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New Beginnings

This quilt is called “Incandescence” because it looks like masses of light and flames bursting out from the centre.  But it could also be called “In the Beginning, God….”,  the first few words of the Bible.  That is because it looks like a self-starting, outward-moving design, constantly giving forth, growing, creating.   And a totally new beginning.

I’ve just finished moving house.  Exhausting!  (and apologies for no new postings for a while).  I had definitely accumulated too much stuff over the years. Had to throw out a whole lot of things representing long past lives, projects never completed or even started, souvenirs, even going  back to childhood. Things I hadn’t been able to let go before.  A sad and thoughtful process….    But now I have a new beginning in my new home, which I am thrilled with.  Actually, it isn’t my real home, it is a mobile home parked permanently very near the sea, a summer home, but I love it.  I am doing it all up, and it is all new!

I hope to do loads of creative work there.  New beginnings energize me, make me full of hope.

But new beginnings can be deceptive, too.  For some reason we think that just by moving, new job, new home, new school, new relationship, we will avoid all our issues and problems, and become an all new, much better person instantly…..   We think that with this new start, we will instantly be cured of addictions, bad habits, bad temper, bad ways of treating people, or whatever the problem has been in the past home, job, school, relationship etc…..   But sadly, we soon find we are relapsing back into the same bad ways in our new start.  We need to be realistic, and work away at all these issues, one at a time maybe, over a longish period of time, and with any necessary help, not expect instant geographic cures.

Nevertheless, a new beginning can be a real kick-starter, on any of these problems, and real encourager to get going and make yourself and your life go better.  To grow outward, be creative, touch other people’s lives in a good way, to be “incandescent”, but not with rage, with light and energy.

So I can’t wait to get out there, walk by the sea, make the new curtains for my new home, start a new sketchbook,  plan a new series of quilts, etc…!

The Net

The picture above is of my quilt wall hanging called “The Net”.  Some people think it is my best work.  I designed it from a photo of a fisherman mending his net, but my design shows the net underwater.  The net appears to swirl and billow out, moving in the swell, and you can see the light falling through the water from the surface.  If you look at it  you can just see a net design, or if you half close your eyes, the shapes between the net strings are the shape of fish in the net, swimming up to the light at the surface.  Lots and lots of fish, of all sizes. Can you see them?

In the gospels, there are stories of Jesus doing a miracle for his fishermen disciples, who have been fishing all night but caught nothing.  He tells them to cast their net into the deep water the other side, and when they draw it up it is so full of fish that they can hardly haul it ashore, and the nets starts to break.

I love this story.  On your own you can work hard but get nowhere, probably working within your comfort zone, in safe, familiar, shallow waters.  Jesus tells you to get out of your comfort zone, casting off into the deep, the unknown, the risky; but out of obedience and trust in him.  Then you get rewarded with miraculous, plentiful results!

All good, you think.  But what about the fish?  A whole shoal of them have swum into a net, at Jesus’ bidding, and are about to die.  No I am not arguing for strict vegetarianism here, though it has its point.  What I think happened here is that the fish swum voluntarily into the net, as a willing sacrifice, at their Saviour’s request.  For a sacrifice to be of any value, it has to be done willingly, not forced.  Sacrifice is not a concept at all appreciated in our “Me, me, me, instant gratification” type of society we live in.  It is really a forgotten concept.  But it is there in all of us as an instinct.  A mother, protecting her infant.  A father protecting his family.  Leaders protecting their tribes, soldiers dying for their country or their faith. And of course, Jesus sacrificed himself too, dying on the cross, for us, for mankind. He was willing to do what he asked the fish to do, what he asks his disciples to do.

Sometimes we need to make sacrifices, small or huge, willingly, in our lives.  It goes together with getting out of our comfort zone, casting out into the deep….. Huge rewards can come, both for us and for our family, society, nation, or whatever, if we do this.  Tiny rewards, if any, come if we always put ourselves and our needs first, and keep to a safe, comfortable lifestyle.

So my picture is about sacrifice, as well as the miraculous.  In deep, but beautiful waters. But people see different things in it.   I have made and sold three quilt versions of this work now, as well as several printed versions, and people have asked me to do more; they can’t get enough of it.   A surprise to me!

