Friday, 29 December 2017

Words for living

As the end of the year approaches, like me you've probably come across a lot those blog posts and Facebook promotions getting you to think about resolutions, creating habits, setting goals for the New Year. I'm a sucker for all that, but very quickly get overwhelmed with all those ideas and intentions and never actually do any of it once we get to January.

But there are two things I've come across over the years which seem to offer a simpler approach. No goals, no lists, no new routines, just some words.

The first idea is from Christine Kane, a singer-turned-business-coach. She proposes that you choose a Word of the Year. Just one word - and it's not a goal, not necessarily a "doing" thing, more of an "attitude" thing, a way to approach whatever the new year throws at you. Click here to follow her process for choosing your word.

I tried this once before, and I managed to dig out a blog post about it too! The blog post about putting my word into practice was illuminating to read as well, three years on - if you want to know more about my "process", then have a read of this and know that nothing much has changed!

My word for 2018 is ACTION. If you read my last post, you'll probably understand one reason why I chose it. But I want it to mean actually getting stuff done, my stuff, to stop feeling so muzzy headed and frustrated with the outside world, and just get on with my life. It could mean political action if necessary, although this was not my intention.

The second thing I highly recommend is from Nicholas Wilton, an artist from California. He's such an unassuming chap but always has some really helpful advice about art and living the life of an artist - I thoroughly recommend his blog and newsletters and free video series.

Nicholas suggests that you choose three words - words that sum up why and what you do. The instructions for choosing your words are here.

A year or so ago, I chose the words: RHYTHM COLOUR NATURE.

Rhythm, because I like to listen to music with a strong and/or interesting beat - jazz, world music - all sorts of weird stuff. And rhythm is also pattern - and I love patterns - collecting them, doodling them, stitching them.

Colour - because I love bright colours!

Nature - because I love wild nature, wild landscapes, plants and leaves, shells, as well as "natural" materials like string and unbleached paper and calico.

I even made a little book with pics of some of my work - and I have a few left if you'd like to buy one (£8 plus P&P)

But I'm continually mulling this one over, and so I've had another go at my "words". My new words are:

NATIVE because I love all things indigenous - tribal - Sami, Indian, native American, Inuit, Aborigine etc as well as ancient symbols and marks, such as runes.

ELEMENT to describe the wildness I love - the elements of rain, wind, fire etc, but elements are also "basic" materials - so referring to my preferred materials of cotton, linen, shells, recycled fabrics. Elements are also parts of a whole - so could be pattern or colour - the elements of a design.

TRUTH because (again, see last post) one of my big things is honesty, being truthful, finding the "truth". It also refers to using unpretentious, simple materials - materials that don't pretend to be anything else. Natural, unvarnished, unpolished, raw, as you find them. Unbleached, recycled, found - honest. This one also loops back to "element", and "native".

The other thing I like about these words, is that they could refer to my very deep interest in food -  particularly traditional (native?) methods of cooking, like making sourdough. What is cooking if not creating something wonderful from basic materials? One of my Christmas presents is to go on a fermenting workshop and learn to make sauerkraut and kefir!

It's also been a jolly good excuse to have a play with my new favourite font:

These are good words too:

If you could describe your intention for the year, or for your art, what would you word or words be?

Thursday, 21 December 2017


This is me.

This is me back in March, when I actually managed to do a bit of knitting (I'm not a knitter, don't look too closely...) and went marching for Europe.

Since then I have also sorted my studio, I have decluttered, I've written lists, I've got reams of notes for online courses and/or ebooks that I want to write. I have plans for next year and workshops booked. I have worked at school, I've done a few Facebook posts and sales. I've been on some fabulous holidays and trips this year, too. Norway, Paris, the Netherlands. We've had a German exchange student staying this past weekend, which was very good fun, and we've put up our Christmas tree. But I just.can't.concentrate - not properly - on anything. Or not for long. Everything I try and do is a bit like the thing you do when you are waiting for a train or a doctor's appointment. For example, yesterday I picked up a library book that I've been wanting to start, but it just felt like marking time, waiting.

And I've been feeling this since June 24 2016. Waiting for it all to be sorted out, for the madness to end. But it doesn't, it just gets worse. Every day, more idiocy, more lies, more hatred in the media.

