Ten Days at The Mothership, a collaborative arts residency by Helen Sargeant & Naoise Sargeant

July 27th- 5th August 2017, Dorset, UK

In the summer me and my youngest son Naoise (aged 8) spent 10 days at The Mothership, a beautiful straw bale live/work studio deep in the Dorset countryside. The Mothership is an independent residential project created and run by the artist Anna Best.  The aim of this residency was to retreat from our own family, home and immediate surroundings, and spend 10 un-interrupted days playing, making art and caring for each other.

The idea of being isolated and away from home, our family, friends, locality and daily routines was important so that we could experience and learn anew from a different environment.  I restricted my use of email, text messaging and removed social media applications from my smart phone for the duration of our residency. I wanted to take away anything that would distract from my time with Naoise, in order to completely focus on him, and make the most out of the space and place where we were staying. I restricted Naoise access to my mobile phone, and after the first few days he wasn’t particularly interested in Smashy and Crashy Road, and I eventually deleted these games to make room for our photographs, films and documents.

During our time at The Mothership we deliberately experienced very little face to face social interaction with other people apart from Anna, her children, pets an artist friend of hers and people that we encountered whilst out buying food, posting our mail and day trips to the beach. We had daily interactions with Naoise dad via Skype, which I felt this was especially important for my son’s wellbeing as he very much missed him when we last went on a residency alone together in Finland.

Me and Naoise had some very loose plans about what we wanted to do. I deliberately chose not to structure our time so that we could respond intuitively to our surroundings and to alleviate the pressure on both of us to produce completed art works.  I wanted to try to respond to Naoise and my own needs on a daily basis and as much as possible be led by him. I wanted to work with the idea of creative freedom, and what that meant to both of us.  I chose not to commit to the responsibility of keeping a daily on-line blog, as I did not want to be working on a screen or feeling that we had to commit to publicly sharing our experience with a wide audience. I also wanted to maintain a level of privacy for me and Naoise, to protect us from public scrutiny. Its hard to create if you feel like you are being watched, judged, or remarked upon. Equally I didn’t want us to have to other think things, I wanted to concentrate on the doing, not to question, analyse or to be self critical. I wanted to make the experience free of anxious self analysis.

Residencies are often associated with the idea of the individual artist making work alone in splendid, uninterrupted isolation with plenty of time to reflect upon their past and present output. This was not a reality of this residency which was made whilst looking after a child on my own and without any formal childcare arrangements. There wasn’t much space in my mind to dream, there really was only time to respond, react, to play, to make, to do, to care and maintain ourselves.

This residency was self funded through a small crowd funding campaign via social media. We raised money to cover our accommodation, travel expenses, materials, and food costs by selling small drawings for 25 pounds each and making 10 hand painted and written postcards for 10 pounds each which we made and posted daily. These postcards became a record of our time at The Mothership, and were made seated side by side at an old wooden school desk by a big window looking out into the woods surrounding the studio.

I paid Naoise 50 pounds which worked out at  5 pounds each day to work on this residency with me. I wanted him to feel that his work had value, to treat him as much as possible as an equal partner, and to use this money as an incentive. He decided what he spent the money on, and  bought a fidget spinner from Bridport market and saved the rest to spend when he returned home. The crowd funding campaign was a success not just in terms of the money that it helped to generate but also because it made us feel directly  supported by our audience and that our work was important and worth while.

It a a very long journey from Yorkshire to Dorset. It took us eight and a half hours altogether including breaks to get to The Mothership yet I loved the conversations and time spent with Naoise on the road. Naoise is very adept at being a DJ and reading the satellite navigation instructions.  Motorway led to A roads which led to the familiar hedge and tree lined winding up and down country lanes of Dorset that I remembered so vividly from visits with an old boyfriend to his parents in Bridport over twenty years previously. Naoise spotted the sign to Copse Barn and as we drove down the lane to The Mothership we past handmade signs warning us that there were children playing. I immediately liked the feel of this place; definitely family friendly I thought.