Diamonds Are Forever

This quilt, “Diamonds are Forever” is the seventh and last in my series of quilts on the theme of money. The seven quilts deal with the different ways we get and handle money in our lives.  This one represents wealth acquired through marriage, or inherited wealth.  Money that just seems to come to us as part of our lives, that we may feel we are somehow entitled to, and which stays with us more or less permanently.  So it represents the greatest security, if you are fortunate enough to have it.  Takes away that awful fear of how would I manage without money or a roof over my head.

My quilt is all different white fabrics, a lot of them shiny, with glints of bright colours, because as the light catches the diamond, you see glints of bright colours deep inside it. This quilt looks better with a spotlight right on it, not so good in a photo.  I used a diamond pattern throughout.  However, when I had finished it, instead of seeing diamonds and hard edges, I saw something much more domestic, of fine linen, sheets on a bed.  A marriage chest of linen, a “bottom drawer” saved for that first marriage home.  The security aspect of an engagement ring diamond had come out in my art unexpectedly.  I find that happens a lot, and can be rather disconcerting.  In fact it looks like the ultimate security of cuddling up in bed!  So, it is three types of security all in one.  The emotional security of marriage, the financial security of wealth, or some anyway, and the childhood security of being cuddled up in bed.

As I sat invigilating my own show in the gallery, looking at my seven quilts on the theme of money, I realised that I had experienced, directly or indirectly, all of them.  Luck, cash, bonuses, earnings, productivity, and a certain amount of security (though sadly, not marriage).  Together with the dangers of money: fear, debt, envy, greed, spendaholic tendency, going without, lack, shady dealings, insecurity….   It’s been a rather up and down life….

Altogether, money is very two-faced, dangerous even.  It comes and goes.  Best not to rely on it as your security.  Better to rely on your eternal relationship with God as your security.  Though sometimes He seems to come and go a bit too…..  Hey ho.  Back to bed, and the security of going under the covers……

Rags to Riches

This quilt is made from scraps of old shirts, dresses, pyjamas, etc., what some might consider rags, and I have made them into a colourful quilt using a design called the kaleidoscope.  it is a favourite of mine, though some people consider it too complicated  and messy.  Like people!  We can be complicated and messy, colourful, and made up of  lots of different bits and pieces of experiences, memories, things we have learnt, inherited, skills, faults etc.

In my series of quilts on the theme of money, this represents those who come from nothing and get rich through sheer hard work and skilful use of every opportunity.  While I was making it, the piles of pieces and half made blocks looked like a messy nothing, like some of our efforts in life might seem, but when finished it looks like a rich tapestry– the rich tapestry of life, to use a cliché.

While I was making this quilt, I had a strange experience.  It was going slowly;  I was working on the blue and grey blocks, and I was finding it difficult, un-inspired. Time was running out before my show, and this was the last quilt to get finished.  And then I got some bad news about a relative who was ill, and I became doubly anxious and stressed.  But surprisingly, the effect on the quilt was that it suddenly became alive, exciting, full of movement and colour!  I was very amazed.  My relative recovered, my show was a success, and someone even understood all this from looking at this quilt!  I haven’t been able to part with this quilt, it has a lot of personal meaning for me now, and it hangs in my living room. It reminds of  hope out of anguish, a meaningful design out of bits and pieces.  Not to give up.

Liquid Assets

Liquid Assets, the quilt wall hanging featured above, is another in my series of quilts on the theme of money.  Liquid assets are actual cash or assets you can turn into cash very quickly.  No three-months notice to wait to withdraw from your savings account, or having to sell something.  It is good to have loads of the readies, but dangerous too, as they are soon gone, spent on goodies, or just quickly disappear into the necessities of life.  Very like liquid, it just runs away and disappears quickly.   I have been guilty of spend spend spend at times when I seemed to be earning quite well.  Easy come, easy go, with me.  All that money just sitting in your bank account, or cash lying around, it is just too tempting.  Soon gone, then what?

