The Bones of the Matter

Well I seem to be managing about 1 blog post a year – possibly slightly less. Lol. Not exactly setting the world on fire am I. I think my last post had me hoofing off to South America, with a backpack full of braves, and a flask filled with sangria, to frisk with llamas and wear a brightly coloured poncho. Just as well lockdown landed me back into my senses, cos I’m telling you, that particular adventure would’ve ended badly, in ways outlined in the post.

How was lockdown for y’all? Now that we’ve had a couple of years to reflect and get our heads around life lived through zoom…which brings its own special kind of madness. I got unnaturally fixated on backgrounds – my own and other peoples, you know? My world shrunk to my corner of the kitchen where the light didn’t make me look about 150 years old. Oh yes siree, I can do vanity. Anyway, that was then and this is now. And baby how the world has changed – where did all the fun go? Where did the hope slink off to hey? Is anyone out there having a remotely good time?

A few years ago I probably would’ve kept a gratitude diary or something, to mark the small joys of a day. But blimey, I’d be scraping the barrel now. Its a mixture of post menopause, pissed-offness about everything being so ridiculously expensive now, and the fact that small joys for me these days seems confined to 70% dark chocolate with a Bailey’s shot and an episode of Vikings Valhalla on Netflix. I have strayed far from the path of goodness my friends, and it’s going to take more than a gratitude journal to call me back into the land of Insta-ready loveliness.

Right then, get a grip. Where are we going with this annual blog post? Actually, I am wrong to diss Instagram, because I do blog my life in photos on there regularly, with much enthusiasm and joy of setting my life to music. There’s a small pleasure right there. I’ve always loved that bit in films where they do a montage set to a great soundtrack – condensing all the action into 30 seconds of Missy Elliot or something fabulous. And why not. I can lose whole hours in choosing the perfect track to go with my photos, hop on over and let me hook you in honey, lose some hours with me.

Meanwhile, ok. So, what has been going on in my world. Not llamas. But lots of bones, bone totems and other witchy doings. Not only do I skid to a halt when I see a poor creature by the roadside – foxes and badgers and deer mainly – but I also now have a small army of people always on the lookout for bone treasure as they go about their days. In my cache I have hare bones, falcon bones, foxes and badgers and deer, horse bones, and seal bones. And a box of unidentified bones. They carry the essence and the story of a life lived. They are what is left, after we leave. And they are beautiful to me. Making them into totems is something I fell into a few years ago, hopping on to my best friend’s coattails because it’s what she did. Together we’ve made dozens and dozens of these ritual pieces for women. I am making hand felted drum beaters out of horse bones right now and I know they will find the right woman to land with. Women and drums, that is also woven in to my story of this life that I live and love.

It’s been a hard start to the year. My beloved witches cat Thorn is old and nearing his final chapter. And I’m tending elderly people in my day job, being present with their intense vulnerabilities. So i’ve been thinking about endings, and how to sit with the process of dying, the ultimate letting go; trusting that we travel into unseen realms and dimensions for an even greater adventure that waits for us. And those of us who are left behind, watching this process, a bit helpless and alone in a grief journey that can be heartbreakingly awful. What do we do with all of that? Maybe my bone totem making is partly a response to making sense of death, that we hide away, tidy up, because its too scary and final to hold through our lived days.

So this is me in the last few weeks of winter, trying to not plan the hell out of what comes next, because I really don’t know. Trying to find some peace with the reality of how things are, knowing that a lot of people are out there, living difficult days too. Sending you all the biggest squeezy hug, isn’t that what we all really need? As well as a small lottery win and temperatures to rise into double figures. I wish it all for you, I really do my loves. And in the meantime, if you find bones, get on the blower to me, ’cause I’m your girl for that…happy to take commissions, do bone swaps, and pop things in my bone composter. Yes, its really a thing in my world. I am that weird….


Running for the hills…

Somehow, by some strange twist of story, I have acquired a pen friend. I had my first pen friend from America when I was 10, she was called Laura. I am now 51 and my pen friend is also American and called Bren. She seems a fine witch woman and traveller and the thrill is no less, well, thrilling.