From the moment me and Naoise arrived at The Mothership we were made to feel welcome and at home by Anna, her children and pets, Coconut the big cat and Curly Wurly a lovable labradoodle. Anna made tea and a snack for us after our long journey and her children proudly showed us to the studio. I quickly realised why it is important to arrive with food provisions, as the nearest shop is a four mile drive away, I was therefore very grateful when Anna kindly  gave us a pint of fresh milk for our first evening, as I was far to tired to go shopping.

The Mothership is a gorgeous warm womb space surrounded by woods,  an organic vegetable garden with resident chickens, cockerels and honking geese fields of hay and animals. Inside a wood burning stove, a compact kitchen, a table by a large window, a work bench and a big cosy bed.  The skylights are made of corrugated plastic and when it rains, music falls.  Seated by the table looking through the big window you can hear the stream moving below; there are three swings hanging from the huge oak and a hammock for tree bathing.  A clearing in the woods by a  white caravan and an apple tree heavy with fruit provides a circular space for a trampoline, which has evidently been well loved and used as its  steps are rusting and  there are fraying holes in the meshed surface. 

There is a veranda leading to a bathroom with a shower and a compost toilet. The compost toilet wasn’t as stinky as we thought it would be, and soon we got used to flushing with a couple of handfuls of sawdust.  There was a great view from the loo and I loved watching all the life of insects and birds as I had a pee. Occasionally I had to remove webs and spiders that Naoise feared from the plastic rim. During our time at The Mothership as requested we used environmentally friendly toiletries and household products,  recycled our waste and as much as possible tried to shop local.

We very quickly fell into a rhythm of working and living in this space, the weather dictated our activities; on wet days we stayed inside, played games, drew and painted; on sunny days we played outside in the land nearby or went on excursions in the car to the seaside or the shops to buy food.  Our time in this remote setting was simple, there was no one watching or interrupting us, there wasn’t a big pile of laundry to work through, a school routine to keep to, a teenager or partner to tend too. It was just me and Naoise. A simple ten day experiment in art making. It was research of a kind, we were searching, re-searching. Searching to see ourselves and how we could care for each other in a respectful way in a creative space. How we could make art out of our play, and how we could make art playful.

Anna went away for a few days at the beginning of our residency and we were entrusted with the care of her magnificent hunting ginger tom cat Coconut. It was wonderful to be given the freedom to roam, and play where ever we wanted, to be gifted the peace of all of her place.  I was especially pleased by our time alone,  as I had wanted to create an intimate situation, similar to that that as described in this passage from A Sculptors Daughter by Tove Jansson. In this extract Tove refers to a time spent with her mother when snowed into a house alone in the woods:

In fact, she said after a while, we have gone into hibernation. Nobody can get in any longer and no one can get out!

I looked carefully at her and understood that we were saved. At last we were absolutely safe and protected. This menacing snow had hidden us inside in the warmth for ever and we didn’t have to worry a bit about what went on there outside. I was filled with enormous relief, and I shouted, I love you, I LOVE

YOU, and took all the cushions and threw them at her and laughed and shouted and Mummy threw them all back and in the end we were lying on the floor just laughing.

Then we began our underground life. We walked around in our nighties and did nothing. Mummy didn’t draw. We were bears with pine needles in our stomachs and anyone who dared come near our winter lair was torn to pieces. We were lavish with the wood and threw log after log onto the fire until it roared.

Sometimes we growled. We let the dangerous world outside look after itself, it had died, it had fallen into space. Only mummy and I were left.

Tove Jansson, Sculptors Daughter: Snow, Page 138

Instead of snow it was the torrential rain that kept us inside, then we played at domestic cat rather than wild bears; mimicking Coconuts behaviour.

We enjoyed many lazy mornings in bed reading. There was no need to play with plastic, guns or screens. There was space. Space to swing, to jump, physical and mental space just to be, to sort out any conflicts or disagreements we may have.  A studio where we could wake up and draw in our pyjamas if we wanted too. No one else demanding anything of us. Some mornings I would wake early and go out for a walk in the garden, dew from the grass wetting my bare feet. I would make coffee, get some tidying, sorting and artwork made whilst Naoise snoozed. Other mornings I would wake up  with him,watch the summer light fall on his fair hair, stroke the peachy skin on his little back, see the two horses, one brown, one white in the field beyond the hollyhock fringed window.

