29 May, 2011
Life is full of lovely surprises! One happened just this morning. I was teaching in the studio when my husband popped his head in and informed me that two people had just turned up with connections to our house! This lovely young couple were on holiday in the area, and just stopped by to see if they could see the house in which their great-grandmother lived.
Now, although this is not a usual occurence, it is not exactly unheard of but this couple were here from Australia!
It did vaguely cross my mind that this could be a ploy to see inside our house, but in conversation with them it quickly became obvious that they were totally genuine – they even had a photo of the house as it was 25 years ago (we’ve been here 19 years) on their phone!
As I was teaching, I couldn’t give them the attention I would have liked, but we did have a short conversation, and hopefully they’ll be back for a weekend’s visit before they go back to Australia.
In the meantime, gardening is calling and things are growing faster than we can keep up with them! Weaving projects are on the loom, and MA reading is progressing. Our two new cats are settling in nicely, although not yet making friends with Charlie. We have a family wedding coming up, we’ve just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, and my gran just celebrated her 101st birthday!
What a rich and varied life this is!
Have a good week, wherever you are, and whatever you are doing!
22 May, 2011
This week the university masters students had the opportunity to visit beautiful Oxford and visit 3 museums, and take in an exhibition by our masters leader, reknowned ceramicist, Sebastian Blackie. The three museums were The Ashmolean, the Pitt River Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.
The Ashmolean has an international reputation, and so it should. A beautiful place with an interesting juxtaposition of old and new, with exhibits that make connections between topics, displaying two or more linked topic areas together to make you think and reflect in a more pro-active way than simply displaying artefacts by age or grouping. With only an hour, I focused on the textiles areas, but getting absorbed by the link with scripts and communication which was adjacent and connected to the textiles. I then went up to Music and Tapestry where there were 3 large tapestries, one depicting musicians, in association with a wonderful display of largely stringed instruments through the ages, beautifully decorated and inlaid with precious woods and other materials (ie mother of pearl). Exquisite! Then up to the top floor to the modern art exhibit where I was taken with two pieces, one a textured piece created by sand and glue by Andre Masson, and then an oil painting by Brigitte Simon. Finally, via an amazing exhibit of gathered pots in a display case on the back stairs, to the Japanese gallery where I saw exquisite landscape paintings as large hangings and also as delicate fan templates.
Then it was on to the Pitt Rivers museum situated through the Museum of Natural History. I have to confess being caught up in the natural history bit, especially the rocks and the architecture of the building, with soaring columns and tracery supporting the spectacular glass roof. Victorian architecture at its very best!
The Pitt Rivers was a total revelation! Forget about the minimalist ethic of ‘less is more’. Pitt Rivers is the antithesis of that – more is most definitely more!! The artefacts are crammed into the display cases – rows on rows, collections on collections! And how eclectic! Anything from a puffer fish skin helmet to scarification tools, shrunken heads and bejewelled skulls (Damien Hurst obviously paid a visit before his diamond skull encrusted piece For the Love of God!), jewellery through to weapons. At times bizarre, never boring, this museum is an experience!
Then, eating on the hoof, off to the Musuem of Modern Art. I have to say this was a disappointment for me, and also for the others as well… Hey ho. Two out of three ain’t bad!
On the way back, we stopped off at Wolfson College in Oxford to see Sebastian’s exhibition. Beautifully made, striking ‘carpets’ of ceramic with personal connections to the places he was illustrating, Sebastian deserves to be more widely known outside the ceramics world than he is. His attention to detail is painstaking and his work is both beautifully executed and thoughtful in content. The settings of the college grounds were lovely, but the exhibition was slightly spoiled by being surrounded by functional chairs laid out round the walls (mind you it is a coffee lounge!) However, once we had moved them around to free the space around his work, it became a gallery setting (just a shame about the carpet!! lol)
Food for the soul and food for thought! Now onto planning and weaving pieces for an upcoming exhibition… That’s this week’s work sorted!!
15 May, 2011
This week, we have added to the owner occupier number in our house. We used to have a couple of cats, but the road that runs to the front of our property can be dangerous to unwary felines, and we have lost the last three to cars. So we vowed not to have any more cats whilst we are here.
That was until this winter when we found we had some unwanted house and studio guests. Hoping they would return to the fields once the worst of the chill was over, we put up with them for a while. Then spring sprang, and they increased rather than disappearing. So finally, we’ve decided we need some extra four-legged help.
