Friday, 1 October 2010

A book is a fragile creature ...

the tower of words that hold me up

"A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands. so the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion."
~Umberto Eco~

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Have Fun, Make Art - A creative competition

The thing about being around Hope and Social is that it makes hard work look like fun and makes being in the audience feel like being part of something. In the hopes of passing on some creative inspiration from Hope and Social via me, I'd like to invite you to take part in a little competition ...

Last year I took a series of photos from a moving train. Yesterday I finally got round to turning those photos into a video:

Here Comes The Sun from Helen Harrop on Vimeo.

It's missing something isn't it? There's no sound for starters and it feels a bit sparse. So here's what I'm thinking ... you watch my video, then scamper off and listen to some of Hope & Social's music and then create something, create anything ... it could be an instrumental soundtrack for my video, or a poem, or a reading of a poem, or a reading of Hope & Social lyrics, or a doodle, or a painting or a video of your own ... an-y-thing as long as it's in someway a response to my video and to Hope & Social's music. Feel free to download and hack up/deface my video or let me know if you want any of the photos that the video was created from (maybe you'd like to print one out and write/doodle on it?). You can do anything, bold or simple, complicated or off the cuff - if you could keep it safe for family viewing that would be nice but feel free to do something dark if that's what springs to mind.

You've got until midnight on the 18th October to create something and send me a link to it. I'll then ask Hope & Social to pick a winner (they don't know anything about this so hopefully they'll say yes, if not then I'll chose the winner). If your creation is chosen as the winning entry then you will get the following prizes:
- A physical copy of 'Architect of this Church' by Hope & Social (which I'll ask them to sign )
- A wind-damaged plastic kazoo from the Hope & Social Fun Bus trip
- A knotted handkerchief which my lovely husband crafted and wore on the Hope & Social Fun Bus trip with the letter 'I' on it (photo to follow)
- An original doodle by me inspired by the H&S Fun Bus artwork

By entering you'll be giving permission for me to post your entry here on my blog (credited to you of course) - I promise not to do anything evil with it :) The judge's decision will be final etc, etc.

Now ... go forth and let creativity begin :)

[update: Number of entries ... zero ... pffft]

Wherever We Gather We'll Sing From Our Souls

The Saturday after my birthday I found myself catching an early o'clock bus to York so that Mark and I could catch a (still quite early o'clock for a Saturday) train to Leeds so that we could get on an open-top bus to travel back in the direction of where we live and pass within a 5 minute drive of our house some 3 hours after we left it. The bus sat in a traffic jam for about 15 minutes when we were not quite close enough to a roadside establishment where a much needed comfort break could be enjoyed.

Hope & Social Fun Bus

An hour later and the bus trundled along narrow country roads and we had to keep our wits about us to a) avoid getting showered by breeze-caught Leeds Pale and b) protect our noggins from being knocked off by a passing tree. As we lumbered across the North York Moors a particularly steep hill proved too much for our brave jalopy and the thick black smoke coming from the back of the bus and we were forced to bail out and trudge across the moors like deluded cultural vagrants.

I should also mention that most of the time you could not hear yourself think due to the glee-ful wooping and seemingly endless singing and throughout the journey we were forced to carry out arts and crafts chores and other acts of drudgery - all the time with a cheerful smile plastered across our faces for fear that we would get thrown overboard if we didn't look like we were having fun.


The unflinching gaze of the camera-wielding sentinels meant that we could never be certain that we weren't be observed and any dissenting actions caught on film for later scrutiny. The mantra 'Make Art, Have Fun' was drummed into us until we lost any sense of our individual identities.

When we finally reached our destination we had to don a uniform which comprised of a knotted hanky on our head (with letters on them that made up a secret message that we were forbidden from trying to decode) and carry all of our wordly belongings down a long steep hill, across a vast beach and up one final flight of steps to our temporary camp.

By now the Dunkirk spirit had kicked in and we all laughed and smiled as we were able to relax for the first time. However it soon became clear that we had been brought to a place with no means of communicating to the outside world and that we would be expected to take part in demeaning physical activities such as 'musical deckchairs' while our smiling captors looked on and jeered.

