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Making a Scene

The cat and I have curled up in my little room under the orange, woollen blanket to keep warm and think about things. We’re not complaining about the damp and rain because for a while this month it seemed as though we were living in another country, one with endless cerulean blue skies, arid hillsides smelling of coconuty gorse flowers and heady bluebells; things even started to wilt in the shady part of the garden so the rain has been welcome ( for now). I’m not fond of daffodils, May is the month for more subtle and delicate flowers, so I was happy when the acid yellow was replaced by carpets of  bluebells (why didn’t Wordsworth write about them instead?) and now the Hawthorn and Cow Parsley frothing along the hedgerows. As ever my walks are slowed by the need to  sniff May Blossom and discover that it does NOT taste like “bread and cheese” or examine, on hands and knees, like a Hemulen, the  Dog Violets and Heartsease hiding amongst the grass. For the first time I realised that Wild Garlic flowers actually smell of sweet honey unlike their delicious leaves which I’ve been using to make pesto.

It’s been a slow month in some ways ( financial ways of course!) and rather than panic I tried to make myself take the advice from the last blog post and draw more. Draw anything, for no reason other than to be doing something constructive rather than procrastinating. Even though it is the hardest thing to begin an empty page and to mute the negative inner voice that is mumbling “stop it, go and find a real job, you’re not good enough, it’s all been done before…”. Isn’t it sad how we measure our “success” and  relative happiness in monetary terms so that even on a day when I’ve made loads of  ok artwork and baked a good loaf of bread and marvelled at the clouds and the light on the mountains,  I can still feel like the day was a disaster because I didn’t sell anything. Someone asked me this week what I would do if I was suddenly rich and I really couldn’t think of a thing I would want to change – except of course to be secure in my home rather than at the mercy of landlords – so why the discontent?

Anyway, the pages of doodles gave me lots play with in Photoshop and it really was playing, because I discovered I could build little worlds to endlessly rearrange ( using the layers ), like my beloved model farm or dollhouse from childhood, I could design my own indoor garden. Rupert likes to tease me about my love of creating “little scenes” on windowsills… a few found objects and a miniature bear in a doll’s chair perhaps, or glass bottles with tiny flowers. I made some virtual shelves to display my virtual pot plants and then got engrossed in the great excitement of making a moving GIF with Spirit Bear (who is usually a card or a wooden necklace) . I may get completely carried away with this idea now – about 25 years too late to become an animation legend!

The blue prints continue and a story seems to be emerging- although I think Coralie Bickford-Smith already cornered the market on foxes and stars… I haven’t read her beautiful book but I was aware of it so I wonder whether I was unconsciously remembering the link or whether  it was genuinely totally random that I found the star sequin on the floor just as I was setting up the print…

Well it’s nearly time for some more coffee and some more drawing before an evening in Grasmere for Polly Atkin’s poetry book launch. Last weekend we went to a Royal Geographical Society lecture about Indian Shadow Puppets so living in the Lakes is definitely making my social life more cultured, or maybe I’m just growing up…good grief!

If I was good at arguing persuasively  I’d tell you how important it was to vote those mean old Tories out next month but instead I’ll just leave these two pictures here. PR gurus tell us not to mix politics with business and sometimes I worry in case someone is put off buying my work because I’m a bit of a Lefty (I guess this sticker would be earthy brown if I mixed in a hearty dose of Green policy too ) …but I reckon if Rob Ryan is prepared to nail his colours to the mast then it’s better to live fearlessly and keep believing in a better world. The picture below was taken after an evening swim in Rydal Water, where all the sad and cynical people, all the greedy, fighty, selfish people, should be dipped in the crystal water and made to breath in the bluebell air until they see that we only have one world and it’s beautiful and it’s time we stopped pissing about and looked after it- and each other. x

Reading:-  ” Work and Love” Tuula Karjalainen ( About Tove Jansson)  Listening to:- Skylarks and UPDATE! since the evening in Grasmere I’m listening to Jenn Grant who played a lovely live set amongst the Pre School toys and Brownie notices and almost me me cry. http://www.jenngrant.com

