Category Archives: writing

October exhibit

This blog, started in January 2012, was originally inspired by Writing our Way Home, and their idea of writing “small stones”

I usually write a month of small stones to kick start each year in January. However I am currently following WOWH’s email course of October small stones and am finding great inspiration for just sitting still, and paying attention to life in all its variety.

Today’s quote was from Henry David Thoreau

“You only need sit still long enough in some spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns”

I didn’t need long in the garden this morning (it was drizzling!) to find this inhabitant exhibiting itself to me and inspiring a small stone.

Late chrysanthemums

Tight buds hide centres

of yellow mathematical arrangement.

Opening to wind and rain, rusty petals

stretch random sequinned fingers

towards the clouds, defying greyness

with their fiery flowers.

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Accessing history…

Over the last two days of our stay in Ireland we spent time with Lindsey, another cousin of my father’s. Although Lindsey and I are close in age we had never met before this trip to Ireland. The rain was falling outside so it was a great opportunity to focus on catching up on a life time (well, make a start at least!) and discuss our shared interested in tracking down the family history. We have both become hooked on the detective work of searching online records for clues about our ancestors lives and stories, and regularly exchange emails about our discoveries.

Linen features strongly in our family history so it seemed appropriate to visit the Lisburn museum and their Flax to Fabric exhibition. It was fascinating to see the process of linen production and to realise the impact of the mechanisation of what had been a domestic industry for generations. The looms in their collection would have been housed in weavers’ cottages, their punch cards determine the jacquard pattern in the weave. There was one storage box on display with the name Greeves on it, sadly too high up to photograph well,  but it was physical evidence of my 3x great grandfather John Greeves’ factory, his Linen Spinning mill in the Falls Road area of Belfast. The photograph is from the online collection from Belfast Live

 

With Lindsey we went to Oxford Island and the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre. In better weather we would probably have walked, but instead we talked. As well as the beautiful location the Discovery Centre had another bonus, an amazing local history collection including over 700 Quaker books and publications. We met the archivist, and he was keen to help us with our search for more clues to the stories of our family in this area.

 

Our final stop before heading to the airport for our flight home was another place of preservation – the National Trust property Castle Ward. On the shores of Strangford Lough we enjoyed a wander around the Old Castle farm with its turreted tower, and then a tour of the the 18th Century house, a strange mixture of Georgian and Gothic. The National Trust does an amazing job of conserving so many historic buildings enabling us to see architecture and interiors we would never be able to see other wise. Their conservation principles are to manage the land, structures and collections in their care “ensuring that their special qualities are protected, enhanced, enjoyed and understood by present and future generations”. Ironically Castle Ward is a site of the filming of Winterfell in Game of Thrones, raising interesting questions in my mind about historical reality and the nature of historical fiction and fantasy novels.

 

However, and why ever, we study history, to unearth forgotten facts or create fiction and fantasy, thank you to all those whose work of preservation and conservation enable us to access and understand truths about our past and present (and future?)

 

Process moving again…

Nearly three years ago I started a process to restore an old trunk which had been in our attic for years.
https://weaversjournal.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/restoration-process/
Battered and dirty it was not good for much, so I set about painting it and re-lining it. I also managed to recreate a drop in drawer for the inside and finished the interior.

And then everything stopped, and it has been sitting in my conservatory, half painted ever since. This week I had tea with a friend who I hadn’t seen for months. She asked me how my trunk was going. Trunk? I realised it had been forgotten…

But I had been accumulating materials for possible solutions to the outside refurbishment. So spurred on by my friend’s enquiry I started work again. I had been collecting fabrics with a theme of writing and creativity for a while. After some long consideration I decided that collaged and quilted panels using some of my fabric stash would work best to cover the lid, as the trunk will hopefully be a repository for some of my written and textile creations. Selecting appropriate words was quite challenging, given the bitty nature of the fabric. And making the panels the right size and shape was tricky, but I am now creating the last piece.
Some days of torrential rain, followed by an unseasonable head cold has meant I have been largely confined to the house for a few days. I was feeling irritable and frustrated at myself as well as the weather. But frustration was eased by the activity – my head and sinuses may still be blocked, but I feel the process of trunk restoration is moving again…
Still a way to go, I’m determined it won’t be another three years before it’s finished!

Generalising July

Listening to “meet the author” on the Today programme radio four this morning, I was amused at the comment. “you can’t just write about real life, it would be too boring”. It’s true of course, the novels we read are shaped and edited, time is speeded and slowed, the focus is narrowed and widened, but repetitive routines of life are missed out to focus on action and plot.

Today in my real life the rain has fallen nearly all day, and the tomatoes I picked in the rain were muddy and wet. Not much action there.

An online course on reading novels I have been dipping into was suggesting how sometimes these routines and rhythms of life can still be described even in the best plot time line. A moment when the essence of a season, or regular event, can be captured. The description is not of a particular summer, but all summers, not just one family breakfast time, but all…

Generalising and condensing recurring moments into one description can provide the underlying rhythm of story.

So rather than try and invent some action I looked back on my July posts and photos since I started writing this online journal, to find the general themes

July skies, grey, heavy rain,

widening to cloudless blue,

July roads, stone walled in Yorkshire dales,

high mountain views in British Columbia.

July books for holiday reading,

pen meets paper healing through writing,

July fruits, red, ripe for jamming,

stirring creativity, stitching textiles.

 

 

 

 

 

February 2nd – a clover seed

I read these words by American poet Wendell Berry this morning, before I realised the significance of the date. 

On the second day of February forty-nine years ago, he too was feeling the chill and bleakness of the world. And yet, and yet, in the midst of news of war, violence and death, he walked the unpromising land and sowed seeds for the spring. 

A lovely metaphor of hope for this grey, dismal winter morning. 

February 2, 1968
In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,

war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,

I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.

-Wendell Berry

Not just a pretty face -small stone 31

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. 

‘Twas on a Monday morning – small stone 30

The old nursery rhyme describes the laundry maid as “dashing away with the smoothing iron”, but I have no energy for dashing on this murky grey Monday morning.

However there is something gently soothing about ironing. Although I often procrastinate until the laundry basket is overflowing, the ironing process, the creaking hiss of steam and the warmth of the fabric under my hands, is distinctly pleasurable. And then there is the satisfaction of taking a crumpled, creased garment, and smoothing it. Ironing out the wrinkles and ending up with a flat, evenly pressed material.

I hang my freshly ironed clothes in the wardrobe, and wish that other wrinkles, irritations and frustrations could be as easily ironed out, sorted with just a bit of gentle heat, pressure and steam. But, sadly, life isn’t quite as “neat and nimble-O” as the nursery rhyme might imply…