January 8th 2019 - Feeling Retrospective
Stay with me on this blog my friends - it ends more positively than it starts.
The upsurge in the wellbeing and self-help culture, which has grown exponentially in the last 20 years has us surrounded by psychobabble and positive thinking. Whilst in most circumstances I agree with ‘staying strong and knuckling down’, I can’t help feeling that January is a gloomy ol’ time of year and that in the main, hibernation feels like the only positive thing to do. At the start of this year, more than ever before, I am feeling melancholic and looking back over 2018 I am struggling to find positivity. It’s been a difficult year.
Last year we weathered many illnesses and a bereavement, and supported our elderlies with several house moves and two house sales. The stress of staying on top of things was really hard, due largely to the stress of emotional and practical upheaval, the enormous task of clearing houses for selling, the paperwork (aarrrgghhh the paperwork) of running 4 households and a small business, and the ensuing insecurities hammering our self belief, energy levels and motivation. We cancelled far too many things due to conflicting demands and all the aforementioned took priority.
However, in amongst the melee we have almost completed our tiny thatched building ready for holiday rental. My partner has re landscaped areas of the garden and has gone to great pains erecting ineffective fencing in an attempt to prevent our new puppy from escaping, which has proved impossible so far. Parts of our track have been resurfaced and retaining walls built in numerous places around the garden.
We have opened the studio and house to visitors through Helfa Gelf and have met some wonderful new friends and aquaintances, including lovely new neighbours.
I have opened a small Etsy shop, and introduced gift vouchers. I have grown a small crop of flax ready for processing.
I’ve been featured in the North Wales Weekly news, The Pioneer, Lingo magazine and most recently Welsh Coastal Life magazine.
I’ve joined the Embroiderers’ Guild in North Wales, The Chimera Textile Group, and volunteered to be cluster leader for Helfa Gelf Conwy County and Vice Chair for the organisation this coming year.
I had my first workshop bookings, and continued to supply Bodnant Craft Centre with my wares.
I have been fantastically supported by Sandra and Fi at Snow in Summer in Denbigh and sat happily in the shop doing a Christmas demonstration at the end of November.
All in all it has been frantic and frenetic. But we’re still here. Our positivity is growing again. Spring is a’ coming..
And we have dreams, plans, ideas and our thinking caps are firmly on.
Life is overwhelming sometimes and it’s hard to find the good. Writing helps me. Sewing helps me. Take time out to think about what you have achieved.
Think big, dream big, do what you can and firmly pat yourself on the back for the smallest of achievements, because in amongst the mayhem of life sometimes the smallest are the biggest, because is takes courage, strength and determination to achieve them.
Be kind, be good and spread the love. Here’s to 2019... Now where’s that magic wand?
July 2018 - 'Hanging by a thread'
'Hanging by a thread' has an interesting meaning. A precarious position. A sense of insecurity, a serious situation meaning failing at something important, resulting in a bad outcome or being close to death.
Yet thread in its practical application is extremely strong, and metaphorically has infinite applications.
The use of thread in my work secures appliqué, adds definition, outlines form, creating whimsical art pieces. I love the dramatic effects of black thread. Using freehand machine embroidery allows me to draw with thread. I don’t strive for perfection and often halt processes when I feel myself trying to make it right.
I sometimes colour with paint on fabric, I overlay fabrics, sometimes just mark making with black thread. Sometimes I use only straight stitch and an energetic rapid freehand machine embroidery method, overlaying colours and textures. I immerse myself in the freedom of speed of 1600 stitches a minute and the energy of the process. I use only discarded fabrics and frames, wherever possible. My resources and materials dictate the finished article. Reducing the amount that goes to landfill in my own tiny way.
I find the practical use of thread, culminating in creating so much that we rely upon every day, progressively interesting. I am drawn more and more to the everyday uses of thread and seeing the practical as beautiful, skilful, creative and artistic.
This Autumn I’m taking part in the Helfa Gelf Art trail. You can visit artists at work in their studio, and it’s free. Experience the artists hidden world and get to chat to them about their creative processes. www.helfagelf.co.uk
Please come along - I promise there’ll be cake andI’d love to see you.
Until then best wishes.XX
November 21st 2017 - 'Ignore the inner voice'
Today my blog is completely plagiarised from another. Sol LeWitt. American Modern Art Mogul, and a letter he wrote to another Modern Artist and his contemporary, Eva Hesse.
He eloquently sums up self doubt and how to banish it. I am posting it here for me to revisit and quiet the doubting voice in my head when I need to. If you are ever in doubt take this - it helps me.
Also hear Benedict Cumberbatch here reading it - click here
To read Sol LeWitt's Advice To Eva Hesse - click here
8th November 2017 - Where Does The Time Go?...
It doesn't seem like more than a month or so since I last wrote about Christmas and already I'm here again preparing for Christmas Fayres.
