31 October, 2009
Yesterday, in an odd half hour between finishing one job and going for my lunch, I started on some of the backlog of shredding of my accounts from ten years ago. Yes, that’s right – 1999! It felt like a time warp. Suddenly I was back in 1999, remembering vividly what I was doing in my business just then.
When I first started The Loom Room, I developed a range of bridal fabrics which I had commercially woven and then took around bridal couturiers to sell. It was a difficult way of starting out! Many couturiers were enthusiastic about the fabric and happily accepted my samples book, but wouldn’t order until customers placed an order. Fair enough! But despite the couturiers’ enthusiasm, not a huge amount sold – I just about scraped by. One couturier explained why.
‘Every bride comes into my shop wanting to be different’, she said. ‘And yet they all leave with duchesse satin!’ It was all down to what she called peer approval. Very few people are truly independent – willing to make their own decisions and feeling confident in their choices. Most people like to feel they are making their own choice but actually rely on friends and relatives to choose for them as they don’t want to feel they are making a choice which will not be approved by their nearest and dearest.
I think most of us know that feeling of needing others’ approval. The dress we buy for a special occasion, the lipstick, the shoes, the holiday we book – we quite often turn to other people for ratification of our decisions, and we can be swayed by their reactions. I know my Achilles heel is books. I read book reviews and can decide on whether I want to buy a book simply because of that review! Then if I read another one which contradicts the first, I’m in a quandary! Mind you, then I usually go and buy the book to find out for myself! But you know what I mean. We can so easily be dominated by someone else’s opinion or authority, regardless of the validity of that opinion or authority.
I stuck on the bridal fabrics path for about 15 months before my young son reminded me of his need for me to be at home and I changed tack. I did wonder when I started on that particular path why there were so few independent fabric suppliers and part of me had doubts, but the other part thought that this was a business opportunity that just hadn’t been filled yet…. Another lesson learnt the hard way.
So now, as I shred that part of my weaving history, I can look back on the lessons learnt,both the good and the bad and appreciate how far the journey has taken me.
25 October, 2009
Cleaning in our house needs to be done when we see it needs to be done. Obviously, if I have students booked in or we have weekend guests, then it needs to be done. Other than that, people have to take us as they find us. For me, cleaning takes time away from things I want to do. But when I know I have to do it, I have learnt to regard it as not only cleaning and decluttering my house, but also de-cluttering my mind.
Mother-in-law Mary comes to stay tomorrow for a few days. When I know someone is coming, I try to see our house from their perspective. Usually I’m really good at ignoring the dust and cobwebs (spiders are inevitable in an old house!!) but other people see what we don’t see, and it’s as well to remember that if we want them to feel welcome here….
So, even though the clocks changed last night, I got up at yesterday’s 8.00 am and got down to it so that I’d have some of the day for doing things I actually want to do. It was a good plan, and so far, it’s taken 4 hours, tidying up and de-cluttering as I went.
The thought that sprang to mind as I was sweeping and mopping away was that decluttering makes us feel good, so cleaning can be a positive thing. I like to do the washing up because that means the kitchen is left clean and tidy – a welcoming space where you can start creating meals, or brew a cuppa, without having to wade through dirty dishes before doing anything…. And de-cluttering a room – tidying things away, cleaning cup rings from tables, neatening things up – helps to free your mind.
Even though I now feel physically tired, having cleaned and cleared my way through the house has made me feel lighter. It’s amazing how clutter in our homes weighs on our minds, and bodies. You feel heavier. Things that you have to do, or need to do, seem so difficult or large. I now have to sit down and do last month’s business accounts, and that will probably take most of the afternoon, but somehow I feel able to take it on, knowing that the house is clean, smelling fresh and tidy. Not for long, I have do doubt! But for now it’s enough. Hopefully the rain will clean the car!!
