26 April, 2009
I’m a person who likes beginnings; the beginning of spring, the beginnings of a book, the beginnings of a new project. It’s because of the promise of something extraordinary hidden under the layers of a beginning. A new challenge has unlimited possibilities. A new project has unlimited ways of developing and morphing into something else. The beginnings of a book could go anywhere – except of course that the author has made their selections and the journey evolves as they direct.
I’m also a believer in taking paths that don’t always appear to be the most favourable. I like a certain amount of danger, a frisson of fear but that isn’t gut-churning. I like the unknown because of the possibilities and un-imagined directions that could unfurl.
Does this mean that I am a person who never finishes things? Actually, no. Because behind my love of beginnings, I also have a need to complete one thing before moving on to the next. Quite often, things evolve from one thing to the next and the transition is seamless. And I can always go back and revisit something, bringing something new from a more recent project into a previous project. So in that way, I do a lot of time-travelling, bringing elements from future work back into past work.
Weaving is like that. You learn a set of techniques as you develop as a weaver, and then your own personal interest starts to take over and you find yourself being drawn to a certain technique, or a particular range of threads, or a specific loom, and your path changes. Along that learning path, you adopt tools and techniques that feed back into what you knew before and can change how you feel about previous work or development. It’s this constant refinement, re-definition and further refinement that I find really exciting. That’s where I see each person’s voice coming through their work.
I used to feel an irrational jealousy when I met other weavers who were following their weaving path with the same kind of passion that I have for mine. That was a strange emotion for me because I’m not a jealous person and never have been. I was very protective over my experience and almost couldn’t believe that other people felt about weaving like I did. It was almost a ‘hands off’ kind of protectionism – something I have never had experience of in any other form of my life.
Now I know that it was because I was not confident in my own voice. I knew I have a talent for weaving, but I didn’t have the unique ‘sound’ that identified me to myself. In a way I can relate that to my early days as an oboe player – I’m talking mid-teens here – when I used to crave the solos and almost resent those much better and more experienced players who were playing the solos. I had to serve my apprenticeship and learn how to phrase and play with soul before I could really own those solos. It’s the same with the weaving. I am still serving my apprenticeship, learning from some exceptional teachers, but now I have my own weaving vocabulary and my voice is my own, and I can appreciate other weavers’ individual voices and know that we are not a threat to each other, but all parts of the same wonderful craft. Where we overlap is a cause of celebration, not conflict, and where we differ we can appreciate and applaud those differences.
You never know, quite often seeing someone else’s work and appreciating the skills and learning behind it suddenly leads to another beginning, and here we are full circle! Like life…
18 April, 2009
Time is a subject that is constantly up for discussion and rumination, and it’s rearing its head again. Yesterday, I was reading through my emails and came across a link to an arts project in the UK -
so I went to have a look and 2 hours later, after reading all the posts, I sat back and thought ‘Yes’! An intake of breath, a hiatus in our crazy doing world, a ‘stare at the cows’ time for reflection.
One of the posts about motor bikes got me thinking about walking and cycling as a way of slowing down the pace of our lives. The car definitely puts everything on fast mode. I find it physically hard to restrict myself to 70 on the motorway whilst everyone else (or so it seems) is zooming past, getting to where they want to go quicker than me, yet I know that I need to be economic on my petrol consumption and kind to my car, so I fight my foot’s instincts to press down harder on pedal.
We live on a regular cycle route and these days it’s very common to see strings of lycra-clad riders whistling past at a very smart speed, yet where have those wonderful older people of my childhood gone that used to cycle gently along the road with no apparent need to get anywhere quickly? I remember an old man with a cloth cap and a permanently lighted cigarette hanging from his lip who just slowly cycled down the lane to the shop to pick up his paper everyday who would give you a slow smile and a drawled ‘nice day’ as he passed you just a little quicker than you were walking. And the lady who always wore dresses and skirts and cycled with one hand holding down her skirt, rocking gently from side to side as she pressed down on the pedals. Where have those folk gone?
There just isn’t the room for them on the crazily fast roads we all inhabit these days – they’ve probably been knocked off their bikes by someone in a hurry to get somewhere. Even the deep country roads round here aren’t safe for someone enjoying a gentle pace of life. It seems that unless you’re doing something for the sake of your health (and that must be done to raise your pulse, and your speed) then it’s not worthwhile doing…. Unless it has measurable health or wealth or keeping busy benefits, then its value is denied.
So the project that Craftspace is spearheading is timely and desperately needed. The Slow Movement is a conscious effort of people to go against the prevailing current. Perhaps those of us who are concerned at the increasing speed of life should take more opportunities to slow down ourselves and perhaps to introduce others to the benefits of slowing down – especially to the children who are closeted with their TVs and computers – and weaving is one of those slowing down activities. With less speed comes more appreciation, for our surroundings and for each other. Perhaps the comments like ‘ he/she shows no signs of slowing down’ which are seen as complimentary need to change so that slow becomes a word with connotations of positivity around it as opposed to its current negative feel. How we do that is our challenge….