Snow in Summer Denbigh on the 24th November from 18.00
Llannefydd Christmas Fayre on the 30th November from 18.00
Caerwys Christmas Fayre on the 1st December from 17.00
I don't feel quite as humbug about it this year , which is nice, but it is early days yet.
I've had quite a busy and eventful year and I'm drawn back to visit the plans I set myself last New Year. I've mostly achieved but I'm still not satisfied that I've quite got around to all of it.
Work is still progressing on the workshop and Ty Twt and although we didn't make the 1st of May deadline due to planning hold ups and a major change in design, we are now on schedule to be ready to let before Christmas which is all very exciting.
My Italian trip was utterly amazing. I managed a few Italian words and phrases but not enough to converse. The summer school was exciting and enlightening and I would urge anyone who has an interest in stitching and textiles to head over to Dionne Swifts website www.dionneswift.co.uk and take a look at her workshops. You won't regret signing up I promise.
I did try and research potential outlets but didn’t really feel I had sufficient talent to approach retailers directly. It's a tricky thing to do and I'm pretty unsure of myself at best, and so the thoughts of rejection held me back. However I have had the most amazing support from Oriel Mon, a gallery on Anglesey which houses a permanent display of Charles Tunnicliffe's work and of Kyffin Williams. It's just outside Llangefni on Anglesey. A member of staff from the gallery saw my work at Bodnant Craft Centre and approached me.
I now supply a small selection of items to the shop there and much more staggeringly for me I have had my first exhibition. It was small, just 12 rather large pieces. this gave me a great opportunity to really work on larger pieces and think more about detail. I was terrified.
It went really well, had some lovely feedback and sold three pieces. They have continued to display 6 of my pieces in the cafeteria area of the gallery for the next month.
Sioned Emrys and Rosie Lane at Oriel have boosted my confidence no end, without them I would have struggled to find the confidence. Others who have been incredibly supportive include Sandra and Ffi of Snow in Summer Denbigh ( who have a fantastic shop) and all the Staff at Bodnant Craft Centre.
My other major achievement this year includes the production of a celebration tea towel for the Denbigh Plum. These are still available for sale and can be bought online on my website or via my Facebook page. £10 each plus P+P. I'm immensely proud to have been involve with the plum and will continue in the future to support the Feast as it goes from strength to strength. All of the committee members yet again have been very supportive.
I haven't blogged as much as I'd like but I've been busy which is a really good excuse.
Both amazingly talented women - go take a look at their work if you're not familiar with them and keep your eyes peeled for a printing workshop her at Felin Isa in North Wales next Year with Lou Tonkin. We'd love to see you.
That all for now folks.
Other than a Great Big Thank You to everyone for their support. You know who you are - my sincerest love to you all.
Be Good, Be Kind, Spread the Love.
20TH MARCH 2017 - Wonderful Weaving...
On Tuesday this week I went to SAORImor in Bangor to try my hand at art of Japanese hand weaving.
I've tried my hand at weaving once before with a fantastic woman called Susie Gillespie www.susiegillespie.com, over 18 months ago. Susie uses (flax) linen to weave and
does so on great big loom producing gorgeous work. I was really please with my results.
Whilst I had the most amazing time with Susie, I know I'll never be able to buy a large loom and so I've often found myself trawling the internet looking at a variety of other types of looms.
Weaving is a big 'ol thing to start researching and I'd often give up as most of the looms looked complicated and I wasn't sure I'd be up to learning how to set a loom etc etc.
I'm also not terribly good at following patterns (some people would say rules), so put the whole idea to one side and concentrated on my sewing.
Then last Christmas morning I opened a present from my partner which was a 2 hour taster session at SAORImor weaving in Bangor.
I had a wonderful time. Rosie, who is lovely, gave us easy instructions to start us off then let us run with our own creativity and imagination. I was so excited by the fact that the looms are fairly small. They are light,compact and foldable. The weaving is really straightforward to learn. There are no patterns (rules) and freedom of expression was the aim. The panels you make can be made into items of clothing (or home decorative items).
I am of course going again, as soon as I possibly can. Rosie has set up several options from 30min taster to a 6 week course and a membership facility thereafter for those who don't want to buy their own looms, which means you can call in and use the equipment. Genius!
It is the epitome of finding 'flow' or mindfulness. I thoroughly recommend it to everyone and anyone.
30th December 2016 - Hurtling Towards Spring
It's December 30th already and although I've had a couple of quiet days which have been utter bliss, I am already thinking about the year ahead. I don't know why we put ourselves under such immense and intense pressure at Christmas, trying to get everything done in time, and to an impossible standard. The planning, the decorations, the gifts, the cards, the food, the timings, visiting relatives, visiting friends, the telephone calls... I'm having shuddering flashbacks so I'll stop the re-living.
When I woke up at the beginning of the last week of December I resolved this year to just try to remind myself that there are 363 days in a year and that life isn't just about Christmas. It was extremely difficult not to be carried along by the commercial pressure and expectations. I have to confess to even being a little 'Grinch like' this year. A colleague accused me of hating Christmas! Pah!!- that stopped me in my tracks. I realise actually that my stress and dislike of Christmas is directly linked to what I believe others expect of me at Christmas. So, I hope that with all its expectations and demands you've managed to find a little quiet time for reflection, rest, recreation and restoration and that the pressure hasn't been too onerous.
