Saturday, 23 May 2009
Friday, 15 May 2009
After a week locked into endless cycles of painting, wallpapering and trying to get the flat into a presentable form for renting the [last weeks] full moon demands I stop and absorb myself in something soulful. I had promised myself this time each month and in these moon days the merino tops have been singing a symphony of raspberry, olive greens with an undertone of chocolate browns leaving me both hungry and thirsty for some felting.
The dying process has become a ritual: lift the box from under the counter unpacking the red chipped enamel pot and the dying towel which holds a history of all the colours I’ve created unlike the stirring spoon whose colours have all merged to form a sludgy mud hue.
When it comes to dying I’m a gambler. No charts or weighing just the random science of sprinkling. The more sprinkling involved the bigger the piece of felt to be dyed as I know it will be hard to reach that exact shade again. While I’ve been using powdered acid dyes I can’t ignore the calling to move over to natural dyes and gather lichens and bark and crush and pummel.
I love the initial swirl in which the colour lies briefly in cloudy wisps before dissolving into a uniformed colour. There is magic in submerging pristine white wool and to see that initial shade take hold. If the wool simmers for half an hour or so it will fully absorb all of the dye leaving the water clear. The smell of soaked wool is somehow comforting, then a shot or two of vinegar before a quick rinse and a gentle squeeze before the wool is hung up on a makeshift line across the bath, transformed into a line of prayer flags.
I’d been thinking how I approached craft after reading interviews of artists approaching that 'space' as sacred. The mornings soundtrack a collection of Celtic chants had helped lull me into that space as I prepared everything for the days work.
I concentrated deeper and deeper on the words as the chiffon was laid out and the felt cut, checked and rechecked that each layer got thoroughly soaked in water.
A gentle observational stage by which the fibre has soaked up around three litres of water. Drops sit heavy on the surface like jewels. I pat in the water encouraging the fibres to soak up the last of the moisture so by now it’s so heavy that when it’s flipped over to the other side everything stays in place.
I apply a little soap, its only part to help to lubricate the microscopic barbs of the wool as they lock into place with the manipulation of force. I begin gently rubbing the surface with a small piece of bubble wrap to encourage an initial felting so it holds together before the rolling begins.
I find that craft only initiates a certain quality of mind when it’s approached in a certain way. With the Celtic chants of old Irish swirling around me I feel a connection in the sway of the work, the repetitive rhythms which they must have made in daily life. The chants exist as an expression of yourself, yet also as an expression of the land. I remember my roots, the paths taken from Ireland to bring my family here. The ancestors now in other world’s come to mind and somehow I feel this space exists between worlds and I can exist here helped by the meditative quality of rocking the rolled felt back and forth.
I can never quite muster the strength through arms alone to felt this stage and so I remove the 4 foot long tube onto the kitchen floor and use my feet to apply a steady pressure. It seems it’s the only time that the kitchen floor gets a real washing.
Tipping the rolled up felt into the sink I pour out a couple of litres of water, unfurling the felt I pinch the surface slightly to test of the fibres have felted, satisfyingly they lift together. I approach unrolling the felt with an open mind. With this type of process you can never plan exactly what is going to happen, there is always an element of chance, of magic. It’s meeting this without preconceived ideas, giving over to the process. The process offers metamorphoses. I pull away the bubble wrap layers, the towel and old blind which is used as a roller this process mirroring nature the unfurling greenness and underneath my fingers green merges, dissolving into brown – like the outside season, a cycle re-enacted another chance for lessons to be learnt.
In these days of too much computer work and repetitive arm injuries I have to admit I have one more transforming process which somehow knocks out the magic but holds the same excitement in how the item turns out, my secret ingredient - the washing machine! The hours it’s saved mankind in beating clothes off rocks and saving felters arms for a few more scarves!
Everything is looking good and so I trim the felt fingers down ensuring they are in proportion with the weight and sit of the scarf. I often throw it into the machine to felt up those slightly frayed edges (that no one would actually know could do with a slight refelt). This is the final shape shifting where the trickster often rears their head. Unpredictable things happen like scarf wildly shrinking or the fabric pulling off in a new direction and yet it calls for an almost Buddhist like non attachment, a letting go of preconceived ideas. And yet when it does emerge from it’s tumble at 16,000 revs per min (or whatever that number stands for) a changed scarf this is where the ingenuity lies. Of attaching poppers and buttons and positioning it just so – so it looks like this was the planned for garment all along!
