It has been more than a little while since I wrote on my blog and I am not absolutely sure why. Time has a habit of trundling on and every so often something captivates my imagination and I lose all sense of duration. I apologize to all the loyal readers who are used to regular updates. This girl must do better.
The focus of my preoccupation has been my ongoing brush with the art world where I have substituted the paintbrush with my trust sewing machine and she has not let me down. She has withstood hours of work and acres of threads and still she delivers. My world would be a far less exciting place without her. Free motion embroidery remains my complete fascination but now I am trying to make every practice stitch count. I have managed the outline of one aspect of my first exhibition piece but I have spent the week back in stitch rehearsal mode while making some fabric jewellery pieces. Not everyone can afford to purchase art but if they like the large pieces they may like a small piece of my work in the form of a piece of jewellery or another accessory. Here lies the plan, at least.
I have been steadily increasing the variety of colours and hues of the threads available to me and I am enjoying the creativity that comes along with that. Colour is such a stimulating focus but when you begin to unpack individual colours into different shades and hues the magic starts to happen. A simple outline sketch in a black thread quickly comes alive as soon as you inject a bit of colour and then explore that colour to its maximum place.
This is my challenge going forward. I don’t just want people to look at my work and see high quality stitching I want them to consider and enjoy the wider aesthetics of the piece and colour plays a large role in this. My art work focuses on the need to reuse and not waste resources and old fabrics are a real passion. I think this began when I was given some vintage silk that my Grandmother once owned. She was a professional seamstress and I could almost feel her hands working on the cloth. Now I collect old fabrics and spend hours designing new work inspired by them. My large exhibition pieces are going to focus on the relationship between the natural world and human intervention. As a race we are not good at treading lightly and a throw away culture is the result. I am experimenting with sketches that deal with the consequences of our actions on the natural world in the hope that the pieces may provoke some debate. It is a bold strategy but then I need to challenge myself; it is in my DNA. I blame my late father.
So, I hope that you might forgive my longer than usual absence and as my work develops I hope to be more diligent when it comes to my writing. When I was a professional choreographer in an earlier life I used to see movement everywhere. I sometimes struggled to sleep as my mind was literally a living, breathing and movement piece. When I was working on a specific piece I soon realised that every time I sneezed, and momentarily shut my eyes, a single movement would flash before me and that often became the design motif for the whole work. Now it is stitching that appears before me in flashes of imaginative thought and I rush to my sketchbook to record it before I forget it. So, I know that I am instinctively tuned into my preoccupation and I am satisfied that it will deliver what it needs to – whatever that might be.
I have been involved with crafts for many years and more recently I have really focused on sewn goods. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to do machine embroidery but never seemed to find the time to learn it. This has all changed in the last few weeks as I finally came to grips with how to set up my machine to tackle this art form and then get the practice underway. In less than two weeks I have gone from a complete novice to being able to write words with the machine needle. I have, however, done many hours of sewing! Years of using a sewing machine have come in most useful.
What I love most love about this new skill is that it moves between art and craft effortlessly. I can use it to make my new range of ‘gifts in a bag’ for With Love from Arran for the coming season but it is also going to be employed in my art exhibition pieces. In August I will be exhibiting for the first time as part of the Open Studio event on the island in August and I have three pieces planned already. Using reclaimed textiles I have designed pieces that speak about the juxtaposition between the natural world and human impact. The first piece, Weeping Willow, is using vintage Liberty fabric with many pieces designed by the Collier-Campbell design studio. Sadly Susan Collier died in 2011 but her sister, Sarah Campbell, is still designing. It has put me in mind of designing my own fabric one day…..
The second piece is unnamed at the moment but includes seed heads drowning in rising tides and I am currently researching vintage tweed as a possible way forward. My third piece feels impossible at the moment as I would really like to work with silk but this fabric and machine sewing is a nightmare. By using fabric stabilizers I am hoping to be able to produce the two feathers in the piece entitled ‘the lightest touch’. The feathers are drifting to earth catching seed heads in their twisting shapes. I originally trained as a silk painter so I am hoping to feature those skills in this piece as well.