My head is now turning to New Year and the inevitable list of things to do, not so much resolutions - they've always tended to be must do's in the past and invariably left me feeling like I'd let myself down. This year I have PLANS, all based on things I like to do.
For me this includes
- A new display position from the 1st of February at Bodnant Craft Centre and a new display, so I have more new pieces to make.
- Work is progressing on the workshop and our Ty Twt for which we have everything crossed to begin letting on May 1st.
- I go away for a week to research potential new outlets at the end of January.
- I am going to try and learn Italian (well the basics anyway), in readiness for a textile summer school in June with the magnificent Dionne Swift
- I hope to be getting more involved with the Denbigh Plum festival
- Blogging more, and connecting more online through newsletters
- Setting up more workshop dates
I'm looking forward to the coming year, as for Christmas , there's 360 days left before it bites me on the bum again.
Happy New Year
Go safely and share the love.
4th October 2016 - A Stitch in time......
My mother tells me that sewing is in my blood, yet it took me until I was forty seven to realise that I really enjoy sitting at the sewing machine and being creative. I was given a sewing machine when I was fifteen but it just gathered dust. I can remember failing miserably in school at needlework and far preferred metal work and woodwork classes. I think the difference now, like most people, is that I am choosing to learn how to sew rather than it being a compulsory subject. I’m loving every minute of it.
My Nain (Welsh for Grandmother and pronounced like the number 9) was a seamstress. Her hand sewing/needlework skills were honed under her mother’s watchful eye as she sat at her knee, like most women of her class and generation. It was a time of austerity and the make do and mend culture was deeply embedded within the population as a whole. The ethos was strongly driven by necessity rather than choice. Very few ‘imported garments’ made their way to Corris in mid Wales, where she lived with my great grandparents, if any at all in fact. Nain taught herself, again out of necessity, to use a sewing machine after leaving home.
My mother remembers exactly when Nain started to take in sewing work. Firstly, she married my grandfather, an illiterate man whom she taught to read and write. He found employment as an insurance broker but he would frequently take the money meant for paying the rent, the doctor and the dentist and leave her without a word of farewell and with outstanding debts. He would reappear several months later begging for forgiveness. There was one hopeful turning point when he enlisted for the Army. Nain thought there would be money sent home. But it didn’t materialise. In fact, the only thing he ever gave her were excuses and a pregnancy every time he came home on leave.
His contact with her diminished over the following ten years but stopped completely after she bore him six children. Nain inevitable failed to pay her rent and without a benefits system to support her and the six children she was destitute. She had no choice but to go into the workhouse in Llangefni on Anglesey. Only her youngest child, a babe in arms was allowed to stay with her. The other five children were taken to a separate part of the workhouse and Nain would see them only once a week.
During her time in the workhouse she learned how to use a sewing machine. Her skills earned her extra credit and she was offered a house to rent locally. That was the start of her sewing career. There are still similarities for many 21st century women with the women of past generations, grappling with commitments and babies and trying to make ends meet. Many of us have creative endeavours and earn small amounts perhaps. but back then…
It wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t textile studies, or tapestry making or weaving. It wasn’t catwalk fashion or Saville Row tailoring. I wouldn’t mind betting tho’ that if Nain was around now she could win Great British Sewing Bee. But, what I remember of her is her tiny 4 foot 9 inch frame hunched over her sewing machine. I remember seeing her hump on her back when she was 85yrs old from the years of grafting at that Singer table to earn money to feed her children. She had a tiny mouth too, with lipstick bleeding into the lines around her mouth far sooner than it should have done, due to the constant row of pins she pursed her lips around whilst working. She lost her little finger due to an infectioin from a needle prick. The perils of sewing!
My grandfather turned up after an absence of almost four years with no contact at all during that time. He was more than surprised to find that Nain had a seventh child. Ooops! He filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery. My mother gave evidence aged 14 and remembers it well. The judge dismissed my grandfathers claim and granted the divorce to my grandmother on the grounds of desertion. Quite unheard of back in the day. During his silent years my grandfather had risen through the ranks to the rank of Captain. Later, when he left the army, he became the Mayor of Maidstone in Kent. By all accounts he was quite a wealthy man. He made no contact with his children. Ever. He left them nothing. None of his colleagues and acquaintances knew of his appalling behaviour.
Nain. Bless her. Not an affectionate woman. She had no time or energy for such frivolities. She was steely. A survivor. She had no choice. Her no nonsense approach got her through. She enjoyed playing cards for pennies, wore a fur coat on occasion. Killer white stilettos taking her to a lofty 5 foot 3 inches. Bright red lipstick. Row of pins. Hunchbacked. Singer machine. Sewing table. Treadle thrumming.
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