Posts tagged ‘freeform crochet’

lampshades and seeing the light

CONTENT WARNING: trauma, the pain of recovery, government death by DWP policies

 

Sorry that title is a pun to try and get myself to lighten up about the piece I’m trying to finish 😉

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This is the part I currently like best of the work, it’s fully embellished, and is attractive to people who aren’t necessarily interested in [my] art. This gold hoop and a white one were found in the airing cupboard at this flat and work better with the main armature – a wire lampshade in a roughly goblet shape – than the wooden hoops I’d acquired.

The lampshade itself has been interesting to work with – the yarn slithers unless I anchor it and then the bare steel shows. That feels appropriate, but looks ugly. Sigh… that is actually what the work is about, the pearls and barnacles of trauma recovery. The scars and stigma, the increased awareness and gifts to the world that result.

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The indented bayonet holder of the frame can stand for the permanent reshaping of your life that complex PTSD makes. The torn tissues, wounding and furred scarring that trauma leaves, however hard you ‘work’ to recover. People can be very judgemental nowadays – even bereavement is something to be medicated away, so grief at a lost self, a life of possibilities now gone gets very short shrift. Austerity Britain with this heartless Tory government is astonishingly cruel.  DPOs [disabled people’s organisations] are now estimating that as well as the 10,600 disabled/chronically and terminally ill people persecuted to death by the DWP in 2014, a further 120,000 people have died because of austerity policies, DWP sanctions, housing benefit changes, treatment of the homeless, cuts to care in homes, cuts to all kinds of medical services that support disabled people and the vulnerable. It’s heartbreaking that even Labour barely respond. There’s a thing on Facebook at the moment, ‘which Miliband meme do you most like?’ I’ve probably alienated a few people by commenting ‘where’s the ‘I don’t give a shit about the disabled’ one?’ because when I see Miliband I just think of the Opposition who didn’t oppose the Con/Dem death by DWP persecution policies. He may have cared, but he never mentioned it in the House of Commons, and I’m very sure he had weekly postbags of constituents testimony to the impact.

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The long strings of beads are connected to this, they look pretty, but my experience of feeling like words/ memories were being pulled up from my guts like fishhooks or stones, from where they had been trapped in my flesh, that isn’t pretty.

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I think in this piece I’m trying to express the imbalance it creates when life is a minefield of triggers, when all you want to do is make the best of what’s left, but every day is a challenge to even take all the tablets and supplements that help but don’t contain the pain, because nothing works completely on fibromyalgia pain, just as it doesn’t for cancer or arthritis, but those are respected in a way that anything connected to trauma isn’t. Maybe if you were a serving soldier, but then there is all the macho toxic masculinity that covers even the women vets, that you must ‘soldier on through’, even when you have an illness that affects every tissue, every fascia, when pain can stab at you from any direction, with no rhyme or reason. I talk a lot about my ‘bad’ leg, my hands, my collarbone, but plenty of other areas hurt, but some are not ‘socially acceptable’ to mention. Pain is a taboo topic, so pain in taboo body parts is really out of bounds.

Something I want to acknowledge is that I could have made this piece in angry colours, full of pain and the ugliness it causes. I haven’t because it would feel like drowning in the dysfunction, and my response to the PTSD I have lived with so long is to fight back with colour, with grace – a state of spiritual awareness and compassion, of openness including hope. That could be a failure, and I can see fellow sufferers wondering why, but I actually want to open some doors in the minds of those outside the experience, I want to neutralise some of the pain’s power and re-instate myself, the person living with the condition. Creating a neutral palette gives me some space as I make to keep a balance between my own needs and the needs of the piece.

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I am very attached to the beach colours, aqua, duck egg blue, sand from off white to black, tiny particles that glisten with salt… mmm, I am drifting off to the seaside in my mind! Making 2 pieces in a row with roughly this palette has been very soothing.

I have been working on a ‘technical’ problem too, how to make pieces that express the distortion trauma creates without making them impossible to photograph! I already have intricate details getting lost in the sheer size of some pieces, so this time I am deliberately bringing some elements back closer to the main armature – the bowl of the lampshade.

 

So about that name – maybe Balancing Act? The hoops remind me of jugglers… and from some angles it looks as though they have escaped from the lampshade bowl. It carries some of the constant tension too, like tightrope walkers. Phew!

