Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Merz Barn is a space that is being restored and maintained by a lovely couple Ian and Celia. It seems like they have taken this on as a bit of a vocation and use the space to encourage young and not so young artists, hosting yearly camps and other activities in a truly fantastic setting, and giving free rein to us to find our play, our unfettered creativity. The residency was held and organised by two amazing young artists Ellie Bullock and Sam Ford who had literally just graduated, some of their fellow students were also residents, their joie de vivre was delightful and inspiring.  I felt as if I might be living in the presence of a few quite brilliant young artists and the combination of wonderful countryside and pure pleasure company was a potent tonic. 
The Merz Barn belonged originally to Kurt Schwitters. He was considered a degenerate artist in Nazi Germany and had to flee to avoid persecution, first to Norway, and then to Britain where he eventually settled in Ambleside, Cumbria 'til he died. The barn was something he worked on while he was living here. The wall that he made is housed in a museum and Celia and Ian are working hard to raise funds to keep the original buildings stable and to build a Schwitters' study centre.

After breakfast on my first day I went for a wander to get my bearings around the Merz Barn grounds and campsite. Actually I didn't get far because halfway up the hill through the hay field I decided to sit down under an old oak tree and find my ground. I picked some of the grasses from the field and made a tiny coiled basket. And admired the view. And stitched into some oak leaves just to see how they looked. And found a thick twig with lichen at either end which I began to bind about with white cotton. The sun was shining and the crickets were singing and laughter and chatter floated up from the living/base camp next to the Merz Barn  

In the evenings after the sun had set bats scudded over the surface of the river picking up the insect life. Once we saw a late-to-bed buzzard.

It's taken me a little while to metaphorically clean my boots after coming home from my lovely trip to Cumbria for the ksdiy14 residential summer school. I arrived at the camp a few days after it had started, as the beginning clashed with my trip to Wales previously mentioned and I wasn't sure what to expect so went with an open mind and a hope that I would fit in, particularly as I was arriving a little late. There was a choice of accommodation, a bunk barn or camping and I opted for the bunk barn as it saved me carrying camping gear across the country. The bunk barn proved to quite luxurious, I'd had visions of dirt floors and hole in the floor toilets but it was a comfortable space with two bedrooms each with 8 beds, a large open  plan living space with a decent kitchen, and toilets and showers, which was pretty good at £6 a night. Not to mention the bunk barn was situated right next to the river with it's own small garden which meant, given that the weather was gorgeous, that swimming became a bit of a must do activity. The water was deep because of the weir, crystal clear and refreshingly cool.


Monday, 14 July 2014

I'm re-posting this so I can put it on the Illustration Friday website in response to their call for illustrations on the theme of "invisible". It is held within the notes I have made for the project Lux Lucet In Tenebris of which I have spoken earlier and is my illustration of how it feels to be invisible.


First evening, a walk up the hill

I've been away to Wales for my son's graduation in Lampeter. My ex-husband rented a cottage for us and the weekend was a real celebration, although tinged with sadness as my son has had a wonderful time at the university, and saying goodbye to a happy place is not easy. Still, those good times are jewels to be cherished, over a lifetime we have opportunity to gather joy and if we hold it close and know the great value of an experience then that experience will nourish us long after it is done. His graduation photos are not for my blog space but I took some pictures of the small wanderings that his dad and I took together. We split many years ago but stayed friends, he has been good to parent with and we have mutual respect and affection for each other. It was great to be able to share Amis' graduation day with him. People who are kind make the world a better place.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

And finally a trip to Sheringham which I took a week or so back. A train trip and a good walk on a clean beach in gorgeous english sunshine is always balm for my soul.

I took the circles over to my daughter's house to show Luca and his little sister asked if I had anything for her. Actually I have lots of ideas for Elidi but something that came out that visit is my recycled envelope project. 
I had taken some origami paper over to play with and we began by making rabbits. The first step of the folding was to fold diagonally across the square and then fold in the edges to the centre fold. This made a kind of ice-cream cone and Elidi called out "it's a lollipop" and wanted one in just that shape and so did Luca. I carried on making rabbits but I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Elidi's lollipop had taken on a life of it's own and become a shoe amongst other things. A simple piece of paper had triggered her imagination and she was rapt in a story of her own making. 
Meanwhile Jessamy and I shifted to making shrimps and boxes.
When I got home I picked up a pile of bank statement envelopes and decided to cut them up into squares for origami. It always feels like there is too much un-used paper in envelopes to throw away but I am never sure what I want to do that paper.
As I cut up the paper I began folding the squares into rabbits. There is something about rabbits. They are such fertile creatures, it seemed poetic that the rabbits should represent ideas. One idea gives birth to another and another until I am falling over ideas and I haven't enough time to make them manifest. 
And in fact the rabbits and Elidi, though she doesn't know it are the source behind my recycled envelope project now. Thank heavens for children who keep my thinking live. I will post some photos later.
During that time in great darkness my daughter had two children. I can say without a shadow of doubt that the smiles of those two little ones and my own children and the care and kindness of some very good friends gave me passage back to a life on earth. My garden, my art and my body (though dance, yoga and shiatsu) were part of my return too. 
Recently my grandson inspired me with his circle drawings. One circle inside another in different colours which he was casually drawing after seeing some aeroplane markings, if I remember rightly. I made a half-hearted attempt to copy his drawings with some inktense pencils but the results didn't really shine. But then I tried screen printing overlapping circles and then scrumpling them and they look quite nice for first notes. As always this idea that I have cribbed from Luca is work in progress and these first notes are doodles and notions that I will let be to grow where they will for a while.

It's been a little while since I posted on my blog, I've been playing with  paper,  folding it and crumpling it and using it as cloth. As I have mentioned previously one idea leads to another and so my Lux Lucet In Tenebris project has moved on a little. 
This project began as a response to a long and painful relationship with a recovering alcoholic. I had never come up against alcoholism before and in my naivety I thought that if he wasn't drinking he wasn't an alcoholic but he self-medicated with other things. Both my heart and spirit got broken. I was told I was nothing, a useless whore, worthless, that no-one cared so often that in the end I believed it. The final four or five years of my time with him were some of my darkest days. But. In that darkness is light. Being constantly told by your lover that your thoughts, your feelings, your needs are unimportant is emotionally abusive. But on another level it was a gift because being reduced to nothing allowed me to feel myself as part of a greater whole, connected in my nothingness to everything. My non-existence gave me a sense of belonging to something bigger than the small space my body occupies. That was the chink of light, the crack in the wall. It is that light that I found while plunged into horrible black space and that I am trying to put across in my sketches and notes for this project which I sporadically post on my blog. 
As a post script I would also like to say that the way he behaved was not o.k and I have tagged him because one of the things abusers count upon is your silence. This project is something I am doing to help me soothe the parts of me that are still blighted by years of being rubbished. It is a labyrinth of pain if I am truly honest with myself. I have gained a little understanding but lost trust.