During the day, we did lots of ING things Swinging, Jumping, Swimming, Walking, Crawling, Hugging, Talking, Laughing, Arguing, Disagreeing, Compromising, Co-operating, Helping, Drawing, Reading, Painting, Collecting, Arranging, Cooking, Washing up,  Exploring, Finding, Throwing, Burying, Burning, Showering, Listening, Feeling, Sleeping, Eating, Cleaning, Tidying, Making, Learning, Following, Discovering, Pretending, Watching, ….Tree Bathing, Star Gazing, ACDC, PJ Harvey music in the car driving down twisted,hedge and tree lined country lanes Singing.

As much as possible I let Naoise be an equal partner in our art making. Sometimes we worked together making postcards, paintings, films and actions.  A performance that Naoise devised called 100 Kisses, involved standing facing each other and kissing each other exactly one hundred times each. Naoise enjoyed directing films made on the trampoline, the swings and whilst having donkey rides, sitting on my back as I crawled through the hay meadows. Other times we would work side by side, me making drawings, him painting a stone silver that he had found on the beach, or colouring crystals in rainbow colours with permanent markers. Sometimes all I could do was facilitate his creativity, such as his wax burning sculptural experiments with twigs and leaves. On the beach Naoise traced my drawings with footprints in the sand. We jumped over the waves, threw rocks in the sea. My smart phone filled up quickly with records of all our activities and then we just had to think carefully about visually selecting and placing memories into our minds. Naoise was unsure about a walk that we went on in the woods, he was scared by its size, strangeness and depth but he did enjoy spotting all of the blue dancing dragonflies, the moths and butterflies, there was an absolute abundance of wildlife.  He was mostly delighted with the surroundings of The Mothership, he didn’t especially want to go anywhere other than our temporary home, and the hawk that cawed and circled above.  At night he liked me to lock out the dark, and would request that I turn the key in both front and back door to reassure him. I would leave the  window open, and we would fall asleep to the sound of moths clattering, owl hooting, the rain on the plastic skylight and the dying embers of a fire.

The only truly bad thing that happened during our stay was when Naoise got stung on his foot by a hornet whilst I was in the shower. He let out an enormous scream of pain, I came running and managed to catch the beast under a saucepan and calm Naoise down with sweet liquid paracetamol and a big hug. Phew.

I sometimes felt suffocated by The Motherships’s wild beauty and remoteness I felt a sadness in the defunct playground equipment the lack of contact with other adults and children and by day five felt exhausted by the intensity of our working relationship, there is only so much energy that caffeine can provide and by day five exactly half way through the residency I began to long for some childcare assistance, for a break. I was therefore delighted when I was invited out to the pub with Anna for a drink with an artist friend of hers in the local village. Naoise was kept entertained by a glass of water, a straw, a pat on the head of farting coconut the dog and a game  of squares on note paper.   

1st August : Day 5

Still felt needed childcare….hard



Frustration over broadband – argument

Draw ; odds are still stacked against me, Need some childcare

PLAY COME AND PLAY…constantly negotiating time, tug of mothering versus arts practice,,,,,,,try to not make it a battle, patience and waiting, waiting,

From studio I can see a swing.

Now will go and play on his  own

Swinging and different cameras angles

Him and me – Time

Time Passing

Play. Holding on

Waves, swinging, movement, The air. The wind The leaves, The leaves and the wind. The light. Swinging together synchronised swinging, Not always together sometimes out of sync.

Naoise says: “ Are you learning something from me now.” ……..Naoise painting postcard green and red paint splodged together.

Helen Says: “ of cause I learn things from you all the time”

Text from Ten Days notebook

Towards the end of our stay Anna had a look at the work that me and Naoise had made together and she offered some constructive feedback, and artists that we could look at such as Marcus Coates, we also discussed a future collaborative project about motherhood and the artist/residency model.  The following day we visited her studio, next door to our own and she talked through a film that she was making together with the help of a local butcher, and she also showed us some gorgeous  films that she had made of her family on site. It was on viewing these films and comparing them to my own that I thought about what can realistically be achieved in ten days. Anna’s films were filled with the knowledge, texture and intimacy of a place, of familiarity of what comprises a home. Me and Naoise were very much outsiders looking in. We could only ever hope to scratch the surface, to see what a stranger see’s. 

