Tuesday 25 October 2022

Spring - Autumn 2022

 This is a catch up post. I have been so busy that life has taken over. I love creating this little sort of diary. More of a point of interest for family and friends but open to everyone - what I'm doing, perhaps my thoughts and photos of inspiring places. Saying this I have not yet uploaded any images onto my new laptop so I've looked to the past for the photos here. I love my past - most of it.

I count myself very fortunate as I'm usually pretty inspired by the world around me and by my imagination. In short I'm never bored. Though I do find that after covid was more tired than previously in the afternoons for a while. I surrendered to Hypnos and Morpheus and learnt to enjoy the journey and simply stopped resisting. In return I was able to conjure images and ideas that were/are quite literally as food from the gods. 

As some of you may already know, I have another studio to work in that also comes with storage space - incredibly useful. Also the use of a polytunnel although I prefer to think of it as a greenhouse. Make no mistake - it is a polytunnel and I'm rapidly learning the difference. But my mind keeps saying greenhouse so I'm going to say the same - it's far more atmospheric and old fashioned after all and comforting as I can transform it in my mind into a long Victorian greenhouse in a walled garden. It's a place where I can listen to the birds and the wind in the trees, the rain on the roof and look out across a valley to the sea beyond. I am blessed yet again. It's now beginning to provide green leaves and herbs plus a few strawberries and a place to safely keep my pots of transplanted garden plants - members of my family - gardeners will understand.

It's quite a jungle or will be. I've strung up a hammock so that I can slip occasionally into that alternative reality of feeling completely weightless - the perfect departure point for the imagination in fact. I've started to paint and draw in there too - lovely when it's raining. 

The studio space or rather spaces are exactly what I was hoping for when I was looking for my next studio last year - the perfect place to make all my YouTube and future Patreon tutorials (hopefully in January 2023) - spaces that are Set Decorated to look like home though in fact I don't actually 'live' here as I'm still technically homeless and stay with friends on a sort of rota basis when not working - for the time being anyway. 

What I like about this arrangement for now is that I do get to meet up with friends regularly - those who can put me up anyway. As a maker and an 80% introvert I can easily be completely preoccupied with my own inner world.

However I am constantly on the lookout for a new home but these are extremely hard to find right now. Prices have rocketed and so many people moved out of London and other cities in favour of a less stressful and expensive life. Well, less expensive for them but the result is that it's far more expensive for the people who live here. The ups and downs of life. Adaption is called for yet again. At least I have a place to work and I quickly decided that that was the priority.

So as my working space used to be initially a dormitory, then a hospital, then university offices, then a kitchen was added, then workshops and studios, it does naturally lend itself perfectly to my way of working. I have a series of dedicated spaces - one for jewellery making and video tutorials, one for painting most sizes of canvases and panels, one for my 'Sofa Chats' videos that I began in lockdown, the old kitchen is my papier mache studio as there is water and I have a portable induction hob for mixing up gesso, gelatin and also beeswax polish, a dedicated area for for drying by fan - it works - and my microwave for the quick drying of beads and small bowls etc. It's also ideal for video tutorial making as there is so much natural light. I even have an 'office space' and a place to edit and upload vlogs at the end of the corridor - fairly small but big enough.

 The room with the least light and a loo are piled with boxes of things I have yet to organise and for which I need to put shelving up but as yet I haven't found the time. I did manage to put up my daughter's big Victorian brass bed that I store for her, as I can store more boxes underneath it as well as create a huge 'table' with with my old market trestle tops on top where I now have a dedicated photography and packing area. One has to be creative with space. I still have lots to sort out and in theory I try to sort a bit out every day - I set my timer and give it half an hour. It adds up.

I sometimes house-sit a large rambling old house on the edge of Dartmoor when the owners who are friends go away with the possibility for long let in the future. In the meantime it's head down and work undisturbed and thank God for my friends and their spare rooms. 

Fortunately or not I'm one of those people who needs very little sleep and I've always been a very early riser - I love to welcome in the dawn and especially at this time of the year it is perfect as I can quietly leave wherever I happen to be and drive to work without waking anyone and start my day. My circadian rhythms give me a sharp mind from about 3.30am so I can be at work at usually 4.30. I know this may sound crazy to many people  and yet it is the way I am wired - I have had the same circadian rhythm all my life. I love it.

At present I am working on 18 new A4 boards that have been laser cut to make a new collection of paper mache jewellery. I'm constructing some paper mache bowls - rough textured and appearing to be weighty and resembling ceramic - think old Japanese masters of ceramics. 

I found a torn off strip of some kind of black waterproof paper that seemed to have acquired a richly textured layer of mud and green algae that had weathered and dried to an incredibly beautiful appearance. Naturally I brought it to my kitchen studio where it's been waiting to be transformed. The start of a new series. I'm currently filming that process and will then show how to create that effect without old mud and algae. So video to follow in the next post.

When working on any craft based project it'a all about processes and organisation. I have had to re-organize my studio so many times. This is effectively my 48th move. It's not as stressful as people think - though not without stress.

Autumn is now here and it's a great year for sweet chestnuts.

I'm continuing to gather the old dried out stems of foxgloves and bracken etc when I'm mooching about on Dartmoor. They provide me with endless references for paintings. C'est la vie. Toodle-loo.