18 October, 2009
Autumn is most definitely with us now. In the last two weeks, the weather has got progressively colder, and the days shorter, although we have only had one real day of rain here in the middle of England. The sun is much lower in the sky and walking Charlie in the mornings is a little more dangerous when on the road walking east. The trees are beautiful this year – still with the leaves on but changing into glorious shades of reds, oranges and yellows before spilling down onto the paths, fields and roads. The American term ‘fall’ aptly describes the physicality of the season, but doesn’t do justice, in my mind, to the amazing kaleidoscope of colours, scents and textures of this time of year. Autumn is a much more imaginative word, conjuring up images of past years, and memories of kicking through the leaves, bobbing for apples, lighting the fire for the first time for 6 months, closing the curtains against the darkening sky, and curling up with a book and a cup of tea – even crumpets and poached eggs. All these thoughts are summoned to my mind by the wonderful word Autumn.
I’m not one for clearing away the fallen leaves, although I have a neighbour who religiously sweeps up the leaves on every dry day. Too much like hard work to me!! And also, I like to think that I’m protecting the ground against the harshness of frosts and feeding the soil at the same time! Obviously, once the leaves on the drive get wet, they become slippery, and that’s not a good thing. But I’d rather wait until they are wet and then scoop them to one side of the drive. There’s nothing quite like that swishy, crunchy sound of walking up the drive when the leaves are on the ground in dry weather! This morning’s walk with Charlie was up the opposite side of the valley, and there was a slight mist, giving the further trees and church roof in the next village of Checkley that romantic look so well described by Jane Austen in her novels. The sun was lowish, but high enough to shorten the shadows so that they didn’t overwhelm the scene. Yet again, I stood and appreciated the wonderful countryside in which I have the good fortune to live.
Last weekend I was down near the south coast, on the borders of Hampshire and Dorset, at a place on the edge of the New Forest called Ringwood. Years ago, when working for the Bournemouth Orchestras, I would drive past Ringwood on a twice-weekly basis. This time of year the New Forest is stunning. I was giving a talk at the New Forest Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, and was staying with a fellow weaver, Dawn Willey, and her husband, Alan, in Verwood. As Dawn and I drove to the meeting on the Saturday morning, another beautiful day like today, the sun illuminated the spiders’ webs on the low bushes along the verges. It was like looking at stick on stick of candy floss! Stunning!
Although we’re all so busy chasing our tails these days, nature has the power to stop us in our tracks and just breathe deeply, breathing in the beauty and scents, and absorbing the wondrous world that is ours, available whenever we allow ourselves to stop and look.
6 October, 2009
This is a long post as I want to tell you about an important local event. This weekend was the start of the British Ceramics Biennale in Stoke-on-Trent. This initiative, in the home of British Ceramics, is a tremendous event both for ceramics in the UK and also for the City of Stoke-on-Trent. I took advantage of the free shuttle bus between the 5 main venues. It ran this weekend, and will run again on 17/18 October, and again on14/15 November. There are lots of additional events happening then, as well, which are great for involving all family members.
I started off at the Gladstone Pottery Museum, which is always a treat. I loved the ceramic interventions which happened throughout the museum in very unexpected locations and which always raised a smile when I spotted one! These were part of Guerilla Ceramics - artists working with ceramics in public spaces. I also loved Stephen Dixon’s battleship in the courtyard! It was lovely too to have a long chat with Stephen (name-dropping shamelessly here!!) whom I last met about 11 years ago!!
Next door, in the Roslyn Works, there is a wonderful collection of Indian bowls, plates and urns, made by 4 Indian families. More on the bcb website. These are for sale, but unfortunately didn’t have any prices on at this, the very start of the 2 month exhibition. There was also a very atmospheric piece by Heidi Parsons, one of 3 “Artists into Industry” . Her exhibit, Cameos, was sited inside a bottle kiln. I loved this exhibit. Upstairs were images of the 3 of the flower makers who work in the Gladstone Pottery Museum, along with Stephen Dixon, and his assistant Claire, and a couple of videos on how to make the pottery flowers. One of the ladies was demonstrating in the Museum that day, and you can buy these demonstration flowers for £1!! A bargain! Gladstone also runs a ‘have-a-go’ on throwing a pot which costs £3 and you take away your unfired, thrown pot with you! Great fun for all the family!!!
