for permanent damage.

I promise to recognise and learn from the impact of my actions and non-actions on the ongoingness of life.

I promise to continue to reimagine my own relationship with all species, cultures and communities, to examine and redefine my comparative place on this Earth.

I promise to question how I value lives and the cultural and physical environments they depend on.

I promise to stay alert and critical of the influence my culture and therefore my own value system is having on the lives of species, cultures and communities.

I promise to challenge the commodification of our environments and the species, cultures and communities within them.

I promise to challenge historical and neo-colonial hierarchies that perpetuate the exploitation of species, cultures and communities and consequently drives extinctions.

I promise to be active, generous, creative and open minded in finding hopeful, playful and positive ways I and others can relate to species, cultures and communities.

I promise to seek the knowledge and awareness that can show me how my life choices are threatening the lives of species, cultures and communities I share this earth with.

I promise to find it within me, to respect all other life. To grant animals, plants and their ecosystems the care and respect I would want myself.

I promise to take notice of myself and do everything in my power to scrutinise my motivations and actions towards other species, cultures and communities, which are all interconnected.

I will work to honour your once thriving existence here.

I promise to do all I can to protect the lives that remain and to maintain the diversity of ecological, cultural, political and economic conditions necessary for their survival.

I will share the stories of your extinctions with people and promote care for other species, cultures and communities.

I will do all that I can to prevent future extinctions and harms.

Names of the Species on the cloths; date declared lost:
Pyrenean Ibex, 2000
Caspian Tiger, 2003
Saint Helena Olive, 2003
Heredia Robber Frog, 2004
Po ‘o-uli, 2004
Golden Toad, 2004
Caribbean Monk Seal, 2008
Yangtze River Dolphin, 2008
Christmas Island Pipistrelle, 2009
Vietnamese Rhino, 2010
Western Black Rhino, 2011
Alaotra Grebe, 2012
Japanese River Otter, 2012
Pinta Island Tortoise, ‘Lonesome George’, 2012
Formosan Clouded Leopard, 2013
Christmas Island Forest Skunk, ‘Gump’, 2014
Long Jaw Tristramella, 2014
Eastern Cougar, 2015
Bramble Cay Melomys, 2016
Chinese Paddlefish, 2020

In An English Country Garden (Finder’s Keeper’s).

Like my last post, this serves as a transcript to the video I posted presenting this work, for those that prefer to read. I include the video at the end of this post.

I’m going to take you on a journey to ancient Egypt so stick around if that interests you.

The story goes that in 1888 an Egyptian farmer digging at Beni Hassan in Egypt, about 100 miles from Cairo, found what was described as a ‘seam of cats’. By some accounts he fell into a hole, into which eventually some 2-300,000 cats had been packed. A contemporary account is as follows:

“the plundering of the cemetery was a sight to see but one had to stand well windward. The village children came from day-to-day providing themselves with the most attractive mummies they could find. They took them down the riverbank to sell for the smallest coin to passing travelers. The path became strewn with mummy cloth and bits of cat skulls and bones and fur in horrid positions, and the wind blew the fragments about and carried the stink afar.”

The vast majority of these remains were eventually sold by weight and in 1890 a shipment reached Liverpool where they were sold at auction for £3, 13 shillings and 9 pence per tonne, ground up and spread on English fields as fertilizer. In a questionable attempt at humour, the auctioneer used a Beni Hassan cat skull as his auction hammer.

So there’s a lot to unpack here!

First of all to give some historical context about the cats themselves. Beni Hassan was one of many ancient Egyptian cemetery sites, and the reason for the vast quantity of cat mummies is that, as you probably know, cats were considered in possession of a divine energy, and the Goddess Bastet was an important deity until the rise of Christianity. Cats were one of several animals routinely sacrificed by pilgrims to the Gods for divine blessings, in fact at the Bubastis Temple to Bastet there is a 5th century BC account from Herodotus describing an annual festival there attended by several thousand pilgrims. The pilgrim would pay the priest to sacrifice the cat, mummify it, and place it in the catacomb as a way of obtaining good standing. Later Bastet became associated with Isis, who’s obviously a very significant Goddess, and it’s during this time that it’s believed cats were systematically bred to be killed and mummified as sacrifices to the Gods. Killing a cat in ‘normal’ circumstances, however was still considered a heinous crime, and there are accounts of outraged Egyptians lynching occupying Romans for killing them.

I first heard that story a few years ago and it so perfectly for me represented the intersection of a lot of things that are currently in my work, to do with divinity of animals, beliefs around spirituality with animals, how we memorialise them, and then latterly it really spoke to something that’s becoming more and more important to me to critique in my work which is colonial attitudes. But I wasn’t adequately able until now to come up with an appropriate response.