 

 

 

 

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falling into place

I’ve always enjoyed autumn, a feeling of things being gathered in and then a time for deep mulling over and consideration going on deep within, while on the surface there are lots of new learning opportunities available. I used to really enjoy looking through the adult education classes and workshop lists, and seeing if anything appealed – mind candy 😉

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Anyway, so here I find myself, at the turning of the season, wondering how I can make some abundance… I have been reading more again, the Threads of Empire curator arranged some Amazon vouchers as a reward for us artists which was really kind, and set off a buying spree on my part!

I really recommend going to see 1745 – a short film:

When two young black slaves escape into the wilds of 18th century Scotland, they must use all of their courage and strength to survive, unite, and stay free.

1745 highlights a forgotten part of Scotland’s history: while Scotland was fighting for its national freedom in that fateful year, its economy was in large part founded on the booming colonial slave trade. While the majority of slavery happened elsewhere – off-stage, across the Atlantic – there were African slaves here, kept as trophies and pets in the houses of their rich merchant masters. “1745” was inspired by advertisements that writer, Morayo Akandé, discovered for runaway slaves, placed in Scottish newspapers of the time.

 

{see https://www.1745film.com/synopsis}

for me, this sparked an interest in Scotland’s uprising in favour of the last Stuart, and the slavery that was funding the Scottish economy at the time… people wanting religious freedom but not giving freedom to people stolen from their homelands. I grew up with a granny telling me never to bring the flowers known in England as Sweet Williams in the house – as a Mackenzie/ Robson/ Black they were considered bad luck and an insult, and known as Stinking Billies. They are named for William, the Butcher of Culloden who massacred thousands in his Scottish campaigns, including civilians, children and old folk. The 9 of Diamonds is also the Curse of Scotland – though there are many ‘explanations’, a common one is

Anyway, suffice it to say I really, really recommend seeing the film, it’s only a short, maybe 11 minutes, but they make them count. Just seeing the sisters running through the rain [ filming must have been horrible!] I realised with a jolt that I had never seen an eighteenth century tartan dress on a woman of colour. The textile/costume historian in me was fascinated…

And that sparked reading Philippa Gregory’s ‘A Respectable Trade’ where a white woman trains a small group of slaves, but [minimising the spoilers] feels so attached to one of them, that she is terribly reluctant to give him his freedom, because without that power over him, she will lose the connection that has made life worth living for her. An even better read was ‘Joseph Knight’ by James Robertson [https://www.theguardian.com/books/2003/jun/07/fiction.alismith]

which was so well written. It starts with a young lad being ordered to run away before the massacre at Glencoe by his father, who is later hung, drawn and quartered by the Hanoverian King for treason, watched by his younger brother. The difference between the brothers in how they treated the slaves on their plantation is apparently based on family history and records and means you start with sympathy but end with horrified confusion at how this plays out. A lot of trauma in there, and the way Joseph Knight is almost unknowable because he was snatched as a toddler and has very few memories of himself before slavery, and has been shaped by that into a mask protecting a core of iron is very convincing. I found the ending, where his family are accepted by the recently freed colliers of the West Coast of Scotland very moving.

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I found the new making ideas that arose from watching 1745 made me want to push on and finish the two pieces I have been working on. The freeform aqua and sand piece I am making as a companion piece to Organic Process is now being attached to a lampshade armature someone gave me and is looking very underwater/coral/barnacle crusted, so I am pleased. The Tangled Freedoms piece [from Threads of Empire] has returned and l have plans to extend it, with embroidery I have been making from lace, ribbon and fabrics, and a short quote on the decay of empires that Onni used in the exhibition. Poor Cherise will be back to pinning things on the floor again!

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Doing the research for Tangled Threads reminded me that although I finally understood the waves of the French Revolution by reading Marge Piercy’s ‘City of Darkness, City of Light’ I had never understood Napoleon’s coup d’etat and the disintegration of the revolution that followed. I still don’t understand all the implications by far, but reading ‘Desiree’ by AnneMarie Selinko made me understand a lot more. I find reading a novel helps me remember the sequences of events better. Both Marge Piercy and Annemarie Selinko create understandable versions of historical people, giving them intuited backstories that make sense, whereas some of the historical analysis I’ve seen of Claire Lacombe and Desidera, Queen of the Swedes has been insultingly disrespectful, assuming they are just ‘flighty’ women responding to whatever impulse of the moment occurs, grrr..

