Thursday, June 14, 2018

Letting go of the old - making room for the new

 I am tidying my studio.

Painting with crow flying into red vortex. Lichen covered twigs added as 3D 'Crying Crow' - 'On the right path' - detail
'Crying Crow' - 'On the right path' - detail

Space clearing is of course not just for 'actually clearing space'.
It is about reconnecting with the 'old',
and preparing for what is to come.

Over the past few weeks I have made great progress. Ten minutes at the time. The last bits, the boxes a bit higher up will be done in the coming week, with the help of my summer-creative-support.

Space clearing also involved letting go of some of my sculptures and tapestries. Most are now being fostered by loving new minders. That is the evolution of creative work.

A lot of pieces just need to be in my space until I am ready to move on.
'Crying Crow' - 'On the right path' is one such piece.

'Crying Crow' - 'On the right path'
85-65 cm
It hangs in my studio, but I think it is time to let it go and make space for my new Butterfly Puppet. A collaborative project with Artist friend Spark Deeley . I created the head and body of the butterfly - Spark painted these incredibly beautiful silk wings.
The head is about 10 cm, so overall quite a big piece.
It can be held and moved by the stick on the back of the head. It is still a work in progress.

Butterfly puppet-Collaboration between Corina Duyn and Spark Deeley
Butterfly puppet- still a work in progress.
Collaboration between Corina Duyn and Spark Deeley

Anyway, back to 'Crying Crow'  - ' On the right course'.

"Crying Crow was a painting I made in 2003. I was very ill, and found myself in a dark place. 
Birds were my inspiration to survive. I wanted to fly into the light again.

I literally crawled out of my bed to paint the dark background on this A2 sheet of wood.
Back to bed for a rest.

Hours later, or maybe the next day, I painted to colourful vortex. A few days later the crow.
I called it 'Crying Crow'.

Liam Murphy wrote in his review of Hatched, in the Munster Express (2006)  "... The paintings in this book are beautiful, like CRYING CROW as a dark bird soars hopefully into the glowing red vortex with the caption  Pain - ting."...
Exactly ten years later, this lonely crow became part of a larger flock again.

I started college  one night a week. A HUGE undertaking, but the Disability Studies course did change the direction of my creative work and my life. 

One of my fellow students brought a bag full of lichen covered twigs one day for my art.
As it turned out that these twigs came from ancient trees at the grounds of Monastery and great flock of crows gathered on these trees at night.

I was on the right course.

Now, I think it is time to move on again. To let it go. To make room for the next flight.
A new era of puppetry has commenced. New work has to be created. And new people to teach.

If you are interested to own 'Crying Crow' - 'On the right path',  please contact me.
This painting/3D work can not really be posted, so needs to be collected.
Any reasonable offer accepted.

Further reading/viewing
  • My creative story and puppet making was featured on Irish National Television RTE Nationwide. Scroll to 16 minutes into the program.
  • If you are interested in a Puppet Making Course, please contact me and I will forward course details. One course starting end of June, the next in August.
  • Review mentioned above:

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Puppet Power: Conference on Applied Puppetry

I am proud to say that I am taking part in a small way at this amazing 
Puppet Power Conference 
in Calgary, Canada this coming weekend.

and a 5 minute pre-record talk 
about the puppetry and disability 
will be screened during

Saturday, June 2, 4:45pm-6:15pm

For free tickets click HERE

"... the Puppet Power conference helps people discover a new way to impact change in the world by using puppetry.  The conference presents key learnings and tools vital to professionals in education and healthcare, therapists, and visual and performing artists. Sparking the imagination,  the conference is for anyone inspired to express themselves creatively, develop personal and professional skills and promote positive social change.
Offering world-class professional development, Puppet Power 2018 features award-winning local and international presenters and master puppeteers, sharing their stories and skills in an educational, engaging and fun environment through hands-on workshops, talks, panels, and special networking events."
Our very own Irish Puppeteer Emma Fisher gives a TALK/WORKSHOP: 
Constructing fragmented puppets to explore personal constructs of the disabled body. 
Sunday June 3, 2018, 9am-12pm, 3 hours
Book ticket HERE

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The life of a single parent Robin

It all started a year, when a young robin came to visit my small garden on a daily basis.
Of course (s)he was rewarded for the visits by me providing little treats

Even during the winter snow, it would find a safe place to shelter in my willow tree and in the shrubs along the wall. I remember just before the worst winter weather to hit Ireland a few months ago, that (s)he would hop around my garden as if hugely agitated and nervous about the pending weather.

It is kind of sweet to build a 'relationship' with this little bird.