Only once our benevolent hosts were confident that Stockholm Syndrome had overtaken the entire group were we rewarded with a jubilant musical rally, complete with mandatory flag-waving, and some delicious, delicious food at the end of a long queue.

Our final ordeal was the long trudge back to our bus which we were literally marched back to with no let up in the singing, smiling and the laughing allowed.
Marching on Through


I will never forget the huddling quietness of being forced to travel back on the open-top bus in the dark, cold, windy night wishing that someone would let me share their survival blanket and where the only interaction with our captors was being forced to sing along to shambolic covers of various 90s rock songs.

It is testament to the depth of our brainwashing that I remain convinced several weeks later that this was one of the best days of my life. Our journey was a metaphoric one as much as a literal journey and since then I have been plagued by vivid, epic dreams where I am back on the Hope and Social 'Fun' Bus, swaddled by beaming smiles and embraced by endless laughter.

kazoo + heart = Hope & Social

Hope & Social Fun Bus propoganda:
Culture Vulture blogpost
Flickr photos
Eduserv summarizr page for #hsfunbus

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Pounds, Pints and Hours

Today is my birthday and I am in the mood for taking your good wishes and turning them into good deeds ... so here's the deal:

Option 1:
from doncaster with love! ...
Donate money to a good cause - maybe the DEC's Pakistan Flood Appeal? - or maybe a cause of your choice, one that is close to your heart? Leave a comment below (anonymous if you'd prefer) letting me know how much you've donated and, as it's my {cough} 38th birthday I'll donate 38% of whatever you donate ... this will challenge my maths skills but I'm sure I'm up to the task.
{see below for a slight disclaimer}

Option 2:
the medical effects of giving blood
Do something amazing and register to give blood or, even better, head to a drop in centre and hand over a pint in your lunch hour. In return you will not only feel like a superhero but if you head to and fill in the form then I will send you a doodle.

Option 3:
time to be negative
If you are thinking 'this all sounds like a lovely idea but a) I don't have tuppence ha'penny to rub together, let alone give away and b) I'm rather attached to my blood' then this could be the option for you. Donate your time in hours to the kind souls that surround you or to a local voluntary organisation ( could be a good starting point if you don't know anyone who needs your help). Leave a comment below to let me know how many hours you're donating and I'll donate 38% of the total time that folks pledge.

So go forth, give of yourself and then let me know about it.

{{slight disclaimer: I have limited funds available which I estimate will more than cover your generosity but if anything crazy happens with the option 1 donations then I'll give all the cash I have available and find another way to cover any residual karmic debt}}

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

today I am an artist

Je suis une artist

When you wear an 'Artist' wristband at a festival with such an amazing line up it is hard not to feel like a bit of a a fraud but I have to say that this purpley cerise strip of fabric made me feel pretty special ... I'm even keeping it on now that I'm home to remind myself of my achievement :)

On Saturday evening I stood in front of about 30 people in a yurt in Einstein's Garden and spoke about my personal journey into and out of creativity and then back into creativity and beyond into computing and how I've realised that very little separates art from science. The talk lasted less than 5 minutes; 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide ... when I finished I was literally breathless. It was in many ways an utterly terrifying experience and next time I will do it better but it was brilliant to be able to share my story (alongside Neil Cocker who talked about how to simplify your life and Emma-Louise Hardman who talked about her Climate Stories journey, and also six other inspiring speakers).