I’m going to go through the layers of the depth of the meaning of this piece and what I’ve tried to include in it.  We cannot interpret ancient animal cults of ancient times within a framework of 21st century sensibilities and it’s not my intention to criticise another culture’s historical practices or attitudes. Rather it became very important to me to use this piece to turn the lens more on Britain’s Imperial practices both in history and today.

The first aim for me was to use this piece to memorialize the cat and cats themselves, the lives of these animals used as sacrificial objects and the subsequent treatment of their remains as actual shit used on a field in England thousands of miles away from where they’re from. If you’ve been following this piece on instagram, you might have seen a post a while back that I did where I took the flowers and did a mini performance of laying them on the grave around the body of the cat, and I wrote a poem which I’ll include here.

You were a prayer
A promise
A god
A life
A victim.

You are dust
Far from home
And trodden

I remember you.

The intersection of divine and sacred with memorialising animals is something that’s very central to my work so my gut response when I heard the story was quite complex for me to unpick those different levels.

Egypt was occupied by Britain at the time this took place and Egypt and the artistic style was very fashionable in Victorian Britain. The British Empire was extremely powerful and wealthy globally.

One aim of this piece is to present a wider critique of African treasure stolen and looted by colonial forces. In this piece I’ve used the golden collar and the rings to symbolise the material wealth stolen from colonized land, where the cat is symbolising the spiritual cost. The collar and the rings are based on a statue of Bastet that I’ve seen in the British Museum several times, and a large part of the research around this piece became about repatriation of antiquities. I learnt that approximately 90% of Africa’s cultural heritage lies outside of the Continent.

So the question was raised for me – why is it that the argument defending keeping art and cultural artifacts outside of their culture of origin often rests on the assumption that more people are able to visit the ‘Great Museums’ of Europe or the United States. But why are those country’s institutions more visited and by whom?

I realise you may ask what this has to do with a dead ancient cat ground up for fertilizer but stay with me.

It’s relevant because the countries housing these diverse global collections largely are, or were, colonial powers, and their wealth and therefore power-over and ability to take and keep these items comes from oppressing and weakening these countries, either in the past or still today. 

As Britain grew wealthy by exploiting her colonies, greater personal wealth and therefore leisuretime for the new middle and upper classes was created. A highly popular pastime was needlepoint and cross stitch (also made possible because of the increased availability of cotton from plantations). I chose to include these cross stitch floral motifs as this cat’s grave offering to connect the dots of colonial wealth and the reference to the mummies being fertilizer – literally making rich England’s land. I imagine these flowers growing from the bodies of these prayers – which these animals were. 

During this era, flower language – the romantic Victorian practice of using flowers to send a message, individual flowers representing love or devotion or whatever – was hugely popular. I looked up some of these correspondences and chose these specific flowers with the following meanings.

Nasturtium which represents patriotism and conquest; 

Marigold for grief, despair and sacrifice;

Rose but specifically a dark rose represents death and yearning;

Sage which represents salvation and virtue;

Tansy for hostility and immortality.

Everything those flowers represent is what this piece is about for me.

What is it about for you?

We Will Suppress You.

We Will Suppress You.

I’ve started filming videos with my reflections and explanations of my pieces as I finish them, over on my instagram, which I’ll insert at the bottom of this post. I’m finding speaking about my work right after completion is more enjoyable for me and a good muscle to keep working. But for accessibility, I’m going to make the format of these posts into a sort of transcript, so people who can’t or don’t want to listen to the videos, can read all the same insights here. There’ll be a few amendments, to remove ums and errs, etc.

This is my personal visual response to the research that I did around iguana, specifically green iguana. This piece is about invasive species and more broadly, more deeply it’s about how we should apply discernment and critical thinking when we are listening to conservation stories, and always asking ‘who does this narrative serve? Who benefits from people believing this story?’

This is another piece that has come from my time in Costa Rica in January at the Art residency there. I knew I would see iguana, and there were lots of black iguana living on the house and in the drains, so I had a lot of opportunity to observe them (you can see some of that video if you want to, in my story highlights on instagram). In Costa Rica there’s the black iguana and also the green iguana, the two native species.

I love reptiles. As I get older I feel like I’m just really drawn to them. I love making them and had a lot of fun making this piece. I’m really pleased how it’s come out, I’m really happy with the way that it’s been realised.

I initially discovered that the green iguana is a protected and endangered species in Costa Rica however elsewhere in the Americas they are in fact an invasive species. Iguana as a genus are amongst the world’s most endangered animals. They face threats such as severe habitat degradation, threats from other invasive species – dogs, rats, pigs, mongoose; competition from livestock for food, human settlements etc. But the green iguana in Central America has been a traditional food source for over 7000 years. The traditional name translates to ‘the chicken of the trees’. So it’s got a very long history with the indigenous population of Central America, as well as in South America there are iguana gods in Peruvian Moche mythology.

I found out about a Dutch-run and lead conservation foundation in Costa Rica, where hunting iguana is now illegal and doing so by the local indigenous population is threatening the remaining endemic populations. Part of the work that the Foundation does is educating children to prevent that practice from continuing. I’m going to come back to that.