Our two new recruits have not really started yet, as they are both rescue cats and are taking a while to settle down. Mind you, they only came on Thursday, so they need some space and time to acclimatise. Tomorrow they will be able to venture further than the lounge, and gradually further and further afield under supervision! One of them is in a really sorry state, having been a much loved pet until her owner died. The son came and took what he wanted from the house, then put the cat outside and locked up. That was a year ago and neighbours said he hadn’t been back since. So the poor puss was left to fend for itself.
It was picked up as a stray this week, and had to have all its fur shaved as it was all matted together! Poor thing looks like a scrawny rat at the moment, but with all its head fur intact, so a rat with a huge head!! What people will do to animals is beyond me – but then so is what people will do to other people!!
The other cat is very, very shy, but doesn’t appear to have such obvious trauma.
So they are getting used to being in a new environment with people who will love them and care for them. They are not quite sure how to take it at the moment, but we just sit quietly there in the room, leaving a strategically placed hand dangling for them to approach as they will, and head butt, and just get used to our smell and our presence.
So far they are doing really well. Maniac Minnie (not her real name) is starting to panic less, and timid Tilly (not her name either) is starting to venture out into the middle of the floor when it’s really quiet.
Naming is a task that will take a while, so for now they are both lovely girls! I didn’t want to embarass Maniac Minnie so I won’t post a photo of her sorry state until she has some hair and you can appreciate her beauty…..
On a slightly different tack, a friend sent me a cutting from the Independent featuring the wonderful landscape photography of Hans Strand. Take a look and drool!!
9 May, 2011
A seminar day, organised by Laura Thomas, introduced by Lizzi Walton under the auspices of the Stroud International Textiles Festival is one not to be missed and I’m so glad I was there! Laura had gathered together 5 disparate weavers, each with a fascinating story of their creative paths and output. To start off with, Laura talked about her work, especially the acrylic resin work she is probably best known for. Maybe not so well known, but very appropriate, is the double cloth ‘blanket’ work that she designs for Melin Tregwynt, possibly the best known weaving mill in Wales, and the work that she is doing as Artist in Residence at the Ruthin Craft Centre. Laura is an ambassador not only for weaving, but also for Wales!
Her first invited speaker was Asha Peta Thompson. Asha is my sort of woman – bubbly, whacky, with a lovely depracating sense of humour, and obvious enjoyment, understanding and imagination in her work. What started out as a masters project developing multi-sensorial pieces for special educational needs in line with the National Curriculum, has now grown in many diverse ways, and Asha is now co-founder of Intelligent Textiles, a company that has developed soft switching for electronics and data management which now works closely with several military departments both in the UK and beyond, looking to reduce the burden of weight and ease of equipment usage for on-the-ground soldiers in the field of battle. As the mother of a young man just about to go into the forces, I felt such a range of emotions seeing Asha talk about and demonstrate the amazing technology that they have managed to integrate into the very fabric of the soldier’s kit. I just hope the British military hurries up and incorporates this into the uniforms of our soldiers quickly. It is cheaper and much more efficient than much of the heavy kit and wiring the soldiers have to deal with currently (pun intended!)
Laura (centre) and Asha (right)
After Asha’s presentation, we were all incredibly buzzed and lunch was a time to marvel and meet up with new people, and catch up with old friends. Weavers from all spectrums were there – industrial designers, university lecturers and students, practising weavers, and enthusiasts alike – all absorbing and being inspired by the presentations.
After lunch, Kirsty McDougal, the weaving half of Dashing Tweeds, presented the story of Dashing Tweeds, the company that gives a contemporary twist to bespoke men’s tweeds with amazing colourways, unusual yanrs (including reflective) and a sense of fun. Kirsty originally came from the Outer Hebrides and tried to move away from her tweed heritage after university (Duncan of Jordanstone), working as a jacquard designer for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Biba, and Jaegar, but it seems she was destined to come back to it in order to revamp and revolutionize it! Kirsty has always been interested in science and maths, and is working on a project called Seismic Shifts – structural health monitoring systems for earthquake zones – in collaboration with architecture and Nanoforce. I would have loved to have heard more about that, but she can’t say much at the moment….. Ah – tantalising!