Saturday, 9 May 2009
My random winner decider for the giveaway is Sue, a very willing adjudicator. I wrapped the participant names up in paper scrunched round a dog bisciut. Sue gave careful snuffled consideration to each entry before crunching her final selection who was Kitty. She then celebrated Kitty's win by eating all the other contestants.
Kitty contact me with your address and i'll post it out to you.
I'm enjoying a lazy saturday, visa forms are posted off as I await my interview date from the American Consulate in London. And to a taste of my new life in the States, here's a wonderful picture of the inside of my fiances truck, brilliant!
Monday, 4 May 2009
I love days like this. The hills are enveloped in mist and the trees sing as the wind blows through them. It's as if the heavens have came down to earth bringing the gods and goddesses to reside once more, as they have always done, in the hills and the stones and all living things.
I have felt so lost over the last few weeks and while on paper I could map my connection to the world in practise I have somehow unwittingly created a dam. That dam is built from letting myself get irritated by the petty details, eating crappy food washed down with even crappier TV.
I need to sit down beside myself, lay out how I wish to live life and have all facets of me sign up to that contract. It's easy enough to submerge yourself in workshops and retreats but today it's holding on to what you've discovered and not let it become diluted with so many distractions.
I've hopped on one leg and sang Cherokee waking songs, I've survived 5 hour sweatlodges and danced all night around roaring Pagan fires but somehow those insights fizzle out. I need one focus, the help of a tradition to see the way.
'What happens to a culture without a living mythology is that it gets
addicted to whatever numbs the pain of archetypal starvation and the vacuum of meaning' Suzi Gablik – The Reenchantment of Art
Yesterday I participated in a workshop at St Mungo's museum, lead by FionTulah, head of the Ceile De order. The afternoon was based around chants called Fonn which exists as a song or chant but also describes a state of mind, and of the land itself. She explained that the fuinn work on different levels, harmonising the parts of us which relate to the siritual, otherworldly and the physical.
I've experienced chants and meditations of various cultures but even though I don't speak Gaelic it feels like a link to my Scottish and Irish ancestors. I feel I am participating in something that they were part of, I am touching a living tradition. While the words might be unfamiliar the Ceile de's vision of the world is oh so familiar.
Caim agus Corrach translates as Grace and Coracle. I'm familiar with my dad talking about how to make a Corricle and can almost smell the tar pot used to paint the skin. As Fion explained there are many instances in mythology of people being set out (often banished) in a coracle with no oars left to the mercy of the prevailing winds.
But within this small chant lay what I needed. On that day Fiontullach was most definitely my Anam Cara (soul friend) prescribing the Fonn my heart and soul needed. Grace is envisaged as the space around you, an aura, the expanse of the soul carrying the body, not the body carrying the soul. It is your state of mind rooted in spirit and not on outwardly fleeting external 'things'.
The coracle is your journey through uncharted space, so that even when you may feel lost and unsure in life you must be grounded in yourself, and understand you are exactly where you need to be and to try and appreciate the uncertainty.
And in the chanting of those words I realised that while I had scoured the volumes of Carmina Gadelica for references to the Goddess Bhrighde nothing can compare to having those stories read to you. The full power of the myth evokes images, you are placed in an unbroken linage with the truths and the energy resonating inside.
This is the paper on which I'm writing that contract to myself, the roots which I hope will continue to stretch out and keep me balanced.
Friday, 1 May 2009
I came across Aileen's work on Flickr and was quickly sucked into her luscious coloured Scottish Landscapes. Her Croft scenes reminded me of staying in bothy's in wild and beautiful landscapes and of camping by the shore under moonlit skies. Enjoy some musings with Aileen over virtual coffee.
I was really drawn to your needle felted landscapes, especially your use of colour. Why would you say nature features so predominately in your work?
Having spent most of my life living in the countryside and visiting the west coast of Scotland on holidays, I found that when I went to college for four years and lived in a city, I just couldn't function properly. I found the city so uninspiring and when I took off to do a bit of back packing I subconsciously headed west. I found myself on the outer Islands of Scotland and the west coast of Ireland and that's where I felt most at peace, most inspired and rejuvenated. The colours I use in my work probably reflect my affinity for the sea, the sky, the beauty of a sunset etc. And my use of vibrant colour in other pieces might reflect my sense of fun and my sociable nature.
