Tag Archives: Lake District

Sonder and the Little Companions.

The sun reappeared last Thursday and after braving the madness of market day Keswick in the Easter holidays I came home and trudged up the valley to lie down on the footbridge for a think. Lying on my back, on the sun warmed wood and looking straight up at the sky, the fells seemed to lean over me in a dizzying way that confused my phone into auto rotating the photograph I took ( the one below). I was only slightly worried that the more serious, less horizontal walkers on the tops would assume I had collapsed; more concerned that vertigo would send me rolling off into the water. I basked in the sunshine feeling a little like I was looking down on the ravens who were flying aileron loops and barrel rolls, apparently just for the joy of it. Perhaps one of those walkers will will read this and be able to stop worrying; my last post was a lesson in never assuming total anonymity or invisibility just because I feel alone – one of those runners I described passing me as I wrote, turned out to be the lovely Hester Cox. We actually know each other a little and I love her work, but the unlikely setting/circumstances for a meeting had made us doubt our own eyesight! I like things like that, I like connections and co-incidences, random meetings and making links.

sonder

Anyway, I was happy to be outside with the sun in my face. After an endless winter I’d started to doubt my love of the fells and their ability to provide any kind of solace. I had a lot of thinking to do and it’s easier to think near water don’t you find? I was meant to be contemplating ten years of Witchmountain, ten years since getting my fabulous degree and this blog post was supposed to be all fanfares and party hats but, well of course this is real life. I ended up doing a trawl though 10 years of blog posts for entirely different reasons. Here she is, the Queen of the Mountains, the last of the Westwood Studio kittens (my parent’s farm), the end of a long line of familiars, the “bloody cat”, the muse for Rupert’s silly songs, she of the impossibly untouchable, temptingly fluffy tummy and lethal claws, the last of my Snilesworth companions… now only the imaginary bear is left.

The house is quiet today, I keep hearing the ghost of a bell but for the first time in my life I have no animal company. Hey ho Toast, happy hunting; I’m glad the sun shone on your last day.

Goodness! Are you still with me? I’m pretty conflicted about tragic pet posts -there is so much love, so very much, but I couldn’t help feeling how lucky she was to be able to leave peacefully, with dignity and without pain. As soon as we returned from the vets a bird landed on the windscreen and wouldn’t leave, Pied Wagtail, Polly-Wash-Dish, silly bird. Without voicing it at the time we both had the same thought, a transmigration of souls perhaps.


So…It’s April 2018! Two exciting things are going on at the moment, the first is this…

The Folklore exhibition opened in Bristol on Friday evening and it looked like a great night, very well attended. The images are all fascinating with such a diverse selection of artists and folk tales from around the world. It was something of an honour to be included in this curated show. It continues until April 18th and I think someone should turn it into book because I’d love to read more about the stories and why the artists chose them, their working practises and so on. Any publishers out there?

The second super exciting thing is that I got asked to provide images for two poetry pamphlets due for publication in May. Polly Atkin, from Grasmere, has been been so good to me since I first met her online around the time I moved the Lakes. Her poems have at times wrung deeply suppressed tears from me and on a more practical note she once leant me her swimming costume for an impromptu dip in Grasmere so I’m stupidly happy that one of my cyanotypes will be gracing the cover of her latest pamphlet. The two are published by New Walk Editions  and will be launched on 22 May at Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham.

More of that strange connectedness of life as my dad is just about to launch the project he has been working on with poet Alice Oswald. The exhibition of their watercolour and poetry collaboration opens in London on April 26th .

Now the day is slipping past and I forgot to eat lunch so I will save my ramblings about the past 10 years and the joys of trying to make this creative life pay its way until next time when there will also be news of a prize draw and other such sweeteners. Thank you so much for reading.

Here’s that cat again…an old embroidery sample from about 2009 that proves at least that my photography has improved slightly in the intervening years.

Reading: I just finished a proof copy of “The Psychology of Time Travel” by Kate Mascarenhas, out in August.  Watching and thinking about …

 

 

 

 

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Different Hills, Another Spring.