And I can't pretend it isn't like this any more. I have realised that in order to create, to use my imagination, to lose myself in something, I need everything else to be OK, to be settled. I can't create when "bigger things" are afoot. My personal Big Things are logic, rationality, honesty and justice. I probably value those things more than I value a cracking good find in a charity shop or a mighty stash of beads and/or handmade paper. And so these are hard, hard times. I am distracted and unsettled beyond measure. I have considered getting into politics, and also law, but I know I don't want to really. I just want the grown-ups to get a grip and sort it all out, so I can get back to my sewing machine and my kitchen and do what I love to do - noodling around with thread and flapjacks.

Sorry about the rant, but honesty is best. To make up for it, and thank you for your patience, here is a picture of an Indian toran that I'm going to put up in my doorway:

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Order reigns

Well, if you've been following this blog since the beginning and believe that you'll believe anything.

But for now, it does.

My husband walked in with a cup of coffee for me and nearly staggered backwards with disbelief - "I can see your desk!!!"

Yes, behold the desk and its vast emptiness

And the vacant acres of worktop*

More to the point, ADMIRE the wonderfully ordered fabric drawers in their magnificence. Took flippin' ages that did! Soooo boring but I'm seriously chuffed to bits.

I should now make some headway on the massive to-do list, but I don't want to make it messy 😉

*There was also some major rejigging of the baskets and shelves above my worktop and desk - a lot of things were "utility" e.g. large envelopes, terracotta flower pot for the poker pen etc i.e.things I don't need on hand. They were "weighing me down" being there, but I still need them. Also, said Husband wanted access to the fuse box the other day, so he could do a spot of DIY (and that almost never happens) and the fuse box is behind the I took the opportunity to rejig things. It's been like playing "stash" solitaire - moving one heap of things to a blank space, to create order elsewhere. But I've DONE IT!!! Chuffed. Recommend it, good for the soul!!

As a result of all this, I have opened an extra Etsy shop. There's nothing in it at the moment, but there will be, including a few textile books and other goodies. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017


Maybe I should rename this blog Tumbleweed?

What usually happens, is I start something and mean to blog about it, but then I start something else....and something else....and by the time I go to write a post, eleventy things have happened and the moment has passed. So I'm going to try a snapshot approach. No deep thought here just now (although there is a lot of that behind the scenes).

My desk right now:

*A woolly jumper segment too good to leave in a charity shop, rescued years ago. Not entirely sure what to do with it, might make it in to a sort of neckwarmer.

*Seascape mini bits - started in July just before holidays, not picked up again. Must get on and finish them - these will be greetings card/mini art size.

*Buttons. I've had huge fun putting together "Creativity Packs" for my Etsy shop, and I want to do more more more! So I'm keeping my eyes peeled (no difference there really) for interesting bits and bobs.

*Celtic Knots pack leftover from the summer. I just need to find a few little linen canvas blocks and write the instructions, then I can offer these on the shop too. I'm excited about that - never done kits before!

*Black velvet. You may have guessed that there's been a bit of a much-needed studio tidy-up going on, which is why I'm coming across all these random things. One thing I found was a large expanse of black velvet. I asked the good folk on my personal Facebook thing what to do with it - charity shop it or teach foil/velvet workshop, and the workshop idea won! So I will be now be teaching a workshop (locally, Fairwarp, East Sussex) on 4 February (not advertised yet - message if you want to come!). I've made one little box, and I'm working on a second. It's a few weeks before Valentines so I expect there will be a hearts theme...

And finally, behold the glory of the drawers.

I've only done the "boring" fabrics so far, but I've arranged them à la Marie Kondo - vertically. Takes SO much less room, and you can see everything you have. So yes, I think I'm good for calico and canvas for the next ten years.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Paradigm shifts and selfies

Hello. Are you still here? I know I'm not very often, for which I apologise.

I've been doing many things, as usual, although since getting back from this place not as many as I would normally be doing at this time of year.

Rather than bore you all with all the details, especially if you've heard it all before, I'll just say "dog, dislocated shoulder, six weeks house arrest, large Barclaycard bill, child no longer child but sixth-former and workload to match, group exhibition in Brighton, illustrated talk about my work to these lovely people on Monday, still too much damn clutter in the house and DIY projects still undone".

And I'm having an existential artistic crisis. I'm not sure if that's really what it is, but that seems to cover it. Basically, I'm having a rethink. So probably not a crisis. Yet. I knew I had the autumn free to have a think, so now I'm here I might be having a wobble. I suppose I don't know what the outcome will be.

I'm being vague. Sorry. I'll try and clarify.