What inspires you, that you couldn’t you live without?
Being surrounded by trees and greenery and our visits to the west coast.
Is the source of the materials you use important? Environmental factors such as dyes used, the source of the wool?
As I become more interested in felt, fibres and yarns I find myself wanting to know more about natural dyes and sources of wool. I'd love to experiment with dyes myself and make them from what I can find in the garden and in the woods. I get given a lot of bits and pieces from friends and family that know I can reuse a lot of old garments etc so there is an element of recycling going on in my work.
Being a wonderfully creative person can you explain what creativity is in terms of what it means to you?
Creativity to me is the inbuilt intuition to do something artistc and make things beautiful. To express oneself in a way that appeals to other peoples sensitive sides. It may be that people express themselves creatively through music and song, through theatre and dance, through writing, gardening, decorating, whatever. When people get in touch with their creative side they experience joy and self satisfaction. I feel very blessed to be so naturally creative though it took me years to understand that it is more than just a hobby or a pass time to be making and creating. Having some sort of creative outlet is a need. Trying to stop that flow of creativity would be like piling up stones in the path of a stream. The stream would still find a way to flow.
When you consider the issues that western society faces do you feel creativity has anything to offer as an antidote?
There are many great projects going on that help people overcome difficulties and problems through creativity but the only antidote for society today is to stop and think and see the blatant greed and corruption going on all around them. I've never been one to make big statements through my work though.
Do you think craft has anything to offer in a spiritual connection? (for eg a connection to the spirit of a place or entering a meditative zone in repetitive work?)
I know that some people do feel a sense of fulfillment spiritually when they get right into whatever they are creating. I don't feel that.
Who is inspiring you right now (eg blogs/flickr)
I find the whole online crafting community a great inspiration. Living in a rural area I could be quite cut off from the creative world but following craft blogs and flickr groups keeps me fired up with new techniques and materials to try and of course the feedback is tremendous.
‘Disasters or experiments? What’s your attitude when it all goes wrong?
I love getting time to experiment. Just go with the flow and see what happens. I don't like wasting time though. I have two children and a house to keep (as do most!) and as my business grows I need to be making the best use of my time. Some disasters can be chopped up and used in another way and sometimes a thing doesn't turn out the way I want but something useful may be learned. I just don't like waste though. I'd hate to be using lots of nice materials and the piece turn out to be no good.
I’m nosey – would you share a picture of your workspace or something you’re working on?
My work space is a cubbie hole behind the stairs which is full to bursting point and I more often than not end up working at the kitchen table.
At the moment I am working on some textile seascapes for a new gallery opening in Johnshaven in May and some felt jewellery for a craft fair in St Andrews town hall on May 16th.
Thursday, 30 April 2009
Somehow i've been caught in this strange twilight of 'grrr' all week, much like the snarl of my Jack Russell when anyone dangles a hand anywhere near her.
Dan called this morning just as I was getting up, and him heading to bed (in the states) and I could hear coyotes howling their strange and eerie song in the background. Whether domisticated or wild - dogs aye make me smile.
So i thought i'd offer a giveaway. A ring that is, not small dog or Dan - the postage for either would be way too expensive. A giveaway of an 'organza bubble ring' so just share whatever it is that will always make you smile when your feeling 'grrrrrrrrr'.
Saturday, 18 April 2009
Got my ‘handfasting/enagaement/wedding’ ring in the post yesterday – I absolutely love it! The design is inspired by the seed pod of the tree peony, which dries black and opens to show it’s seeds.
It's made by Sophie of Duck Duck Goose Stuff – check her out on Etsy http://www.duckduckgoosestuff.etsy.com where you’ll find moon rocks, earthed lightning, moon pools, alien inspired wonders and fantastically she’s a lichen gal – making silver lichen inspired pieces!
I’m loving rings, I like working on such a small scale – and hate to admit there’s something about a quick fix of satisfaction going on.... Here's some i've been working on, I've got a couple on sale on Etsy. Thanks Lesley for the hand modelling!
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
It is that time of the month, a time that somehow exists out of time. My dreams so much more powerful and I’ve found on waking I’m still in their grip of their emotions.