Only Numbers

I got a notification yesterday from WordPress congratulating me on NINE years of blogging! Today my writing desk is the bench behind the house where I’m baring my pasty limbs for the first time this year and dazzling the birds with their alabaster hue. Its not peaceful out here, it’s a riot of activity and sensations – blazing sunshine, blustery wind battering the trees and blowing sycamore flowers on to my keyboard, birds seeing who can sing the loudest and the scent of bluebells, sappy green ferns and azaleas.There is a squeaky branch somewhere that sounds like the horn on a clown car and a helicopter circling the fell; I know I’d be more comfortable inside but it’s dark in there and we people of Northern Britain tend to panic that the sun will never shine quite like this again and so across the land pale people are turning rapidly pink ( “like Strawberry Mivi’s”  Rupert likes to say).

Since I last wrote I have become 50. It was all pretty traumatic because I haven’t really accepted adulthood yet and milestone birthdays are an introspective time for everyone aren’t they… am I where I expected/hoped/planned to be in my life, what does the future hold, unhealthy comparisons with others and of course a dose of guilt for good measure because I’m here and others are not. Not for the first time I realised that what miss more than anything is friendship and most vitally the friendship other women who have known me as a young woman as I enter a new phase in my life- our lives. Anyway, some pretty lovely things happened too and once I’d stopped sulking like a baby it all seemed like a fuss over nothing.

My parents had arranged for us to meet them in Morecambe so that we could stay in the Midland Hotel, an amazing Art Deco building that I last saw when it was a derelict ruin in the 90’s (when I went to a WOMAD festival in the town). I thought they were mad. Morcambe is not the Riviera of the North but maybe it should be… the views across the bay to the Mountains were breathtaking and the hotel had been beautifully restored so that it felt like being in an ocean liner. Lying in bed I could only see the sea and sky (and Poirot which we had to watch because an episode was filmed there). A favourite detail was the Eric Gill map mural which is really very special and made me feel very sentimental about the Lake District. We watched a film of the town in it’s heyday and in particular it’s huge open air pool which has since been filled in: it seemed like such an innocent time, before I suppose air travel made holidays abroad more appealing and the idea of sunbathing on the North West coast less so. The legacy of our night at the Midland has been that this song, from the vintage film, has been stuck in our heads to the point of madness… listen at your peril!

Back home it feels as though the year is on fast forward and while I’ve completed all the wholesale orders from BCTF I’ve now got to start working on some new pieces for the exhibitions I’ll be sending work to later in the year as well as Art in the Pen which is in July and August. I bought myself an A3 printer so I can now make some small affordable prints as well as making digital transparencies for my cyanotypes. Lots of fun and experimenting and hopefully some sales to keep the wolf from the door.

This birdhouse design started out as a big A1 size sketch I did of the nest box outside the window. I taped the paper to the glass and forced myself to draw even though I kept having to walk away and drink coffee and have words with myself about motivation and self confidence, I think it shows that despite feeling at the time as though the drawing was rubbish and that I was useless and stuck in a rut, the end result was really satisfying. I know I need to learn from this and the lesson is “draw more and don’t be so mean to yourself”.

Here is the original sketch and my attempts to make a garden …

Well now the sun has moved around the house and the goose pimples are making me look like an anaemic hedgehog so it’s time to go inside and make some coffee… or maybe I just need to go and admire the way the light is filtering through those ferns up the lane…

May is such a beautiful month.

Reading: ” The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper” by Phaedra Patrick ( a lovely surprise random act of kindness from my friend Leti) and a book about th Midland Hotel.

Escapism

I should have written notes while I was away, or I should have spent the evenings writing instead of watching murder mysteries, because now, less than a week since got home, I’ve so much to tell you but it’s all jumbled up with how it feels to be home. Things have burst into flower and leaf , houseplants are leaning towards the light and people have moved into the birdhouse we put up last spring – they have been busy dusting and bringing in new nesting equipment.

