Tuesday, 22 July 2008

'Making Pictures with Fabric' workshop with Janet Bolton

I haven’t managed to add anything to my blog for a while, a combination of lack of energy and inspiration, the end of my Artist’s Way course and the group we were going to form fizzling out immediately, and a much needed trip to Spain to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday. All of which has interrupted my creative momentum. But last Saturday I treated myself to a on day workshop with textile artist Janet Bolton. A series of synchronicities led me to the college hosting the workshop – West Dean College, housed in a magnificent mansion, which is a set in beautiful gardens near Chichester, West Sussex. I was really excited about the course, as Janet Bolton is one of my favourite textile artists; her quirky, naïve embroidered pieces reflecting everyday country life are delightful. However I was so excited I couldn’t sleep the night before and the long drive to West Dean left me exhausted before I’d even started.

Luckily Janet is a very experienced and enthusiastic teacher and I learnt a lot in one day. She was trained as a fine artist so pays a huge amount of attention to colour and composition whereas I think my talents are more concerned with decoration. I started a piece inspired by a photo of the pavement. It’s still a work in progress but this is how far I got during the workshop:

Monday, 30 June 2008

My selection of fabrics for my quilt

Just a short post to say that I have sorted all the scraps of fabric that my grandmother left me and taken a photo to show you. I will start cutting squares tomorrow. I have never made a quilt before but here goes…

Thursday, 26 June 2008

My first project as a newly recovered artist

While doing the Artist’s Way course I wasn’t sure where it would lead. I had no idea what form my creativity would take. I did start a degree in textiles (until I got pregnant with my twin boys) but for my first artist’s date I decided to create an ambitious appliquéd cushion cover, and somehow although I loved the idea, I got bored after a few hours and still haven’t finished it. So I wasn’t sure that textiles was the right path for me. But towards the end of the course an idea started to materialise, I didn’t force it, it just lay in gestation and slowly formed into something meaningful and whole. I think it’s the first time I’ve let an idea bubble up gently without forcing it out. I love Julia Cameron’s comparison of creativity to birthing, I have always felt like creativity is a really painful process – like childbirth, but this time I let my baby of an idea grow until it was ready to pop out more gracefully.

I am going to describe what I want to do, to set the intention (and so I can’t wriggle out of it in fear of failure). The person in my family with whom I identify most with is my maternal grandmother. I was very close to her and unfortunately she died when I was only 17, so I never knew her as an adult. As she lay slowly dying of cancer, she told me about her youth in the 20s and 30s, when she was an avant-garde bohemian, way ahead of her time, who had all sorts of exciting escapades in pre-war Europe and hung out with the Bloomsbury set. It must have been an exciting existence, cut brutally short by WWII. My grandmother was Jewish and her parents did not survive the war, she only managed to through a few synchronicitous miracles. She showed me her beautiful photo albums from the time but I was only a teenager and I didn’t fully take in all this information. Sadly I don’t remember any of her stories. She left me her photo albums which my mother eventually gave to me when she trusted that I was mature enough to look after them properly. It took quite a long time for me to reach that level of responsibility!. The photos are delightful and some of them not what one would expect of one’s grandmother (who would have been 100 if she was still alive). I put some of my favourites on Flickr but I’ll reveal a few here.

So I have decided to use these photos to make some textile pieces, probably in the form of art quilts, as for a long time I have been fascinated by the precious heirloom quality of textiles that have been handed down through generations and where women have taught their daughters to sew. When I was pregnant, my aunt found a pile of fabric scraps in her attic that were left over from dresses that my grandmother made in the 70s. There are lots of beautiful Liberty floral prints that I will use in these quilts. I am so excited to have finally hit on a project that I really feel from the heart. I will keep you posted on its creation.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Screen Printed Poster Art

On Saturday night I took my rediscovered artist to a Screenprinted Poster Exhibition. Ever since I dropped my first acid in a Grateful Deadhead's house and all the rose strewn skeletons and skulls popped out of the posters and waved at me, I have loved psychedelic poster art. I had no idea there was a group of graphic designers in Brighton who make this stuff still. Their work is all screen printed, resulting in a richness of colour and clarity of line that is lost with most mass produced prints. I was smitten by this print (ever since reading Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume I have adored the god Pan):

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Books to feed your creative soul

I have a huge pile of books by my bedside, most of them are about personal development in one way or another. I only seem to manage one novel a year. I seem to have collected quite a collection of books on the creative process. I also have a penchant for coffee table art books. I would love to share my books with others and as my Artist's Way course ended yesterday :( although we are going to continue as a 'creative cluster', I think I will invite everyone round to my house to glean inspiration from my collection. By the way, tempting though it is to link to Amazon and cream off a bit of cash that way I urge to to try and find these books at your local independent bookshop if you can, please!