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So I think my new interest/pursuit for this autumn is to be catching up on history. My mobility and spoons are very limited at the moment, but the wonderful internet is there to explore – with a shovel of salt handy on some sites, of course! Being still, in my own place, but peeking through time and space to other lives… and being inspired to make of course, it all comes back out through my hands…

 

Diversity is Our Strength

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I’m so  happy to announce that the fibre art installation Diversity is our Strength is now on show at the fabulous new Knit Nottingham at 9, Trinity Walk, Nottingham, until 12th August! Eleanor asked if she could have it for the month of Pride, which in Nottingham falls on the 30th, which made me sooo excited, as it feels like I haven’t shown any art since Peace Week 2014. The Trans-ally quilt flag has been strutting its stuff at some protests, and sadly at the vigil for those killed and wounded at the Latinx night at Pulse, Orlando. I’ve added some delicate ‘spinner’/ twizzels in red,orange, pink and purple with sequins to DIOS to commemorate those whose lives changed forever that night. I have PTSD and fibromyalgia brought on by PTSD, so my thoughts are very much with the survivors who will be needing support in a country that charges enormous amounts for therapy as well as physical medical aid.

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Tonight, I’ve been reading about the third death in 48 hours of a black man, killed in front of his partner and children, by US police officers acting without cause. Tomorrow is 3 weeks since the British referendum result was announced, where a crucial 3% more voted to leave the European Community [and thereby capsize the British Economy, unsettle thousands of longterm/permanent EU residents, lose Britain thousands of necessary workers, and bring armed borders back to Northern Ireland] than to remain… because many of them believed this would stop immigration by asylum seekers from wartorn Syria !!!

 

DSC_0030The level of racism, anti European xenophobia and financial lying that the Leave campaigners used has become the backbone of a campaign by lawyers, scientists, economists and generally people of wider understanding to make sure the exit isn’t carried through. As a disabled person, exit would be a disaster, as a person who considers herself European and a global citizen, I am so ashamed of the level of belief in flawed media and election lies, and now, the wave of racism, xenophobia and just plain nastiness of so many. Leave has promoted racism as ok, and now every day, ‘minor’ incidents of verbal abuse through to smashed windows and most worrying, arson, have been happening. DSC_0039

Diversity was made thinking about the different strands in our DNA, the many fine threads it takes to make a thick rope, the 108 ethnic minorities within the community of Nottingham, the need for unity within the LGBTIQA communities… I’m bi, and I remember being asked to leave a lesbian night in Newcastle because of that, even though I was there with my girlfriend; I never assume gay men will understand underclass politics because so many of the ones I have met have pink pound privilege and old boy network contacts that mean they feel insulated from prejudice; I was spat at by a lesbian for defending transwomens’ right to access Nottingham Women’s Centre. However, I try very hard not to hold grudges, and I will always work towards unity where I can, and it baffles me when people don’t see through the mischief-mongers, trying to divide us while they literally Queen it at the top [her Maj earns as much from her properties as the UK Parliament awards her, and more from so many other sources, why ARE we funding her?] or coast along in their £2million cruisers bought from BHS pension fund plundering… etc etc. The Murdoch Media Empire is very much to blame, the weak opposition allowing so much bad policy to slide through unchallenged, but even so… why are people so willing to believe anyone other than the top elite are to blame?

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I make beautiful pieces in a freeform process because I MISS beauty and integrity in everyday life dealings, I grieve that we are served so poorly by the MPs who mostly forget their constituents [honorable exceptions being the shining lights Jeremy Corbyn, Carolyn Lucas and Mhairi Black] and I work slowly because of my disabling conditions. I spend a lot of spoons on making art, quite a lot of money, [all those bargain queen tiara buys add up!] and call in favours when I am installing – thanks Sam!- and all because I want the results of that process to remind people better things are possible. Inequality is not inevitable, it is the result of choices all of us make, informed by our skills in deciphering what is around us. Some things are just plain wrong [racism, any xenophobia, any bigotry, any abuse of others] but what tools do we have to pit against them?

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I feel arguing shuts others down, I would rather catch their mind, as I catch their eyes in a riot of colour that turns out to have an internal order that accepts and honours DIFFERENCE. There are quotes on posters around the work, part of its site specific installation this time round [it’s been at Nottingham Pride in the Arboretum and in London for Loudest Whispers 14] and they make concrete that message of DIVERSITY IS OUR STRENGTH. We’ve never needed to hear that more, to take heart that we are not alone knowing that it is a truth we must live by, and that it carries great beauty with it, great comfort and harmony and a place to heal, a home truth that places us at the edge and the centre, all at the same time.