13 April, 2009
You know how a day can sometimes take on a theme of its own? Well today’s the day for persistence, accumulation, or little by little catchee monkey.
I weighed myself this morning – something I knew I shouldn’t do really – but I decided I needed to know how much extra poundage I’d accumulated over the last few weeks – since my birthday really. For some reason, people like to give me chocolates for my birthday, and for another reason, I seem to feel obliged to eat them! I do share – my husband has an equally expanded girth, but I think his might have more to do with extra pints of beer!! I reflected, as I watched the scales head ever higher, that although I only had a few chocolates a day, and those after meals (I like to think that chocolates eaten with other food don’t have the same calorific impact as those eaten mid-afternoon <G>), there had also been those rather wonderful Hot X Buns that I had indulged in and that the two delicacies compounded over a period of 1 ½ months to add about half a stone to my weight.
As I walked Charlie, I reflected on being a tortoise – something that had come up in conversation a couple of days before – I’m a plodder, doing things on a small but daily basis ie weaving, reading, writing, accumulating knowledge and experience. Some things that you do on a daily basis are merely to prevent descent into disarray and disorder, or to keep the status quo, such as washing up, cooking, eating, cleaning (if absolutely necessary!). Some things you only need to do on a more occasional basis, at least if you’re me, such as gardening.
But some things need regular attendance to grow into something greater. All the books in my library at home, and everywhere else, represent other people’s plodding. They worked consistently to produce their book which has enriched my, and others’ , lives. Every piece of artwork we admire on gallery walls is there through persistence to following the craft of the artist’s medium, as well as the brilliance of their artistic insight, and their desire to communicate that, or just to record it. Every building is there through the monotonous but orderly layering of bricks, incorporating features such as windows and doors.
So, when I am feeling a little despondent because of my plodding, I just have to remember that I am building something for the future – that without the daily input of small, seemingly insignificant samples, I cannot produce the art work that I envisage. And as to my weight, I have to remember that, just as I put the weight on gradually over a period of weeks, I will need to work to remove it in a similar way – little by little, consistently, with determination and persistence.
If you want to succeed in anything, be it losing weight, or becoming a reknowned artist, it is holding to your goal that matters, and taking small regular steps in order to get there. I know this, you know this, but sometimes we just need to remind ourselves.
12 April, 2009
I am intrinsically a loner, except when I’m with other weavers. It’s not that I’m socially inept – far from it, I hope – but that I choose whose company I wish to be in. I can occasionally do ‘hail fellow, well met’ types of conversation, but general girly chit-chat, for example, is not my cup of tea. My husband is the opposite. He’s the sort of guy that can make everyone feel great – he’s the teller of jokes, the butt of jokes, the comedian. He treats everyone the same, no matter who they are or what they do. That’s a tremendous talent.
Anyway, I digress. Whilst walking this morning, I was thinking about interaction – how we choose to interact with other people. Sometimes, I choose to be very isolated and to focus as much as I can on what I’m doing currently – a project, a time-based activity, whatever – and cut out interaction in general. That’s easy for me to do because I live in a large house with only one other person, and I work at home whilst he goes out for his employment.
Sometimes, however, we need to interact with others – whether through conferences, or social events, or even just meeting someone in the street and getting into conversation. Most people need that kind of interaction to feel that they are part of the world and its workings, to feel needed and wanted, even appreciated.
And yet, with so much information coming at us continually through gossip, the news, tv and work interaction, we are sometimes in danger of not allowing ourselves to see ourselves truly. It’s comparatively easy to live life on the surface, and not to delve into what our lives mean to us and how we are living them.
For quite a lot of people this isn’t a problem – they don’t want to know – and the thought of even thinking that there might be more to life than just living it is frightening itself. But for others, this realisation that life is deeper than just living is an exciting thing, and one that can lead to introspection, a more richly lived life, and perhaps more meaningful interaction with others.
On another vein in this thought process (isn’t it amazing how much flashes through your mind in the space of a few seconds that takes ages to try to articulate?!), sometimes I choose not to read magazines about craft. I choose not to see what other people are doing, as it can deflect me from my purpose. And yet, later, I love to sit down and catch up with the world of craft around me, from the UK and beyond, and appreciate what other people are so single-mindedly doing. That connection is of vital importance to me, but only when I am ready to accept it, when I have got to a stage in what I’m doing that I can allow other influences in.
It’s almost as if we are like frogspawn – each of us in our own little bubble that protects us until we reach a certain stage of development when that bubble can safely be eliminated and we can interact with each other and the world. Each new project puts us back into frogspawn mode until the idea or development of the project is strong enough to face the world and be exposed. As artists, I think most of us need that mixture of both protection of ideas and room to grow them, and then to face the world and interact with others.