These are my favourite books to awaken creativity and stimulate a joyful, juicy life:

The Queen of juicy living is of course SARK.
I discovered her almost 20 years ago when I was a spaced out young raver. Her childlike drawings and hand written pages mirrored my wide eyed wonder at the time. I still open them now and reconnect with that innocence and exuberance. I love that she encourages us to take loads of naps.
I have these books by her:

A Creative Companion
How to Free Your Creative Spirit
1991, Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press, ISBN: 0890876517

This book is your creative companion. It will help you re-learn how to free your creative spirit. We all started out creatively free. Remember the sandbox? All you needed was warm toes in bare sand, and maybe a good bucket. Then you could build your own world.

Inspiration Sandwich
Stories to Inspire Our Creative Freedom
1992, Celestial Arts/Ten Speed Press, ISBN: 0890876789

Stories to inspire your own special world.

Succulent Wild Woman
May 1997, Simon and Schuster, ISBN: 068483376X
This book is my glowing invitation to you -- to live a rich, succulent life! I explore love, sexuality, romance, money, fat, fear and creativity. It's a little bit like reading my diary -- with permission. Succulence is powerFull! and so are we as women.

The Bodacious Book of Succulence
Daring to Live Your Succulent Wild Life
May 1998, Simon and Schuster, ISBN: 0684833778

I wish for this book to catapult you out of bed and smack into the center of one of your dreams, or lure you back to bed, where you will lie helplessly laughing at all your mistakes and frozen moments.

I wish for this book to free the part of your soul that longs to write epic novels, recite Yeats by heart, play a musical instrument by magic, or perform in a play about your life that you create and design. Most of all, I want this book to give you a boost up over the fence that prevents you from moving forward and inward.

Through SARK I discovered one of her proteges Sabrina Ward Harrison
and was entranced by her delightful, scrawly, sensitive illustrations and moving poetry. I have just looked at her website and she has written one of my favourite ever quotes:
Preface to Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body"
Go have a look

I have these books by
Sabrina Ward Harrison:

The True and the Questions: A Journal
by Sabrina Ward Harrison
"I journal to understand my life as I'm living it. I use my journals as a place to put the things that spill out over the edges of my life: photo negatives, scraps of paper, poems I have heard and loved, my sorrow, and epiphanies, the true and the questions. My journals have become guideposts for my life. Maybe it's the same way for you, and so I invite you inside my world. With this journal, you can create the book you most want to find." - Sabrina Ward Harrison

Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself
by Sabrina Ward Harrison
"Sabrina's work defines categorization...Once I turned the page, I discovered that her work was too elaborate to simply be called a book. Spilling Open is an intense, poetic and visually powerful diary...Sabrina Ward Harrison could be the offspring of May Sarton,, Henry Miller, Ritke, or Whitman. Or she could just be a regular girl like me. And that, for once, is what gets my attention." --Whitney Matheson, USAToday.com

The final book in my list is my most recent acquisition, guerilla artist (I love that job title) Keri Smith's Living Out Loud: An Activity Book to Fuel a Creative Life,
a fun book full of fold out pages, games and stickers, guaranteed to tickle your inner child! Here's her blog, The Wish Jar.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

What inspired me to create this blog?

Until last weekend I don’t think it had ever occurred to me to create a blog. I spend too much time in cyberspace anyway and I recognise it as a block, something passive I do to procrastinate. But over the past few months I have discovered some amazing crafty blogs showcasing women’s (it always seems to be women) creations and documenting what seems to me to be an unachievable but idyllic earth-mother lifestyle of sewing, knitting and baking. Obviously not in the Stepford wife domestic slave style of previous generations but in the spirit of reclaiming these things that the feminism of the 1970’s tossed away to be the same as men.