So, my sewing machine is incredibly busy and earning its keep. I am having to manage my craft and art work around my writing so there have been some very late nights. I am tracking my practice work with little sewn journals to accompany the art work and also thinking about associated craft work such as cushions and messenger bags to sit alongside the art pieces.
This is all possible as I am taking this season off on the smallholding. If I am honest I am not well enough at the moment to manage the physical work so I am leaving this work to Pete and the boys. We have modest development plans this year anyway as Pete is hand building a vintage kitchen and this is just the start of his list. My writing is mainly focused on a collective project which is in research and development phase for most of this year so everything slots in somewhere.
I am extending my online presence in sales with a new shop with Remade Britain by producing one off, unique pieces using reclaimed vintage and retro fabrics. I have the front of a cushion made ready to finish and I love the fact that it is unique. Over time I am hoping to open up a commission book so that I can make bespoke pieces for special occasions. I think reclaiming fabrics that mean something to people is a journey that I am going to enjoy.
All of this new work was part of the plans for the year that I put together in January. I always thought it was an ambitious year but so very exciting. 2015 is going to be busy.
Continuing my mission to declutter my life and live more simply I am sat at a table top sale getting rid of more stuff. I am surrounded by a village hall full of people doing the same thing. I have already given bags and bags of stuff to charity and sold some pieces online and through our community shop. More will be heading to the local charity shop after this event. I have a wee vision that when the children have all left home Pete and I will build a tiny wooden house and live a minimal existence. It is for many reasons that this vision is being created including the desire to live more lightly on this planet. But I am quite sure I am developing an allergic reaction to stuff.
There is no doubt that the vast majority of us have far too much stuff and it is not a legacy I want to pass onto my children. They all live quite simply and have resisted the idea of acquiring things they do not need. George loves his books and they will stay with him always but apart from those his room is very minimal. Harry is very like me and has got rid of lots of unwanted stuff over recent years as has his older sister, Molly. She needs to travel light as she has a career in conservation so stuff just gets in her way. Max finds it difficult to let stuff go so his answer to that is not to acquire it in the first place. He inhabits our box room so there is a real limit to what he can put in it.
I am pretty proud of Pete because he has thrown himself into the decluttering process despite being quite grumpy about it in the past. So day by day, week by week we are getting rid and it does feel really good. I feel somewhat cleansed.
My biggest issues is all my making things for my craft business but in recent years this has become much more focused and that has helped me pass materials onto people starting out in craft. I now have one shelving unit and three old fruit boxes and that is it. It used to be a lot more than that and even threatened to take over the house at one point.
I don’t have many personal things now holding onto jewellery that Pete has given me and one necklace I inherited from my grandmother. I have one small hanging rail of clothes and two drawers but I can see ways to reduce further there as well.
So my journey to declutter is moving on well and the trick now is not to acquire more things. If we are to realise the goal of living in one of these tiny houses we need to keep going. Assuming I am still making I already have a garden studio that can accommodate all the necessary materials so beyond that we just need somewhere to sleep, sit and eat. How much more is there than that. I would love a structure where the whole front opens onto a deck when the weather is nice so that you can expand the house. Lots of passive solar glass and living completely off grid would suit me very well indeed. This is easier said than done but our research is underway and a combination of solar power, utilising grey and rain water and a compost toilet should do the job well. I am sure this would not suit everyone but it would suit us. Add in a fuel efficient camper van for guests to stay in and us to holiday in and the lifestyle is established.
Pondering on why I amassed so much stuff I am not really sure of the reason. I think I liked to shop and now I hate it. I also think I like to home build or nest and that is behind me as well now. Entering a new decade in life is a turning point for me. I wanted to have given up my corporate style job by 40 and live more remotely and I achieved that. So let us set my 60th as the next aspirational moment. I would like to be in a much smaller dwelling and living as simply as possible by then. We shall see. It is something to aim at and that has always been important to me.
Just at this moment I need someone to come along and buy the contents of my table. A big ask but things are moving so you never know. We can always dream….