How is January from where you’re sitting? It seems to take longer each year to ease into the newness, to emerge out of the fog of the old year and start to feel my way forward. Snowdrops never stop being a surprise and this week the first noticeable lightening of the evening sky and some bright winter sun, has given me a little bit more energy and purpose.
I’ve just got back to Cumbria after my first trip south for about a thousand years (my daughter was having all 4 wisdom teeth out) and it made me realise what a little house mouse I’ve become, my (adult) children joked that “the Hobbit has left the Shire” … I need to get out more. Leaving aside the pandemic and all the associated fears around travelling; I was shocked to discover that I had forgotten where to put my Tube ticket to open the barricades and went into a blind panic at the sight of Staples Corner roundabout (luckily I wasn’t driving). I began to worry that I’d lost all my Londoness, not only that but I worried that I’d lost so much confidence that instead of me looking after Sara, she was actually looking after me, or maybe it was mutual, I hope so. Anyway despite the reason for the trip we had a lovely time, exploring new places and revisiting well loved ones, seeing art, laughing too much and looking at the scraggy bits of the city with the help of our new favourites, the late Ian Nairn and the current Tom Chivers.
One of the most special things was visiting Kew Gardens and finding out that they were showing Blackfield by Zadok Ben-David. I’d seen this by accident nearly 14 years ago when I was doing some work experience in Shoreditch and remember being really moved by it at the time. The surprise as the field becomes colour, suddenly, still made me go “oooh” even though I knew it was coming.
Now back in the North the roads seem so quiet, the air so sharp and clear and I’m all full of good intentions, to escape more, to work harder at the things I love, to write more and to work on finding a better balance day to day. I’ve been terribly lonely since moving to Cumbria almost seven years ago and much as I enjoy solitude I’m really aware of how unhealthy is is to feel isolated. Isolation can become a habit and unless Dubwath Silver Meadow want a resident hermit, I’d better start working on my social skills! I joke but it’s a serious thing, I think I’ve said it before but it needs re-saying, especially after the past few years of global weirdness, check in with your friends, it’s all very well saying “I’m here if you need me”, if someone needs you they probably won’t want to ask.
I’ve been busy in the studio at last, mostly restocking things that sold out last year that I wasn’t able to make while all my stuff was in boxes or supplies stuck in shipping queues. For the first time I had 3 whole days in a row to settle down and work; there was even a few moments where I felt a strange sensation… could it be? might it be? Happiness?!
I’m not sure how other creative people work, there’s lots of talk about “flow”, and for me there is an awful lot of daydreaming, coffee drinking, inertia and making mistakes before something clicks and it starts to go right; this means that interruptions like going to my other (lovely) job can kill the whole process. I’ve been trying to always leave the studio with something positive or easy to come back to, this is an idea I read in a book about Judith Kerr’s work. Having said all that, I’m a bit superstitious this, it all sounds a little too good so please keep your fingers crossed that there is a bit of smooth sailing for a while, I’m tired of wallowing about on the rocks.
Now the super exciting news is that at the end of last year I got a mysterious email which I almost dismissed but which turned out to be a quite genuine commission from Search Press to write a beginners guide to cyanotype printing! I feel very daunted by the prospect but also it couldn’t have come at a better time – I don’t sell a lot of work and I don’t feel like an expert compared to many other cyanotype artists with bigger audiences, so it felt encouraging and “validating” (this is my word the moment recently) to be recognised as someone who might be able to write and share what I’ve learned about the process. It’s hard to stand out in a crowd of blue and white so I’m really flattered they chose me.
The timescale is quite long, I think it’s due to be published in August ’23 and I haven’t spoken to my assigned editor yet but it’s a thing and that’s a better thing than at this point last year.
Well, the sun has just come out, I’m snuggled under my Christmas blanket, from my brother, and thinking it’s probably coffee time. Time to put away the screen. I hope the year has started gently for you wherever you are and as always , thank you for listening to my rambling words.
Reading: Zoe Gilbert, Mischief Acts (published in March) and strangely, coincidentally, Tom Chivers, London Clay which includes some of the same places and story roots.