It’s so hard to put into words those fleeting moments of clarity that you sometimes experience, so I hope you can understand and forgive my clumsy attempts to articulate my thoughts this morning.
10 April, 2009
Just in case you are wondering, this isn’t a blog about our current economic climate. It’s actually about our local farmers and the change of generations.
One thing that has been of particular pleasure to me in my neck of the woods is the willingness of local farmers to live co-operatively with dog-walkers. The right to roam really hasn’t needed to be invoked because the farmers appreciated the collaboration between responsible dog-walkers and them. People exersising their animals in the mornings were the ideal people to spot any problems in lamb flocks or cattle that weren’t being their usual cattle-like selves, and they would go to the farmer’s house and let him know that things weren’t quite right. That meant the farmer had many people looking out for his animals, and he would know very quickly if something was wrong.
As that generation of farmers are retiring and passing on, or selling, their farms to younger farmers, us dog-walkers round here have noticed a big change in the way the land is managed. Firstly, there are fences going up everywhere! Now we are seeing notices everywhere, nailed to trees, to fence posts, to stiles, forbidding entry to fields, trying to keep dog-walkers exactly to proscribed paths.
Whilst I can appreciate that not every farmer wants people walking their animals round his fields, especially when livestock is in, and that a tiny minority of walkers can’t control their dogs and they can be a nuisance to farm animals, the vast majority of dog-walkers pick up after their animals, ensure they are under control or on a lead near livestock, and generally behave in a decent, respectful way.
I think it is very sad that this protectionism that we are seeing in the younger farming generation is leading to a breakdown of trust and general goodwill between walkers and farmers.
Obviously, I have a vested interest – I am a dog-walker who loves the countryside in which I live and walk, and who also respects ownership rights, whilst I also deplore the lack of trust that is now rising up. When approached by one furious land-owner who had recently taken ownership of a field near us, I stood rooted to the spot as he vented just inches from my face about people taking liberties with his land. I confess to being totally shocked and not thinking that quickly, but I did say that I’m not a murderer, a thief or a vandal, that I clean up after my dog, and ensure that I don’t leave evidence of myself behind (ie no litter), and that I had been walking the field in question for over 16 years with no problems with the farmer before, so what was the problem? That just got me another face of vitriol, so what can you do but shrug and walk away?
I feel it’s such a shame that we are losing ground in mutual co-operation between people just when we need to be strengthening such bonds. Is this something that we have bred throughout the younger generations? Is it a general malaise, or is it restricted only to land or property? Is this a ‘selfish’ approach or a rational one? What do you think? And is this something happening where you live?
3 April, 2009
I may have mentioned before that I am a Psychologies reader. This morning, whilst reading a piece on the healing properties of trees with my early morning cuppa, I read a short paragraph from a reader who said “I was drawn to a large tree standing alone. It had already shed most of its leaves and seemed ready for what would come next. I realised that I was too. Nothing new can come along if you don’t make room for it.”
This last phrase hooked me in. It ran around my head whilst I was out walking Charlie and as it was a misty, chilly morning, I ruminated inwards instead of looking around me.
I realised that she is totally right! And that this is what I try to do in my daily life. However, I rarely succeed because I pile loads of stuff to do onto myself and before I know where I am, it’s the end of the day and I haven’t stopped. I suspect that is what most of us do. I try to start each new day with a clean slate and allow myself breathing and thinking space, but somehow that time is squeezed out.
Even now, when I’d decided just 10 minutes ago to sit down and savour my cup of tea, I now find myself absent-mindedly slurping it whilst writing this! It made me stop and realise just how much we fill our days – well, at least I do.
I thought maybe that perhaps this is something that self-employed people working on their own do most, but then I thought back to my office days and remembered that I would do exactly the same thing, but that the pressure on my shoulders then was fulfilling someone else’s brief, whilst now it’s my own. In a workplace there is the social aspect of a coffee break or a tea break – nominally, at least, although many workplaces pressurise employees into keeping working and not socialising. But when you work for yourself, and when you work alone, you pressurise yourself into keeping going because you want, and need, to succeed.
I know myself that when my day includes time of non-work mode, it seems lighter somehow – like white space on a page – that room to reflect and relax. If a page is full of closely typed dense paragraphs, it seems such a chore to read it, but if the same material is set out over several pages, with more space between words, more paragraphs and larger margins, it seems somehow easier to read – no matter that the content is exactly the same! That mind’s eye image of a day reflects the same process – areas of no appointments or scheduled tasks lighten the day’s image and makes it more open to influence or serendipity.
So that’s today’s aim. Keep that lighter feeling by incorporating short periods of down-time – space in which anything could happen – or nothing could happen, and either will be ok.