Pandemic diary 75: Allotment and art practices

Behold my tomato structure – they are protected on nearly all sides from the wind but will grow up to 2m tall so hoping for a mild summer.

People make allotments look so easy and I'm equally guilty of posting pretty pictures of my plot to the Instagrams. Today it took my almost four hours of back-breaking preparation to get 16 tomatoes plants in the ground.

This is because the soil needed a dig over and de-weed. Then a rake. Then figuring out some kind of structure that creates a little mesh-wrapped micro climate for the toms since I don't have a greenhouse or polytunnel. Then bashing the stakes in the ground with a mallet. Then filling the wheelbarrow with compost. Then planting the delicate little things and tying them to the stake. Then watering. Then wrapping in mesh and tying that on. Putting tools away, bringing stuff home. And no guarantee of blight-free tomatoes at the end of it. We'll see what this summer brings.

I've got another 20-30 plants to go in the ground all with different needs and planting structures (at which I'm rubbish – see tomato structure in top photo.) Here's this year's plan, currently on a three-year crop rotation. (Anna is my occasional plot partner.)

Allotment 2020.

Meanwhile at home I've been sorting out my collage cuts and resource library. I've been resistant to sorting them out as there are cuts everywhere from various sessions last year and many works in progress that haven't been stuck down yet. But it was actually quite enjoyable and I now have a cube of (clockwise from left):

  1. Cuts and tear sheets in organised folders and random boxes
  2. Magazines going back years
  3. Picture books for cutting up
  4. Collage books/inspiration and coffee table books for cutting up.

Here's a close up of the folders. The 'folder of folders' contains sleeves of stuff such as weird backgrounds, limbs, other body parts, vehicles, maps, etc. The boxes contains odd cuts for that lovely random element of collage plus other materials (Quality St wrappers, foil, sofa samples, autumn leaves).

I have a sneaking suspicion that I like the foraging for images and the sorting out more than the actual collaging. A bit like at the allotment I like the digging over and preparation in Feb-March more than the planting, weeding and cropping.

More on my collage project and finished works here for the interested.

I have to go back to the allotment tomorrow to get the peas and beans and courgettes in so I'm now chilling with a glass of white and waiting for dinner.

I'm on one sofa tippity-tapping away, Pete is on the other doing the same. It's like some kind of digital marital ballet. Soon we'll stop and eat and watch a ridiculous TV series.


Today I'm thankful for having an allotment half-plot. This is my fourth year and I nearly gave it up. But it's taught me a lot about how to grow food from scratch. Which is potentially a very useful skill to have during a pandemic.

And there is a lovely community around it – I have been given lots of plants from other's leftovers/excess. Some of the plants, I don't even know what they are. Tomatillos, for example.

I'm feeling very George Orwell – he used to write about his allotment and World War 2, mixing political newss/views among crop growing updates.

Big world events make the headlines of history but there is a world of small mundane or marvellous happenings – such as seeing my great nephew for the first time since he was born yesterday – in between the tragedy.

Commission/hire me: fiona [at]

Birmingham Collage Collective: new website, new show and new zine

The Birmingham Collage Collective website is live and it looks great. All 28 current members are listed on there, complete with bios and collage. Plus, there is a shop selling the supercute limited edition enamel badges for £5 – and soon, hopefully, original collage pieces by BCC members.

The collective formed in 2018, set up by Adam Wynn. It features a number of talented Birmingham-based collage artists including Mark Murphy and Barbara Gibson, who had a successful joint collage exhibition at Argentea Gallery earlier this year.  My photomontage course tutor Hazel Pitt who teaches collage at mac Birmingham, is also in the group, and there are many other local artists and designers.

We aim to have two shows a year. The first was a successful launch exhibition in May – CLIPS – in Digbeth in central Birmingham.

The second will be happening in Stirchley in November. We launch on 21 November at Attic Brewery on Mary Vale Rd, close to Bournville train station. Attic turns one year old that weekend so it'll be a 'boozy do' all round. The show runs to 24 November.

There will be several elements. One is to launch a Birmingham Collage Collective edition of of the gorgeous Provide Zine – which will be on sale for £4.99. These usually sell out so it's a chance to get in and grab a copy.

The other part is that collective members are putting together a '20 for 20' show for the walls of Attic Brewery, with 20 original collages, each going for £20. Christmas is coming…

Finally, if you fancy trying collage in a social environment, then check out the Stirchley Collage Club events held monthly (or so) at Artefact in Stirchley. Artefact announce them on their Facebook events page and Twitter. Come along, why dontcha? The next one is on Saturday 9 November.