My brother waved to me a few nights ago – before careering off in a 4x4 with that mischievous laugh of his, which I took as his saying, don’t worry I’m ok here (in that place beyond time). The next morning I cautiously looked to the park to see if it was churned up with tyre marks!
A few mornings ago I awoke still wrapped in the painful sorrow of my grandmother’s death (who died over 15 years ago). Her message seemed to lie in the several curious shaped boxes she left me. I remember so clearly running my fingers over their luscious olive green velvet. Shaped exactly to fit the tools that they held, old and well loved, their exact shape and detail has faded but a feeling lingers that somehow those tools are mine, that I’ve to pick them up, hold then in my hands, learn with them and call them mine.
I’ve come to appreciate this time each month as a time where ugly truths rear their head for the picking, like garden flowers with snake heads. With senses keen and claws sharpened I don’t suffer fools but become one stripping layers from the ones I love. At this time my heart blooms to encompass the entire world before the current changes I fall, plunging into cavernous caves of bottomless heartache. But still I wouldn’t forgo this time ~ when spirits whisper and the world reveals itself in its multi layered iridescent, back and rainbow coloured layers.
For all those who lived before me I give thanks. To have the strength to smile and wave at my brother and follow the trail of wisdom of my grandmother.
I remember her presence with me on a wilderness solo in Knoydart when she sat beside me reminding me that I am a modern ancestor. It is my chance in the long line to breathe and to have me feet firmly placed on the soil of this planet. To dream my dreams and strive for that role which moulds me and in turn may offer a little space for others to explore. And for all this, I am eternally grateful.
Messages with the dead ~ Ancestor pot
Thursday, 9 April 2009
I think my random inspirations this week aren't all that random and could be woven together with a mythological thread.
Myth is the language of the soul, it allows fantastical beasts and a charade of characters the means to manifest. While their stories might not be strictly true they hold truth within them. The magical key to unlocking them is belief, as when a story resonates it talks directly to something deep inside of us. Without that deep resonance and interpreation the learning the myth offers cannot be unlocked, a process which the great Joseph Campbell explains creates a harmony in the universe. Why? Because we are literally learning from that great source that lies beyond the human world.
These stories however are not something ancient to be held preciously and handled with white gloves as they are alive and constantly morphing. The story of our own everyday lives creates our personal myth. One way to explore myths and their truths is by using our hands ~ wither squelching in clay, or working with wool or wood or using our unique eye to paint or take photos. Using local materials or stories of place can help us understand what truths lie within them. Yet it doesn't matter if the myth is Russian, Sami or Aboriginal as it's the connection that matters.
Personally Baba Yaga never fails to terrify me - what learning beckons there? I can't quite face putting up a pic of her!
Morchella esculenta Mushroom photographed by Funginerd
Shamen - Felted peice from khazekstan
Baba Yaga's Chicken legged House created by Melissa Sue
Three faces of the Goddess
Saturday, 4 April 2009
Yesterday for the first time in about a year I was able to smell! It was expected after an operation that left me reeling from the anaesthetic rather than the op itself. But sinus are now clear, polyps gone and awaiting the combination of both smell and taste!
I had ran up 4 flights of stairs and yucked that someone had had a sneaky cigarette - then suddenly realised i SMELLED something! Then was overjoyed to realise small dog STANK desperately needed a bath! It was just fantastic that the bin in the kitchen was just GROSS!
I curiously went round the flat smelling each room - it was like breaking in to someone else's house. Strangest of all was smelling my hair and my jacket - I had no idea what I smelled like. Very strange to be unfamiliar with yourself.
With the operation and all i've been neglecting this blog some. And so in celebration of my new found sense of smell (I can't taste either but somehow smell is so much more exciting), here are my favourite things to smell:
Dan (and coffee!)
Wet wool when felting
Woodsmoke - preferably from wood burning stove
Saturday, 28 March 2009
As she explains art is a universal language with the process providing its own reward – there is definately a meditative quality around these words and creations.
Many thanks Kate and check out the bottom of the interview for blog, Etsy, Photographic and musical links.
I see nature in your work. Why incorporate/replicate nature?