When I saw it checking out the nest box hanging on my studio, and bringing in moss, I was delighted. The box had been there for a few years, but there was also a cat... Obviously this had not been a great place to bring up the kids...
As far as I know it is a mammy who builds the nest, so let call it she.
Daddy came to inspect the nest. The mating ritual started, which includes the male giving food to the female. She flutters like a fledgling. Funny.
Home approved, the female sat on the nest for a few weeks, the male bringing her food.

I could see all this happening, with the best view from my bedroom and kitchen window and when lying on my settle in the greenhouse.


While weeding the garden, the robin would be by my side - less than a meter away and avail of any worms who saw the light of day.

Mid May, I watched both robins taking the broken eggshells out of the nest box. They flew quiet a distance with these, presumably to not alert any predator of the site of the next.

For the past two weeks (almost) I have been watching the goings on.
Unfortunately there is only one parent now. No idea what happened to the other.

A busy job, being a single parent of 4 baby robins.

(s)he is feeding the 4 nestlings from at least 5.30 am till 9.30 pm. 
Some dedication!

When there is a cat in the garden the robin calls out a panic call and I go out to make sure the cat is out of sight. 

(s)he flies from the tree to the washing line.
Looks around to see if the coast is clear and flies the short distance to the nest.

Yesterday was the first time I saw their little heads stick out over the box- looking out for food.

The robin is soo busy with her offspring that (s)he did have time for a quick bath, but no time for a bit of grooming. she looked rough!

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Where Puppets and M.E. Collude

As part of the M.E. Visibility Protest which is happening in Dubling on the 10th May, I was asked by the Evening Echo to write a story on how M.E. affects me on a day to day basis.
Thank goodness I found my writing brain again, and this is the story which emerged.

OF course M.E. and my creative life - and puppets too, are totally interwoven.
(ha- I weave too...)  Anyway. The title came first - "Where Puppets and M.E. Collide", but when I started writing, it was actualy more a case of Colluding, not Colliding.

The Editor changed the title to 'M.E. is a blight on my life, but art helps me' as he said

 "We attempted to sum up the article with the headline, Corina, and I am conscious that many M.E sufferers feel the public are not aware of the severity of the illness. I wasn't sure the average reader would get the gist of what the article was about if we ran with the puppet headline, which would have been a shame as we were aiming to raise awareness of the illness and of the forthcoming day in Dublin."
Point taken!
You can Read the article online or see below for the transcript.
Image of page from Evening Echo
Read article online

Where Puppets and M.E. Collude
© Corina Duyn 2018

Twenty years ago I was teaching young people residing in a group home how to make puppets. One funny young man of about 13 made a clown’s head. Gorgeous. Full of expression. But when it came to making the hands, they came out as fists. 

That memory still gives me goose bumps. It was the moment I realized the power of the creative process. Especially using clay in figurative work. I have seen it time and time again, that clay worked with ones bare hands can’t lie. 

Unfortunately I never got to finish making the puppets with this brilliant group of young minds. I became seriously ill with M.E. Initially thought to be meningitis as I had severe headaches, and unable to deal with light, or sounds. I couldn’t sit up and talk at the same time and lost my ability to coordinate my movements. Within days I went from being a self-employed artist to needing help with my most basic needs. My finer motor skills, so important in my work disappeared. Over the following few months I lost the ability to walk properly, to read, to write, having major problem with short-term memory, and experienced intense pain. Most of these problems are still there. Twenty years on.

M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) is listed in WHO International Classification of Diseases as an acquired neurological disease. Affecting adults and children, it presents itself with dysregulation of the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems; impaired energy metabolism, and post exertional neuro-immune exhaustion. As in, if we go even a tiny bit over our allotted energy for the day, we end up with a huge increase in our symptoms. Even to the point that we are stuck in bed for days, or even weeks/months. Yet, there is no M.E. specialist or consultant. No clinical care plan pathway. No training of healthcare staff – even in hospitals. Yet some people affected by M.E. are completely bedbound, unable to feed themselves and unable to bear any stimulation such as light or noise.

My creative mind challenged me to explore this utterly changed existence from the start. Initially I made drawings of eggs. The dictionary reassured me that I had not lost my mind. I read that ‘Egg’ also meant the possibility to develop into a new individual. How true this was. I had to start from scratch again.

The eggs hatched and became birds. Years later I had supported flights out in the world beyond my four walls. The drawings, collages, and later plasticine sculptures about these challenges, hopes and desires, ultimately led to personal understanding and acceptance. They also became a way to connect with the outside world through my art and books. 