For the interested, my BCC bio is here.

CLIPS: Birmingham Collage Collective launches its first exhibition

CLIPS Birmingham Collage Collective

Having been a member of Stirchley Collage Club for the past year and with some pieces shown in a couple of open call shows, I'm both pleased and proud to announce that I'll be part of Birmingham Collage Collective's first exhibition opening next week.

I'll be joining a bunch of talented analogue collage artists – including Adam Wynn (@ripitup_startagain), who started the collective, and Mark Murphy (@moif_collage), who helped put the show together. Other collage artists showing their work include:

Gareth Courage
Ruth Harvey
Joe Joseph
Barbara Gibson
Geometric Anna
Hazel Pitt (whose photomontage course I did at the Mac in 2017)
Molly Cleaver
Kali Louise
George Caswell
Sophie Chadwick
Tom Kennedy
and me… Fiona Cullinan.

The exhibition launch is from 6pm next Friday 26 April in Studio 4 Gallery at our favourite framers – The Framers – in Digbeth, and sponsored by Old Blue Last Beer. The show will run until Saturday 11 May, alongside Digbeth First Friday and the Flatpack Film Festival, which takes place in and around the Custard Factory.

Want to join in? There will also be a collage workshop to coincide with World Collage Day from 4-7pm on Saturday 11 May. Book early, it's already looking busy and many of the artists will be attending.

I think I will have two CLIPS up on the wall:

When in Birmingham / 2018
Eyelines and Skylines / 2017

More collage and works in progress are posted to my collage Instagram: @editoriat.

Hope to see you at the show!

My first (and second) art exhibition

An open call was issued by The Holodeck printmakers in Birmingham: submit an artwork for consideration for their new Riso book and exhibition on the theme of 'Weird Science'. The exhibition was scheduled to run from 14 September to 13 October at Artefact in Stirchley.

I've never thought of myself as an artist but I had it in the back of my mind to do something with rabbits so I started playing around with some photomontaging one hot day during this summer's heatwave.

I produced around 20 'weirded' rabbits using black and white printouts of Joy, our rabbit who had died a couple of months earlier, mashed with creatures cut out from various books. In the end I submitted this simpler rabbit/volcanic island collage – and it was accepted, risoprinted and shown. My first artwork to be in an exhibition! As you can see, I looked pretty chuffed.

Emboldened, I decided to try for another open call, this time by the Edinburgh Collage Collective and Mark Murphy (moif_collage) on the theme of 'postcards'. Once more I spent a very pleasant afternoon putting some options together and posted them under the #cutandpost hashtag to my @editoriat Instagram. As a collage beginner, it was no surprise that I didn't make it into the final cut of 24 printed postcards but it was useful practice putting work together to a theme and a deadline.

In the end I framed one of the postcards and submitted it with another piece for the Artefact Winter Group Show. They were both accepted and were hung in pride of place by the toilet queue in the run-up to Christmas. Someone even offered to buy one of them. The Birmingham postcard still makes me laugh, though I'm tempted to collage something more into the bottom right panel. A work in progress maybe.

This all happened because of a) a local collage club that meets every month, b) having an ace local gallery space that is committed to its community, and c) putting my stuff out there when I could easily have left it in a folder in a cupboard at home and said 'nah, they're not good enough'. I'm glad various people encouraged me to go for it and grateful to those who accepted the work into their art spaces.

I still wouldn't say I'm an artist but I enjoy making the artwork and being a part of something bigger. And I've learnt that if in doubt, go for it.

Postcard collages

Every month I attend Stirchley Collage Club and spend a pleasant afternoon with others, creating handmade collages from boxes of random mags and books

Last month I found some fresh motivation to sit down and collage. The Edinburgh Collage Collective (@edinburghcollagecollective) in conjunction with Birmingham collage artist Mark Murphy (@moif_collage) ran an open submissions project on Instagram. It was called Cut & Post – on  the theme of postcards. Check out the #cutandpost hashtag to see all the amazing submissions.

Here are some of mine. I have no chance of making the final cut of 24 but it was fun to enter. Latest work is posted to @editoriat.

Sun, sand and sexy Hollloway Circus, Birmingham.

It's nice to get away.

We'll always have Paris.

Bonjour Italia!

A porthole to Portrush.