I’m sitting outside wrapped in assorted layers because today is the first day of British Summer Time, the sun has been shining bravely, the birds are singing love songs and it’s (slightly) warmer outside than in. With my slippered feet on the table and coffee mug balanced carefully on the bench beside me I can look over towards Maiden Moor and Catbells where groups of stick figures are silhouetted on the summits; a pair fell runners just puffed past and as usual I feel slightly guilty for being still and apparently idol. With all this Spring going on it’s hard to believe that just a week ago I was in Narnia, well Bristol. I travelled down by train and experienced the weird, dreamlike dislocation of hurtling through blizzards, the train tilting and banking like a fighter plane, through the occasionally looming Howgills, and eventually arriving in a city blanketed in white. City snow is not something I’ve experienced, not since a childhood winter in Providence, and it felt very surreal to be wandering deserted streets at 2am, following fox tracks and skittering about pretending to be a horse (this last means my phone is now smashed and held together with sellotape).
The rare treasure of three days with BOTH my children was made even more special by the peculiar, cocooning weather. The highlight (apart from snack suppers by the fire, snuggled up watching Paddington films) was a hair-raising drive to Glastonbury on the eve of the Vernal Equinox, where we had hoped to fly Jake’s drone for some exciting aerial photography. It was unbelievably cold though and so windy that flying was impossible so we just walked and talked and looked across the Vale of Avalon and wondered what it would be like to actually live there. A town so full of  crystal shops, vegan cafes and people wearing rainbow jumpers that it’s almost a parody of itself. It’s easy to be cynical and laugh at all the serious New Age types but I suddenly felt very much aware of a road not taken, or at least veered off in my 30s, and wondered if it wouldn’t be a more forgiving place to face life, particularly older age as a “crone”, than the Lakes with all it’s obsessive running, cycling and extreme swimming. I’m still a hippy at heart and there is something comforting about knowing places like that exist,  that not not everyone over 50 has to wear beige Goretex, run 10k before breakfast and stop playing horses. As Louise Chatfield  commented, on Twitter, it seems at least like a place that is non judgemental or about putting people in boxes. I can’t wait to return.

2am in Ashton, Bristol.

Back in the North I discovered (on #WorldWaterDay of course)  the the water had gone wrong again- this time either overflowing like Aira Force on to the doorstep or gone completely and I’m not going to deny that I feel at rock bottom, sorely tempted by some of the more outlandish forms of self-help therapies spotted in the Glastonbury Oracle. Unicorn interactions perhaps or a spot of Puppet Therapy; failing that a new umbrella so that the door step is easier to navigate! I love you Lake District but my patience is being tried.

Again I am pondering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs particularly in relation to creativity – there are many exceptions of course and some would argue that strife feeds creativity but I do find it hard to justify drawing bears when I probably ought to be finding a more reliable way to help earn enough to meet the first level of the pyramid! Luckily I came home to a few welcome orders for wooden bears which ticks some issues in the “Esteem” box. I want to make more of these wooden pieces, perhaps a hare or a leaping fox… but so far this one has worked by far the best. I got some lovely new silk cords yesterday so he now comes with either a dark red or blue cord (or silver snake chain).

When I was in Bristol we had a look in Hamilton House where the Folklore exhibition organised by Gordy Wright opens next month. It’s a great place with loads of events, exhibitions and studios – what a dream it would have been to have something similar here in the old Cumberland Pencil Factory. Anyway, I’ve been working on a couple of illustrations and hopefully one will be getting printed and included in the exhibition… which one though ?

I’ve drawn myself a little hut by a lake and maybe if there is still magic in the universe and all that positive visualisation thing works it will one day be possible to find the illusive “Home” a place to belong, to build a garden again.

Meanwhile here is some proof of Spring, slowly unfurling .
( this time last year the pink blossom was already in full bloom and the white almost over)

Reading: A Line Made by Walking –  Sara Baume. Listening to : The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert  and Spiro who make the perfect music for swooping along Lake District roads pretending you’re in a film to.

