Inspiration

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While moving I’ve sorted and re-sorted some of my fabrics, and seeing things I bought recently against stash I acquired a few years ago has sparked some new ideas. I am a very visually oriented person, and simply seeing a patch of rusty foliage on a grey day can get me thinking about a new piece – a trip to Ikea the other day for fabric took us past trees and fields and has fed into the ‘woodland’ palette freeform crochet piece I started while moving, all greens and browns with spots of bright yellow and bold orange for tree fungus…mmm!

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Anyway, I am washing and -prepare yourself! – ironing lots of fabrics  for some new quilting. Sorting through I found a shirt I bought at a jumble sale, one of those, well it’s only 20p purchases, and suddenly a new handmade book is hanging itself around this one shirt. This is why people like Picasso were so insistent on making art everyday, by turning up at your studio and looking through your materials, one day a familiar object is seen with new eyes. The blue and mushroom bold pattern edged in white is not immediately appealing [understatements!] but because I was cutting the fabrics into set sizes – 20cm squares and 20cm x 30cm book pages, the pockets and button edging fell in interesting places and suddenly a book appeared before my eyes!

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So while I am still gathering the fabrics for the quilts, I am also collecting quotes and clarifying the theme of the book. Having made these images on Picasa to print – I’m going to try different supports, proper photo paper, white paper, manila/brown packing paper – I now think it’s going to be about balance, perhaps because after all the careful pacing of the move, I am in the right place to honour all the people who have helped me build up a personal sense of what makes my centre and helps me keep my balance…

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altered art handmade book: making space, finding peace

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During my creative retreat over the festive period, I took the chance to get out a half finished project from 2013 and try to resolve it.

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I find altered art quite a challenge – I have a huge respect for books and try to keep mine in good condition, deliberately making marks on text or images requires a deep breath and slightly hysterical laughter! I made a conscious effort to overcome this with pages that have now come together in this and a companion book.

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To make it easier, I went round the January sales in 2013 and got calenders and diaries and some coffee table style books from remainder shops, knowing that if unsold,

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Even so, it was hard, but I was pleased with some of the pages but couldn’t find a way to resolve them into a finished object. Coming across the quotes I put into Letraset [funky fonts, apologies to the dyslexics, this post is going to be really teeth grindingly annoying for you…] I decided

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The final touches are yet to be done, even though I have stitched the cover on [laughter from the back is allowed!] as it was only when I really looked at the album in order that the central theme became clear to me, the making space/finding peace. Lots of the images are about meditation, holy places, altars, temples… and lots of the quotes are about personal growth and finding our way to simplicity, happiness, serenity. So I will now do an extra page to paste or stitch in, and use my stamps and punches to make some more space/peace links…

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea” is from Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen and I used this a lot on my allotment to get great veg out of stress at home, thus linking it neatly to the advice from E.F.Schumacher [Small is Beautiful, Good Work etc] “The art of living is to turn a bad thing into a good thing”. The two quotes with no author are by me:

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Each step in the garden brings back peace

The seed knows its purpose is to make seed: it does not owe you leaf or fruit

– more wisdom from my allotment ;)

 

I’m going to look at a new flat tomorrow, a ground floor one and hope I get it, having the energy for a container garden I can nip out to would be lovely. The stairs here are getting too much and the downstairs neighbours have taken the garden in a  ‘white vanman’ direction of beer, bbqs and destruction of the lovely permaculture woodland edge I was creating… very depressing and I’d rather just start again somewhere new. I find gardening very healing for my agoraphobia and of course being out in sunshine is good for mood, and getting your hands in soil too…It would be great to have a new garden space to play with.

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So all who read this, feel free to cross your fingers or light candles for me to find a home and garden that suit me, the fibromyalgia and my persnicketty puss, who HATES change…

 

for those who celebrate christmas

 

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I actually celebrate the Midwinter Festival of Abundance, but as that appears only on my calendar (!) I stretch it from Solstice to New Year. I don’t normally spend much on presents, but I look to where my abundance is overflowing, and share from it to bring back balance… So often I share from my materials to other makers and if I have spare money to some of the excellent micro-charities out there. Last year I started seriously giving a lot to the local Foodbanks, as the situation is so dire for people on low income, whether working on zero hour contracts or sanctioned by the Department of Woe and Persecution. This year I had bought for the bank but then they have closed, refusing to collude with the Government, who is saying people are ‘choosing’ to use the banks…