The return to Witchmountain, after British Craft Trade Fair, was delayed by a trip to London; so that altogether I was out of my nest for nine whole days! This only happens once a year and I should probably do it more often so that the feelings anxiety beforehand and unsettled flatness afterwards are less intense. I had such a good time and so many adventures. After all the build up to a big event it’s not surprising it feels a little odd to be back with no imminent deadlines and just a sleeping cat for company during the day (and the owl who likes to hoot in the daytime).

This year BCTF was back in a permanent hall rather than a marquee and we’d been given an extra metre of space due to a cancellation, so it was a massive relief that the calico backdrops I’d made last year fitted perfectly. We found it much easier to set up this year, although it’s never quite how you imagine it on paper.I’d mended the ladders with string but they still felt pretty dodgy and my mum told me yesterday that my grandad made them himself in the war or something…no wonder they were wobbly. Here are three generations of Tillyer women- I need to work on my body language a little don’t I, you can see the discomfort in my white knuckled, clenched fist!

Of course I got severe stand envy as I looked around at what other people had done and it’s the hardest thing in the world not to compare and lose confidence; it is for me anyway. My friend Bridget Wilkinson was there for the first time and the simplicity and neatness of her stand design really let her work shine … it was also easier to set up, so If I do the show again I may do some reinventing ( mine was done with fabric, mostly because I have no power tools except a sewing machine and my dreadful measuring skills are more easily forgiven in fabric ).

Well we had a good show and met so many lovely, inspiring people – makers and gallery owners- I can’t even begin to list them all (but I will be adding new dates and stockists to the exhibitions page on the website soon)  I began to think I should give London a miss and head straight home to start on orders. This year is going to be busy and exciting; I just hope it starts to even out financially because there’s no doubt it’s been an expensive journey. BCTF is cheap compared to the bigger events like Top Drawer but I reckon it cost over £1,000 to stand, which is an awful lot when you don’t have a guaranteed income. We treated ourselves to a hotel with a pool and I swam every night, imagining myself looking like Esther Williams until I put my glasses back on and saw the reality-sometimes it’s better to live inside your head and dream.

And so from Harrogate to London where the weather made everything seem like we could have been in Italy. We ate tiny overpriced cakes cut into 3 pieces in the Royal Academy members rooms, marvelled at the marmalade at Fortnum’s , lusted over everything in Anthropologie and visited the Bernard Jacobson Gallery where there was an exhibition by a rather special artist.  London glittered in the sunlight and I insisted we went to Kew Gardens after a tip off there might be Moomins there. We must have walked for miles and I do wish I was able to go everyday for a month with a sketchbook and a picnic and a good map and plant guide.

There was a Moomin event at Kew but the real reason we were in London was to go to the Southbank Centre’s Adventures in Moominland. Ok, I may have lost you by now; to a lot of people the Moomins was just a slightly creepy kids cartoon or a childhood paperback but I didn’t even discover the books by Tove Jansson, apart from the semi autobiographical  “The Summer Book”,  until I was 42. For some reason we missed them as children so my first Moomin experience is of  reading all the stories one deep, white winter, with a bottle or two of whisky for company, snowed in and  heartbroken after a relationship breakup. They are children’s stories yes, but as the exhibition makes clear they are also about existential crisis,  fear and loss, love and friendship, family and acceptance of difference, home and security. Many of the stories are actually about Tove’s own life and relationships. Lots of the characters are misfits and outsiders but all are welcomed into the “family”. Don’t tell anyone but at a couple of points along the guided “adventure” I nearly cried- it was so beautifly done, with little illuminated tableaux in each room containing exquisite original drawings… some hidden in suitcases like Thingumy and Bob’s “content”, the love that they kept secret. There were no filming or photography allowed which I can understand but I wish I could show you how magical it was to literally walk into a favourite book; the whole experience was gentle and tactile with the smell of woodsmoke and clever use of light and sound. It could have been tacky and theme parky, or full of cynical kids but in our group of 15 there were only two very sweet children and the rest were grown ups – which just goes to prove my point.