 

Progress report

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I have been having many small and irksome obstacles recently, against a background of settling in to the new meds – Gabapentin and then Lansaprazole again to manage the digestive system pain and gripes from the Gabapentin. The Gabapentin is worth persevering with because I am able to read non-fiction again! Even just reading a couple of books a week again has been great and my habit of small pleasures is boosted by new releases from favourite authors 🙂 I feel we all need that, but the ones who need it most are now right against the wall, the Conservative Government is pushing as many welfare cuts as it can before it is before the European Court of Human Rights, for crimes against disabled people. People are dying because they cannot afford the Bedroom Tax on the spare bedroom for their carer, and now that the Independent Living Fund has closed, people will be found dead as people who need round the clock care won’t get it. Many more will die very slowly, each day increasingly painful as bedsores become ulcerated, wounds become infected and carers are allotted only a few minutes to shower and toilet with no extra time to change dressings and change beds… Hard Times in Old England, very hard times…

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Against that, my own problems feel petty, but it is worrying that going out one day for a few hours means sleeping for nearly a week, that making one day means being too shaky to stand to heat a ready meal. At the same time, I often feel full of ideas! About politics, about making, about creativity as the core activity for humans, and maybe even what Earth is for..insects and birds and fish all make beauty, with species like the bower bird making aesthetic choices that might challenge an Art graduate, as whale music challenges musicians and mathematicians… who knows?

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Anyway, I have been working on a piece in ‘woodland colours’ since before moving, chosen to be fun, freeform and easy to keep track of while moving. Suddenly it has a name: ‘The Vital Spark’! It feels like there is maybe a series unfolding, from Organic Process to a next one which I know will have crimson and lemon yellow in, and that’s all so far! The Vital Spark is about the happy point when a new idea flashes into being, lighting up the hearth of old ashes and mossy, greened-over bricks and logs… all those old ideas are the compost for the bright new shoot, which promises such hope, and makes sense of the dullness of winter, when life was creeping along in very quiet ways that were easy to be ignorant of while bigger events shook the tallest trees…

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Cherise came round and we talked about what finishing her degree course means and how art is making-led for some [us] and prestige gaming for others, and what fun bright colours can be and how textures can change readings.. and meanwhile our hands worked away and I had great fun playing with beads to embellish some old work that lost its way [mistakes!] and has now become a feature to bridge between the freeform crochet, found wood and bought elements of raffia and willow [remaindered xmas baubles and mini fencing.]

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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.

 

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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Loudest Whispers 2014

I was really tempted to call this post loudest whispers, quietest screams…talk about suffering for your art 🙂

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So, I went to London last Monday to supervise Sea Change being installed at St Pancras Conference Centre Gallery… due to the curator being 45 minutes late, the previous artwork still being up and the curator needing to see the work hung a few ways, sad disaster has occurred. Sea Change is up in an improvised space, and I hope will stay up till March 28th, with Diversity is our Strength being shown in the foyer slot earmarked for Sea Change.

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In helping install it 3 times in 1 1/2 hours (Jen did the lion’s share) I wrecked myself, with the coup de grace being run-limping for the train, they had already shut the doors on the train!

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Luckily we got let into First Class and I staggered down to our booked seats, Jen making 2 trips after me with rollator and bags.

Since then I have been all systems down, my arms barely move, my hands hurt like blazes, my legs were shaking and spasming, I have a mystery muscle tear bruise on my left leg… I was terrified on the limp to the train my right leg would cramp and collapse, but I really didn’t have £120 for new tickets.

DSC_0042Of course I really don’t have a new body available either… 😦

I have had to recognize I won’t be able to go back on Friday and hang the Valentine piece or do the Same But Different fibretagging in London. Wow, this is such a huge thing for me, you can’t imagine, unless you are also a powerhouse who sweeps on through against the odds and snatches victory from the jaws of defeat type…My body just can NOT rise to this one…

 

UPDATE:  opened my email box to find this, which makes me feel so much better 😉

WE ARE THRILLED WITH YOUR WORK AND THE diversity INSTALLATION IS TAKING SHAPE WITH A BOLD USE OF A GLASS CABINET WITH THE WORK FLOWING OUT AND AROUND THE GLASS UP TO THE RAIL ABOVE THE WINDOW,. We think it looks exciting. Lots of fantastic comments about the SEA work…

– excellent!

So, what do you do with dozens of hearts and frustrated creative energy?

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Think up alternatives! Elizabeth and Eleanor listened and laughed on Thursday and I felt better after that, then after a heated exchange on facebook last night (someone on the internet was WRONG! my, I amaze you 😉 ) the little contribution I was making to the local ATOS demo has grown a bit… Someone asked Eleanor if they could be put in touch with a yarn activist, so fingers crossed, I can get filmed making a piece to support the ATOS protests 😉

Win! 😉