One afternoon we helped Anna to pick and pod the peas in her garden and on our last evening we shared a magical time star bathing, lying down on wooden sun beds wrapped in sleeping bags with Curly Wurly the dog cuddled up on our legs. We spotted the International Space Station, we saw the Milky Way Jupiter and the red dot of Mars.  We talked about freckles and we talked about stars and we wished upon some falling ones and we laughed about the plane with red lights that looked like venus rising.  Naoise tried to count all the stars in the sky very, very, very slowly and methodically and this reminded Anna of a song by Martin Creed that she saw him sing with his band called 1-100,  where Martin Creed counts from 1 to 100.

Anna and Naoise called to the owls and they called back.

On the first morning that we arrived at The Mothership, we watched a young fawn running around and around between the trees outside the studio window, doing the deer Grand Prix. I wondered where her mother was. I think that mother deers hide their young ones in hedgerows when they are little whilst they go out foraging for food. We had so many close encounters with nature and with each other. We rarely spent a moment apart. Naoise walked off from me a few hundred yards when upset on a beach and he went off to sulk on the swing when we argued over internet access, but mostly we stayed by each others side. It is the fawn and the hawk and the myriad of butterflies and moths and the call of the owls in the dark of the night that will stay with me. It is the intensity of the conversations that me and Naoise had that still stick.  It is our attachment to each other. The respectful, compassionate collaboration that we developed that involved everything from negotiating what we ate for dinner, to marks within paintings, rescuing spiders, and abandoning fossil hunts on beaches where sand left Naoise feet feeling sore. It involved being patient and sometimes feeling annoyed and frustrated with the other and being kind and listening deeply and letting each person have space to be themselves. It was about experimenting with our time together about trying things out and failing and being close, and cuddling next to each other at night and waking up beside each other every day and making it all up as we went along.

I thought about temporality,  duality,  what is home and family.  I thought about the boundaries of the sea and the shore, the wood and the field, my body and my sons.  The porousness of our skin, breathing, sweating. I thought of love and tears and compassion and the relationship that  I hold with my youngest son.  I thought about why I like isolation and being in a rural setting. I thought about time. and how time changes when you are a parent. Circular time, the moon, the tide, the sun, day and night becoming one. I thought about my own childhood, my memories of it, how I felt about my mother, what I liked to do with her and how my relationship with her has shaped the way that I parent.

I looked up into the branches of trees and twisted the rope of my swing and let it go and got dizzy spinning around. I thought about how I connected with Naoise childhood.  I thought about Anna and her family living in this place, playing on the climbing frame, digging in the earth, growing food. jumping on the trampoline. I felt that we were tracing their steps as well as steps back to my childhood and into Naoise’s.  thought about the constant stream of artists visitors staying at The Mothership. I thought about the next visitor an activist working with residents from the Grenfell Tower.

I thought about how the landscape feels, its touch. I thought about being small and insignificant. I thought about all the other mothers parenting their children over the summer holidays and trying to do both work and play. I thought about how fortunate I was to have this time with Naoise on my own.  I thought about security and how to feel safe. I thought about how this place made me feel. I thought about what the fundamental things we need to survive, heat, shelter, water, and companionship. I thought about what is needed in order to make art, about what things are needed in order to be creative.

I am still thinking about and trying to process and make sense of the experience that me and Naoise had during our residency.  Its taken me ages to write this report, as I had been worrying about what to write and how to write it, and there never seems to be a moment to concentrate between the  interruptions of looking after children, and summer holidays and then getting children ready to go back to school and then half term holidays and maintaining a house and studio and a relationship. Life is full and full on busy when you are a parent, and there seems little space for art.

Perhaps there isn’t any sense to be made out of arts practice, perhaps its just the idea and the process that is important, the journey and how you arrive at the making. There are always more questions to ask.  What happens when we isolate ourselves from society? What are the benefits of making art in isolation?  How can we reflect upon our arts practice whilst simultaneously looking after children? Why do mothers who are artists feel isolated ? How best can we support artists who feel isolated? What are the pros and cons of making art work in rurally  isolated places ? How does a child value arts practice ? What does a child artist think ? How can I make critically informed work whilst working with my own child ? What happens when we disagree ? What happens when things don’t go to plan? . How can we do both make art and care for each other?  What does my child think about collaborating with me? How can we best involve children in arts making? What do artists/parents need to be able to participate in residencies ? How can we reconstruct/ reformulate the artists residency to make it more viable for artists who have children or other caring responsibilities? What sort of childcare is needed and how can this be provided for parents in order that they can take part in arts residencies? Working alone or collaborating the pros and cons of each?