Tove Jansson’s niece, Sophia Jansson
Photo: Vic Frankowski

Almost every year and in times of need I re-read Tove Jansson’s books, especially Moominland Midwinter and feel grateful for the magic of a story that can transport you to another reality and put a different spin on your own. I think it’s no exaggeration to say those books saved my life that winter, because whilst reading it was as though I pressed “pause” and took the time out  I needed to feel  stronger.

OK, enough of the soppy stuff. I’m back in the Lakes now and busily making orders to send to all the lovely new galleries. There is a giveaway on my Facebook page at the moment to win a candle lantern… it’s in the spirit of Hobbit birthdays  because I’ll be picking a winner at random the day after my birthday next week. If you have time have a look… you’re in with a good chance because despite paying to promote the post only about 11 people have entered! The mysteries of Facebook algorithms.

Happy Spring, Easter, Eostre – whatever you celebrate x

Reading: “The Bear and the Nightingale” Katherine Arden and ” Work and Love” Tuula Karjalainen Website: I met Heidi Vilkman at BCTF, she is from Finland and apart from her art she has built the most amazing little cottage which could easily have been in a Tove Jansson book- honestly you have to look! http://cobdreams.blogspot.co.uk

Blossom and Ice

The colour is just seeping back in to the day, as the morning snow gives way to more seasonal rain and I’ve settled by the stove to write. Slowly, outside the big window, the delicate prettiness of pink blossom and ice has returned to over saturated green and yellow ( is it a crime to live in the Lake District and not like daffodils? shhh, don’t tell ).  It’s been a day of little tasks, printing order forms and making price labels, sorting out boxes of exhibition “stuff”; the kind of things that make it seem as though I’ve been busy all day but haven’t achieved very much. It was exciting to wake up to snow this morning and the cat was beside herself with joy, skittering about like a kitten, staring wide eyed through the window and asking to go out ( and immediately back in again) at least 20 times. Cat has always loved snow but there seems to be much less of it these days and certainly less than some of the winters  in our old  home. I miss it and the strange excitement and magic it brings. But it’s unseasonal now, and mostly I suppose, unwelcome after all the celebrations of the first day of Spring. Yesterday was so cold I gave in and put the heating on early. I’d spent the morning sharing a chair and a hot water bottle with that cat- neither of us normally so affectionate- until the Archers came on the radio and the sound of hounds sent her clawing herself free to hide under the table.

Some really lovely things have been happening lately. I’m now recognised in Keswick Post Office, or at least the red bear stamp on most of my parcels is, which must mean that sales are getting a bit more regular. This week for the first time since leaving the Herdy shop I earned the same as I would have done had I stayed – a combined income from my own sales and the almost unbelievable treat of a day’s work at Sam Read’s Bookshop in Grasmere. I think you could begin to understand the strangeness of finding myself looking OUT of the bookshop from behind the desk, rather than IN through the postcardy door, if you looked back at previous posts or searched “Grasmere” in the side bar. The happy/sad of being here in the Lakes instead of “home”, the feeling of unreality and uprootedness that comes from building a new life where there are no familiar touchstones, the lack of confidence after various “work” events – sometimes something nice happens out of the blue and you find yourself looking over your shoulder to check for Fairy Godmothers. Anyway, it was a fun day and I’m very grateful to Will for thinking I might be able to help out… especially as we only really know each other through Twitter and there was that time I was in the shop and mentioned the possibility of assassinating him so I could steal his job (social anxiety can make you say the dumbest things).

Well, I’m sure all work can become mundane (and I’ve always resisted applying for jobs in places I really love in case familiarity breeds contempt) but it was so nice to have interesting conversations and learn new things and it seemed auspicious that as I drove over Dunmail Raise, before the signal gave out, someone was reading Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” on the radio.