After having a lovely lunch at the Gladstone Museum’s Cafe (10% off if you download a coupon from the website!!), I took the shuttle bus off to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. As you’d expect, there is a goodly portion of the museum already devoted to ceramics created in the area, and it has been added to for this biennale with the lower ground floor exhibition space completely taken up with contemporary pieces as part of the Excellence – Breaking New Ground, and also on the ground floor situated in cabinets on the far side of the shop. I was also rather taken with the Johnson Tiles exhibit “Cascade” which got me thinking on weaving lines….
Across the road from the Potteries Museum is an old accountants’ office, I think, which has been turned into an artists’ venue for the duration by Airspace. They are showing a great video of several ceramics artists working directly at a clay quarry, intervening in the landscape of the quarry, another of the Artists into Industry installations. This is a great video. Next door are two installations directly coming from the ideas behind the interventions and are very immediate and physical in their presence. Great fun! There were loads of children there enjoying themselves whilst I was there!
Next stop was the graduate display, Fresh, and the Jaime Hayon exhibit at the Emma Bridgwater Pottery. There were a number of pieces I would have loved to have bought at the graduate selling show, where ceramics graduates from many colleges and universities were showing. It seems such a ridiculous state of affairs to me that so many ceramics courses are closing down when there is such obvious talent, and a need for these courses to exist. So short-sighted!! And even more poignant when Staffordshire is one of those universities axing its course!!! The one place where ceramics ought to be celebrated!!! What are the leaders and funders of the university thinking of??? Ceramics are going through the same down-turn that textiles were mired in for so long. Now textiles are on the up, but why should it be that some crafts are in favour whilst others are not? How ridiculous is that?!!
Sorry – off the hobby horse now, but if you feel strongly about this ridiculous state of affairs, then please make your feelings felt where they count – at your local college/university!
On Sunday, I finished the tour and took the free shuttle bus to Burslem, and the wonderful Victorian building of the Wedgwood Institute which has had its ground floor restored, but the first floor remains derelict. What a sad state of affairs for a wonderful architectural gem. The facade of this building, directly opposite the Burslem School of Art, is an absolute wonder. The coach driver and I stood there for a good few minutes just admiring the 12 panels representing the months, and the mosaic work. Lovely. Inside are the remaining 3 Guerilla Ceramics Artists, CJ O’Neill, Association Inscrire, and Denise O’Sullivan. There is also an exhibit called Our Objects – Contemporary Ceramics in Context, with some very amusing pieces.
Across 3 of the venues are also light boxes depicting scenes from some of the old potteries, and these have also been made into free postcard and bookmarks. They are very atmospheric and I now have them decorating one of my boards in my workshop.
The last stop was the Etruria Industrial Museum where the 3rd of the Artists Into Industry, Andrea Walsh, had her installation. Of all the interventions, this was the one which didn’t feel as connected which was a little disappointing, but the setting of the Industrial Museum more than made up for my vague disappointment. On the canals, with beautiful birds, and well-kept locks, the Industrial Museum is a flint grinding mill which is run by steam power on selected days. Sunday was such a day, but with a few problems ongoing, they weren’t able to get enough head of steam whilst I was there to run the Princess wheel and the machinery. Mind you, the huge beam of the Princess was lovely just to look at, and the information boards on the processing of the flint and bone that goes into the bone china is very good.
I was really surprised that no-one else took advantage of the free shuttle-bus. I was the bus-driver’s only passenger on both the buses all that day, and they had only had 4 passengers on the Saturday. I’m hoping that people wake up to this useful service for the next two weekends that they run as this is such a good way of getting round Stoke-on-Trent without having to pay the car-parking charges that the City Council imposes everywhere!! I think perhaps that there needs to be more advertising about the event locally, but I hope that there are plenty of visitors to this two-month long event. There are two more biennales planned, but unless people come and visit, that will be the end of it, which would be a huge shame for the area, and for ceramics. I hope you can come and visit…..