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Unwritten Fairytales and Lost Horizons

I’m blaming my new glasses for the time it has taken me to settle down to write tonight- that and the mountain of pancakes I made (it’s Pancake Day here in the UK) even though I’m home alone (banana with maple syrup and whipped cream, mmmmm ). I got new varifocals last week and they make me feel like somebody else; somebody I don’t like the look of, who most probably took a large dose of Mescaline or whatever makes the carpet come to life in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; the floor now ripples in a disconcertingly trippy way! The new frames, which I’d hoped would make me look more à la mode, remind me of my first pair of NHS glasses when I was about 8; the world has a frame around it again and I’m reliving all my childhood hangups about being the kid with glasses.

*I just looked up à la mode and it can also mean “topped with ice cream” …

February has been beautiful so far and a little bit of motivation has returned. The late winter snow seems to be an inspiration every year and I’ve been busy making new things, doing some drawings in my digital sketchbook and going on  small winter adventures. Last week we went up Carrock Fell and, after worrying my way up the steep bit, I lost myself in admiring the scattered diamonds, wind etched snow fields and iced bun rocks. We drank hot tea in a shelter cairn and I  galumphed along following Rupert’s footprints on the stumbly trek back down. There was a cloud full of snow behind us, the wind spun powder in to our faces and the snow was up to my knees in places; I couldn’t stop thinking of the film Lost Horizon. In the picture above, you can just see the sunbeam hitting a group of trees at Skiddaw House, one of the most remote hostels in the country, miles from any road- perfect spot for an artist’s retreat!

I’ve been making new lampshades and making the most of bright days to photograph them- which seems a little back to front. Each one took longer than ever to make as I got carried away with the embroidered details and deciding, after continuing with the exercises in my Dream Plan Do book, that what I enjoy most about my work is making something really special that can sometimes take days to complete. The shades and lamps have just as much work in them as a framed piece,  so that although pricing will always be difficult, I have made a promise to myself that I will stop undervaluing these pieces.

I’ve had a complete creative block lately and felt really quite low but in the last couple of days I’ve made time to mess about with my Wacom drawing tablet and found myself doing what I always used to do as a child which was drawing stories  just for fun and escapism. The little house, above, started off after driving past the white climbing hut at Stair. As I drew and played with the Kyle T. Webster brushes, the hut evolved into strange a fairytale that hasn’t quite been put in to words yet….

Today my lovely friend Susie , from Glaisdale where we both grew up, shared a picture of her mum who would have been 100 today. The picture was of a small girl with big boots and an enormous hair ribbon. Anyway I had some more fun doodling my imaginary version, perhaps she lives in the little white house? perhaps she’s just going to visit? Either way it’s nice to retreat into your imagination when it’s cold outside and your glasses are upsetting you.

Now, I have promised myself that I’ll print two more pieces of fabric tonight ready for stitching tomorrow so I’ll start to pipe down. The room smells of snowdrops and it’s time for a cup of something warm. There are other things to talk about… how it’s easy to get cocky and mess up all but one of your printed tiles by forgetting to rotate the writing, how the one mythical chilblains become a real thing when taking photographs in the snow and how it is possible, even when feeling a bit fed up , that some excellent fiddle playing might cause you to stop the car to dance a jig on the darkened fell side like the shadow of the girl  you used to be.

Reading: “Wildwood-a Journey Through Trees” Roger Deakin.   Listening to: The Gloaming  and ” The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock” Imogen Hermes Gowar (Audio book)

 

Leaning North

Cinnamon toast and a large mug of tea by the stove are my fuel for this bit of writing. It’s the last day of British Summer Time and at 4pm the fading light means I’m allowed to indulge my bear like nature doesn’t it? My nest is cozy; everything outside is leaning slightly to the right, to North, shaped by the prevailing wind that funnels down this valley. Leaves race past and collect in drifts or scratch at the window like Catherine Earnshaw’s ghost. I made myself go outside though, before building my den and I galloped down the valley in my clumpy boots with unbrushed hair, chased by swirling mist that poured through the gap on Robinson like milk. I should have taken a picture for you , I wish I could have painted it. Yesterday by contrast, was a day of such sparkling champagne light that it hardly seems like the same country !