More that a decade later my sculptures were build on roots. Using the same air-drying clay I used when working with the young people. This material allows me to work for short periods of time (my limit is 20 minutes once a day. I realized that the sculptures represented me being more ‘rooted in my reality’, in the acceptance of M.E. as a permanent fact of my life.
For the past 4 or 5 years a sense of movement appeared in my work. I was utterly convinced that this meant I would be dancing again. Truly dancing.

How wrong I was.

My mobility is decreasing. My independence is decreasing. I am awaiting the arrival of a power chair, and fighting the HSE to receive PA support. 

The suggestion of movement in my sculptures was the start of a very different story. 

I returned to making puppets. This led to facilitating a workshop with (then) fellow members of the IWA. Our short final Life Outside the Box filmwhere our nine puppets step out of society’s disability box, has been shown at several international disability film festivals. Once every three months a short version is on People’s Angelus. A huge empowering step for people with disabilities. 

I teach puppet making about an hour a week in my studio. The invitations to give talks about Puppetry, Disability & Health at two Broken Puppet Symposia and Nottingham Puppet Festival gave me a platform to share the power of this artform to tell our stories. And to dance a little with the world again! The ‘dance’ however is more a slow dance than a Jive. My health is unfortunately greatly challenged by these adventures.  

So, for now, I will leave it to my puppets to tell the story of M.E. The personal, and the political! Puppets aren’t pre judged or labelled, so their voices are heard more easily than that of someone with a socially denigrated disease.

They will be (in some shape or form) protesting at the M.E. Visibility Protest, organised by M.E. Advocates Ireland (MEAI): Thursday 10th May 2018, outside Leinster House from 11.30am to 2.30pm, to demonstrate against the neglect and harm caused to some of the most seriously ill of all patients here in Ireland.

For more about Corina’s work and story or to read more about M.E. please visit:

Reflection Puppets getting ready for ME Protest in Dublin. Photo reproduced in Evening Echo article by Corina Duyn
Reflection Puppets ready for protest
Image reproduced in Evening Echo 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

At present, I am utterly overwhelmed by the reality of M.E.

Sorry for not having been in touch as promised during my Puppet Travels.
Poilin Puppet looking out the window  - Corina Duyn Puppets
Póilin looking out at the birds
(just like me)

To my astonishment, I did not even write one word in my personal diary/journal/notebook what ever one wants to call it. I came back with a completely blank (brand new- gorgeous leather bound) notebook.

When I think about it, maybe it is not so 'astounishing' as although I managed to do my talks and meetings - most of the remainder of my time I was resting. And tried very hard to stay as well as well could be.
I did it.
I am proud I did my talks. Honoured to have received such lovely responses. Grateful for the time I was given by other puppet makers/designers/performers to explore new skills and to find way to incorporate puppets in my journey with M.E. Touched by the kindness of strangers, who wanted to hear my story and by those who so kindly gave their time to support me.


I am so utterly overwhelmed by the reality of M.E. By the onslaught this adventure had on my body. On my mind. On my conviction that I can rise above the challenges of my body. 

I can't.

And that is another reason why I still have not written one word in my diary. Because I know that if I start writing about the amazing people I met, the joy of 'all things puppet', the kindness, the opportunities, I will also have to fact that I feel utterly at a loss. That I am out of sorts. That I am so aware of the reality of even more limiting mobility, of needing more practical support, of the fight we - as people with M.E- have to fight in order to be heard and seen. To be accepted. To be understood. To be valued. To have our very real and honest experiences taken seriously by the HSE and the Government. To not be told that we are not ill.
Oh my goodness, do I want to be well!

I want to be able to follow up on the puppet and writing opportunities coming my way.
I want to 'go out and play'.
I want to write for journals. For news papers.
To go back into my studio and explore new ways of making puppets.
I long to go out and walk. To just leave my house - alone- and go to the supermarket - the bank- a cafe.
Go for walk outside my gate to the river I know is there.
Take a drive to the beach. A walk in the woods. To touch and smell the forest.
To see spring/summer arrive. To see the forest carpet of blue bells and wild garlic.

(of boy - this writing is taking a very different leap to what I thought when I turned on the computer...)

Anyway. If anyone dares to tell me that I am ill because of a lack of 'want', 
Well, as one of my puppets said:
'The next dr. who tells me 'it's all in my head
and that happy thoughts will cure me'

Well, I'd better NOT say what
I will do to them ...

One of "The Girls - Reflection Puppets" by Corina Duyn" ready for the Protest in Dublin, holding a placard
One of "The Girls" ready for the Protest in Dublin

Yes, I am utterly sad at the moment. 

I am sad because I am ill.
I am not ill because I am sad.