So it started with wolves and in my mind a moon rising over the mountains of New Mexico, with a few beautifully spiky cactus thrown in. Oh, and an adobe bee house built by the bare hands of fabulous women. It could also follow that Bren has a picture of me living in a cottage built in the time of Shakespeare with roses abounding and a stone circle in my back garden. It is completely fine to have these fantasies about each other, because I am the boss of me, and I get to decide. Poor Bren, she probably has no idea that I’m slightly left of insane, and a part time fantasist.

Lets continue. After swapping some pics and a few scanty details, we’ve had the odd email and exchanged witchy woman chit chat. Bren travels – last stop was Borneo seeing orangutans and sun bears (does anyone know what these are?) and then blam! Third paragraph into her New Year missive, she says ‘hey I’m going to Peru in June, wanna join me?’…

So what you need to know is this – I have my moon in Capricorn. Baby, I am bedded in. Goaty. Rooted. Travel is for other (unhinged) people. Travelling to me involves Bristol. 30 mins away. I can cope with that on a good day. Ok, ok, I know I do the whole campervan between Cornwall and Norfolk thing – but hey, I’ve been doing that for about 150 years in a way that makes it home. Peru?? Bren have you taken leave of your senses sister?? I would cry the entire time in a way that would make you want to kill me; in bad ways. Bless you for asking, you dear woman (who doesn’t know me) but no. Absolutely no.

And yet I found myself downloading an entire playlist of Los Desterrados and mixing up a sangria. I’m probably way off base here, but it felt South American and a bit exotic in my Stroud kitchen in January. I could do an iboga ceremony and get all cosmic, I could see Llamas and learn Spanish. I could take to the mountains and live in an adobe dwelling and never come home to grey, mad old England. I could just paint and paint; if Georgia could do it, then so could I perhaps…

This story doesn’t really have a plan or an ending..its just a fleeting piece of my head, as we are all facing a new decade, with very many serious things charging headlong towards us..hence the thoughts of escape and something different. I would love your thoughts on this..anyone out there been to Peru…Tara I know you have several times over and maybe we could have a cup of tea soon?

Leaving you with this – hit play, close your eyes and feel the heat…

Adios for now my lovelies, the next post will hopefully be more coherent…

Witches to the Centre

Well hello – 2nd blog post in 9 months – I’m on fire baby…

Look, let’s breathe out for a minute – you and I, somehow we both made it here right? Celebrating that. These are the quiet in-between days, as we all wait for the new year, and new decade to turn its face to us. The last few moments before a birth can be hushed ones, strangely enough, and I’m finding it so, in these soft Gloucestershire hills and valleys that have been home for well over a decade now.

There is a silver sliver of moon, my nest is still Solstice-twinkly, and I have a delicious bundle of knitting to keep my hands busy, while my mind floats over the 13 moons that have just been.

Some years ask questions, some give us answers. I’ve heard that said many times. After 4 years of questioning, 2019 gave me answers, plenty of them. Some of them took my breath away, some of them scared me rigid, some of them left me aching and in tears.

I found a new tribe on the rebellious streets of London, and the most fantastic and determined activists right on my doorsteps; all of them have become beautiful friends.

I gave up trying to be the artist I needed myself to be, and in the process become the artist I wanted to be, without plan or direction. I sit in front of a piece of paper, and somehow the art finds me. My inner witch knows what she’s doing, and I know better than to subvert her with my own rigid ideas, or try and get all Virgo with her; she’s wild and having none of it. It means that my style of art is changing, and who knows where it will end up.

I’ve kept to my rhythm of travelling between the oceans of the east and west, stopping in the woodlands along the way, and I really hope next year lets me continue that blessing way. I’ve swung between artwork and activism, and I’m imagining that will continue too. Most of all, I’ve learned that as long as I keep the smell of earth nearby, the ocean in my ears, and witchcraft and wildness centre stage, then I’m going to be ok. All the rest is detail.

When you have come to the edge of all light that you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen. Either there will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught to fly..

Patrick Overter

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..