Clerkenwell Design Week Day One : Finding Henri

I’m currently at Clerkenwell Design Week (#CDW2018), working as the artist in residence for Ocee Design. The event is huge, with over 100 showrooms open to the public. The weather was excellent on day one, and this helped draw a really big crowd.

On arrival at the Ocee Design showroom there was a very welcoming, lively atmosphere, lots of people being really well looked after. It was a lovely mood to start the working day.

I set to work on the first of a series of signed and numbered free art drop prints which are being hidden around the festival. In total I dropped six yesterday, four in the morning and two more in the afternoon. Here are two of them shown in situ.

The time was passing quickly – a short talk I was delivering at 2pm was on my mind, and I had one or two technical glitches to iron out. With helpful people on hand, the set up was completed, and the talk went well. I’ll be repeating the session throughout the week and I’ll post the notes and slides next week.

The showroom continued to buzz – we have a doodle canvas on display for our visitors to add their names, sketches and thoughts to, and while people engaged with that, I felt I hadn’t really clicked into the artistic gear I was looking for. Earlier, while speaking, I had referenced Henri Matisse. In his later years, as his health deteriorated, Matisse displayed great adaptability in conceiving and delivering the idea of his now famous cut outs. During the talk I used him as an example of willingness to change, and I subsequently discovered one of his prints in the showroom. It struck me that I too needed to change my approach.

A sign was made, inviting people to make art with me, and while I waited for people to engage, I began to make. People showed an interest, conversations started, then I found myself making art to order. Things were moving along nicely, and then – it happened. A kind person responded positively to the art invitation, and there we were, talking and making together.

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The day ended with some excellent conversations about what had been made during the afternoon, and some shared ideas about what we can do on day two and day three. I’m heading back into London in a few minutes, ready for another day of using art to inquire and engage – a tool for expression and exploration. Yesterday I spoke about Henri, and then, when I needed inspiration, I found him. I wonder what will inspire us today?

The people at Ocee Design are a real pleasure to work with. They were busy all day and did a great job of keeping the energy going. The enthusiasm and warmth they have shown me and all their guests is appreciated, and I’m confident it points to things getting even better as the festival continues.

Paradigms of Mental Health

This week started with a visit to Liverpool to take part in an Open Space session titled Paradigms of Mental Health. The event was organised by NHS Research and Development North West, and co sponsored by Chester University and The RSA. I’m a big fan of Open Space technology, and when you combine that with the curiosity which fuels the NHS R&D North West team, the chances of an interesting event are high.

On arrival it quickly became clear I knew hardly anybody in the room, and while that might be briefly unsettling, it’s a good indicator of what’s to come. Open Space works really well in a group where people are largely unfamiliar with each other.

As we began the session, we were invited to make use of a device I’d not played with before, the Zine. Monica Biagioli, Senior Lecturer at UAL : London college of communication, offered us each a folded and cut piece of paper, onto which we were invited to record notes, doodles, anything which helped us to make sense of the conversations we took part in. I made notes as I listened, walked, and talked. Here are the two sides of my finished Zine.

Something which interested me about this device is that it can be folded into many shapes, and in doing so, some of the notes get transposed, ending up alongside new neighbours.

Folded Zine

The event was fascinating – a rich variety of subjects were offered up for discussion. A report will be published from the event and I look forward to reading that. For now – I just want to share a few snippets which caught my attention:

  • Having a sense of permission for self care
  • Arts based methods heighten our sense of embodiment
  • Reframe – focus less on what is wrong, more in what is right
  • Feeling powerful in playfulness
  • Arts as ways to normalise experience and share with others

The afternoon passed far too quickly, a sure sign people were thoroughly engaged in the process. As I headed back to London I folded and refolded my Zine several times on the train. I’m really enjoying the device as an aid to reflection and as a way of stirring thoughts up a little. Thank you to the team at NHS R&D North West for making this event happen, and for extending the invitation.


I arrived early for the event, and had just enough time for a quick walk to Tate Liverpool to see the Lichtenstein room. Too often when we travel for our work – we arrive, do our thing, and leave. I like to make time to experience something else beyond the immediate work when I travel, and on this occasion, I managed it. It was lovely to spend a few minutes in the presence of works by an artist I admire, some more familiar, some less so.


Stepping Off

I’ve walked a long way since I first wore my Fitbit on December 27th 2014. 13,992,079 steps, or 6,606.28 miles if you prefer. I can only recall forgetting to put it on once or twice since then, one of those occasions being when Carole and I enjoyed two and a half days walking a section of the South Downs Way. All those unrecorded steps, lost into the ether. More importantly, what a fantastic walk we had!

For a while, My Fitbit was helpful in encouraging me to be more active. For a while. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my growing discomfort in realising that when I responded to various Fitbit challenges I ended up walking primarily to win the challenge, not to enjoy the walk. At that time I consciously broke a 40 day streak of walking at least 10,000 steps a day, feeling satisfied that I’d noticed my dysfunctional behaviour, and stopped it.

The following two weeks were filled with walking for all the right reasons, and if anything, breaking that streak freed me to walk even further, and enjoy it even more. Sunday morning just gone, as I sat admiring my previous two weeks efforts, it dawned on me that in breaking that streak, I’d not so much broken the pattern of behaviour, just shifted it slightly.

I went on to enjoy a day of Fitbitless hard graft in the garden, and today I’m on my way to Liverpool to attend an event about mental health, minus my Fitbit. I appreciate the initial nudge my 2014 Christmas present provided, and I’ve certainly had my money’s worth from it, but we’re through. I’ll keep walking, blissfully ignorant of precisely how far, and without accumulating any more ‘badges’. The data is no longer helpful.

As an aside I’m left wondering, in a workplace environment where we’re encouraged to gather more and more data, rather than blindly following the herd, should we be asking more questions of each other? Questions like:

  • Why are we collecting this data?
  • What will we use this data for?
  • How long do we need to collect, use, and keep this data?

I used to think it was fine for employers to gather pretty much any data on their workforce. Now, I’m not so sure. Just because we can measure stuff, does it mean we should?

Footnote: I’ve now deleted the app from my phone and asked Fitbit to remove all my data from their systems. No going back. A friend wrote to me saying, ‘I applaud the abandonment of the prison bracelet. The Quantified Self is dead, long live the Qualified Self.’