Finding new rituals

I know I promised the next blog post would be my supersonic awesome mapping of how to get discovered as an artist..

What can I say. I got distracted along the way. Blame Downton Abbey. So, this instead..

I dont think its in my nature to only ever write about art and how I get around to making things. I’m a compulsive journal keeper, always have been. Possibly not in a healthy way. I’ve kept diaries since my Nan bought me a 5 year diary when I was ten, and a brand new ink pen, dead exciting in 1977. Actually, I bought myself another 5 year diary last year, and that was just exciting in 2018, we move in circles and cycles.

Anyhow, I will leave the diary story for another day. The point is that I write. About anything and everything, and I feel just as compelled to record small sparks of joy on this blog too (thanks Marie, we are all sparking, and if we are not, then at least we have neat sock drawers. You are a saint)

So today’s sharing is this – my evening ritual. As an aside, before you judge me, I need to say that I have done my time with hard-work parenting evenings. I’ve done years and years of homework, making vegetables fun by putting hula hoops on top (didn’t work and has set me up for years of ridicule from my now grown up kids).

I’ve done squabbling, kick boxing preteens in a 2 meter square of kitchen, I’ve done ‘its not my turn to wash up’, and I’ve cried through ‘but mum I told you I needed a full scale paper mache model of [insert project of deep joy here] by tomorrow.

I’ve done de-nitting, plaiting and latterly dyeing blue of lots of hair. I’ve done ‘please just give me wine or put me to bed, and you lot be the grown ups’. I’ve done, and I’m done.

Another aside: they grew up, they left home, I cried a lot, and I would still chew off my left arm for just one more evening as described above. I would.

But this is a new time. And it goes like this. Around about 5, I head off to my beautiful little bathroom under the eaves. If its summer, it is filled with diamond sparkles of light, and a cool breeze. If its winter, its filled with candles. Either way, its filled with essential oils like rose, geranium, eucalyptus, rosemary, and fluffy towels, and books. It’s a quiet sanctuary, and I take with me either herb tea, or a whiskey mac, depending on how I’m rolling.

Then supper. I eat what I want, when I want. I’ve never gotten used to only cooking for one, so I have 3 portions left that go in the freezer. Yay for me. Next its off to the sofa, with stitching or crochet or knitting, and more candlelight, and the complete joy of watching exactly what I want.

Whether that is Downton Abbey reruns, the L Word, a fab Scandi noir (check out Walter Presents ‘Greyzone’) or Call the Midwife – I’m there, stretched out with the cat, a hotwater bottle and my own evening ahead of me, without interruption.

Oh hello happiness. You devil. Come to mama.

The joy of doing my own thing, being in my own nest, answerable to no one, without apology or explanation.

This does mean that I may have become some weird latter day Miss Haversham. I may be found a decade from now, still on my sofa clutching my hot water bottle, just bones and cobwebs and the closing credits of Downton running. Whatever. I’m happy. Sort of.

There are a brave few who still try to shoe-horn me out of my isolated splendour, of an evening. I salute you. Thank you for not writing me off completely.

I’m not sure of the point of this, other than to say, this is me, this is what I love. A piece of what I love in any case, as there are many things. It has bugger all to do with art, but everything to do with a 50 year old artist coming to terms with living on her own, finding the new shape of that, loving what is, and trying to make beautiful the parts that are often hard and loving those bits anyway. It’s all just pieces of life..



The Bridge

So I’m no longer the new girl in Ruth’s class – I’m happily settled for now into my once a month drive out, in Maud my campervan, into the rolling hills where Shropshire gently meets the Welsh borderlands.

We’ve finished all our experiments with Procion MX dye, and monoprinting on to fabric, and I spent January going it alone at my kitchen table, while the class took a winter hibernation break. I dyed habotai, and satin, organza and chiffon and other lovely fabrics that I ordered from Whaleys, who seem happy for a chat and to dispense advice to the fabric newbie.

Ruth has now moved us on to collage and Japanese tissues, and it was here where I started going off-road, with acrylic monoprinting and oil pastels and gelli plates and all manner of exciting materials, none of which were stitched related which felt slightly treacherous. No matter, colour is joy, and in February that is no bad thing.

So I digress. The thing is this. It’s all very lovely to play around and make deliciously free and happy little samples of work – and super important too, to collect this source material. But then what? At what point do I get to be a big grown-up artist? And how the hell does that happen?

Forever a Virgo, I got cracking with mind maps, reviews of my work, research in to galleries both here in Stroud, and in Bristol. This amount of non-artwork time was robustly resisted by my inner anarchist artist, so I had to sneak up on myself in my favourite cafe, fuelled by super strong hot chocolate (me and coffee is a Nightmare on Elm Street).

I will report my findings in my next post – the bridge between playing with art materials in glorious open ended, kitchen tabled fannying around, and stepping into ‘I totally take myself seriously as an artist and hot damn I’m on my way’…

Oooh, nervous laughter…


The new girl in Ruth Issett’s class

A new adventure has to start somewhere, it has a first step. But knowing the shape of that footprint has been something that had eluded me for quite a while, as I contemplated flowing from being an artist using paints and inks to a textile artist.

It’s hard to be the new girl again, to admit that I know so little about the technique and medium that I’m suddenly so passionate about. It’s harder still to move from small baby stitchings to my first pieces. I know what I want to say, but honestly, I have no idea how to say it.

I started learning a few stitch techniques with Sue Stone’s online course called Exploring Texture and Pattern, and that taught me to have discipline and focus in making stitch samples, and pushing textural boundaries. Hurrah, it was a beginning.

But there’s a real joy in meeting other artists in the flesh, and learning in an actual studio, so with this in mind I have enrolled onto Ruth Issett’s Crazy for Colour Class, held at Bobby Britnell’s studio and home in Clun, Shropshire.

What a whirlwind of colour and experimentation it has turned out to be, there is no time to mind too much about knowing not a great deal about the different silks and fabrics that we use. Like the witches of Cawdor we have been stirring pots of Procion dye around and around, exciting potions of pigment, ready to explode into our sketchbooks where we paintstakingly record their process and magical recipe.


It’s all quite addictive, and I am not sure what is going to happen next, what Ruth has up her sleeve. So far we have made dye samples, and tried space dyeing and dyeing threads. Next week is monoprinting directly onto fabric.  She is charming, and knowledgeable and has a twinkle in her eye, its a pleasure to be in her class.

In fact the whole adventure of getting there – on winding back roads through deep Shropshire countryside – is a bit of journey, stopping to have porridge on the way, that I prepare in my camper van Maud.

I will report more of the journey soon. For now, it is a new and unexplored land, and exciting and bewildering experience. My first steps on the road already well travelled, a map well stitched..