Back on Witchmountain with less than two weeks until Harrogate I’m busily doing last minute preparations for the show as well as trying to learn how to use my new camera… an early birthday present to myself because I’m suppose to try and take proper product photographs. The wooden jewellery has been really popular and I can’t wait to get some more designs made. The special “design sample” price ends this weekend but I’m sure will still want them at the real RRP. which properly reflects the costs. How I wish I was a hardened business woman with no qualms about pricing, instead of a bit of a hippy idealist with a basic mistrust of Capitalism! Yesterday I listened to a radio programme that talked about spending and “peak stuff” and found that I agreed so much with the philosophy that we all have too much “stuff” and that we buy too much, waste too much. How can I reconcile this with trying to sell my own stuff?! I wanted to call the programme and say that maybe if people chose to buy more from smaller independent businesses, to choose for love rather than being on the “upgrade” treadmill – could that work? Perhaps I need to look for a good book on economics and philosophy…

The hungry stove is asking for another log, the radio’s brought unwelcome news from London and Rupert has just got back from a chilly day at work in the mines across the valley (as an outdoor educator not a miner) so it’s time for tea. Apparently the sun will reappear later this week and the brief brake on Spring will be released.


Reading:- “Basic Nest Architecture” Polly Atkin ( from Grasmere – poems that have kept me awake at night searching the internet for Moon pianos and memories of home) and “Swell, A Waterbiography” Jenny Landreth ( to be published on May 4th )

“Relax and Formulate a Plan”

This  beautiful, wiggly wall over Lingmoor Fell is an allegory of the way my week – and emotional state – has been fluctuating since we walked that way on Monday. At one point on I was surrounded by botched printed vases, newly created landfill to prick my conscience, a mountain of useless greyscale printouts after my printer forgot how to do colour, no lights downstairs after all the fuses went (I looked in the fusebox but it seemed to be very windy and cold in there which is odd) and the DPD delivery driver stuck up to his axels in the mud outside. It has felt at times like I’m living in a kind of Krypton Factor game show for dummies, where every task has involved a massive hassle and steep learning curve; still, it’s much more satisfying when something goes right at last if it has driven you to tears for hours beforehand. Walking in the brittle spring sunshine, arms pinkening and prickling with unaccustomed exposure to sunlight and tummy rumbling with too much coffee and not enough cake, we climbed to the summit of Lingmoor and learned some lessons from the survival bag we used as a picnic blanket. These lessons, and the continuing sunshine, probably helped prevent meltdown and/or murder later on- and besides, what reason do I have to complain? Imagine building that wall… it was immaculate, with each header stone at the same angle despite the terrain.

I love the idea that you would ever be able to “relax and formulate a plan” should you ever find yourself actually needing to get inside an orange plastic bag for survival. Further down it suggested something to do with dried leaves, I can’t remember exactly what. I think this winter there have been a few cases of people whose lives have been saved by these bags though so I shouldn’t joke.

So as Friday night turns into Saturday, I’m sitting by the stove, with the cat dangerously close to my feet, feeling a little bit of the same sense of achievement I get on reaching the top of a hill. I’ve rebuilt my evil website, after many tears and it even has a shop. It’s a big improvement on the previous one so even though it’s more expensive and drove me nuts, I’m actually really glad that Flavors.me closed down and forced me to do it. I’m playing shops and it seems so much more exciting than Etsy because it’s my very own. The first two sales made me feel like a tycoon and I could never take for granted the magic of being able to do that without leaving my nest, from home, in the middle of nowhere.

Most things seem to be slowly coming together in preparation for BCTF but it’s frightening how much money you can spend on services and materials without even leaving the house; and how you think you’ve worked out the costs of things but then remember you need to factor in the sellotape, Paypal fees, tissue paper or sticky labels. Its fair to say I have felt huge ups and downs of mood and confidence this week and have been trying to be more careful about dealing with the downs. Sometimes it really is important just to relax and formulate a plan, to go for a walk or take time to read a book and not feel guilty; because the upside of being self employed, to balance out having no money, is that I have that freedom at the moment and I’ve noticed I work best in the evenings anyway. I’m like that annoying hamster you probably once had that slept all day, got vicious if you tried to wake it up and then suddenly started rushing about on it’s treadmill at bedtime- making a sound like squeaking bedsprings (the rushing about is me, not the squeaking).

