Saturday, 26 November 2011

Out of my comfort zone

...starting with the bus ride to Hailsham to attend a workshop here.  The first 500 yards went well - and then we turned left where I thought we would go straight on.  Thereafter, at every junction, I thought "as long as we turn right here, I'm on the right bus".  And so of course we turned left.  Or went straight over.  And we followed the hilly line of the Sussex Weald for miles and miles, meandering around the Sussex villages and little towns.  I knew we were heading in more-or-less the right direction, and as long as we turned off the Weald at some point and headed for the Pevensey Levels all would work out in the end.  And so it did.  We just went a slightly more devious route than I would ever have imagined!

But enough of bus journeys.  The other week, no sooner had I said to myself "I need someone to show me how to use acrylics" I saw an acrylic workshop advertised, and only £12 for 3 hours.  Rude not to.  I rang straight away to book, asked what to take, and was told only brushes as everything else was provided.

Which is where I had been slightly mislead.  Everyone else, claiming to be "complete beginners and absolutely hopeless" brought neat little sets of paint tubes in all sorts of colours, and mysterious baking trays of parchment and rubber bands, and jam jars for water, and kitchen towel....and I had to make do with some dried up tubes of paint in a plant saucer, in a very limited colour range. 

But considering the limited materials, the state of my brushes, and that my only previous experience with acrylic painting involved a paint roller and a can of Dulux, I'm more than pleased with the result!

The photo it's taken from was just chosen from a great stack the tutor had  brought.  I mucked up the skyline on the first "pass" but ended up very pleased with the clouds top right - in fact the sky is my favourite bit.  Then I had to be daring and paint in the trees.  And finally, that huge expanse of grass!  Grass is HARD to paint.  It was all a bit khaki for ages and I was worried, then I was rescued with a blob of emerald and a dab of someone else's brilliant blue, and it all came together.  I didn't have time for my teasels because people started packing up.  But overall I'm fairly amazed with myself.  Nothing like being chucked in at the deep end! (doh! Missed that off the list from my last post)

And tomorrow I'm out of my comfort zone again, with a project that unfortunately (a) is becoming a bit too quilt-like for me, and (b) involves more maths than I thought - button sudoko anyone?

(Sorry for the blurry pic).
It also involves sewing lots of these...

onto a mystery item.  Suffice to say there are 24 of those little squares and I need to get it done by 1 December. 

And finally, the Boy has definitely been out of his comfort zone.  We downloaded a Thunderstorm CD for him to listen to at his leisure.  We had a few wobbles to start with, but if we play it loud when we're getting ready for a W.A.L.K or if he's eating stinky lamb dinner* he doesn't notice the thunder at all.  All we need now is a CD of "rain on canvas tent" and we're good to go to Brittany on holiday again....

*I cooked up some lamb breast (and carrot and parsley and thyme...ahem...not spoilt at all) in the pressure cooker and nearly gagged it was so foul.  Luckily he thinks it's delicious. 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Fluency and flow

When I was nine years old I swam in Lake Geneva with a German girl.  She couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t speak German, but we had fun splashing about nevertheless.  When it was time to leave, her father said to me “tomorrow, you will be a fish!”. 

Well I still haven’t grown fins and a tail, but my swimming is definitely coming on – and is feeling more flowing than drowning.  And as I’ve been wafting my way from one end of the pool to the other and back again (repeat 32 times) I’ve come to see swimming as a bit of a metaphor for life.  (Whether I can now remember any of my great, watery insights is a different matter, but here goes!)
  • You can spend a lot of time faffing about before you even get to the pool: where’s my swimsuit, oh no it doesn’t fit, have I taken my contact lenses out, where are my goggles, where’s my towel, have I got 20p for the locker, oh no look at the time I haven’t got time to do this I should just forget it for today and do something more constructive I’ll go another day….
  • Having shown up at the pool, there is still scope for faff – are my goggles too loose, too tight, have I got my shampoo, where shall I put my towel, how cold is the water – maybe I could just dip a toe in….
  • When you get in, you could just bob about in the shallow end for half an hour then get out and dry off.  But you won’t achieve anything or feel any better for it – you’ll just get out feeling cold.
  • To get that lovely warm and glowy feeling, you have to exert yourself – take your feet off the bottom and move.
  • Once moving, you have to keep going for a significant period of time to get any benefit – one lap isn’t going to do it.
  • You have to get your face wet.  In fact, to move smoothly through the water, you have to look straight down at the bottom of the pool, confront its watery depths, and lead with the top of your head.
  • The water gets deep.  You have to go to the deep end in order to stretch out, leave the bobbing old ladies behind, and get up some speed.  You can’t touch the bottom, it can be scary because you can’t put your feet down if you stop.
  • The more you struggle, the harder it is.  If you struggle, you sink more easily and all your effort goes into staying afloat instead of moving forwards.  The more relaxed you are, the more fluid your movements, the less you splash, the more you find you actually float and glide and moving forward becomes almost effortless.  You can go faster and further for the same level of exertion if you just learn to let go, relax, trust yourself and the water, stretch out, be completely in the moment.
  • Swimming then becomes about refinement and technique, not about avoiding drowning.  Lose yourself in thinking about your feet, your ankles, what your fingers are doing, the water flowing over your head, watching the tiles go past underneath you as you glide along.
So to put that in context with the past week:

"Faffing about looking for goggles" was not doing any of the grand plans I had for this week, but spending too much time noodling about on the internet...

“Bobbing about in the shallow end” was just finishing this piece from last weekend.  It’s quite simple, different to anything else I’ve done, unplanned, wrinkly…

“Trying not to struggle and be more relaxed and fluent” was French class on Wednesday.  Heck, it hurts my brain.

“Getting my face wet” was talking to a lady in a gallery about how to submit work and join.  It’s a cooperative gallery ie. you pay a small monthly fee, do a stint behind the desk every 3 weeks, produce lots of work which has to be changed every 6 weeks, pay a small commission on sales…that’s it.  The only catch is arranging to show them my front crawl or breaststroke whereupon I realise I’m still in armbands…

“Swimming in the deep end” was an impromptu chat with another lady in a local fabric shop/workshop venue about teaching machine embroidery classes there…the water’s so deep with that one, I can’t even see the tiles at the bottom.  And yes, the tendency is to panic and thrash my way back to the safety of the pool edge and hold on tight!

Monday, 14 November 2011


We went for a walk in the Hundred Acre Wood yesterday.  We'd forgotten about the Remembrance Day ceremony at the airman's grave until we couldn't park at our usual spot, and as we didn't think anyone would appreciate a Whippet tearing through the proceedings at 38mph, we drove on and found a new walk in a different part of the Forest.

We were all glad we did. 
We found leaves to kick through, a deserted hillside in brilliant sunshine, an old moss-covered bridge over a stream - very Tolkienesque and elvish, some old ornamental fish ponds with bamboo-covered islands, secret wooded paths winding back up the valley....layers were shed, the sun shone on our faces and arms and we topped ourselves up to the brim with vitamin D.

And when we got home, after a homemade soup into which I had successfully smuggled a large cauliflower, I "painted" (scribbled)  a couple of sketchbook pages:

They really are nothing special at all, I'm just pleased I did something spontaneous!  I couldn't be bothered to get the paints out so I used watercolour pencils. 

And then in the evening, with absolutely no natural light, and working on my lap in front of a telly programme about vegetables, I continued the spontaneous vibe by grabbing a piece of fabric and my box of random bits and offcuts, and started putting this together:

It's wrinkly.  But it's spontaneous.

I would have done more today, but I seem to have spent a lot of the day mucking about trying to get my head around Facebook.  I've added some buttons and whatnot to the blog - see if you can spot them!  (Blimmin' well hope so, or I've wasted a lot of time!). 

(I also added a few more bits to the shop)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Good in parts

I never did like the expression "a bit of a curate's egg - good in parts" but that's what this week has been so there we go.

The not-so-good parts in no particular order:

  1. I shrank a cashmere jumper in a mixed wash.  It was from the charity shop, like all my other clothes, but it was cashmere for goodness sake!  It thought it was machine-washable.  It wasn't.
  2. Mr Gonecycling's cycling shorts came out of the machine with fuzzy bits of wool stuck on them
  3. Someone sold one of my little keyrings for less than half the price it should have been
  4. Someone sold one of my bags on the last day of the exhibition.  A good thing, surely?  Not if it had already been sold on the first day of the exhibition, but just not collected.  Luckily we knew the lady who had bought it.  Unluckily I had to try and explain to her what had happened, even though I didn't really understand how it could have happened, red dots and all...
  5. I used three sheets of Transfer Artists Paper to make Mr Gonecycling's birthday present.  First I forgot to flip the image before printing ("doh!") then I ironed it for too long onto canvas, which scorched and smelled like peanut butter.  Mr G hates peanut butter.  Third time lucky...
  6. There is definitely an "atmosphere" within the embroidery group I exhibited with and I am seriously considering my options
  7. I don't know what my options are
  8. I need to get on with my own work and not worry about anyone else but I still haven't worked out what my own work "is".  Sigh
  9. I'm growing out my hair.  It's very curly and it always seems a shame to cut off the curls.  But it's reached the stage where it's just sticking out over my ears and looks absolutely dreadful, but it's still too short for any hair accessories.  Apart from alice bands, which make me look about 12 years old, or a full scale head-scarf which makes me look twice my actual age, or a bandana which makes me look like Bruce Springsteen.  Double sigh.