It is the opposite of my quilt “Bankers’ Bonuses” which showed wads of cash locked up safely, hoarded.  But both the ability to shop till you drop, or having loads of money locked away, both the cash and the stash, make us feel more secure.  Buying things makes us feel more secure temporarily.  We are giving ourselves a present.  When we got presents as children, it was because we were good, safe, loved, deserved it, or it was a celebration occasion, etc. etc..  So we try to  re-create that good feeling as adults.  I noticed that I bought handbags when my job was going badly or I had lost it.  Handbags made me feel more secure.  When I had been dumped by a man, I bought clothes, particularly ones with a fake-fur trim, I noticed.  Fur trims probably made me feel like a sweet little girl who someone would take care of…..    Men are supposed to buy a new car.  Women often want to do up the home or buy a new one.  What do you spend your liquid assets on to make yourself feel more secure or cheer yourself up temporarily?  Do we turn to God at these difficult moments in our life, our real security and our Rock?  No, we go shopping.  Foolish us.

In this quilt above, I have made it all watery colours, with fish swimming around, and light reflections contrasted with murky depths.  This represents the illusory fugitive quality of cash and similar liquid assets.  People thought this quilt was the best of my money series, and I used it a lot in my publicity printed materials.  A couple of my longest-term friends bought it, one of whom had been a stock broker, so appreciated the idea.  Sadly, they never hung it though.  Thought they could have at least put it up in the bathroom…..

 

The Golden Goose

This quilt is part of my money series, dealing with different ways of getting and handling money.  The golden goose is a fable about finding a special goose which lays eggs of gold, thereby making you a fortune by selling the gold.  But if you get greedy, overworking the poor goose, it dies and then you’ve killed your golden goose and get no more money.  So it is about good handling of your resources, not flogging a thing to death, killing a great idea, over exploiting something.  it is also about spotting a great idea, or niche in the market, and turning this into a good little business.

Do you have a great idea or skill which you can use to turn into a nice little earner, even if only part-time?  Why not give it a go and see if it becomes your golden goose.  I have done that with my quilting.  I started by making just one quilt which I saw demonstrated at a textile fair I was attending for quite another reason.  It took two years, while I was still working as a lawyer.  And when finished, it astonished me, and I said Yes!  This is it!  I am going to give up my other main activities and do this full-time.  No I don’t get much gold from it, but it is gold in a different way because people seem to like my work, it means something to them. I’ve sold a lot and most importantly, this creative outlet is energising and fulfilling more than I ever expected.

So I recommend trying to find your own golden goose!

My quilt above uses a pattern known as flying geese, going round and round in different directions, round the central four blocks of gold fabric, representing the golden eggs.  it is a sunshiny bright cheerful quilt, bought by a friend of mine who loves yellow.

The Money Laundry

This quilt above, called The Money Laundry, is part of a series of quilts on the theme of money, which I did for a show in a London West End gallery.

The design is meant to give the effect of money going round and round in a washing machine.  If you zoom in, you can see pieces of gold and silver and notes in the smaller squares.  It was meant as a light-hearted look at how money is sometimes dealt with.

However, as I sat at the gallery stewarding my show for hours, I realised that all the quilts I had done on the theme of money were relevant to me in some way, and how I handle money…..

No, so far as I am aware, I haven’t laundered any money, but maybe there are some aspects of how I handle money which I am not too proud of, and would like the memory to be blurred, or laundered, from my own memory as much as other people’s.  Remember, everything that is done or said in secret, will be shouted from the rooftops one day. I can think of times when I have wasted money, or shopped too much, or handled it irresponsibly or selfishly…..    Oh dear….

Undeterred by such guilty thoughts, a nice man bought this quilt to go in his flat nearby.  He was something of a collector of wall hangings, and was delighted with the colours and humourous title.

Happy Birthday!

It’s my birthday today, so Happy Birthday to me!  Just went out for cake and coffee and the waitress gave me the cake free for my birthday!   So I  am feeling thankful and fortunate for everything, including that.  Small gestures can make a big difference.

I thought my quilt called “Treasure Trove” was appropriate for today, in my series of quilts on the theme of money.  These seven quilts deal with different aspects of getting and handling money.  This one is meant to represent a huge lucky windfall, such as finding a huge chest full of buried treasure.  I have made it using blocks of sparkling stars in different jewel colours.  It’s a very cheerful quilt. In real life, these sorts of windfalls don’t often happen.  But there are some: a  redundancy package, a  promotion, scratch card win, unexpected legacy, unexpected refund, a big saving made on something, etc., etc.  Even a free cake with your coffee…..

Last time’s quilt dealt with the culture of greed represented in my quilt called “Bankers’ Bonuses”; this time, in “Treasure Trove” the money comes to one by luck or good fortune.