Rupert is on an adventure in the Himalayas so I’m having to be extra self- motivated when it comes to my own outdoor adventures. Yesterday was easy, I packed a picnic, flask of strong coffee, my wetsuit and a sketchbook and set off to Scales Hill, Crummock Water because I’m greedy and I wanted Autumn trees, smooth swimmable water and mountain views ( all without having to walk uphill with a heavy rucksack). I walked and looked and breathed and braved a tiny dip (longer getting in and out of the wetsuit than in the water). I swam in little circles, using fallen leaves floating on the glassy surface as my markers, edging away from the shallows and trying not to think of the Great Deep; I wanted to float on my back to watch the clouds but October lake water in the ears isn’t nice and after the cold water hives thing at Rydal in the “summer” I’m very careful. After my swim I sat on the pebbly beach eating sandwiches, looking across at the boat house with Grasmoor looking enormous behind it and wondered if I would ever dare swim that far; then feeling that I should be less hard on myself  because I may not be a long distance swimmer or a Himalayan adventurer but after all  I have been up Grasmoor the hard way and been brave enough to get in to a bottomless lake, on my own in October.

Walking back to the car through the woods I suddenly thought, look at me, in all my outdoor gear, what’s happened?! Who am I? And then I saw my shadow and it was ok because as you can see, I’m actually still a bear…

Things have started to feel good in the work department, dare I say that? The exhibition n Grasmere was disappointingly quiet but I sold a print and made some good contacts, while the Exhibition in Shetland at Bonhoga Gallery ( part of Shetland Arts)  has already resulted in sales and lots of lovely comments online. The gallery is really beautiful and I’d never seen my work displayed so well… in that it was given space and light and not lost amongst all the other work, I felt like a real artist ( in times like these most independent shops and galleries need to use all their available wall and display space to maximise potential sales, so space, as in all things, is a luxury). It is interesting that almost all my online sales and commissions recently have come from Scotland and the Islands in particular; perhaps my love of the idea of North, however vague, really does come out in the work somehow?

The gallery staff at Bonhoga took this photograph of a hare lamp which made me very happy because I’d never actually seen one illuminated before and it does have an etherial, wintery feel to it whilst still feeling warm and cozy.

I’ve also been having some wonderful days in the bookshop in Grasmere; filling in on odd days and trying to avoid buying ALL the books. They are long days, especially with the drive, but so unlike any other work I’ve done in retail. Being in Grasmere there are some parts of it that are fairly unique, such as the customers wanting to know the best route up Helvellyn on a wet, foggy day, but there is a joy in solving a mystery for the person who says ” I don’t know the title or the author but…” or seeing all the kids during half term so keen to read real books, even in an age of Tablets and Kindles. Still, my book addiction needs to be controlled; I felt so guilty about spending money on a beautiful new Moomin book when the car needed fixing, that I didn’t unwrap it for a week. Anyway, the Library is now doing well out of me too and after agonising for ages I’ve chosen to listen to Phillip Pullman’s “The Book of Dust” on Audible rather than buying the hardback book. It will keep me company in the quiet house.

Now it is 6pm and the sky has changed through shades of bruise, made pastel by the low mist. There must have been a great sunset somewhere higher up but here it reminded me of  paint water- I had to leave you for a moment to stand on the doorstep in the eerie warm wind. Anyway, it’s taken me two hours to cobble this together, not counting the bits when I got up to put a log on the stove or put some supper in the oven. It’s time to draw the curtains against the night.

Reading: Hag Seed- Margaret Atwood    Listening to: The Book of Dust – Phillip Pullman (unabridged version) and ( in the car) Blue Aeroplanes “Your Ages”  , I’ve always loved this, it’s a painting in words..”in ten years everything will bleach to primer and we’ll lie in the light…”

Rumble Strip

 

