‘Toy’ to a new home

Conceptual, Philosophy

Another blogger /writer, a mother, wrote about how she put all the children’s toys in black bin liner and hid them in the studio. She left just one or two toys out and if the child asked for something particular she resurrected it. She noticed however that her child was playing more imaginatively and productively. I quite regularly re-home toys in an effort to make more space especially in the boys shared room. They are sometimes good at giving things to charity. We recently split a large basket of animals into piles of which we would keep and ones we would give away. This was a little harder as the eldest loves animals, so some that were originally for charity crept back into the basket. I wish I could be as ruthless and bag everything up and start with a blank slate again, introducing just a few toys. Even I find it difficult though to let go, a hoarder by heart. I will pick something up and think ‘ah but they played so nicely with that last month!’ We attach ourselves to things unnecessarily. We place value on them to much.

Yesterday, on returning from the studio finishing off getting ‘The Toy’ ready my husband likened creating a sculpture to being a mother. I understood the analogy but I don’t agree (that’s the mother speaking). However, I totally understood that he felt a little saddened in saying goodbye to ‘The Toy’ which he is taking today to a new home. It was a piece that started on our kitchen table with ‘Blood, sweat and tears’. For this piece is in some ways so more than a sculpture, it is a concept, an idea, a philosophy. One day it would be fantastic to produce it in bronze. It is a piece which often produces a negative reaction. Unlike most of the other works it holds a dark, disturbing image but sometimes it is those harder to swallow ideas that have the strongest message.

This piece is different from the majority of the work but my husband couldn’t find any better way to present his thoughts. With these mediums and this design, it speaks about the 21st century, the society that we live in. The fact the most people work hard and yet don’t go anywhere, like a rocking horse. However long it rocks it stays in the same place. The skeleton is black to show the time that we are in, when fuel has become more important than human life or any living creature, think oil spills and images of birds and sea creatures coated in petrol. The horse-tail, is real horse hair represents the focus on our bodies, going to the gym, looking good, good diet etc. Similar to he technique for a horse race, constantly looked after, good diet, great exercise trained for the ‘race’. Wins only to make the owner very rich. We have become a ‘toy’ to our bosses, to our society and to our media. Played with and manipulated somehow. We believe that this is the normal life the life we are supposed to have. Work 9 till 5, 6 days a week, sleep 8 hours, have three-course meal and wish to live longer..when we could end up being in a nursing home, sitting down on a rocking chair thinking that you lived the life in full. This is an observation of the way our society has become obsessed with material aspects of life, of being in the spotlight not thinking beyond.

toy home

‘The Toy’ by Sam Shendi. 2012


Art can be aesthetically pleasing and beautiful but sometimes we need to stop and think and the ‘shock value’ in this piece is intended for that. ‘The Toy’ spent the last six months at Cartwright art Gallery and Museum being viewed by the public and we were given a copy of the fantastic and intriguing comments. Now it moves to a private collection. We have to let go.

(…..yes the’ Frozen’ lyric does spring to mind but immediately wipe it out your mind. I looked up synonyms but nothing else fit )


Conceptual, Exhibitions, History, Making, Philosophy, Relationships, Soul searching



'Shelter - down'

Conceptual pieces sometimes panic people ,not always sure what to think, how to react, or conscious that they are supposed to do so in a certain way. Personally the point is just to ‘think, what comes to mind?, what ideas, what emotions does a piece evoke/….so on and so on… So without telling you about this piece, (apart from the fact it does reference another Artist, Marcel Duchamp) I will write about a little thought process I went on whilst thinking about this piece.

How do we bring up this new generation of babes into the world without exposing them to too much and without depriving them of tools they may need in order to ‘survive’ this modern-day jungle. Did my own sheltered childhood prepare me for the world and to what gain and to what disadvantage?

I had a sheltered upbringing mainly due to the fact that we grew up in a little village in Yorkshire, pretty idyllic really. We were brought up in an environment of peace, love and tranquility. A strong emphasis on education and family. However, is being protected and ‘perfected’ the very best way of living. Even the very phrase a ‘sheltered upbringing’ has a negative connotation. Definition one “to have a life in which you are protected too much and experience very little danger, excitement or change” and definition two, “someone who has had a sheltered life has not had the usual unpleasant experiences that most people have in their lives”.

For me, my upbringing seems perfectly normal, most people around me had a similar one and friends and family were all doing the same.  I travelled but always in a ‘safe’ way. We did have a big change when we moved house from one county to another, and sure there is always excitement when you are a kid. I was, therefore, interested in these definitions as it seems to suggest that ‘most people’ have unpleasant experiences, and that it is usual to experience ‘danger, excitement and change’. I guess there are many ways of defining these later descriptions.

So when thinking about raising children now I can understand the need to avoid danger… but excitement and change is important to really appreciate life is it not? When I think about what I want my children to be exposed to, I do think I err on the side of extreme caution. They do watch TV (quite a bit) but if i had it my way we would perhaps have no TV! I wonder about future internet access and video games. Will I let them go out by themselves, how old should they be? I think this is accentuated because my husband is almost opposite on these ‘worldly’ issues. In my opinion he has led an exciting, adventures life so he will give my boys that balance.

To contradict a little,I am not all caution and in fact more so than my husband not so worried about letting them ‘learn through play’ themselves. After school  this week as I was letting my boys climb the most brilliant climbing tree in the school grounds with their friend; an elderly lady came up and told the friends Mother and I that the other week a boy had got stuck and so it was very dangerous! I gathered from these ‘wise words’ that the boy must have been much older and on his own. After the elder lady had left us with the boys still in the tree, in an attempt to make sure we were responsible parents the mother and I agreed with each other… it is very necessary that boys do climb trees, we can’t say ‘No’ all the time! After all a bit of danger and excitement will help not be so sheltered?!

We can shelter our emotions, my own observation is that we British are terrible at masking our real feelings out of so-called politeness and this causes us to live in a shadow of our real selves. We lack a human connection which I have seen in other ‘warmer’ climates. Will save that discussion for another post…

Of course, the piece itself is of an umbrella and the history of the umbrella is a fascinating one and can actually be found ” sculptured on the monuments of Egypt”. The story behind the making of this was that after ordering and buying several umbrellas thinking they would be the right shape, give the right look, the one used here was a gift to me from mu husband from Denmark and was a beautiful white unusually shape. It had got damaged though so I wasn’t too disappointed in the dismantling of it. The stool however, to cut a long story short was a gift to my husband from myself. Being very difficult to buy for, I stumbled into an antique oriental shop thinking I would surely find something beautiful. Surrounded by a number of stunningly coloured items and huge piece of furniture I couldn’t decide. This stood out? (Perhaps, now I realise for the wrong reasons). Driving home with this ‘ancient chinese stool’ in my boot I suddenly had this realisation that in the shop it may have looked fairly impressive but perhaps it wasn’t going to look so authentic in our house and I may have found the simplicity and humbleness of this old stool to be appealing but would my husband?. No. Indeed, as he pointed out he could find it in any shop in Egypt or could throw one together with a few bits of wood. Where was the chinese mark? Did I really pay that much for it????  I had been conned! We debated about whether to take it back or not and then mainly for humour’s sake kept it. Well at least it has now found a good home.

Home. One of the main ideas  that ‘shelter’ conjures up, a place where we can rest, stay dry, stay safe. Often with a temporary time frame associated with it and yet so many people in the world live in something that is simply a shelter. For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:

  • 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3).

So I should be worrying less about the future of my own children with all their comforts and privileges and thinking more about those children that don’t have the basic requirements, safe water, health and a shelter.