For example, here is a necklace I made ages ago. It's not for sale, never has been, and I wear it. It is machine embroidered, but also stitched and beaded by hand, and has a silk pouch on the back - also stitched by hand, with invisible stitching. It is quite tiny but intricate.

If I should make such a thing to sell (and I have done in my etsy shop) how much should I charge for something like this? All in all, from raw materials to absolutely finished, it would probably take a day to do this. At the rate I charge for teaching workshops that should be £150 and that doesn't include materials or overheads, that's just my time. Obvs, that's not what I have been charging. But then, they've not sold like hot cakes despite the low price.

Hence my crisis. Or do I just need a paradigm shift. Worth. Value. Or am I mad, verging on the deluded. Who knows. The selfies I took to try and get a "in use" shot of the necklace may answer that.


getting frustrated 

quite angry now

resigned to the bad selfie

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Many Things

I have many different things going on - a lot of them in my head but a lot of them are on a Master To Do List.

Something that's been on the list and in the diary since June last year is a course at the Weald and Downland Museum on making books, birthday present from the bro. Fantastic stuff. I've made little books before, including with Gina, but it was good to try something different yet again: I've never had the patience (or the clever little table-top stool thing, cradle thing) to make a book with ribbons, so this weekend I did. Hurrah.

So that's something ticked off the list, off the diary. Unfortunately, Make More Books Because I'm Now Obsessed has now added itself to my Master To Do List of Projects Started and Things I Want To Do.

These are things that I absolutely MUST do, and apart from the DIY one that's sneaked onto the list, I actually WANT to do all of them - they are good things to do. The list is currently running at:

1. Delve into the baskets beneath my desk and pull out the clothes/old shirts that I was going to alter and actually do it, and make dresses with fabric/patterns bought previously...ahem...several years ago

2. Finish online course started on Play Therapy

3. Finish online course started on Coaching

4. Continue language revision/learning - French, German - using various means including apps such as Memrise and Lingvist. I've also just discovered Gabriel Wyner of Fluent Forever who has also written a book and blah blah etc - basically, there are so many things to investigate! All so interesting! But I never get round to doing any of it!!! I want to add Danish to the list of things to learn - too much? Don't answer.

5. Read various ebooks on language learning

6. Read various ebooks acquired over the last few years on all manner of things, including Food/Recipes and Creativity. And Procrastination. Yup, probably a few unread books about procrastination lurking on my Kindle app. Irony.

7. Empty the compost bin and bung a load on the raspberries and rhubarb, then restart the Bokashi system (halted temporarily because the compost bin is FULL).

8. Decorate the stairwell - paint the walls, but also - sigh - strip, sand and repaint the banisters.

9. Finish the Do What You Love for Life course started in January. I came to a grinding halt when it asked me to consider all things to do with "money". I'm not good at confronting that one.

10. Start and finish online course on WordPress

11. After WordPress course, completely overhaul my website

12. Meanwhile, at least update the gallery section of my website; hopelessly out of date

13. Start and finish online course in NLP

14. Start to firm up ideas for ebooks, PDF tutorials and online courses that I have had for ages

15. Be More Consistent - with blogging, Facebook page, Etsy shop and so on.

16. Make More Books

17. Obsessively search charity shops for interesting second-hand books and papers to Make More Books.

18. Find another 30 hours in the day.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Hello, Stranger

Said my blog to me...

I've started a "proper" grown-up blog on my website.

But I was perusing this one today, looking for photos of bits and pieces that I need for a talk on Friday...and I thought "Hello, old friend" and my blog said "Hello, Stranger". I can't really believe I started writing this blog so long ago - 2010! And the Girl was oh so wee! She isn't now; she's nearly as tall as me. Nearly. And 16 years old in a few weeks. 16!! Not 9 anymore!!

I digress (it may be a while since I've written anything here, but you can tell my writing style hasn't moved on). I have so many different things to say, on many different subjects. Most of what I'm doing day-to-day is on my Facebook page. But that's not the same as having a waffle on here about procrastination and cake and whippets. And I don't think the new shiny grown-up blog is the place for that either.

So while I gather my thoughts, here are some pictures of things. These are bits and pieces that were started many moons ago, most as samples for class or just play. They have then been stored in various folders and pockets over the years (as you do). I have now cut them up, rearranged them, added bits, and made 50 cards - which I have delivered to Ramster Hall for the biennial embroidery exhibition. The exhibition is on from this Friday 10 March until Sunday 26 March; full details on the website.