Category Archives: creativity

An eclectic mix – as good as it gets

Over the last few days I have been battling with an irritating sore throat which has morphed into a persistent cough. I haven’t had much energy to talk, but I have caught up with writing some posts on my family history blog, Among the Branches, which can be followed here.

Writing about this particular branch of my ancestral family I am fascinated (and often saddened) by the sectarian mind, the apparent need to be certain that “we” are right and “they” are wrong. The feeling of security that comes from belonging to a group of like minded people, and the fear of being alienated from that same group, are familiar to us all in various forms. In my ancestral family, standing on principals and insisting on doing things “right” frequently led to acrimony and alienation, and much heartache.

How do we find a way to live together in our eclectic mix of backgrounds, cultures, experiences and treasured beliefs? That’s a question that’s being asked in families, and on national and global stages. I don’t have the answer!

Over the last few weeks I have also been having some fun experimenting with various art forms on a mixed media art journaling course Wanderlust 2019 from Everything Art. This week was a challenge, an opportunity to play with an eclectic mix of bits and bobs and form them into a meaningful creation. The process was worrying at times, as the variety of stuff looked very messy and unpromising. But the results were surprisingly satisfying, not perfect, but I felt they did have a final coherence which wasn’t obvious from the start.

Lessons from history and making stuff; perhaps it’s better to trust the process, the muddle and the mess, than insist on being right. Compromise will always be less than perfect, but perhaps that’s best it can be, as good as it gets, and it may even end up with a unique beauty of its own.


Constraining stuff

Sometimes the hardest thing about being creative is the sheer abundance of possibilities and ideas! This quote is true of me, and my workspace.

But sometimes the key to a really satisfying art process is constraint, choosing a focus and a limited palette, rather than being overwhelmed by too much choice. This week I have taken steps to constrain and contain my “palette” – my large stash of fabrics, threads, papers, paints and books, by sorting and storing them. A purchase of new Ikea furniture and a table which raises and lowers to a comfortable working height, has transformed both my work room, and my headspace.

I could have written about many other interesting, creative, and inspiring things I’ve been involved in recently, but I will avoid cluttering this post with “stuff”, and enjoy the truth of “less is more”. May it be true of my workspace too!

On this day – January 31st

The last day of my browse through seven years of January posts. I have enjoyed reflecting on my past moments, captured in words and pictures, and sometimes seeing them in a new light now time has passed. Two years ago I was reflecting on my experiment of drawing things instead of describing them in words, but discovering that I still liked words too…

Recently I came across these words of Marcel Proust; “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”.

And, perhaps, new ears and new awareness of sounds, smells, tastes and textures all around us…

Keep paying attention, my friends!

January 31st 2017

If I’m honest I have to admit I sliced open this watermelon because I thought it might be good to draw, not because I particularly like water melon. Won as a part of a fruit basket raffle prize, it is not a fruit I would normally buy to eat. 

I was not disappointed with the bright pink flesh hidden inside the green skin, but I didn’t find it easy to capture the shape and colour, and the juiciness of the fruit. In fact after I had finished I realised that the slice was sitting in a little puddle of its own juice, and I had missed that altogether on my picture. 

I have spent a month looking and drawing what (I thought) I could see in front of me. It has been an interesting challenge and changed the way I look at things. I have loved exploring the line and shape of my surroundings, and watercolour is such a quick and delicate way to capture shades and tones. 

But when I took a spoon to the melon I discovered it was much juicier and sweeter than I had expected and distinctly fragrant! There’s more to life than what we can see… 

More senses (and artistic mediums/media) needed.

On this day – January 28th

By the time we reached this date in January last year I had given up posting here! My last comment (January 26th) was a sketch of my glue bottle and remarks about feeling stuck.

This is the time of year when I find it hard to keep going. January seems to last for ever, and the days are dark and cold. But browsing through my posts for this date in past years I also find hints of what keeps me going. One is being creative in some way, stitching most often. The other is in discovering the garden’s ability to continue to grow through the dark moments.