I see nature as beauty in one of its purest forms. The development of the planet and evolution of life over billions of years has created so many wonderful, complex, absurd, incongruous and incredible things. Nature to me is about purity and getting ‘back to basics’ – I want to celebrate the fact that underneath all the ugliness and sadness in the world, beauty and wonder are still possible – and inspiration for this from nature is abundant.
What inspires you?
Colour and texture. Memories, smells, light, and shadow. Biology, chemistry, astronomy, and photographs from the Hubble Space Telescope Serendipity.
Do you ever get obsessed?
I wouldn’t say I get ‘obsessed’ but I do love the satisfaction of finishing a piece, which makes me want to start another, and another, and…!
Have you ever experienced a spiritual element in craft?
Physically the Japanese ‘kumihimo’ braiding that I do is quite repetitious and almost meditative – I certainly find that I get into a rhythm that is soothing, relaxing and mind-clearing – quite like a meditation in fact.
I find music to be the creative outlet that connects directly with something deeper and more ‘spiritual’, whereas crafting is much more like a meditation, where I can celebrate and explore elemental perceptual ideas of colour and texture.
As for a connection to a certain place, I am always drawn back to the sea and seashore – the texture of wet sand, the subtle colours of shells, light glinting on the surface of water, and the perpetual motion and sound of waves. A place I am particularly attached to in this respect is the beautiful island of Tiree, here in Scotland. My memories and photos of Tiree often inspire ideas in my crafting.
What does creativity feed you with?
Creativity lets me feel that it’s ok to be alive in this world! (When it’s going well…!)
Is there anything creativity gives you do that is missing from mainstream society?
It feels like humans have forgotten that they are part of the Earth’s ecosystem, and that everything on the planet has its place and there is a balance that needs to be maintained for the benefit of all. I think it all comes down to responsibility – to oneself, to others and to the planet. Creativity allows us to distil our human experience into a pure form – art - that is like a universal language. The process is its own reward.
What kinda work inspires you?
Any work where the person has really enjoyed what they have done – the process and the result. Works that have taken lots of patience or fine attention to detail; fantastic textures or luscious colours. I also find really good raw supplies extremely inspiring – sometimes I’ll see a new colour combination that I never would have thought of, or a new fibre I haven’t worked with before, and it sets a whole new idea off…
‘Disasters or experiments? What’s your attitude when it all goes wrong?
I think it’s all about state of mind on the day. Usually when my ideas are too fixed, I’m unable to make my idea into reality in a satisfying way. If however I can relax a bit and ‘play’, I find all sorts of serendipitous things happen and that is often when I have the most fun and make the best pieces.
What are you working on just now?
Today I am working on a custom necklace – one of my felted, beaded and embroidered pieces. The colour theme is brown with a hint of pink and gold, like sea-washed shells.
The Madrigal Project
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
This blog came about inspired by the amazing craft I’ve seen on flickr, Etsy and blogs. I’ve been so curious about the makers inspirations and thoughts and with serendipity weaving through virtual worlds we naturally connect, encourage and answer a barrage of questions!
My motivation lies in the sparks I feel when I see particular pieces. I want to walk around their creative sacred place and look at what they’ve gathered around them. I want to know what inspires them, what’s their working process and find words to converse in a language we naturally don’t use words for. This is an ancient language: one which we are naturally fluent in, through our long evolution on this planet alongside our non human family. We are after all interconnected and cannot live without each other.
‘It was as if my body in its actions was suddenly being motivated by a wisdom older than my thinking mind, as though it was held and moved by a logos, deeper than words, spoken by the Other’s body, the trees, and the stony ground on which we stood’.
The nature of modernity has somehow swayed us off that course away from our inherited knowledge, and lead us to believe that here in our man made world we are somehow elevated above the natural world.
Maybe that’s why we often feel a little lost in this modern world, we no longer embody that ancient natural knowledge we all possess. The prevailing powers feed us with distractions and maybe if we were a little more fluent in out mother tongue, we might just be less addicted to the quick fixes of modernity’s drugs and a little more self satisfied with our relationship to ourselves, each other and the place in which we live.