So friends have got things I knew or hoped they might like, plus a distribution of bargains from Approved Foods – I know lots of people who love to drink organic herbal teas or green teas, but can’t always afford them, so laid in a few dozen when they were 50p a box [they’re now 33p, dang it!] and then vegan or gluten free goodies and/or craft items. I still have a bag to donate to Tasty Tuesdays Free Cafe or the other Foodbank, but can actually see my shelves again ;)

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Meanwhile I am using the quiet time to focus on creativity and any new goals… I had a lot of success with a couple of craft stalls for Refuges for Pets [where people in refuges get their pets fostered till they are rehoused] and my share has gone into my exhibition fund. Making decorations to sell on the stalls has renewed my enjoyment of making scented sachets, creative stitching and embellishments. Some friends gave me lovely fabrics and sari embellishments for my 50th birthday recently, which were really good fun to play with ;)

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So I have taken the chance to get all the fabric boxes I can reach and re-sort them with new projects in mind, and to buy a few colours/patterns to bridge gaps. I try to always buy remnants, not just because they’re cheaper, but to stop fabric ending up in landfill, such a waste… Just handling fabrics makes the ideas come flooding, so I’m trying to sketch and list ideas as my memory is so rubbish now. I’m not sure if that’s fibro fog or medication, but it’s very odd after a life of hyper vigilance and flashbacks and reliable recall of a lot of research to find things fading like snow in sunshine. It has its upside, but adjusting to writing everything down has taken a while.

As so many people are away and all the routines are put aside, I have come to really enjoy this time where I can follow ideas through with fewer distractions or pacing needs interrupting the flow…

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It was New Year 2012 when I started making handmade books again, and I can feel that impulse again. I’ve also lucked into some yarn that makes me want to pick up Cradle For Stones again, an installation about PTSD triggers I put down to work on Diversity is Our Strength…

So I’m only a couple of days in and I already feel the benefit of my retreat and refresh/ recharge/ re evaluate time… I hope whatever kind of festive times you are are having, you are enjoying them and finding time to enjoy all the colour and lights against the darkness in the North, or for the Aussies, barbecue on the beach I guess ;)

Organic Process: fibre sculpture

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Organic Process has been hanging on the bedsit door where I can see it from my bed for over a month, as I wrestled with the final resolution. It’s about 2.20m x 30cm x 30cm/ 7′ x 1′ x 1′ and made to be viewed from any direction, so would suit being hung in a stairwell or a ‘crossroads’ corner, where it’s easy to see different angles and details.

To resolve it, I removed 3 elements and added 2, ironically removing some of the organic materials! It originally had some chunks of driftwood and tiny sea shells, but was losing its effect of ideas coming together from thin wisps of inspiration. After staring at for so many weeks I had to laugh – the removal and insertions took maybe 20 minutes, with another half an hour spent checking ends and securing some of the loops…

 

I will make some smaller companion pieces from the ‘leftovers’ but I am really pleased to be packing it away to await photography for a slideshow – I am not good enough with my hands/camera to scan up and down without wobbling ;)

I’ve really enjoyed just how freeform this piece has been while working, how much it celebrates and affirms iterative process, the working until the object of working becomes clear… and the seagreen that is so hard to photograph is very pleasing to live with. It’s also a pleasure to go back to Wasting Waste though, the heavy brown/blues feel right for the approaching winter. This is a very summery piece, with hints of seafoam and light breezes and birds wheeling and shells glistening in bright sunshine on the beach… and as the landlord came round with his blowtorch to light the storage heaters [oh my!] last week that’s pleasing, but not consonant.

I packed Sea Change and Peace/the Hundredth Heart away yesterday after airing and drying, and there is a real pleasure in finishing another piece and

DSC_0014-002DSC_0015-001DSC_0018-001DSC_0020-001DSC_0026-001DSC_0027-001resetting the work boxes/storage to suit the new priorities. It’s a good time of year to pick up pieces I put down and having left them fallow, now gather in energies that had diluted too far. We’re having a burst of very hot weather for the end of October/ beginning of November, and combined  with getting more painkillers sorted out, I   DSC_0027-003feel ready to re-focus. I got distracted by activism on a bigger scale than really works with/for my fibromyalgia, but I have come to the end of that cycle (thanks to some flaming, I have a new appreciation of how much I hate being nitpicked on!) with some positive results. [the Peace Fair, the anti-ATOS demo etc] Now it’s time to put making first again… and being happy about that decision (after some guilty conscience searching!) is probably why Organic Process could find its resolution.