Whilst writing this report I read aloud my words to Naoise and he said “listening to what you have written makes me want to go back to The Mothership, we had such a happy time there”.  I feel that our time at the  Mothership was a success because we felt at ease with each other and our surroundings, and felt supported in our creative endeavours by Anna, by my partner and our sponsors. The Mothership truly is a family friendly residency and an opportunity to be valued.  Anna is both an artist and a mother therefore completely understands what artists need to make and what challenges parents can face in making work and participating in a residency. She was sensitive to me and Naoise needs and supportive of what we were trying to do. She allowed us the space to make and truly trusted us and welcomed us into her home.


I tried to make this residency relaxing and enjoyable for us both by reducing the pressure to make anything substantial, by improvising, by making do, and by paying Naoise an artists fee to work together with me and to be a part of our daily creative decision making. I managed to reduce levels of anxiety by keeping away from social media and not committing to writing everyday. I kept some brief notes and the postcards that we made together became a record of our time at The Mothership and a way of communicating directly with our audience.

The challenge to combine my love of art and the love of my son’s often seems at odd’s with the fast moving, money driven. capitalist society within which we live. Ten Days at The Mothership however allowed me and Naoise to slow down and to concentrate on one another, focus on play and art making and enjoying each others company.  My positive experience at The Mothership made me think about what I fundamentally value; art and parenting and how to do both. Antonella Gamotto-Burke writes in her introduction to MAMA, Love, Motherhood and Revolution:

The Google doctrine stipulates that “ (f)ast is better than slow”, but the veneration of acceleration is one of the greatest obstacles to intimacy and, perhaps, the most toxic in terms of parenting. An accelerated existence not only allows no time to consider either priorities or choices, but precludes deeply caring about these priorities or choices. Life just comes at us and we react. The bar is now set by technology: jarring, bright, near-instantaneous. Intimacy, on the other hand, is quiet, slow.

Attachment is the sum of repeated exposure, vulnerability, the consolidation of trust. There is no expediting love. And it is precisely at this point that our culture has started to fall apart. The fact that there is a need to specify attachment in relation to parenting tells us everything we need to know about the rupture between twenty-first century man and his heart. Emotion is no longer placed at the centre of human identity, which puts the very value of humanity at risk.

Professor Bruce Perry, the renowned child mental health researcher, stated that the most important property of humankind is the capacity to form and maintain relationships, which he see’s as “ absolutely necessary for any of us to survive, learn, work, love and procreate.” This capacity is, he carefully explained. “related to the organisation and functioning of specific parts of the human brain. Just as the brain allows us to see, smell, taste, think, talk and move, it is the organ that allows us to love – or not. The systems in the human brain that allow us to form and maintain emotional relationships develop during infancy and the first years of life.

MAMA, Love, Motherhood and revolution: Page 25-26

Naoise’s Report

I loved the mothership it was so relaxing because every day when we woke up we could ether stay in bed or get up and do some jobs around the house . We where on a farm so there was no cars going past and making noise .One day we seen a fawn runing acrose the grass outside the house which was very amazing .On suny days we would lie in the hanik across from the house.

PLAY AWAY Postcards

Each day of our stay at The Mothership me and Naoise painted, wrote and sent a postcard to one of our sponsors.


Thursday 27th July

Helen: In the car I listened to PJ Harvey and Naoise requested ACDC. Now all we can hear is the sound of the wind in the trees.

Naosise: Today Me and Helen arived at the Mothership in Dorsit.

Helen: It is very beautiful. There is an organic vegetable patch. Anna and her children are very relaxed and welcoming. Naoise and me have lots of room to roam. This evening after eating chick pea curry and rice we jumped on the trampoline, and swang and swang on the swings. The landscape is tight, compact and ntense. The hedgerows huge, dense foliage. The journey was long. We are happy here. Naoise says its fifteen out of ten !!