So when I see a craft piece that stirs my soul I wonder if the practitioner is fluent in this ancient language. I wonder if my questioning reflects that early on in life I knew I saw the world differently and by that nature it’s been impossible for me to ever feel alone, or lonely. How can you feel alone when their is the wind, the night stars beckoning from vast distances, bird song, snow, mist, weather, cold, thunder – they all have their voices their spirit.I am unsure where this questioning will lead, but it weaves serendipity so I set sail in it’s stream trusting the guiding forces. I do wonder if we are more aware of our relationship to nature – in that we are nature – do we then act accordingly? How can we then share that inspiration to act, share that feeling with others and offer an antidote to addressing the problems of the world?
* Abrams, D. 1996. The Spell of the Sensuous, pg 21. Vintage, USA
Saturday, 14 March 2009
Her work is her conversations with nature..........I find her incredibly inspiring...
I love using beautiful natural materials, and letting them guide me in the direction they want to go, like leaves and leaf stems that are so delicate you can only do a certain amount with them before they break...there is a simplicity about nature, but at the same time it's so amazingly intricate in pattern. I love organic shapes and forms and in my clay work I try to replicate these and the textures of nature so that I can be as connected to them as possible, and clay being from the earth makes it even more special to me.
Anything that has a great texture, or has a colour that I would love to reproduce in a painting, a costume from a film, the shapes of the trees in winter, a seed pod, a landscape, an amazing piece of art, an old pair of trousers that I can turn into something else...or a drawing that one of my children has done! I am also inspired by other creative people and their energy.
I do get a bit too involved in my work sometimes, so much that I might burn the dinner or forget to pick my son up from nursery! I am obsessed by fabrics, buttons and boots....but I could never have too many of any of these things!
I think my creativity is all about being spiritual, without thinking about it. It's such a spontaneous thing in me that sometimes I know I am being guided in the directions I go in, with my life and my work...I have a connection with nature and even though it's sometimes hard for me to get totally lost in something I am working on because I have my children to look after, I do day dream a lot!
when I have an idea in my head (which is almost constant) there's nothing better than making it real and alive....and if I didn't have the ability to be creative I know I'd probably be lost in this world!
I think the best thing we can give our children is the freedom to express themselves through creativity.....and it makes me sad when I see people playing computer games or watching tv all the time (I admit we do these things too, but we have a balance). Sometimes I think schools don't focus enough on the practical things or music....or growing vegetables....being more grounded and not so into being competitive and successful in a high paid job! I know we need doctors and lawyers, etc, but we also need to be encouraged to be creative.
I have found some amazing artists on Flickr and so much work is inspiring to me, all using different materials and having different ideas....sometimes it's overwhelming, but I think it's so special to see so much happening! I love finding other people who I have a strong connection to!
I make lots of mistakes and I'm sure I'm not the only one to be a perfectionist! If I paint something I'm not happy with I'll paint over and start again...if I sew a garment that I don't like I'll rip it up and make something else....It doesn't get me down....I see it all as an experiment anyway.....and at the end of the day..it's all reusable.
I'm working on about 5 different projects at the moment....button neck pieces, a patchwork dress, some clay bird necklaces, a painting that I'm not quite sure about and some other things!
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Birthdays are weird things, love ‘em, hate ‘em. I oscillate between the two. What I hate is the expectations. It’s your 40th you MUST do something. Nope, nope, nope I want quiet.
This one however is overshadowed by big black clouds. When there is a family member gone, and the reality is that they, unlike you, are never going to celebrate a 40th birthday it taints the day.
But the sun shone gloriously, a reprieve from all the rain and the wild weather as winter gentles into spring. I walked in spring sunshine in the company of majestic trees. The clatter of heron’s are preparing their nest in a Cyprus of Lebanon sounding like Teridactyls, taking part in the return of ancient cycles: winter into spring, regrowth from death.
So far 40 has been realising your eyes are getting strained while doing wee close up work, leaving the iron on and having to phone someone to go round and turn it off - and having one thin slice of birthday cake gives me this almighty sugar rush like being on drugs at 10 am in work. Sad, eh?It was a good day inspired by trees and lichen. I'd love to somehow replicate this lichen in felt, creating those little pods. I've been trying to make tree trunks out of felt with some french knot lichen, i'd love a little forest of them.Maybe I should try them in grey or brown.
I laughed at small children trying to fit 40 candles onto a cake and basked into wonderful moonshine which somehow seemed brighter than usual. As I stood watching the clouds to clear from her face I felt rooted. She emanated a deep hush, and I felt calm, silent and tree like.