It’s the perfect day for sitting under a blanket with coffee and a stash of biscuits, looking at more photogenic versions of Autumn than the one currently outside my window, all windlashed,rain sodden and dripping. As usual I uploaded the pictures days ago and then got distracted by stuff so that I’ve almost forgotten why I chose them. I also had to re-read my last post to remind myself of where things stood back then (September for goodness sake!).
Its a shame I got distracted because I know I chose this title and some of what I wanted to write about when I was walking alone on the fells this Tuesday which happened to be #WorldMentalHealthDay. I’d been reading this story  about the yoga teacher Michael Stone and trying to sort out all the tangled assumptions and conclusions I’d come to when I first read it; an initial thought that it is often those with insurmountable problems of their own who end up in professions where they are attempting to help others, physician heal thyself. His is a sad story of a struggle with mental illness that he felt he had to keep secret and my own lazy reaction, despite my own struggles with the black dog, proves that “Culturally, we don’t have enough language to talk about this. Rather than feel the shame and tragedy of it, can we find questions? … What can we do for ourselves and others who have impulses or behaviours we cannot understand?” (statement by relatives)

So, as I walked I thought about how we’re all just doing our best to navigate the waters and sometimes it’s really not that easy- or easy to own up to our crappy navigation skills. We’re little islands full of hopes, fears, dreams, histories and insecurities and we all deal with it differently. Rumble strip? Well you know when you go a bit off course on the motorway and there’s that bit that makes it feel as though the wheel’s about to fall off and jolts you into consciousness? I felt a bit like that last month and the rumbling told me that I needed to stop being quite so hard on myself for not being “The Most Successful Artist Ever” or “Having the perfect job that enables me to pay back the parents and bail out the kids” and take on board a bit of the new age bullshit… trying to be outdoors (a little bit) everyday, doing yoga, eating green things and writing honestly.

Meanwhile in the idyllic edited highlights of the year we went paddling over  a mirrored lake, so smooth that it was possible to feel vertigo as it appeared as though we were actually in the sky. The surface tension of the water held downy feathers, bone dry as if still falling through air and it seemed to curve up and away from us like the meniscus on an overfilled spirit measure. I did feel dizzy and being in the middle of the lake in the eerie stillness I had half a thought that Rupert might be planing to throw me in or what if the boat got a hole or what if it got foggy and we were lost, what if…? On the journey back from the pub it was almost dark and bats flittered about hunting, I hadn’t thought they would fly so far out over water. It felt like the last night of summer, like a night in a story and so in the dark, on the pebbly shore I jumped out of my clothes for a dip in the black water, giggling like a maniac.

Back on dry land the digital “painting” of the Jack Daw in the September blog post became a stencil for a print which will be at the Cumbria Printmakers/Cumbrian Sculptors “Poetic Vision“exhibition in Grasmere which opens on Sunday. It’s going to include some poetry chosen by the Wordsworth Trust and poetry readings. I’m really honoured that Polly Atkin allowed me to use her book title “Basic Nest Architecture” for this piece and will hopefully be reading from her poem Jack Daw.

After making my fingers very sore piercing and sewing the paper I have now found a proper tool for piercing holes which takes a bit of the pain away and makes the sewing part much more fun. I’ve got completely carried away on the more recent prints and it’s part of my new plan to make less work but to spend longer on each piece.

I found the perfect poem to go with this hare print, just a little too late to be included in the reading on the night but it will be credited on the print and in its title “The Leap From The Lea”  none the less, with kind permission. It is by the writer Dom Conlon, a Twitter connection and can be seen here 

Now you know the nights are drawing in and although it’s only 4.30 pm the weather has made it feel later. It’s time to make a cup of tea and bully the stove into life. It’s going to be a busy weekend and I’m really looking forward to it. Hopefully this little person will visit again at some point…

She is a Goldcrest, called Regulus regulus or King of Birds and I’ve never seen such a tiny little fairy bird in all my life. She banged her head on the window which is why she sat for long enough for me to grapple with my camera ( not long enough for me to learn how to focus obviously) but happily she was soon recovered and flew away.

Reading : Autumn by Ali Smith and this blog post  by Laura from Elsie & Nell which says a lot of what also I feel about the difficulties of being a small creative business.

Introspection and Indiscretions

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)

“Chiaroscuro” seemed like a good title.