Friday 11 March 2022

MOVING ON 2021\22 - September/March

I've learnt to rather like 'Moving On' and really I do seem to have a tad more than average experience in doing so. I'm now right in the middle of sorting, packing, labelling and consequentially piling up boxes wherever I can find some space in my very small cottage in readiness for Moving Day - Part One - interspersed with the rather more exciting activity of getting the feel of my new home. I have developed a habit of going there and just standing in each room, looking out of the windows, getting the feel of the place - it is growing on me.

Although when you are out at sea and looking for a safe harbour there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude for any terra-
firma I imagine. Either way this is the only place that offered itself to me and for that I am very grateful.

I'm now busy cleaning and painting - walls mainly (32) plus a few ceilings (8) and lots of cupboards (?), window frames (12) and doors (8) - all requiring quite a few coats between them - plus wonderful though neglected parquet floors. 

Please don't get me wrong - I absolutely love doing this - it's simply a matter of timing before moving begins and then the cleaning and tidying up the garden at my little cottage. I may need to outsource that final activity if my back doesn't hold out or is that 'up'? I have been training my back for months for this moment - as it can be a little unpredictable at times.

The most wonderful side of all this activity is that I'll at last have space to paint and to make and to move between the two. Or failing that - storage.

I've had the help of wonderful removers - as in removal company - without which this task would have defeated me. My back is still intact anyway. The weather was wonderful - warm and sunny and if it did rain then it did so at night. I couldn't have asked for more.

The most striking thing about my new place is the deep sense of peace - it is really quiet but it is much more than that. I feel as if I could almost float upon this serenity. It could also I know become a real challenge in long dark winter months.

The place itself is old and somewhat neglected. I can sympathise. I am not neglected but ageing inevitably brings new problems to try to solve. A long period of silence now began. I survived the isolation and even the lack of a car as mine finally refused to start and no garage could find a cure. I imagine it was only a loose wire but it would cost far more than it was worth to spend the time to discover exactly which wire. I am now about to look for a replacement. Something that will happily take on Dartmoor lanes and journeys to the sea. A mobile studio in fact is my ideal. They're hard to come by nowadays. 

I can now 'take up my pen' and report that once I stopped moving I seemed to come to a complete standstill - I suppose all the stress that I was suppressing (and there was too much) finally had the chance to start to manifest in all sorts of totally unexpected ways - I won't go into detail but they've surprised me. Some were and still are aspects of Long Covid, according to my doctor but really there's no conclusive proof. Either way I'm doing my best to move on from that, but it seems to be a long, slow and confusing process. I've far less energy and a complete disappearance of my usual joie de vivre - one of the many blessings that I've never taken for granted. So I went to ground and hoped that hibernation and rest would do it's magic - not yet. 

I try to make myself go through all the motions in the hope that memory will kick start my love of life but not yet. Sometimes great waves of deep and profound sadness almost overwhelm me - even more so now that the crisis in Ukraine is gathering momentum. 

I've always loved my own company - I learnt to as an only child I imagine and yet even then I longed to belong to a different family - my own yet expanded to include an even bigger rambling house with a father who was gentle and thoughtful and reserved and my own mother just as she was but with the addition of many brothers and sisters. I longed for never ending interesting conversations around a very large kitchen table and ad hoc pot luck meals with an Elizabeth David air. I have often wondered if there is a sort of muscle memory locked in the morphic field of our DNA and of the legacy of our ancestors - for good or bad - that we have to continue to work it out on their behalf as well as our own that could then create an added depth of security for the generations to come. These are the kind of thoughts that I ponder when alone as that big kitchen table is lost in metaphorical storage somewhere so no discussions can take place. This can spill over into a deep heart wrenching sense of loneliness of the soul. On the edge of being unbearable.

So finally I've come to London with my daughter to try a change of scene - my first real journey anywhere since lockdown, to see if that would do the trick. Not yet - I've been to some of my old haunts - Chelsea, East Dulwich, Richmond and have wandered around the old Victorian streets of Peckham and through parks and built up housing blocks and so on and I still feel unmotivated. Perhaps it is ageing but I have always determined not to rust away through age and neglect. There's a little demon inside me who has a tendency to feel sorry for itself that can from time to time overwhelm me like a soporific drug and one which I always try to overcome. Recently I've been watching YouTube and three people in particular who are just the kind of people that I would have wished to be sat around that childhood kitchen table - they are Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Richard Schwartz and Gabor Mate. They seem to hit the nail on the head for me. I'm at the beginning of my journey with them.  

I've always been able to write from my imagination and have found it to be incredibly revealing and helpful and also entertaining if that's the right description/word to use. So now that I've spent the sunny days out and about I am going to focus on my daughter's garden - a very small affair but has a bit of potential. Weeding, removing builders rubble, cutting back a headstrong Buddleia, scrub off algae from wooden fence panels and add wires for roses etc, remove moss and algae from steps, cut grass and clean paving stones. The garden was neglected when she moved in and I love to do this - I do recognise that I have a certain sort of list of things that I seem to like to do wherever and whenever I can. I think that I could easily expand it to include as yet undiscovered delights. Maybe my joie de vivre lies hidden out there.

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