The good parts

1.   The Whippet has a new luxury set of felted cashmere PJs:

2.   The exhibition was hugely popular, and I did very well.  I'm still a bit fazed by it all.  I met some lovely people who came to collect three (three!) pieces yesterday, one of which is going to their daughter in California.
3.  I'm saving money by not having to fork out for haircuts every six weeks
4.  The birthday present worked in the end, thanks to one of my students for her handout on how to bind edges!

It's hard to know what to make (a) when what you "do" is sewing and embroidery and the person you are making something for is male, and (b) when said male insists that he doesn't "need" anything.

But I thought that a book cover for little moleskine notebooks would be useful and inspiring:

And I even added some Shakespeare on the bookmark:

And finally,
5.  Birthdays mean cake and cake means chocolate.  Every year I ask "ridiculous and pointless" questions about the quantity of chocolate buttercream required.

Apparently this year I got it about right.

NB.  The cakes were a bit "under-tinned" and threatened to escape.  Luckily they rose like souffles and held themselves together, but it did result in a rather large construction overall.  No complaints, mind.

Saturday, 5 November 2011


I'm still reeling.

After my marathon card-making stint on Wednesday (or was it already Thursday?) night, and having a cracking start to the exhibition as soon as it opened, I got up early on Friday and sat in my PJs to finish off some little life-form keyrings, then got dressed, scoffed some muesli, saw the Girl off to school, walked the dog and hurried over to the next county to put said keyrings in my little basket of goodies at the exhibition.

But I was told that I should take them home again.
To let "other people have a chance of selling some work".
Perhaps I could bring them in another day if they were needed.

So of course I just mumbled something about a half-empty basket looking a bit pathetic, put them in my basket anyway, then left.  I couldn't really say anything because my jaw was somewhere around my ankles.

But now I'm worried. 
Is thirteen keyrings going over the top?  Is it too much?  Am I taking over? 
Perhaps I'm stopping all the other people from selling their little life-form keyrings. 

Guess what the first sale in the first five minutes of the exhibition was.  Go on, guess.

Yes!  A little keyring.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Red dots of loveliness

Bit of a mad day couple of days (aren't they all?)

First off, having enrolled myself on an "increase your fluency in French" course (see no. 3 on the holiday resolutions list), I spent two hours yesterday morning in mild panic at not being able to remember my avoirs and my etres.

While I was out, the Whippet had been a Very Good Boy and slept all morning, so I took him out for a bit of squirrel chasing, came back and mounted up a few pieces of work, "cooked" dinner (slightly ashamed to say that I switched on the oven and used some scissors to open the pizza box...) and then went to teach for three hours.

But when I came home it seemed that somebody hadn't been a Very Good Boy any more and I was told terrible tales of puppies eating beds and table cloths and barking naughtily and getting the jellywobbles about fireworks...(this is the same Whippet who ate a bit more of the dining room door on Monday when there were fireworks and he was alone for ten minutes).

So there was nothing for it but to stay up with the Very Nervous and Trembly Whippet and make a few cards:

which I finished some time after one o'clock in the morning.  But when I turned the light off, the Boy turned into a Very Lonely Whippet and did Barking and Singing.  We had a little chat, the Boy and I, and we all eventually got to sleep at 2am.

But no time for a lie-in!  Time to get up and drive to East Grinstead to help set up the exhibition:

Sorry for the gloom, the skies had gone black and torrential rain was lashing the windows by the time I got to take the photos.

Guess who did a Linda Monk workshop and made yet another chimney:

And because we needed more "big things" I took in my tree wallhanging, made in an inspired session of feltmaking a few years ago:

And already there are red dots!  Red dots of loveliness! 

So all the madness is worth it after all.

Now we just need to fix the Whippet.