IMG_1458These two pictures sum up last week as I prepared for my first big art fair, Art in the Pen, at Thirsk. I tried to work in the dark, gloomy cave of the house while the sun beckoned like a secret lover, through the lace bedspread, hung to keep out the bitey insects. Setting up outside I was driven back in by the glare or the wind or the fact that I looked like I’d been dip dyed upside down in a vat of pink from sunburn. The evenings of swimming were blissful though and I’m now slightly addicted to the well documented after effects of being in cold water; the silky cool feeling under the skin that contrasts with the warm surface and the release of endorphins that feels weirdly like the effects of …hmmm, less “official” methods (which I neither admit to, endorse or condone) but were once described thus by American chemist Alexander Shulgin … “I feel absolutely clean inside, and there is nothing but pure euphoria. The cleanliness, clarity, and marvellous feeling of solid inner strength continued… through the next day. I am overcome by the profundity of the experience.” Obviously swimming is a much more healthy way of feeling “pure euphoria” and less likely to land you in jail; it really has helped lift my blue moods when my natural inclination would normally be to curl up and nest.

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After an epic drive ( hot air blowers on full blast to stop the car overheating in the traffic jams) and still in recovery from a 3 day migraine ( brought on by dropping the settee on my foot during a mad hoovering session and not cured by standing for an hour, thigh deep in Scope Beck wearing just a t-shirt, hat and pants like a crazy old hobo) I made it to Thirsk and set up my pen (with lots of help from Rupert who’d been waiting there for hours).

It was a fantastic, if unlikely, event. As if by magic the slightly grubby and smelly animal pens were transformed by an amazing group of artists and makers who not only produce fabulous work but also design the display solutions (not easy making a sheep pen that was awash with slurry hours earlier, look like a gallery), and work like mad to make it all look great. I didn’t have much chance to look at everyone’s stands as I was on my own but it was so good to meet Hester Cox in person at last (my heart is set on one of her prints one day) and I spent a virtual fortune on some the work I saw on other people’s stands. My friend Sarah Ames wins my “resilience and tenacity” award for doing the whole thing on her own and driving all the way back home to Cockermouth every night! Sarah Robely wins “set design and catering “award because her stand was pristine and her lovely mum Shona, was there with home baked treats to feed to the 5,000. Bridget Wilkinson wins my “wow you’re an inspiration” award because she was so helpful, is a good friend and is making it work! I’ve also got to thank the lovely Penny Hunt  because she suggested I applied and her gorgeous work will be at the “Inspired by” gallery in Danby next week for her solo show, as well as Skipton Art in the Pen next month.

Ok, it’s no fun reading lists of links or thank you’s so I’ll stop now but if I missed you out it forgive me; everyone I met was truly inspirational and that’s before I think about all the friends who came and said hello. I’m still processing it all- months of isolation followed by a manic weekend of catch ups and emotion can be a bit overwhelming and I’m trying not to worry too much about all the ridiculous things I may have said or the faces I didn’t instantly recognise when they appeared out of context!

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I walked alone across familiar fields that belonged to another lifetime and stood watching a small drama as the sun set and a pair of  buzzards, disturbed by something not visible, called to each other and dipped and swooped with chattering, acrobatic swallows- rioting before bedtime.

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And so, after catching up with as many people as I could and wishing with all my heart I could spend more time with them, I took a massive detour home to avoid a traffic jam which would have meant needing to steam my face again with the car heaters. A two hour journey took four but I saw some great landscapes as trundled back through Kirby Stephen, Kendal and the South Lakes. I actually found myself saying “hello” out loud when Blencathra finally popped in to view and for a treat we went to the pub for chips before an icy, dusk swim in the river to wash away the sin of fried food. A tent was pitched right beside the swimming hole, as I’d guessed it might be, so we lowered ourselves in to the dark water upstream, trying to gasp quietly at the shock and swam quickly and breathlessly past the campers, trying not to alarm them. It felt quite exciting and the mossy rocks were like carpeted steps under the water- I wouldn’t like to be in water any faster though, it’s deceptively hard to swim against even a gentle current and I do quite enough of that on dry land.

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Now I’m going to tidy up the boxes still to be unpacked and see what I have left to take to Skipton on the 12th -13th of August and prepare for a workshop at Greystoke next week. Thanks again to everyone who made it a fun weekend. I have loads more to say but I’m having think first and anyway, it’s time for coffee and baking a cake I think 😉

 

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