DAY 2 

Friday 28th July 

Postcard 1/ addressed to Naoise Dad

Helen: Naoise says next time we go on an arts residency he wants you to come too! I loved seeing the baby deer bounding around in front of the studio today.

Naoise: I wanted to say helo and how you are doing.

Postcard 2/

Helen: Today me and Naoise were very surprised to see a baby deer bounding around in front of our studio/house.

We went to Bridport to buy some food. We found Waitrose which is super posh. Naoise bought some boules to play on the beach, and we also got a small board game from a charity shop. 

The wind is getting up in the trees and it does not feel like summertime. 

Tomorrow we hope to go hunting for fossils and we will wear our waterproofs if its raining. 

Naoise: say helo to ……. for me. me and mum went to brigport and bought of good stuff signed NSWF x 

Helen: I just remembered, I woke up this morning with a very large moth sitting on top of my head! Its realy wet outside, getting dark, we are in bed reading The Beetle Queen after playing inside boules. Naoise is winding up the lamp…we both think the organic milk that we bought in Bridport is very good !!


Saturday 29th July

Helen: We are home alone in the middle of no-where, looking after “Coconut” the cat. Its very wet outside, not at all the sort of weather we expected down south ! However we are very warm and happy in this straw bale studio. The rain falls heavy on the plastic windows.

Today we went fossil hunting at Charmouth beach, but Naoise did not like the texture of the sand on his feet. Luckily we found a patch of soft sand to play on, so Naoise did some drawing in the sand and built a dam. We also bought some fossils from a shop- so we totally cheated at the hunting game.


Sunday 30th July

Helen: Naoise thought that the mothership was a ship full of a load of mums ! He is pleasently surprised that it is not that and instead it is a beautiful organic farm and live/work studio space. 

I am trying not to resort to the mobile phone baby sitter, however sometimes it is essential. “Smashy Road” , is the only break I get from constant parenting and this creative experiment. Its absolutely iddilic here, but parenting is all consuming. I’m still not sure if my experiment is working, however Naoise seems to be enjoying Dorset much more than Finland. Today we did lots of bouncing on the trampoline and Naoise made some films of us jumping. He has some great ideas about cinematography, and how to set up the camera and shoot at different angles.

We bought organic milk from the nearest shop and a delicious apple pie. A mother in the shop with a young baby was saying how much she was looking forward to 5 o’clock, when her baby would be going to bed.

We saw three types of butterfly today; peacock, red admiral and flirtilla.


Monday 31st July

Helen: We have bounced on the trampoline, swung on the swings, read “The Beetle Queen”, crawled through long grass (Naoise on my back)and been for a walk in the woods.

In the woods we saw 5 deer, lots of dragonflies. Naose is a bit afraid of the woods and had only shorts and crocs on so he was’nt keen on the prickly grass and brambles. I kept trying to take a picture of a dragonfly, but each time I got near to it, it flew away.

Naoise: Today me and mum went to bounce on the traplen and taik the remote for the camera and toulk some pictutrs of us in the air.


Tuesday 1st August

Helen: I am watching Naoise swinging from a rope in the studio. I have a heavy head of tiredness and coffee. Naoise is shouting “Mummy”, I answer back “ I can hear you”. He really wants me to play with him. I am his sole companion, his carer, his teacher, his food provider…..sometimes I wish for a break. I have created this situation of Artist/Mother Child/Son/ Artist Collaborator, so I had better enjoy it. Today is the first day that Naoise has played alone for five minutes. Now he is back ! We had…….Always interruptions….its frustrating. We had an argument over the smart phone today. Ooops pasta almost boiled over. “Mum, Mum” Naoise shouted.

Its totally idillyic here. Loads of room to roam. Its pretty instense though just me and Naoise all alone. Loneliness/Companionship. PLAY-WORK-CARE-LOVE.

Swinging is good. Swinging together, looking at the leaves in the trees, feeling the wind on our faces. Its such a luxury to have all this, and I am grateful. 

Nothing comes easy. The clock ticks, our time here in this creative bubble is short lived. Trying to relax. Learning to let go. Trying to let Naoise lead the game of  ART/PLAY/WORK/LIVE. Not always fun.