Although I couldn't really relax properly for the first half of the festival it was worth it for the experience and it felt good to be (literally) labelled as an artist for the whole weekend :)

My musical highlights of Green Man were:

Lowrie Evans
Sweet Baboo
Erland & the Carnival (esp. Trouble in Mind)
Billy Bragg
Lone Wolf
Laura Marling
Mumford & Sons
Josie Long
Joanna Newsom

More personal highlights and reminiscences to follow shortly :)

songs that stop me in my tracks: Open Heart Zoo by Martin Grech

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Go in the direction of your fears

These blog posts have resonated wildlly with me recently:

I've been thinking a lot about about identity and honesty since yesterday's blogpost ... Last year a friend of a friend said to her "the thing about Helen is she's fearless." That really couldn't be further from the truth but (having read Ruth Ann Harnisch's blogpost) I'm starting to think I might be able to be fearless for 'the one' ... we'll see.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Me and my aspirations laid bare

To some of you this might come as a bit of a surprise, or perhaps it's pretty obvious to most already but I have spent most of my adult life battling to overcome a sometimes cripplingly low self confidence. When it's come to taking opportunities to progress I have mostly relied on being in the right place at the right time and/or the encouragement of others to make me go for it. My natural inclination is to wait for someone to tell me that I stand a good chance of succeeding or to let the opportunity pass by ... usually because I feel that I'm not ready, or I don't have time to put together a decent application, or that I wouldn't deliver if I did get through, or whatever other paper-thin excuses that my monkey mind has dreamt up. All too often I've taken myself out of the running rather than risk failure or rejection.

The reason I'm telling you this is that I want something big and I want to ask for your help to make me brave enough to go for it ... This seems like an utterly ludicrous thing to be typing but I'd like to apply for a place on the TED Fellowship scheme ... madness, total lunatic madness right? As soon as the little hopeful voice inside me thought 'ooh, that would be *amazing* ... I wonder if I could apply' it was swamped by a tidal wave of self-doubt rushing in the other direction. That wave of self-doubt boils down to me struggling to see what I've done that is remarkable enough to justify putting in an application ... basically a huge big, resounding, tuneless chorus of 'I'm not worthy'.

So here's how you might be able to help ... if you can think of anything that I've done that seems remarkable to you or has inspired you in any way then please leave a comment below (or send me an email if you'd rather not do it publically). If you are kind enough to share your thoughts with me then I'll happily and gratefully reward you with a doodle in return ... that's not meant as an inducement or a bribe, I just know how much effort it takes to put time aside to do stuff like this.

My gut feeling is that I should wait another year (or two or three) until I have done something bold and outstanding but maybe you see things differently? All views welcome but be gentle if it's a 'don't be so flaming daft' comment :)

A rose by any other name

For nearly a year I've been grappling in the back of my mind with the question of whether it still made sense to have two separate twitter accounts. Last month I came to the conclusion that there is so much convergence in my art life and my non-art life that it would be better to drop one of the accounts. In the process I confused myself and just about everyone else who noticed something had changed. In the interests of (hopefully) clarifying things and as a cautionary tale for anyone else who finds themselves in a similar position.

Here's a timeline of what happened:
Back in the summer of 2007 I joined twitter, and @helenharrop was born.
My twitter account sat fairly dormant until later that year when I started meeting other people in the real world who used twitter.
Many moons later I decided to change my twitter name to @iamhelenharrop which seems a bit crazy because it's 3 characters longer but it matches my email address and I liked the quirkiness of it.
In December 2008 I made the fateful decision to set up a second twitter account, originally as a safe place to hide, which became @iamcreative and was where I posted about arty and creative things rather than more geeky stuff which was usually connected to my work life.

When I made the decision to drop one of the accounts I was faced with a conundrum ... my @iamhelenharrop account had a longer history and therefore would reflect my cool geek status as a fairly early adopter of twitter ... but I really liked the @iamcreative name and felt that it better expresses what I'm about ... so I came up with a cunning solution ... well it seemed cunning at the time, in retrospect it was ony ever going to cause high levels of confusion.

Here's what I did:
Step 1) I renamed my @iamcreative account to be @iamelsewhere
Step 2) I renamed my @iamhelenharrop account to be @iamcreative
Simples! ... except that the result was mild to extreme confusion for my followers (particularly those following my @iamcreative account originally).

I had thought that renaming the account I was dropping @iamelsewhere would flag to folks that I had moved to a different account but I don't think people have largely realised that's what it means (and I'm still getting new followers thanks to the new 'Who to Follow' feature on twitter). The confusion was greatly exacerbated by the fact that I was telling folks who followed me as @iamcreative to switch and follow me as @iamcreative ... a few people replied saying words to the effect of 'eh?! I'm already following you as @iamcreative' and then I had to try and explain in 140 characters what had happened.

