Monday, 31 March 2014

It's nearly a year since I graduated, and at Christmas I signed up to be a part of NNOS 14 as I thought it would be a good way to mark the anniversary. My studio will be open for three weekends May 24th/25th, 31st/1st & June 7th/8th but I still have a long way to go before it is presentable so making work is on a bit of a back burner at the moment. 
However, over the weekend I gave myself time to play because the sun was shining and I had painted up some cloth and paper to begin experimenting with cyanotype printing. I did a little bit of this last summer but the sun is stronger in summer and the prints this time were more experimental and my motive less focused. Most of the ones that I made for a project about love were not very successful. There may be a metaphor in that. But the ones I made for a new body of work called "Lux Lucet In Tenebris" that I am sampling for were good for samples. The cyanotype process seems particularly suited to this project but I have also been working with discharge and devore and cut paper. I never really know where an idea will take me, and I have found that the best thing to do is to follow my fingers, and accept that whatever comes of it I will learn from making and playing and letting myself be. Occasionally I make something I love and that is such a tremendous feeling that the chance of that happening is enough to keep me going through the dull or not so happening days and work.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The year has definitely slipped into spring now. My garden is full of flowers and is recovering from losing a tree which with a heavy heart I had felled a week or so back. Primroses and forget-me-nots have taken over from the snowdrops and violets and here and there a daffodil or a tulip shouts out "red" or "bright yellow". This is the time of year when my garden makes looking lovely seem effortless. As well as the ground level flowers the hazels are putting out soft leaves, the ferns are just beginning to unfurl, and the crazy pink camelia, that I inherited from a garden belonging to a woman called Carol Hardy in Harleston some 6 or 7 years ago, is putting on it's show. The plum trees are nearly done blossoming but the cherry is looking very promising and should be in full flower in the next week or so. And the bluebells are on the brink of doing their thing. In all this abundance I was inspired to take photographs, so here are leaves and a couple of buds and a forget-me-not. The nettles are from one of the several small patches I leave for the butterflies.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Two more books - More Than You Can Say by Paul Torday (pub Pheonix) which is a cracking good read. The hero is really not a hero yet somehow his voice is engaging, some part of him, a very small part of him is maybe, perhaps, was once a decent boy/youth/man. Not a great thinker even in his own account "The thoughts kept rattling around my head. So I did what I always did when what remained of my conscience gave me trouble: I tried not to think." p 68, his thoughtlessness looks set to be a lifetime's habit whatever good fortune or good intentions he may have. I had a boyfriend like that for quite a few years. He never quite extended beyond himself but could be very charming if he stood to benefit from putting out the charm. Falling out of love with him took me too long. Love is a very strange teacher. And failing in love can leave a bitter taste for a while. Enough of me and sad sap moping, the book is rip-roaring adventure written brilliantly.

The other book is a little fairy tale - Guilt and Gingerbread by Leon Garfield (pub Puffin) which I read just before the Torday. Similarly it has a hero wrestling with his good and bad side but eventually the good wins out and he gets the princess. True love takes strange and deviant pathways but in this story acceptance of each other's not so cute bits allowed them to live happily ever after as whole and imperfect people rather than a dreamed up fantasy. 
The opening lines of this book are "It's a fact that travel broadens the mind; and it's a fact that, if you do it on a horse, it broadens the bottom, too". You know a book is going to be good when it starts out like that. And with illustrations by Fritz Wegner it seemed like it would be a winner when I picked it up at a second hand bookshop a week or so back.  

Sunday, 23 March 2014

My blog has been quite dedicated to my reading of late, I've been lucky and had quite a run of good books and time to revel in them too. One of the books I am dipping into at the moment is Practical Basketry Techniques by Stella Harding and Shane Waltener (pub A&C Black) and this weekend I had a bit of a go at making a couple of coiled baskets. The first I made was from jasmine twigs out of my garden stitched with silk left over from a piece of shibori I am working on. And the second was similarly stitched with the left over silk threads but was made from willow twigs that I found this morning on a walk at Bowthorpe marshes with my dear friend Sally. 
The willow was golden green and curled round easily to make a round basket, the jasmine seemed to be slightly less flexible, tho' it was my first try at coiling so that might also have made a difference, and came out more distorted. They are both pretty crude attempts at basketry but it felt like art-play and playful creativity is always a joy whatever the outcome. And for first attempts I was not displeased with the outcome and hopefully as I continue to experiment with techniques and materials I will get better. The jasmine basket was made with my beautiful daughter in mind, she has been a source of inspiration to me since the day she was born just over 27 years ago.