Naosie: We hope that you enjoy this postcard that we painted.


Wednesday 2nd August

Helen: Loosing track of days. Wet. Sun. Rain. Wind. Night/Day melting into one. I wish Naoise would get dressed, he is still in his pants. I am low on parenting energy, and coffee has’nt energised me. Its so wet today. The rain is lashing it down. I’m staring at the beautiful big oak tree, and rope swing, thinking we will be inside all day. Inside this “womb” space. But I hate being inside. I like the freedom of out.

Naoise wants me to read more book to him, so we are now having a stand off about getting in the shower. I am on “reading strike” . He says “I am not getting in the shower.”So I might as its lovely.

……A bit later I lured Naosie into the shower, after rescuing a very big spider !!

Naoise: I am in Dorsit at the moment staying on a farm.

DAY 8 

Thursday 3rd August

Helen: Less bad weather, but cold, feels Autumnal….Today we worked on a painting. Naoise burnt a lot of matches, melted wax. Swang in trees. We showed Anna our work. Helpful to talk about our ideas. Went to pub. Met bell ringer pub landlord. Saw stars between clouds. Lit fire….ahhhh very tired. Yawn.

Naoise: We hope you like this postcard….I am looking forward to the sleep over.


Friday 4th August

Helen: I am trying to make art and look after Naoise again….today has begun with a stand off about getting in the shower, so I am ignoring Naoise and he has run off somewhere. Its a pretty idillic place to have a strop. After days of rain its actually sunny.

Naoise has befriended Anna’s cat and is busy learning how to play cat. There’s a swing hanging from a big oak tree and he is having a go on that. We are meant to paint these postcards together, but I think I will rebel today and just paint alone. Naoise is content playing on that swing.

DAY 10

Saturday 5th August

Helen: This evening me Naoise and Anna went star bathing. We lay down wrapped in blankets and looked at all the stars. We saw lots of satelites and aeroplanes too. Then we hooted at the owls and they hooted back at us.

DAY 11

Sunday 6th August

Helen: Venus Rising, the constellation of Curly Wurly and Coconut the Cat. A few Satelites, Possibly 2-3 shooting stars and at least 142 stars counted out by Naoise…and maybe the International Space Station.



Beetle Queen (The Battle of the Beetles), by M.G. Leonard, Chicken House, 2017

Time Travelling with a Hamster by Ross Welford, HarperCollinsChildren’sBooks, 2015

The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson, Macmillan Children’s Books, 2014

Art in Nature: and other stories by Tove Jansson, Sort of Books, 2012

A sculptors Daughter: A childhood Memoir by Tove Jansson, Sort of Books, 2015

Mama, Love, Motherhood and Revolution, Antonella Gambotto-Burke, Pinter & Martin Ltd, 2015


Artist/ Parent Resources

The Mothership


The Mothership Blog


M(other) & Son

A two week collaborative research residency between Helen Sargeant and her son Naoise Sargeant at Takahuhti Artcenter, Tampere, Finland, supported by Nicola Smith’s We Are Resident project and funded by the Arts Council. September 2016


‘Motherhood and Live Art 2: Are we screwing the kids up?’, a discussion about processes and ethics in performance work with children.

Event organised and document by Miffy Ryan, April 2017, The Institute for Art, Practice and Dissent at Home.


An Artist Residency in Motherhood, By Lenka Clayton

A self-directed, open-source artist residency to empower and inspire artists who are also mothers.



Special thanks to Anna Best for inviting me and Naoise to complete our residency at The Mothership and supporting our work.

Patrick Ward for his constant love and creative support.

Many thanks to our sponsors who helped to make this project happen and make our work feel valued.

Rachel Fallon, Ellie Oliver Simone Kennedy Egle? Kac?kute?, Ann Kaloski, Lena Simic, Dyana Gravina, Tracey Kershaw, Jessica Paige Greig, Amy Ellingham, Louie Jenkins, Clare Harbottle, Alison Piling, Grace Whowell, Emma Finucane, Christina MacRae, Tracey Evans, Billie Ireland,Amy Dingham, Serena Dawn Askew, Laura Godfrey Issacs

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