A couple of weeks ago I paid a lot of money to a nutritionist to be told for the umpteenth time that I needed to avoid gluten (and probably dairy). Every time I am told this I stick my head in the sand because I am one of those few women who has a healthy relationship with food. I am lucky enough to never have had an eating disorder and I eat a fairly healthy diet although I do have a weakness for Green & Blacks Almond Milk Chocolate. Generally I don’t consume food with guilt and am fearful of getting neurotic about what I eat if I cut gluten and dairy out of my diet. But it also hit me that it’s ridiculous to carry on throwing money at nutritionists and ignore their advice so this time I thought I’d give it a go. I decided to search the internet for some good gluten-free recipes and the first website I found was Gluten-Free Girl, an uplifting account of becoming gluten-free after being diagnosed with Celiac disease. I loved this woman’s positive, joyful voice and almost immediately ordered her book. Now I usually buy books and let them gather dust on my bedside table for a few years but this time I devoured her book as hungrily as a bar of Green & Blacks during a blood sugar dip. And on a rare day when the sceptical, cynical monkey on my back (also known as my inner critic) was silent, I suddenly had the urge to start a blog. A couple of months ago, before starting The Artist’s Way course I don’t think I would have felt I had anything to write about. But the course has so inspired me (and reminded me that I have a strong drive to inspire others) that I thought it would be a fabulous way to document my creative adventures as well as motivation to continue this artistic journey once the course is finished. So here I am. And thank you Gluten-Free Girl, for inspiring me with your ‘glass half full’ enthusiasm and your delicious recipes.

Monday, 9 June 2008

The Community Food Project

OK, It’s the eighth week of my Artist’s Way course but I’m on week 10 in the book (it’s a 10 week course but the book is 12 chapters long, so designed to complete over 12 weeks). For my Artist’s Date this week I chose to photographically connect with nature using my new digital camera and had intended on visiting a beautiful garden somewhere in Sussex. But at the last moment I remembered that I’d been meaning to visit The Community Food Project, a huge allotment space on the edge of Brighton that is open to volunteers on Sundays (and Thursdays). So I got into my car, blasting out an old Dubtribe CD that reflected my mood perfectly, full of joy and anticipation, and drove towards the telephone mast that towers over East Brighton in Whitehawk. What looked like an industrial wasteground soon made way for a tranquil oasis of pastoral beauty on a hill overlooking Brighton and the sea.

I took lots of macro photos of plants and a few to attempt to capture the peaceful and grounding atmosphere but you have to visit the place to experience that, even a photographic genius couldn’t record it. In return for some help on the vast allotments (which grow a large range of fruit and vegetables using organic, biodynamic and permaculture techniques) volunteers can hang out, drink tea (mine was made with fresh mint and lemon balm) and take some produce home. Yesterday people were picking strawberries and as I had brought some chopped pineapple with me we made delicious, juicy mouthfuls of strawberry, pineapple, mint and lemon balm. It was a beautiful day, nourishing for the soul and I’m sure to be back again next week with my children.

More photos on my Flickr page

Saturday, 7 June 2008

The beginning…

Some years ago I decided to give up my career as a web designer to follow a lifelong dream and study textile design. I spent a year working very hard at Chelsea School of Art in London where I specialised in Stitch. However the universe had other plans for my creativity and during the summer holidays I found I was pregnant with twins. I had to leave Chelsea and so I moved back to Brighton where I gave birth to two boys in 2003. It was the start of a very bumpy ride as I had some mysterious and debilitating health problems which turned out to be MS. I was quite heartbroken to have abandoned my dreams of living a creatively fulfilling life and as much as I wished to fill that hole with motherhood, I yearned for more. Two years ago I became a single mother so I had very little time to indulge in anything artistically, particularly as any free time I had was spent looking after my health. That has been a journey of discovery in itself and I have become very involved in personal development as well as meeting all kinds of amazing healers on the way and finally getting a yoga habit. My twins started school this year so I eventually gave in to my creative hunger and decided to enrol in a course on The Artist's Way in April this year, even though I had no idea how I would find the childcare or time. But I trusted that things would fall into place and magically they did. And I haven't looked back. The floodgates of my creativity are still only just ajar - I have so many ideas but not much free time, but I am looking forward to the artistic adventures I am sure to have, whatever they may be. Right now I want to sculpt from clay, paint, draw, take photos and of course make beautiful things from fabric, but I have no idea where all this will lead and it's the not knowing that is an adventure. I am starting this blog with some photos of my embroidered textile designs from my degree course but I intend to record my weekly artist's date as well as anything else I conjure up. The Artist's Way isn't solely concerned with artistic pursuits, it is about leading a vibrantly juicy life, identifying and following one's dreams and injecting some childlike joy back into the stressful lives we adults lead. It's about noticing (and creating) magic and synchronicity, which is an adventure in itself.