Thursday, 20 March 2014

My primary pleasure at the moment seems to be reading, and the latest book is Barefoot in Mullyneeny : A boys journey towards belonging by Bryan Gallagher (pub Harper Collins). It was an easy read that slipped down like a hot cup of tea after a long walk on winter's day. A series of stories from his childhood and youth. It was fresh and uplifting. An eyes and heart wide open kind of book. From adventure to everyday each anecdote is written with a wonderful zest for life that so often gets crushed from following our own, or other people's, expectations and rules and boundaries. 
I can't find a specific quote because no one sentence or passage would represent the whole book. It's a book about country people and living in the country, and reading it you feel like you are right there in that small boy/young lad's body experiencing it with him. Pure joy.

Friday, 14 March 2014

In 2006 after a brief and abortive fling I began reading The Rings of Saturn by W G Sebald, strangely I didn't finish it though I can remember the writing left me breathless. 
Less than a year later I met someone else and the places Sebald describes became personally etched into my being. Walks, with that man, at Benacre, Covehithe, Dunwich, Southwold and particularly Bungay and its environs became soul spaces, homelands. Later still in 2010-2011 I took the first year of my degree at Lowestoft Technical College and the train journey from Norwich to Lowestoft and back again became a rich seam of inspiration. The train itself a moving home that passed through a familiar yet daily changing landscape. 
Those three/four years 2007-2011 were watershed years, good things happened, bad things happened, but they marked me, as some years do, more than others. 
I mention that part of my life story because by chance I picked up a film at my local library the other day - Patience (After Sebald) A walk through The Rings of Saturn by Grant Gee - and knowing that it would cover familiar territory I borrowed it to watch. I was unsure if it would be turgid memorial piece but I loved it. I guess the footage of towns and villages and coastal stretches that I too have walked or travelled gave me an instant connection but actually the film is beautiful in it's own right. It reminded me of the walks I had taken those many years back and how full they made me feel and 
my desire to get out walking is re-inflamed. 
I have also picked out the book from my shelves to go on my very-soon pile of books-to-read as I cannot for the life of me think why I stopped reading it before. Maybe I was waiting until I knew, until I had begun to build my own maps so that I would be better able to take in Sebald's way of writing and being.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

And this is a brilliant ted talk, funny, passionate, thoughtful and thought provoking.
My latest reading is a couple of poetry books by John Burnside - Common Knowledge (pub Secker & Warburg) and Black Cat Bone (pub Cape Poetry). I'll confess a lot of it is going over my head and reading it is not a straight forward task. But then that is, to me, some of the nature of poetry, it's as if it goes in through all my senses, the words on the page are the poem, but not the poetry, if that makes sense. Anyway, these two books are not the only ones I've been reading this week but I wanted to jot down their names and the name of the author so that I can come back after I have absorbed this first impression.

These lines from Common Knowledge - Suburbs have become a part of my evolution.

"Wet sunday afternoon; after the rain a bible wind ripples the sheet puddles on Station Road; along the hedges by the girls' school an elaborate birdsong streams through the wet scent of roses, like a new form of music evolving out of water."


Thursday, 6 March 2014

I'm on a good run of books at the moment fed by the local library The latest is Land's Edge - a coastal memoir by Tim Winton (pub Picador). I'm jotting it down so I remember to look out for his name. I was drawn to it because I have a passion for the sea. He talks about whaling and fishing and sharks and diving and all sorts of other things that are unfamiliar to me. His coastline is Australian so I guess that makes a difference. He brings me as close to these things as I am ever likely to get. The language he uses to describe the systematic cutting up a whale, the gruesome dismantling of a great animal is poetic despite the horror. 
I am more of a beachcomber, a beachcomber, passive, receptive, pastoral I guess. I like to gaze, to be, to see, hear, feel, the beach all around me. The sea, the water, is is a different beast really to the land, the beach, that it brushes up upon and I think he has a deeper understanding of the greatness of oceans than I do. 

Here is a quote from the book, I like to drop in a quote to help me recall the writer's voice
"For every moment the sea is peace and relief, there is another when it shivers and stirs to become chaos. It's just as ready to claim as it is to offer"

Sunday, 2 March 2014

My amazing grandchildren and I have started an alphabet drawing game. I give them a letter. They give me a word and, if I can, I draw it. The first letter was B. I was given Bird and Bee. So here are my drawings of a bird and a bee. After I'd drawn them I realised I'd been a bad granny and torn out pages from a book and scribbled on them. Ooops, is it good to be a bad granny or bad ?