 

collage cards

Having an eye test and chiropractic and friends to dinner all in one day wasn’t my smartest move…and my shoulder and neck are definitely wanting a break from crochet for a while…so, l needed a project where l could work in bed with short bursts of stitching at the machine or by hand.

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Collage cards are perfect:

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a visual feast to uplift the spirits, a way of testing ideas out for twinchies [2inch canvases] and stash busting some recent gifts and impulse buys ;) Jennifer gave me some interesting used and saved wrapping papers and when l was prepping for playing with fire l sorted out some bought handmade papers for embellishment. They come in large multi-packs and there are always some l look askance at, being too patterned to work over easily. So I picked out the ‘flock wallpaper’ and heavily pressed ones, mixed and matched with wrapping papers and stitched to a backing paper. It would be just as easy to glue them, but by stitching them l start to ‘knock back’ the surface and personalize them, and l get very tentative if l don’t do that early on. A way round is to glue with coloured PVA, so that splashes can help break up the perfection and become starting points for embellishment.

Annoyingly I couldn’t find my pinking shears until I’d stitched everything down, cut shapes out of the collage sheets/complex papers l’d made and glued the first ten cards down, sigh! I was hunting for the broken pair – brown handles, not the neon yellow ones right in front of me, oops!

l prefer a deckled edge as it makes things merge better, but the shears won’t cut the flock surface anyway [that’s how l broke the brown handled ones, grrr] so l will work distorting the edge with metallic marker dots etc. That’s a lot of work for a card, too much to get a minimum wage price on, except – aha!- part of the decoration is a detachable charm/totem, either a bracelet or hanging bedizener. Dome/roof shapes are for housewarming-blessings for moving, the ships are for journeys/exploration eg a course or placement as well as travelling. And cats, cos cats run the internet and are always popular!

Hopefully l will be able to potter along pacing myself with lots of rest between little bursts of activity. My downstairs neighbour is away so it has been a very quiet weekend, without him popping in for coffee and recipe swaps, but friends are coming for a bring and share meal on Tuesday, which gives me a chance to do some market research/ get some feedback on pricing – not knowing what to charge for things l never buy!

keeping the colour

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Well, the weather has been every-which-way as the tail end of the ex-hurricane sweeps through, and as the high winds have been making me restless, but the barometric pressure was making me ache, and my arm was really swollen and painful from crochet and knitting, I was really ready for something different, full of colour and…smell!

 

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I realize I have very fond memories that surge up when I smell scorching wood or paper, watching Andy make his amazing art pieces by the fire, knives red hot on the grate, flowers and trees and stars springing out from the grain…my work is very different, no sacred geometry, all freeform as usual, but the scorch smell makes me smile all the same…Some friends came round to play with fire on Saturday and there was a lot of laughter and fun, and it was a lovely feeling to pass on his skills and show them the tools he made as well as finished pieces…they can never meet him, but they have a much stronger sense of him now, I’m sure. People aren’t really dead when their work is so alive…

 

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And then today I cleaned my sewing machine and played with the leaf stitch, using 3 threads at once, 2 up top, 1DSC_0009-002 in the bobbin. If you want to try this, a few tips: go slowly! And put the needle down before you start, have the heaviest thread in the bobbin, so the two ornamental threads balance it and keep your eye on the needle – if there seems too much tension, stop immediately, you don’t want a broken needle flying up in your face.

 

For  a post on using paper punches and scorching paper:

https://singingbirdartist.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/tooling-up/

 

For a post on heat guns and fabric:

https://singingbirdartist.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/hot-fabrics-1-the-organza-sandwich/

Singing Bird Artwork

Singing Bird Artwork is my fundraising shop on Etsy:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/singingbirdartwork?ref=ss_profile

– if you have time to go look, and like anything, it all helps, as with over 4 million other listings for handmade jewellery, it might take a while to get noticed ;)  Even handmade mixed media journals has nearly 4,000 listings! Getting clicks will get the shop onto the noticed thread, so more people will see it…

I’m hoping to sell some leftovers from artwork to fund an exhibition next year. I got really inspired by seeing this clip of an amazing freeform crochet artist, Mandy Greer, in Canada:

She rocks! I really liked how she incorporated items from the museum’s storage into the installations :)

I have been working on some little fun pieces while I figure out how to finish Organic Process, and even designing some artwear – that’s been a while! So here is some eye candy – enjoy!

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