Effectively what I've done is to move my arty twitter id over to my work account without a clear strategy for getting my arty followers to move with me ... fairly big fail there! I've been thinking a lot about how I can remedy the situation and have decided that:
a) I'm going to post a link to this blogpost a few times over the forthcoming days and weeks on my @iamelsewhere account

b) I'm going to change the @iamelsewhere account to 'protected' in a few weeks time so that new folks are put off following me

c) I'm going to go through the 300+ folks I was following on the original @iamcreative account (which is now @iamelsewhere ... keep up!) and follow them as @iamcreative (using the account that used to be @iamhelenharrop ... is this making any sense yet?!)

So there you go ... how to confuse several hundred people and lose 700+ followers in two easy steps ... next time I try anything like this I think I'll storyboard the process first!

In conclusion if you were following me as @iamcreative before July then you need to follow me again at :)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Monday, 21 June 2010

Inspiration from UK Handmade

I feel like I barely need to add any words to this - it's awesomness is self-evident - but I should at least credit Emma Seaton (aka @amoebababe) for bringing it to my attention :)


Click to launch the full edition in a new window
Publishing Software from YUDU

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Give Blood ~ Get Art

In the spirit of sharing I am going to tell you something shameful ... The last time I gave blood was about 10 years ago ... at least ... (where the heck does the time go?!!). At the beginning of May I decided that enough was enough, I swallowed my shame and took myself along to a local blood donor session. This story should end with me saying how lovely and understanding the nurses were (true) and how I skipped off home with my head held high, one pint of blood poorer but one cup of tea and one biscuit richer ... unfortunately I was in for a bit of a nasty surprise - my blood count was too low for me to donate so I skulked off back home without my free biscuit and without the feeling that I had done something amazing

It turns out that I'm anaemic ... nothing serious but I won't be able to give blood for another year :( ... I've come up with an idea to encourage you folks out there to give blood on my behalf. It's simple ... go and give blood ... come back and tell me about it ... I'll send you a little hand-drawn doodle (a 'bloodle'!) to thank you for being awesome!

A few of you might be thinking 'Dang! I'd love to get my hands on a doodle but I can't give blood ... boo! not fair!' ... worry not! If you can persuade someone you know to give blood then I'll send you both a doodle ... happy days!

I've had a go at creating a form for you to fill in once you've given blood (or once the person you've persuaded has given blood) ... I'm not going to put an expiry date on this offer (it took me 10 years to get round to going after all!) but obviously if everyone steps up to the plate and gives blood then I might need to have a re-think :) ... but for now, go forth and do something amazing! {beaming in anticipation of how proud you're going to make me}

Monday, 5 April 2010

Live&Love York ... OMG!

Those of you who follow me on twitter will already know that I am a complete Live&Love York fan girl ... so you'll also appreciate just how thrilled/overwhelmed I was to be chosen as the winner of their April Creative Showcase competition ... it's crazy and I'm still speechless a week later. They've featured 3 of my Howies catalogue doodles/defacements and I'll be collaborating with them on a future magazine cover ... like I said, *crazy*. Just shows what can happen when you put yourself out there :)

You can see my doodles on pages 41-43 of the April issue, or you can see them together with the other Summer 2009 Howies catalogue doodles in my 'I Love Howies' flickr photoset.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

You can never meet your hero(ines)

It has slowly become apparent to me over recent months that meeting your heroes/heroines is a completely impossible task ... which is not to say that you cannot be in the same room as your heroes, you can shake their hand, look them in the eye and even talk to them, maybe even walk along the road with them ... but there is one problem ... and it's a big one ... They will not recognise themself as a hero or heroine. When you say 'it's such an honour to meet you' they will (assuming they're used to being thought of as a heroine) politely accept your (probably greatly tempered) adoration with a gracious smile.