I am sad as I know of so many others with M.E. who are fighting all the time to be heard, to get support. Who are stuck at home and are doing their best to find ways to live well.
As you might know, I am a member of M.E. Advocates Ireland- a groups of 7 women, all living with or caring for someone with M.E. On our blog there are some harrowing, sad, powerful stories about the reality of life with M.E. And how wee see what needs to be - and can- change.

We campaign from our beds and homes.
We are campaigning for change - through the media - social media  - radio interview and a Visibility Protest on Thursday A 10th May at our Government Buildings  
I won't be there myself, but am doing my bit through the media. Travel, or staying overnight in a hotel is way beyond me at the moment. Even the thought of it is too much. 
Read article HERE 

Uprooting- and grounding 

To find me again, within the reality of M.E., I have been resting. Watching movies. Watching the birds. And been reconnecting with the earth. Every day I go out and clear a tiny patch in my garden. 5 minutes. Ten minutes when I am brave - or foolish. 
Feeling the earth. Smelling the earth. Touching base. Grounding myself, are hugely important.

 ... and funny enough I seem to have done the exact same last year when I felt 'out of sorts'  
after time away from all I know...

Slowly, I hope to gaining ground again.
Clearing my garden also creates a sense of space. Physical space in my garden, mental space in my head.

I hope that by having been brave enough to face my blog again, maybe I will truly pick up my pen and start writing. Start facing the daemons. Find that level of acceptance again and move on.

When the time is right, I will look at the photos of my puppet adventures. Listen to the talks I gave, and try to bring the experiences into focus, for myself and for anyone who want to hear/read it.

Thank you again to all who made the journey possible. 
In time I will understand the essence of this adventure. Learn from it and find ways to incorporate puppets and travel into my life.

Much love.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Thanks to your understanding and support I can continue to share my story

And so the journey continues
and starts for real on Wednesday.

My deepest gratitude to all of you who made this happen.
UK, here we come!

Póilin puppet says Thank You Corina Duyn to Nottingham Puppet Festival
Póilin says Thank You

What an amazing few weeks it has been.
Two and a half weeks ago I received an email with the disappointing news that I was refused funding from a government and council funded Arts organisation to go on the Biggest Creative Journey of my life. To develop my Arts Practice.  But it brought out the best in all of you. 
Thank you.
I have yet to receive a response to my email in which I expressed my disappointment and asked for feedback.

Many of you truly understood the hugely significant opportunity to share my explorations of illness/disability through art and puppetry, and to engage with many others involved in puppetry and disability. To share, to learn, and to share again.

My brother Kees and his wife Janet, and some friends suggested I'd start a Crowd Funding Campaign. I was hesitant as I know we all struggle to keep our finances in tact. Also, I did not have the energy to embark on exploring the usual crowd funding platforms. Time on the computer has been severely curtailed the past 6 weeks or so, due to being ill (more ill than normal). And I had to write my presentations.  But, I thought, I could perhaps make a page on my website.

Oh boy, did you all come out with such kindness and understanding.

I received 50 donations and book orders to date. And thereby reaching my basic target, to have funds to pay for accommodation and one meal a day. THANK YOU. 
But besides the funding, I also received such amazing emails, and letters, and cards, and messages. Others shared my story on social media. And in doing so brought awareness of the challenges of living with M.E.
My goodness, you all truly warmed my heart.

I was in tears by every notification. I am in tears now, while writing this.

Tears from gratitude.

  • I was interviewed on The world in View in which Bernadette and Stan Philips were supportive of my journey and were very disappointed that I did not receive funding. They highlighted M.E., and being an advocate for M.E. through M.E. Advocates Ireland . They highlighted disability, the power of art, and of course the travels to the UK.
  • And by by Emily Ahern from the Avondhu Newspaper.
  • Rachel Reeves contacted me for an article for the Nottingham Puppet Festival: The Power of Puppetry.
  • And Greg Crowhurst made a (tribute) video to celebrate the making of his puppet through distant learning: Here comes Johnny which is a celebration and the power of sharing the art of puppetry to bring people out of isolation.

Avondhu newpaper, page 22, 15-3-2018. Emily Ahern
Avondhu newpaper, page 22, 15-3-2018. Emily Ahern


I am ready to go.
As ready as I will ever be.

If you like to stay in touch with the stories emerging from my travels:
  • please sign up for email updates - see top right of screen when viewing web version or on laptop/computer.
  • Or "like" my Facebook page
With every best wish, and thank you So much for coming along on my journey.

UK dates:
  • Both are Free events, but tickets can be booked in advance 
  • Talk in connection with Puppet Place Bristol 29th March - details to be anounched