Of course, as Christians, we have a huge treasure trove in God himself, and all his blessings and gifts to us. Luck has got nothing to do with it, windfalls are a gift from God.  These blessings, gifts and treasure from God go largely untouched, un-opened and unrecognised, sadly. Why do we not spot them more?  Use them more?  Appreciate them more?

Today, I feel,  is a good occasion for me to say thank you and make a mental list of all the ones I can think of……  Starting from before I was born even.    Yes, we should celebrate all these wonderful gifts, blessings and treasures.  Mental note, put the champagne in the fridge for later.  (Actually it is only sparkling wine, but who minds eh!  It’s all good.)

Money, money, money!

Happy New Year everyone!   New year’s resolution: must remember to make one.  Actually, think I will just soldier on with last year’s.  But I love new year, new starts, new plans and projects…..

So here’s my new blog theme for New Year: money.  Yes, good old chink-chink.  The Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil, though personally I think it is pride.  Still, maybe the love of money and pride are linked in some way.  Money can certainly bring power, and a sense or security, often false.  Both can make you feel you don’t really need God.

A few years ago, I had an exhibition in a gallery in London’s West End, and did seven quilts on the theme of money for it.  I seem to work in series of sevens.  The names of these quilt wall hangings were: “Bankers’ Bonuses”, “Treasure Trove”, “The Money Laundry”, “Diamonds are Forever, “Liquid Assets”, “The Golden Goose”, and “Rags to Riches”.

After I had done them all and was stewarding my show, sitting there for hours looking at them all together, it dawned on me that they represented the different aspects of getting, making and handling money.  The greed behind the group culture of bonuses.  Relying on luck.  Shady dealing, crime.  Marrying a rich person, or inheriting wealth.  Having lots of available cash, flashing the readies.  Finding a great business idea  or asset that makes you loads of money.  And making your money from scratch by sheer hard work.

There is nothing actually wrong with money itself, it is useful.  It’s only one’s attitude and use of it that can be a problem.

The above picture of my quilt “Bankers’ Bonuses”  shows lots of wads of cash, gold bars, silver coins etc., all stacked up in piles and wads. Loadsa money, all stacked up!  Very nice, yes please…..But the bars around it make one think it is in a vault, locked up, stored, somehow not available for use; the object being just to know it is there, to dream about, hoard……

If you zoom in, you can see individual fabric strips of printed money, coins, notes, gold bars, etc., together with strips of pin-stripe, suggesting the shirts bankers wear.

This quilt was bought to go on the wall of an autistic boy,  I think because he would like the bright colours and cheerful design.  A more cheerful, innocent  image of money.

Christmas!

This quilt is called “Hope”, which I made a few years ago, and have used as my Christmas card this year.  The pale stipe in the middle is hope shining through the darker colours (more obvious on the real quilt than in this photo).  Lots of upwards and downwards diagonals, also, which is how life seems to me, very up and down.  We need hope amidst all the bad news we keep hearing around the world.  That slim strip of hope somewhere in the middle, or a tiny miraculous baby in the  midst of the gloomy political world scene of that First Century Christmas.

Babies look recognisably like their fathers in the first few days and weeks of their life.  Probably a useful biological fact to help fathers know the baby is theirs and therefore bond with it.  After the first few weeks they look like their mothers, or some other relative, or just themselves, but those first few days they are the spitting image of their dads.  In Jesus’ case, of course, of his heavenly father..  N0 wonder shepherds and wise men, prophtesses and priests in the Temple when he was presented there, and even Joseph and Mary themselves, had no trouble recognising Jesus as the amazing, holy, miraculous, kingly, divine baby that he was, as well as fragile and vulnerable as babies are.  Lots of nativity pictures and cards show Joseph and Mary gazing at their baby in astonishment as well as adoration.  What a Christmas present that was! Not just for them, but for all of us.  Better get going on my “thank-you” letter!

Well, I have finished my “Rev Sev” series, so in the new year I will be starting on a whole new series of quilts, completely different, for my  blog.

In the meantime, I leave you with a verse from a famous Christmas carol, to cheer you up amid the strikes, crowds, and preparations of Christmas time. (See, we don’t only get alleluyas at Easter):-

“Glorious now behold Him arise,  King and God and sacrifice.  Alleluya, alleluya, sounds through the earth and skies.”