And sometimes it’s tempting to sew up the scraps and offcuts to make something new, because, at the risk of sounding like an infuriating meme, failure is often just a state of mind or a view from a certain angle, it just depends how you frame it. Well, it’s time I let you go, thank you for reading and also for all the survey responses. I need to look at the results properly and apply my amazing analytical skills, before finalising my master plan, so for now it’s back to relaxing and dreaming of more days like these. Dipping toes into achingly cold water till the blood fizzes like champagne, winter dimmed eyes blinking in the light and you can almost feel the vitamin D soaking through your skin.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir

 

A Secret Garden

Newlands Valley , the garden in Spring

March is upon us; the wheel is turning again, creaking at first as the brave new buds appear but before you know it we’ll be rushing headlong towards summer and taking it all for granted. Do you ever wish you could slow it down, press pause at a certain point; the first snowdrops maybe, or bluebell time? In melancholy mood I want to savour every moment, my 50th spring; when you put it like that each new season has a greater value – how many times will I see the wild garlic or the willow flowers?-  and I know I’m so lucky to live in a place where those seasonal signposts are a daily joy. My dad recently told my brother he had lost his feeling for where he was in the year, unsure if it was snowdrop time yet, since moving from the farm to the town and so spending less time outside. As for me, I’ve been in the next door garden this week, discovering the Victorian “Barley Twist” edges of the lawn which I doubt have been seen for years under the overgrown borders and tumbled rockeries. The garden isn’t mine, it has strange plants that I don’t recognise and it makes me miss “home” and my own lost garden again, but it’s a haven and I’m glad of it. I’m never happier than when I’m lost in a garden.

reflection , design by Kim Tillyer

Apart from my occasional trips in to the garden, to gather sticks or hack through the undergrowth, I’ve been busy with all sorts of odd BCTF preparations, whilst wrestling with guilt trips about my lack of a regular income. I call myself so many mean names before I’ve even got out of bed that it’s not surprising confidence is low… but so far I’m managing to meet all the targets I’ve set for myself, new work is happening every day, spread sheets, catalogues and even the odd drawing are being created and I’m starting to really look forward to April.

polar bear lantern by Kim Tillyer

One useful thing I discovered whilst filling in last month’s sections of The Makers Business Toolkit planner was that many of the people who buy from me via my Etsy shop or Facebook are people who have followed Witchmountain in one way or another for a long time. I really love that I feel as though I’ve known some of you for years, what would I do without you?! But, in trying to train myself to be more businesslike, I realise that I need to reach new people too; BCTF will hopefully do that but I wonder how else to do it? I’ve made a little survey just for fun and it would be great if you could take the time to fill it in , it’s multiple choice, anonymous  and very quick. Thank you.

SURVEY

display by Kim Tillyer

Now the night has crept upon me and the fire has got low, it’s time to think about sleeping and talk to the cat about her plans for the evening; it’s raining outside but I don’t want waking up at 4am by beast scratching at the bedroom door like a demon.

kitchen sink drama

Reading: “Dip” by Andrew FusekPeters Listening To: “Dead in the Boot” elbow

Website: Wooden-boy the arty adventures of musician Sycamore Sykes, including my favourite greetings card of the moment for book lovers and introverts everywhere 🙂

Setbacks and Sideways Stars …

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-13-31-58

Today I have spent quite a lot of time standing next to the wood stove with my hands on the tin kettle, trying to warm them up enough to type or attempt another cyanotype print. Cold paws are really upsetting when you want to do things with them other than cradle mugs of hot coffee or rest them on the smooth kettle which radiates heat like a warm, bald head. I know I should go outside and brave the icy wind and occasional snow flurry so that I feel warm in contrast on my return… but my outdoor motivator is in Scotland doing winter mountain things and, since I have the house to myself, the plan was to get a lot of work done. Cheerfully, this blog post is about work, vulnerability and failure… because I recently heard someone on the radio say something along the lines of ” Success teaches you nothing, failure is valuable because that is how you learn”.

