Two of my mountain themed quilts on show at Lullingstone Castle.
Two of my mountain themed quilts on show at Lullingstone Castle.
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.
Thrilled to have sold one of my “mountain” series of wall hangings, from my Etsy online shop. The first of my larger wall hangings to be sold on Etsy (selling on there is really, really hard, by the way, but I am gradually progressing, patience and constant work required). I was having a nap and my phone went “Kerching!”, the sound it makes when a sale has occurred. Caught napping by a sale!
I have spent a lot of time living among mountains; for years in Austria, where my family had a chalet for skiing in the winter and walking in the summer. We used to travel there by train, winding through the high mountain passes. This quilt above is the view from the train as you come out of the long Arlberg tunnel, in winter. It feels like the snow and rocks are about to hit into the train windows, they are so close. High snowy peaks, rocky ravines, frozen waterfalls, deep blue shadows in the snow….
I saw the Alps in all seasons, close up. Years ago now. But it suddenly came out in my art, decades later. I unexpectedly did a series of five quilt wall hangings of mountain landscapes.
Well, that is “Winter”. I will miss it. Next mountain quilt, watch this space….
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.
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…!
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!
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.