Kirsty was then followed by Melissa French – one of the Puff & Flock collective created by the members of Central St Martin’s Textiles Future MA programme. Melissa talked about her MA project – partial upholstering of outdoor furniture, using cotton warps with silver, iron and copper wefts – which was intriguing, and then about the creation and development of Puff & Flock.
After a short break, the final speaker was Ptolemy Mann. Ptolemy is well known for her ikat-woven pieces with their jewel colour fields, and she has recently been working on a series of Monoliths. But she was there, hotfoot from Collect, to talk about the colour consultancy work she does with architects and how that is closely related to her weaving. I found her whole approach fascinating and logical, and it gives me hope that our public buildings can be transformed by imaginative use of colour right from the start, with integrated thinking between the teams responsible for external cladding and internal decoration. It was clear from the very professional appearance of all the design work that Ptolemy is an expert in putting her ideas across and she speaks the language of the architects, which is the only way that such strides are made in public works.
After the seminars, there was just time to squeeze in two open studio visits to Tim Parry-Williams and Matthew Harris, both of whom live in Stroud and had kept their studios open late for us to get the chance to see them.
Tim at loom
A really stimulating day…..
1 May, 2011
A few years ago, I set up a weaving workshop for 60 weavers in Oman, a country bordered by Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and across the Straits of Hormuz from Iran. Oman is a fascinating place, as are its people, and one of the people I met stays in contact with me, regularly sending me emails which uplift, inspire and provoke.
This week, he sent me this. The story is based on a life tenet which I hold dear, but I hadn’t heard it expressed in this way before, and I wanted to share it with you.
The Law of the Seed.
Look at an apple. It has 10 seeds in it. Look at an apple tree – there could be 500 apples, each with 10 seeds. Why so many seeds? After all, it only takes one seed to make a tree.
Ah yes, but not all seeds grow. In fact, most don’t. Maybe the conditions aren’t right – the apple is eaten, the core thrown into a bin and the seeds lost. Even if a seed makes it to the ground, only the right conditions will lead to changes that will allow the seed to grow roots and push up into a stem and start its journey towards the sun, and any amount of events can happen to it on the way to disrupt its progress.
And here we come to the crux of the piece – so many seeds are needed for just one to germinate. So if you really want to make something happen, you’d better try more than once! If you want a job, you will probably have to attend many interviews, if you want to publish a book, you will probably have to submit your manuscript or proposal to several publishers.
When we understand the Law of the Seed, we don’t get so disappointed. We stop feeling like victims because we realise it’s not personal.
Successful people fail more often, but they plant more seeds. I found in the past that if I had one really big idea and followed just that one, if it failed, I felt so disappointed – sometimes hurt, even robbed – and got stuck in the mire feeling I was useless, and totally undermining and sabotaging myself! If have more than one idea that I’m thinking of, or more than one project on the go, if one fails, I’ve got several more that I can develop and I move forward with optimism and learn from the failed project.
If we decide how we think something should be, or if we make rules how everyone should behave, then we are doomed to disappointment. If we feel friends should return favours, appreciate us, planes should arrive on time, everyone should be honest, your husband or best friend should remember your birthday, no matter how reasonable these expectations sound, we are doomed to disappointment and frustration. Just last week, our plane back from Gascony was delayed by 2 1/2 hours, late at night, and in March, my husband and son both forgot my birthday!
But there’s a strategy that relieves these petty problems… If we demand less and have preferences for things that are beyond our control – ie I would prefer that the plane was on time, but if it’s not, it’s ok or I would prefer that people are polite but if they are rude, it doesn’t ruin my day (it only ruins their’s!), then we make our lives much easier.
It’s a change in mindset, a shift in attitude that gives peace of mind, humour and light-heartedness.
Our attitude determines how we live our lives. It’s not the problem that’s the issue, but rather our attitude in dealing with the problem. It’s not what happens to us that determines our happiness, it’s how we think about what happens to us… For instance, the plane delay was due to bad weather (thunderstorms) and by shifting our thoughts away from its impact on us, but rather its impact on the people on the flight coming in, we would much rather it be late and they all be safe. My husband and son forgetting my birthday just made me laugh (especially at their faces when they realised!!) and rib them about it, meanwhile ensuring it’s in the diary for next year (50 next year!!)
I hope you enjoyed the Law of the Seed!
Have a great week!