So endangered in its native home, and amongst the world’s most threatened animals as a genus. However in Florida is an example of where the green iguana has become a huge problem as an invasive species itself. Iguanas bought as pets, or as stowaways on ships to Caribbean islands particularly, have exploded their populations. They have caused huge imbalance to occur in those native ecosystems. For example in Florida the green iguana population grew to such an extent that the over consumption of an endangered plant they were feeding on caused a species of butterfly to actually go extinct.

Part of the response by the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission was asking the public to kill iguana if they saw them on their property. PETA criticised the Wildlife Commission for giving the public cruel and ineffective advice by not properly informing them of humane methods. PETA called for better regulation of their possession as pets. I found out that in 1995 alone 800,000 green iguanas were imported into North America for the pet trade. Hobbyists are often not aware of the care and space needed for iguana to thrive. Iguanas can live for over a decade or longer, and so were being released into the wild. They thrive in the climate in Florida so it caused the massive population explosion.

What got me interested in this story and inspired this piece was going back to the idea that green iguana themselves are not under threat as a global population. In fact they can thrive pretty easily – females can lay up to 80 eggs, they’re pretty adaptable. In Panama – just over the border from Costa Rica – they’re even farmed, to supply the pet trade. However there’s a belief amongst the native people in Costa Rica, that everyone is entitled to kill one iguana a year. This is a 7000-year-old culture of eating iguana, so way before the Americas were colonized by Europeans this was a native practice and the species have remained intact and survived all that time. So to me it seems like a very myopic view that once again seeks to place indigenous cultural practices and beliefs in the crosshairs of Western criticism around conservation practices, but doesn’t adequately acknowledge or address the larger, often capitalist white-supremacist influences at hand – for example the nearly 1 million Iguanas imported every year for pets into North America.

Going back to what I started by saying – whom is this narrative serving?

Habitat loss is glossed over again and again when it comes to looking at some of these really marginalised species populations, really holding onto these scraps of ecosystem. When you look deeper it often reveals a Western capitalist drive for, let’s say for example, expensive tropical hardwoods like rosewood or ebony (you could also say palm oil industry, tourism, monocrops etc). Logging has occurred, and habitat fragmentation. So habitats get smaller and smaller, less able to support a large population of whatever animal you like… and so who does the mainstream conservation narrative blame?

The Millennia-old indigenous cultural and life practices of hunting and living in a very sustainable way. Who does that serve? Because what I would argue is that just serves to prop up the agenda of destruction, of extractive capitalism, of taking resources from countries. It serves a colonial agenda.

I don’t know the answers. There are species with just a few individuals left that have traditionally been hunted by local communities. I am not advocating that nothing should be done to conserve these species. I don’t know the answer to that. This is my visual response to my research.

What I will say is that I believe in 2020 you must question and practice critical thinking,  practice discernment when you are reading about these conservation stories. Because frequently terms like ‘bushmeat’ when used to criticise indigenous life, are actually dog whistle racism terms to prop up back door colonialism, suppressing more and more indigenous cultural practices and sustainable ways of living from communities of land and biodiversity defenders that have been extant on these lands for millennia, and it really helps to divert your attention away from the larger more important issue that we all need to be working to dismantle which is the patriarchal white-supremacist, colonialist systems of oppression.

Now I’ll talk about the aesthetic choices. This orange background – I had this orange drill cotton in my stash and when I pulled it out the first thing that hit me was it really reminded me of the colour of the clothes that inmates are made to wear in some prisons and it helped to ground the colour palette of green and orange. Then I discovered that when threatened or in conflict or stressed, green iguana flush orange. So I really enjoyed this contrast. I think it really ties the narrative.

The two eyes are just to say there’s two ways of seeing things, there’s more than one way of seeing something, and it all ties in with the title of the piece We Will Suppress You. I really wanted to to introduce ambiguity for you the viewer asking the question ‘who is speaking?’ Who is the ‘we’ and who is the ‘you’? Is the iguana the suppressor or are you the viewer? Is the iguana being suppressed?

This was yet further emphasised with this experiment that paid off, having the foot come out of the frame. Again I want to introduce this idea of suppression, coming out to suppress you because it doesn’t belong here, or the victim of being placed in a world it doesn’t belong in. The humans will suppress the natural world, and one agenda will suppress other narratives.

Finally, the framing itself, which was really intrinsic to the overall success of the composition. I was a bit nervous choosing such a thick black frame but I wanted to have the aperture very tight to suggest not enough space, not enough room. That the subject is being contained, and yet with the foot motif, there is this idea of the tension between invasion and suppression.

As always, I’d love to know what you think and what the piece says to you.

You can also read about me and my work in the current issue of Stitch magazine! Get a copy at

Here’s the original video about this piece: