Two of my mountain themed quilts on show at Lullingstone Castle.
Two of my mountain themed quilts on show at Lullingstone Castle.
I am taking part in Horsham Artists Open Studios art trail on 8/9th and 15/16th June. See flyer below. Excited!
I am just begininng of a range of exciting new wall hangings in rainbow colours and with clean modern lines and shapes. The quilts above which I did a while back were a springboard for the new rainbow colour scheme, but now I am working using cleaner shapes and designs with more white space.
Watch this space for previews of my new range as I go along…….
I am also turning this page into news of my latest work, art and life (which are all connected), rather than the sort of blog posts I was doing previously, which were more contemplative writings about life and spirituality based on a single work of mine each tme.
When we are young we see everything as totally black and white. Parents, nice teachers, best friends are accepted as perfect. When later we find ourselves hurt or disappointed by one of them, we suddenly “see through them”, and see them as totally bad, often writing them off altogether. Maybe years later, we can come to terms with both their good and bad parts, accept them more in the round, seeing them more in terms of shades of grey. Hopefully get back on good terms with them, even if only in memory.
Most of my life I have seen everyone in terms of black or white, baddies or goodies, until about ten years ago, I gradually realised everyone is a mixture. So I’ve been seeing them as fifty shades of grey…. Hopefully that has made me more tolerant of people’s foibles, less judgemental.
However, now, today, I suddenly realise that people aren’t shades of grey, they are many-coloured, filled with every hue and shade of colour. Different moods, different facets of them, different sides to them, different phases in their lives, these are all different colours. Understanding people in colour instead of grey adds vibrancy to my experience of them.
People’s emotions are often described by colours; for example, purple with rage, green with envy, feeling blue, black moods, in the pink, etc etc.
So next time a friend is annoying you, or whatever, think of it in terms of a colour. Bright orange — very irritating. Lime green — interested, enthusiastic. Pink — up for a cuddle. Brown — boring on. Etc etc. Well at least it will make relationships with your friends and family a richer more colourful experience!!!
The above quilt by me, made few years back, is called Rainbow Sunset. But it could be about my new way of seeing life.
I have had three “Moments of Nakedness” recently. By this I mean moments when you feel so close to something, a thought, an understanding, a person, a moment of seeing or hearing, that you feel like you are naked within this moment of before it.
The first one was while watching the commemorations for the First World War battle of Paschendale, on the TV, held at the Menin Gate in Ypres in Belgium, through which hundreds of thousands of British soldiers, mostly very young, marched to their deaths at the front not far away a hundred years ago. One of the worst and most wasteful battles ever. This ceremony, with a relatively few involved, was grief-stricken, moving, beautiful, tear-jerking, in a way that the larger scale commemorations at a huge battlefield cemetary nearby next day didn’t match. At the Menin Gate, it was intimate, a “naked moment” for all involved.
The second one was listening to a piece of music composed jointly by Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass, called Passages, performed live for the first time at the Proms in a packed Albert Hall. The piece is meditative, sad, uplifting and fun at different times, a merging of Eastern and Western music and thought. For all the hugeness of the Albert Hall, it was a moment of intimacy, a special moment between all the players, which reached the audience, and even to me watching on catch-up TV…. a Naked Moment. I’ve sent for the CD of this work, but it won’t be the same as this engaging live performance…..
The third moment was at the end of a tough summer school in New Testament Greek I have just been doing for two weeks at a cathedral near me. Sweating it out with all that difficult Greek grammar, nearly gave up at times, and was one of the worst in class. Nevertheless, all worth it on the last afternoon, when we slaved away at two short New Testament passages translating the Greek. One was from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, and the other was from the Last Supper account, in Luke’s gospel. It took us hours just to work at these short passages. And yet, it was so real, you felt like you were in the same room while the Last supper was going on, or beside the Sea of Galilee; you could smell the sea, see the large crowd, it was that close and real. Reading it in translation doesn’t have the same effect as this, and it was quite unexpected! A real moment of nakedness…..
In the above quilt wall hanging, called “Presence”, I tried to depict a feeling of closeness, presence, of another person, a spiritual moment of closeness. No pretenses, no hidden agendas, no formality, no polite conversation, just you and them. What I call a moment of nakedness.
I went to an exhibition once called Tales of the Unfinishable. It was by crafters who had not only unfinished projects but projects which they knew to be unfinishable. The crafters explained in a written note beside the work, why they knew it could never be finished and why they had kept it. The reasons varied from “Can’t get those same materials anymore” and “Poor eyesight” or “Arthritic hands”, to “Have moved on in my tastes, styles, way I work”; and some were “Started in a part of my life which was just too painful to go back to”.
I think the above photo of a tapestry, which I started to make in my twenties, represents nearly all of these problems. I was having a nervous breakdown through a lot of my twenties, and I worked away for hours on this traditional tapestry kit as a sort of therapy. The plan was to make it into a cushion to go in our traditional thatched cottage home, where it would have suited perfectly. This home has long since been sold, and as I recovered from the breakdown, this tapestry got put away unfinished. I came across it quite recently in a box marked “Unfinished Projects”, as I was moving house yet again. I opened the bag and could practically smell the unhappiness I had felt at the time of doing it! But also felt some admiration for all that stitching and effort and perseverance I had put into it…..
We all have projects we have started and never finished, or bought and not even started. Somehow we outgrew them, or never found the time. So why don’t we chuck them out? We cling too long perhaps to an outdated hope or unworkable plan. We start too many things and then get bored, or can’t be bothered to learn how, or it turns out to be more difficult than we thought…..
Maybe one should persevere, learn how, make the effort to finish it. I was brought up to always finish things, do what I said I would. Not just waste things, both effort and materials. On the other hand, maybe we should be ruthless, focussed, cutting out of our lives and clutter all those things which do not fit into our current focus and ambitions. Do a ruthless pruning job of our activities, projects, use of time…… It is difficult to know which one should do. Both involve discipline….. It is a difficult decision also to make with each project, whether it is truly unfinishable, or just unfinished…..
When I look at myself and my life, there are lots of aspects of myself which are “unfinished”. Time is beginning to run out, also, as I age. Once one had seemingly infinite time to finish or work on things, now one is aware that soon I won’t be able to do lots of those things any more. I never got to a higher level of piano. I never learnt to water-ski. Should I persevere beyond beginner level New Testament Greek? Which things should I work more on, and which things discard? How do I progress to becoming a better person? Should I be doing more voluntary work? More long walks or trips to the gym? Cook new recipes? More travel? More creative work? More blog posting? Or stay at home and finish the box of unfinished projects?
Thank goodness, though we are an unfinished work, God does not see us as unfinishable. One day, one day, we will be a finished work of God’s creation. What a relief.
Meanwhile this tapestry is going back in the box of unfinished projects, back under the bed. A bit like a photo album from the long ago past, or a decades old diary, it was too much a part of my life to be thrown away.
Since writing my post “New Beginnings” about four weeks ago, I haven’t been able to do anything creative at all! Clean sheet, blank canvas, new start, etc. turn out to create total writers’ block, or the equivalent for a quilter….
Perhaps I need clutter, mess, half-finished projects….. Actually I have plenty of that lying around. Quilt magazines unread, unfinished quilts, abandoned sketchbooks (not to mention the pile of ironing). No, just looking at those make me feel in need of an immediate and very long nap….
Whereas there used to be a thrill about heading to the studio to start a brand new project, now I put it off… I notice some of my colleagues at my studio set have been doing that for months, maybe years…. No sign of any new work, or progress on unfinished work. Burn out? Creative block? Alcoholism? Or maybe they have just moved on and are ready to do something quite else now in life, or a variant of what they were doing, only they haven’t understood this and keep trying the old thing, the old way, (or just avoid thinking about it altogether…. Watch daytime TV instead…..) Others nagging you about it really doesn’t help either…..
Perhaps the answer is a disciplined approach, get into a routine. No good just waiting for a clear and free day, or for feeling inspired. So I am going to set aside one morning a week for sketchbook ideas, and one day a week to finish quilts….. and then work at those things on the appointed day even if you have to grind through it……
Well, that is my new plan anyway. I will let you know how it goes. And sympathy to all those out there who are suffering from a similar creative block!
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…!
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.
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.