As the seasons turn

It would be a shame to let the moments of summer fade into the memory of one’s smartphone. I looked back at these images with an appreciation for how nature has changed me this season, of how much she has given.

I have stood amongst falling magnolia petals, enjoyed dusky urban skies, walked with dear Auralab through a marshy Gower microclimate and watched a clematis bud open. I learnt that the trees outside my new home are Whitebeam. From exploring an orchard on an island to watching the light break in the highlands, I have visited the edges of places. A friend and I stopped the car to stand in silence with solstice mountains, and I told my secrets to the Ullapool dawn. Fingers found fragments of china and seaglass washed smooth by the tide, and lichens showed me their brightest shades.

On my return, the Tiny Huntress (AKA Tiger Girl or Maggie) came to share my little home. There has been much purring, many kitten cuddles and fair amounts of pain (also some bloodshed) from small vampiric fangs and growing claws.

Edible Words took me up Snowdonia mountains, and we swam in lakes amongst mines as I fell in love (with slate, and a cheeky bear-like man). Back in the Shire, there were walks amongst sandstone and pine before more expeditions to North Wales. The bear one and I wild camped, swam in turquoise pools and watched the sun rise up a mountain above Blaenau Ffestiniog. I couldn’t keep away from Wales, and stood with feet in wet grass at Tŷ Newydd where nature gave her inspiration via the beautiful surroundings and poet tutor Sophie Mckeand. There were poems written, sea swims and blackberries.

As the first hints of chilly weather beckoned, HH and I walked though a rainy welsh valley and fell in streams. The last bursts of heat saw birthday paddles in the River Lugg, and foraging began with elderberries, oyster mushrooms and plans to make pine needle tea. Heather-purple has arrived on reddening hills, as the season’s turnings tumble irreversibly towards next week’s autumn equinox.

 

 

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Follow the Water

Today I travelled down to Vines Park in Droitwich to meet some creative types (and the highly artistic Billy the dog) for a walking and creativity workshop. As part of The Ring‘s 21 Miles project, I have been engaging people with the waterways of Worcestershire (on and offline) thoughout the summer. Taking the theme of follow the water, we spent some time by the waterways to spark our inspiration. After a short briefing in a local pub, we wandered between the canal and River Salwarpe, pointing out things of interest.

Some people were interested specifically in one artform, others in some simple creative time. For 90 minutes we walked, looked, chatted, photographed, wrote, drew and daydreamed.

Personally I was drawn to marks around the waters edge, such as the one made by the water level line. I also collected images of graffiti, texture and reflections.

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For the workshop I had prepared some prompts, which I’ll share with you here in case any readers want to use them for inspiration:

• Follow the water, trace the water’s edges and let your mind flow.
• Let go of the end goal, water doesn’t care where it is going, it just flows. Capture something, even if it’s the beginning of something creative. Notice what captures your attention and follow it.
• What do you see, hear, feel, touch, taste? How does the air feel on your skin today? What texture is the water, what texture are your feelings?
• Look for scraps of language, signs, posters or lettering on a drain cover might inspire you to start writing or drawing a picture inspired by the words in our everyday environment
• Water is a constant part of our landscape, draw a picture of the landscape you see on paper, in a photograph or describe it in words
• Listen to and feel the rhythms. The beat of today, the pace you are walking at, the speed at which the water moves. Notice movement, your own and that of the unfolding world around you.

I’m really looking forward to receiving entries from today’s group. You still have until September 30th to enter the 21 Miles competition, so be sure to make a little time for some #artonthewaterways this month.

Listening to the work

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Today is the day to finish off a textiles piece I’ve been working on in my current care home residency (part of the Colour Me Purple project). It is made up of many pieces of fabric, hand printed by residents and myself.

I pin them together, hoping to quickly machine-sew the work and be done with it. After the first few lines, the pieces of fabric start to object. They slip and slide out of place, and the picked up piece refuses to hang together in the way I have planned it. I become frustrated and impatient, until I realise that the first section (which I tacked together by hand) is sitting much better than my machined pieces. Calmer, stronger, more cohesive.

In my stubbornness, I don’t listen to the work and carry on attempting to machine it. I am ignoring the quiet yet persistent voice of what I wish to create, telling me it wants to be pieced together by hand, gently and slowly. The different weights of fabric (some heavy, some delicate) are stressed by a mechanical process, and join together slightly awkwardly, just like people in love who won’t give things time.

I stop, break for lunch. I had much planned today but art will not allow it. I feel slow, sleepy and in need of solitude. When I return to the piece I pick up a needle and thread. Accepting now that I must take my time, I begin to slowly stitch each part together. There is no master plan here, I am just letting the work tell me what it wants as each fragment becomes one with the next. 

My playlist of music has come to an end, and I don’t put another song on. The work wants quiet; sounds from the outside, wind rustling down the chimney and the muffled beats coming through next door’s walls. The needle is small, but she is so strong, sharp and persistent. With each stitch I pierce time itself, spacing out each and every second.

Found in Translation

This month I’ve had a great week working with Donnington Wood Primary School. I was commissioned by Meadow Arts to deliver a week long project at the school as part of their multicultural week. The teachers at Donnington Wood were interested in working with visual language and found poetry (one of my most loved combinations), so I was immediately inspired. Drawing upon my past life in graphic design (and love of unusual letterforms), I designed a workshop where the students could make stencils of non-western typography. We began by looking at text from around the world.