... But you will, unfortunately, detect the almost, very nearly, imperceptible blanching of their skin as they internally recoil in reaction to the identity dissonance that you've inflicted on them. Nobody feels like a celebrity and nobody feels like a hero. You can, by all means, meet those who you have projected hero status onto but do not expect it to feel all warm and cosy. Fear not, meeting *your* heroes will still be thoroughly wonderful and life enhancing but allowing them to be themself and minimising any swooning at their feet is probably about the best way to repay them for the inspiration that they have unknowingly bestowed on you over the years.

My Finding Ada Heroine: Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE

I have Twitter and @Belladax to thank for introducing me to the inspiring Maggie Aderin-Pocock. @Belladax tweeted the following words a few weeks ago: "Who is this lady on desert island discs?she's awesome! What a great ability to explain science-y things #R4". This tweet activated the my 'being helpful to people I don't know' gene and I scampered off to find out who it was and tweeted back Maggie's name and a link to the relevant BBC webpage:

Some days later I finally got round to listening to the show myself and Maggie had the same impact on me that she'd had on @Belladax ... a space scientist who has a special relationship with the moon, built her own telescope as a teenager and was inspired to study space by watching the Clangers as a kid??! ... I was in instant awe!

Everything I've seen about Maggie since has backed up that initial impression and I love that she's so passionate about inspiring the next generation to follow in her footsteps, while finding their own path. Maggie's Telegraph article from a year ago is a pretty good introduction to the wonderful Maggie Aderin-Pocock:

You can watch Maggie in action on this compelling video about the importance of role models and getting kids to aspire to follow their dreams:

I vote that we make Clangers required viewing for every youngster (and, imho, make Moomins required reading) and help Maggie in her mission to inspire the next generation of scientists (and explorers, bodgers, inventors, artists and creative thinkers)

Saturday, 20 March 2010

A tiny part of something great

Open Document
I couldn't be more over the moon to see one of my Do Lectures doodles made it into their flick book (pg24) - photography is by the uber-talented and all round nice chap, James Bowden (see for proof!).

Open Document

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Wing-Girl Required, apply within

choose freedom

I'm organising an event which will encourage folks to go for their dreams rather than wait until they feel ready. The working title for the event is 'Wait Not For Your Wings'. It will be an event for me as much as for anyone else - a reminder to go for it, just run off the edge and let the wind catch me.

If I try and do it alone I'm worried that it might never happen ... so I'm looking for a wing-girl, someone to bounce ideas off and who might help with some of the organising and who will keep things (i.e. *me*) on track.

The heart and soul of this event is contained within this one tweet: I already have permission to run a screening of The Lemonade Movie and James Whitaker is up for showing his beautiful 'After Redundancy' portraits.

Likely date: late April, early May
Likely venue: York or Leeds
Likely remuneration: £Zero (but I will do my darndest to cover your expenses)

The next few months should be a thoroughly enjoyable adventure ... who's with me?

p.s. if you are not a girl but would still like to help me make the event happen then let me know, I'm very open-minded ;-)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Time to make my own manifesto

Lately I've come to the realisation that I have no firm idea of what is important to me; what I will stand for and what I will fall for - my aim is to do some digging and find out so that I can make my own manifesto like the fantastic one from Aardvark on Sea (thanks to @betsybeth for buying it for me!):

The Right Brain Terrain manifesto by Frederic Terral is equally inspiring: "Just create to create. Create stuff to remind yourself you're still alive"

I still haven't nailed down my manifesto but I'm getting there (slowly). In the meantime I'm collecting inspiring manifestos that I stumble across on my journey and I'll list them here.
Olivia Sprinkel's 'Creativist Manifesto' on calls for more Being/Doing and less Consuming. It's a weighty manifesto at 17 pages long but well worth the read. I'm currently at page 6 and my favourite line so far is "Be wide-eyed"

I found this guide to writing your own manifesto via Hugh MacLeod's article on making art every day ... fantastic stuff :)

Over a year later and I still haven't written my own manifesto ... erm, what's up with that?!

I did come close with this proclamation though. And this list of 5 manifestos on the 99 Percent blog is very inspiring so you never know, I might get round to doing my own one of these days.