Mid September and I’m trying to be still, to take stock of the year so far and also recognise how far have I come from that sunny September day (3 years today) when my life was turned upside down by a chance remark – and how far I have yet to go towards accepting my new reality. A recent spur of the moment decision to visit family and friends at “home” in Yorkshire left me with a terrible feeling of not belonging anywhere (yet) – old friends were away and too much had changed. I walked around Town like a deer in the hunting season, all full of adreneline, in case I should see Enemies (at one point retreating to my car for a few tears and the coffee I’d hastily tipped into a flask to escape the loneliness of a window seat for one). It’s pretty hard for people to understand because on the face of it life here in the Lakes is pretty bloody idyllic and I can’t argue with the fact that the enforced change has opened doors to exciting places and brought unimagined new joys … but thats not the point, it wasn’t my free choice to leave at that time. The prodded, still raw, emotions made me overflow with empathy for displaced people everywhere and wish more than anything that I could be of use somehow.In Costa, where the only newspapers were the Daily Mail and the Sun I felt like an outsider, even me with my privileged, white, middle class cappuccino, wondering how much worse it would feel to be a refugee or asylum seeker. Homesick for a place that no longer exists. I try to raise money for charities like Shelterbox but it doesn’t seem enough; one bleeding heart idealist giving the odd tenner, however it is an amazing thing they do, so if my brief wallow in the past informs one person about their work then that’s good isn’t it? ( theres also a very neglected post on my Facebook Page which has some things for sale to raise money for them)
And so the colour palette changes again – hot pink, steel grey, purple blacks, russet and velvet brown- and I wish and wish I was a painter – or at least was able to express what I feel and see in some satisfying way. The Rosebay Willow Herb has climbed to the top of its stems and the last few magenta flowers are held above downy clouds of seed feathers, bright memories of a summer that seemed to be over before it had started. The joyful discovery of this summer was swimming without a wetsuit ( the wetsuit gives me floaty legs and I end up in a skydiving position with a crick in my neck – I’m really not a good swimmer!) and I can hardly believe that this picture, taken just a few weeks ago was probably the last one before next spring. There’s been so much rain that all the water temperatures have dropped and since I do it so infrequently there’s no chance to get acclimatised to the cold like some of the real swimmers are. Still, I might give it a go and I’m hoping one day to get some tips from local swimming guru Susanna Cruikshank who has just set up a new business as a swim guide and might help me progress from being a head up dipper to someone who can swim more than 25 metres without getting hiccoughs. (EDIT we went and swam in Ullswater last night as I was half way through writing this and I got in again for a moment or two after the wetsuit bit – it was chilly but bliss).
Continuing to assess the year; as far as work goes I’ve been up and down and round in circles and back up again. Sometimes things have worked really well and I feel quite surprised at myself; the digitally doodled Jackdaw I drew the other night for example or this hare print which is now a lamp, heading to Shetland, Bonhoga Gallery next week. Other times I feel so cross with the whole thing I just wish I could get a regular job as a gardener or bake cakes for a living- everybody likes cake and gardens never stop growing but people don’t always NEED a card or a piece of art, its undoubtably a luxury. I was really excited by the response to the “Just A Card Blog” interview I did earlier in the month, it had been a bit of an ambition to get some nice exposure and help promote their campaign message. On Twitter at least, I felt briefly famous and successful … it’s only when I tell you that barely 3 people looked at my website because of it and there were no extra sales that you start to realise that our social media bubbles are like a hall of mirrors, reflecting distorted versions of your own thoughts back at you … the brutal reality is we need to reach customers not just other creatives.
Its also vital that people realise why work is priced as it is – I’m probably being terribly indiscreet and unbusinesslike ( what’s new) but 0n Saturday at a wonderful open studio in the Eden Valley I got into discussion with a visitor who praised my work but said it was “too expensive” in her opinion. I’ve said it so many times, and I know I’m preaching to the converted because you’re here reading this, so you probably understand, but listen – a piece of art or anything you see in any shop probably has at least a 50% mark up (shops and galleries have bills to pay too) that means that if you half the price of a print which retails at £70 you’re left with £35 from which to take the cost of materials (the paper alone can be about £6 a sheet), time, framing or mounting and all the other expenses ( including the years of learning the technique, making preliminary sketches, thinking and planning). Nobody’s getting rich quick like that.Having said that we recently walked in on a customer in an outdoor equipment shop rudely accusing the staff of “just wanting to make money like all the other shops in this town” which was pretty crazy when you think about it, so maybe its not jus a problem in the creative industries.
September 28th has been planned as #JustACard Day ; a chance to really spread the word about the importance of even apparently small sales to keeping independent shops thriving in our high streets and supporting artists and makers – if only by spreading more understanding of the issues around this kind of business. There are a few ways to get involved so do follow the link and see what it’s all about.
I almost lost my nerve a bit while thinking about what to write this time. There is a strong case for the whole “keeping up appearances/positivity attracts positivity/you’re in business so don’t be so open” school of thought but actually I’m bored with that kind of dishonesty; the extreme end of which is “fake news” and other evils of these unsettling Trumpian Times. Anyway, it is what it is and I’ll end by singing about the good things… the walks in the now familiar fells (who have shaken the moths out of their brown velvet coats and scented them with woodsmoke), the postman arriving with surprise, unsolicited book gifts, the re-discovery of yoga ( yeah, like the rest of the world we’re rolling around on the carpet most days trying to follow Adriene Mishler videos without falling over or getting attacked by the cat or distracted by the mousetrap going off) , the excitement of new exhibition plans with Cumbria Printmakers. It’s not Utopia but sometimes when you’re standing up as tall as you can on top of a hill and pretending to be a mountain it gets pretty close. x
Reading: ” A Pocketful of Crows” Joanne Harris (one of those happy moments when social media works as it should and the lovely @likewinterblue from Sam Read Booksellers, Grasmere sent me a surprise pre-publication proof after seeing that it was on my wish list. Some people are just friendly and kind and that makes up for the rest!) I’m loving it and making it last longer by also reading “The Ladies of Grace Adieu” by Susanna Clarke.
Listening to: owls and there deepening breath ( ha ha! not really I’m just trying to get in the yoga mood)