love owls design by Kim Tillyer

Perhaps it’s something about January and February … all the muses are stubbornly hibernating and those over optimistic resolutions made in the warm flush of New Year seem forgotten, especially in the disturbing dawn of the Trump era. For a long time – as long as I’ve been keeping this blog/journal/thing – I’ve been conflicted about the need to present a jolly, polite, professional public face, so that I might sell work/get a job and pay bills, and the real desire to share the gritty, uncomfortable bits because they are real life, they are the “cracks that let the light in” according to Leonard Cohen. I’ve talked about it before… the fear of over sharing, of being to open, of being the one who doesn’t realise their skirt is tucked in their knickers until they get home from the party. Anyway this week I had the rare treat of spending a lot of time with other artists, in various real life, coffee -and -cake situations. Lots of talking and sharing, encouraging and admitting to hopes and fears as well as comparing the realities of working days and financial concerns lurking behind the forced grin of social media profiles. I also read this wonderful blog by The Pale Rook which I only hesitate to share because it’s so good you’ll probably forget to come back and read my jumbled offerings.

Tree House

Here are some of the things we asked ourselves (in the context of our creative practises) … if you had a million pounds to invest and guaranteed success, what would you choose to do? If you didn’t have to think about selling your work to make a living what kind of work would you make? Is it harder for women to be artists in a single minded way or are we hobbled by some weird domestic guilt that persists even though we can apparently “have it all”? and even the dreaded question “are you an artist?”

Well I didn’t say there were any answers but in having the conversations I reflected on how I feel about where I am at the moment. In a world where there is too much of everything (except peace and kindness) and a bombardment of visual images from all directions, is there room for me and is it important to have a message – are the “decorative arts” just as valid?

from the winter garden

And so to failure… in an upbeat way. Have you ever had a cup of Yogi tea? The teabags all have little words of wisdom on them and the one taped into my planner says “Share your strengths not your weaknesses” (which may contradict everything I just said but never mind this isn’t a dissertation) I’m writing this down so that I don’t forget this lesson … it is strength that takes you back to your work over and over again, despite setbacks and minor disasters; what makes artists weird and superhuman is that they don’t stop, and can’t even if they wanted too. What is visible to the outside world, whether it’s a masterpiece of modern art, a book of poems, a hand thrown pot or a greetings card with a sketchy fox on it, is only the tip of a huge iceberg. Under the surface are a thousand failures, experiments with technique, frustrated walks when the landscape seems to taunt you with your lack of ability to capture what you want to say. Days when the coffee tipped on the drawing board or, for me this week, when a whole batch of prints on fabric washed completely away for no apparent reason leaving me with cracked dry hands and a pile of soggy calico. A whole day’s work crumpled in the sink, a new idea potentially on the scrap heap. I beat myself up and feel like a useless creature, tell myself nobody else is as hopeless, look at other people’s beautiful flawless work and weep…  but the next day I’ll do it all again, solve the problem (a batch of calico with a coating of some sort that reacted with the cyanotype chemicals) and try to take heart from what I know to be true; it takes a kind stubborn courage to keep putting yourself through this. That is why creative people, in all disceplines, are a valuable asset to society, even when they keep odd hours or struggle with tax returns or appear to be constantly barking up the wrong tree …they are the ones who look at life sideways and glimpse the stars you can’t see if you look at them directly.

Jump for Joy Etsy Greetings C

And so, today instead of feeling guilty because I haven’t made a print or finished editing the catalogue for BCTF, or sold the week’s quota of cards on Etsy, I’m going to accept that sitting by the fire on a freezing Sunday in February is perfectly acceptable thing to do.

Reading:-“Swing Time” Zadie Smith ListeningTo: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett on Radio4.  Inspiring Websites: Two of the artists who I spent time with last week were Penny Hunt and Jane Carlisle Bellerby