Tag Archives: being an artist

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

“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