Two years ago today I sketched some early rhubarb. The exuberant and almost neon colouring of forced rhubarb is always a surprise, and is a great reminder that even in the dark short days of winter there is hidden sweet brightness just waiting to be discovered.

January 28th 2017

Not yet enough for a crumble, but sufficient stalks and leaves emerging from the dark earth to give a little thrill. The intense pink and acid yellow colours of the early forced rhubarb provides a jolt of pleasure, and gives me a moment of wonder as to how such bright vivid colour can be produced in a complete absence of light, only revealed when I lift the cover.

However it does it, it always cheers me up!

On this day – January 25th

Today I have been reminded of the time when I made the blue patchwork cushion on the writing chair where I sit each day. On this day four years ago I did not know what my pieced together shapes would become. I did not know they would become an object which has supported me through many days of ups and downs, and hours of reading and writing.

Perhaps the lesson I can draw today is that it doesn’t really matter if we don’t know what it’s for, the important thing is just to get on with the business of creating from whatever we have to hand. Its purpose will be revealed later, maybe years later, and maybe not even to us.

January 25th 2015

Cutting up bits and pieces
Into carefully measured
Smaller pieces.
Then joining up the little pieces
Into carefully arranged
Bigger pieces. 

Now what do I do with it?

This is the product of my cutting up my “blue Monday” fabrics, and piecing them together at an Embroiderer’s Guild workshop, using shaded four patch blocks. Quite a satisfying (although fiddly) process but I don’t know what to do with it now!

The story of our lives, perhaps?

On this day – January 24th

I didn’t go back far today in my browse through my January small stones. Two years ago I sketched the same chair I am sitting in this morning, and it certainly isn’t beautiful! I notice I have added another cushion since I drew it two years ago, crocheted from a colourful ball of wool in my stash. But what a mish mash, and how muddled it looks! And the piles of books and papers around it appear equally disorganised.

img_3197But this eclectic hotchpotch of a chair has supported and inspired me through many creative endeavours. So I will just accept it that way, and be grateful for somewhere to sit and dream.

January 24th 2017

A rather weird drawing experience this morning. On impulse I got out of the chair I was sitting in, and looked at it, and  decided to sketch it. This is where I have spent many, many hours writing my journal and my blog. This is the chair I have sat on while reading, researching and writing for my Masters in Creative Writing. And this month I have done most of my sketches sitting here. 

An old second hand tub chair draped in a huge Indian shawl throw, given to me by a friend, I have it padded out with two mismatched cushions. One cushion is a patchwork of some of my favourite blue Kaffe Fassett fabrics, which I cut and peiced together with great care. Most days I don’t look at the cushion at all, I just sit on it and squash it out of shape, completely disregarding the time and effort I spent in making it. 

But today I have looked with new eyes at the chair and the cushions which have been supporting me throughout those hours. I noticed the soft folds and subtle shapes of the throw and thought of the friend who gave it to me. I remembered the precision with which I cut the patchwork shapes for the back cushion, and recollected that the seat cushion was a sale bargain from Laura Ashley over thirty years ago. The chair itself was an eBay buy, with a previous life. This incongruous hotchpotch of things from the past, so often unacknowledged and unappreciated, is the trusty place which holds me secure as I sit and contemplate the day. It is far from empty…

On this day – January 23rd

As I look back over my posts from the last seven years sometimes it is hard to chose just one to share again. Today was like that. I chose this moment in the vegetable garden partly because this morning, like that one, is frosty, with intricate ice patterns on every surface. But also because of my readers back then, some of who commented their appreciation of the way small insignificant moments can make us aware of the present, but also pave the way of the future.

I had no idea, when I paid some brief attention to those leeks back in 2015, that I would relive the moment again four years later. I still love leeks with or without frost, and will be eating some more homegrown for supper tonight.

January 23rd 2015

Frost embroidery;

iced garden,

leaf shapes traced in crystals,

embellished with silver threads

and frozen drop beads.

I noticed these leeks in the garden just before heading off to the Embroiderer’s Guild meeting. No competing with nature…!