Saudari: Balinese for sister

Each student then drew a letterform from my selection of lettering from Japan, Burma, Bali, China, Russia, India and other countries/continents. From the drawings we made stencils and printed them on squares of fabric (material from Scrappies, one of Shropshire’s little gems!).

After these workshops, the other half of the year group wrote acrostic poems about some of the school’s values, including peace, compassion, friendship, trust, wisdom, service and tolerance (the school is Church of England, being Buddhism and yoga orientated myself I found these values easy to relate to). We then stamped some of the lines on long strips of white fabric:

…..and then I wondered off home with a LOT of half-dry inky fabric in my car, with inky fingernails, looking like I’d been down the mines for a week. My original idea was to sew the work together into several long hangings with letterforms and text, what happened was quite different:


It was satisfying to make a large-scale piece of work (double bed sized) from all the lovely work the students had done. I think the format was inspired by text & textiles work I like from artists such as Tracy Emin and Sara Impey. I also enjoyed the timescale of a week-long residency, culminating in the piece being presented in the school assembly. During this, Steve Wilson at Meadow Arts told the children how important creative subjects are. Given the state of publicly funded arts at the moment, I am heartened by organisations like Meadow Arts who provide opportunities for artists like me to do well-paid and well-organised work, and for people of all ages to participate in creative experiences 🙂

Paper Rebellion

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This week I’m looking forward to a couple of days in historic Worcester, running workshops at The Commandery as part of my Paper Rebellion project. Paper Rebellion is an ACE funded year-long project (thanks to fundraiser Manda Graham) which aims to to creatively engage young people and visitors with the aims of the English Civil War. Using collage and book making, I am showing groups how to make their own pamphlets, and we are making five collaborative artworks.

The group collage pieces are based on the idea of mandalas. A mandala can be a symbol, diagram or map which represents a microcosm of the whole. In various traditions and practices they are used for focusing the attention and as a form of guidance. Creating a mandala is said to promote a sense of balance and understanding. They usually are circular in form and contain some kind of symmetry and balance. The lovely team at the Commandery made these fabulous easels to display the artworks while they evolve:

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To make both the collaborative artworks and pamphlets, we are using photocopied material from the era, combined with today’s newspapers. The site once housed a printing press, and it was during the Civil War era that printed media became widely available. Political groups like the Levellers designed and printed their own pamphlets and manifestos, so in times of control and oppression it was still possible for marginalised groups to have a voice.

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The artworks each have a theme: peace, freedom, conflict, belief and power. Through these themes, and the powerful medium of collage I hope to help people connect their learning about the Civil War to their own lives today, and create something relevant to them. For example, here’s a pamphlet I’ve been making on the theme of power:

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The Commandery has a colourful history, and as well as being a significant site in the civil war it was also a Medieval hospital for travellers, and at one time a college for the blind. As both an artist and yoga teacher, I am keen to draw out ideas about health and healing. Belief is also an interesting theme, at the time of the war people were very religious and believed in things like witchcraft.

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Well, who doesn’t believe in a little bit of magic? As well as symbols like oak leaves and swords I am weaving in a few symbols of my own, which are artistically and spiritually meaningful to me. Butterflies and moths are amongst my favourite images, for their ephemeral beauty and the sense of freedom I receive from them. In life (as in war) fragility is so very often intimately entwined with strength. Look out for more Paper Rebellion updates this year, and details of public events.

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Introducing Rock Rose Press

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As many of you know, I’m an avid fan of self publishing. After creating a found poetry pamphlet, card designs and prints of my work I thought having my own press to publish these things under would be good fun. This is why I’m setting up Rock Rose Press, for my own publications and maybe those of friends as well.

Why Rock Rose? I’ve been aware of the plant for many years, and recently discovered it’s a popular ingredient in flower remedies.The plant itself renews quickly under wildfire, and a flower essence it helps build courage and alleviate anxiety in times of emergency. In the Victorian Language of Flowers, Rock Rose stood for surety. Word-wise I enjoy the balance of ‘Rock Rose’; the masculine/feminine, the hard/soft, the permanent/ephemeral.

Hopefully some bits and bobs will be available under Rock Rose Press in time for Christmas 🙂

Book making workshops

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I’m posting this with my tail between my legs as it’s been a whole year since anything went up on this blog. Oh well. This summer I set up some book making workshops to teach the lovely people of Shropshire some basic techniques to make their own books. In the Loosely Bound workshop, we covered simple stitched binding, and the extremely addictive Japanese stab binding. These workshops were called Loosely Bound, as although book binding is traditionally a very neat and tidy craft, I myself am not a fastidious maker of things. I enjoy the improvised, unplanned and haphazard, and am a fan of raggedy edges. Saying that, the practice of book binding slows me down in the quest to make a lovely object, and I have made some quite tidy items I’m rather proud of.

Here are some photos from the workshops, which took place at Shrewsbury’s English Bridge Studios:

During the workshop I asked the (slightly philosophical) question “what is a book?”. Our answers included: private space, a shared world, collect, read, object a place of safety, a hiding place, adventure, someone’s child, tactile, something that opens, and imagination. For all these reasons and more, books have always been very special to me, and I enjoyed sharing my love of them in these workshops. To organise a workshop or private book making lesson get in touch 🙂