internal conflict in the studio

Last week Quinn McDonald published The Pull of Inner Critic and Inner Hero and it really got me thinking.   I’ve known for some time that my strengths are also a kind of curse: I guess if you build a strong fortress, then when you are under siege you’re a prisoner in a jail of your own making.

It took a long time to realise that my being a ‘mucker’ (my uncle’s nickname for me), always exploring and trying new things, never settling on anything for long, made me incredibly versatile.   It took time too to realise that being a Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none wasn’t as demeaning as it sounds, because that reframes as being versatile as well.  These dubious titles led to me developing the belief that if someone else can do whatever, the chances are I can.

So this versatility, this confidence that I can do just about anything I want, how is that a curse?  It’s a curse because I want to do everything and I want to do it now and I want to do it perfectly!  And no surprises, that plan just isn’t working out well!

That aspect of my versatile Inner Hero that says “Of course you can!” is countered by the damnable  Inner Critic who provides a smorgasbord of possibilities and as a consequence I’m stunned like a possum in a cars headlights.

Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Tammy Garcia once wrote ‘much better to start late than never begin at all’ which eventually gave me the blog name, Late Start Studio.  And yes, I’m starting late, and I know I don’t have to catch up I just have to start but oh, I want to catch up!  And I want to be a master of something!   But what?    Here I am, stunned, frozen, telling myself “just to something!”  Anything!  Just pick something and DO IT!  But one day I make some crazy stuffed creature, or a little soft sculpture, or paint a page in my journal, make another stencil or stamp or pencil-case or . . . you get the picture.

Versatile Inner Hero on one hand, Inner Critic spilling out all the options like the contents of a suitcase on the other.    I guess I’ll just have to settle for being a Master Mucker!

Those who wait for every little thing to be perfect before they embark on a project or who dislike the compromise of a partial solution are among the least happy.  Ideal circumstances are seldom given to anyone for an undertaking.

Deng Ming-Dao: 365 Daily Meditations, p.295

the road to work

A year ago I posted a photo of The Greeting Tree . . .

The Greeting Tree

The Greeting Tree

I pass this tree every morning on the way to work and imagined this great verdant creature waving out to all the passing traffic. It always made me smile.

Last winter there was some damage and it doesn’t quite have the same effect now that it has been decapitated.  I’ve tried to create another image in my mind but somehow it isn’t quite as benign.  It looks a bit like a big-nosed head, perhaps with a horn, emerging from the ground.  Maybe I can train myself to imagine an arm extending up, waving, but it looks more like it’s ready to lurch forward and grab some hapless motorist then disappear back into the underworld.

Greeting Tree

The Greeting Tree – decapitated

Is it time for me to stop working?

change is so hard

The last week of my long summer holiday was taken up having new carpet laid throughout the house.  This is the first time I have ever had that luxury feeling of a brand new, decent quality carpet underfoot and when you’re essentially a barefoot fan . . . mmmmm loverly!

Preparing for the carpet layers meant that everything that sits on the floor had to be removed . . . thank goodness it’s summer and we had some dry weather!  Without my son and grandhearts coming to lend a hand I doubt I could have done it.  The girls were amazing and very willing to carry the smaller things outside while Adam and I moved the bigger items.  We arranged to leave some of the heavy furniture for the carpet layers.

During the removal process, I apologised to my son several times for the volume of stuff I have and, although I’m not planning to shuffle off this mortal coil any time soon, I have promised to buy nothing more that isn’t a replacement for something that is completely munted, I will use up what I can and weed out what I can get rid of . . . sell, donate, dump. Believe me, by the time I had moved everything back, single-handed, I was adopting this affirmation big time!   I have everything I need and more! 

A true statement in every area of my life . . . how about you?  Do you itch to have one more whatever?  A bigger or better thingimijig?  The latest whatsit, gizmo or doofer?  You probably don’t NEED it, you might WANT it but let’s be realistic . . . if you have access to good food, a warm bed, friends and family who know you on the inside and love you anyway, the freedom to make choices and some means of personal empowerment, fun, what more do you really need?   I’ve never really lusted after loads of possessions . . . I’m just a bit of a magpie and I’ve done my bit supporting struggling artisans around the world.

WANTS and NEEDS are very different and I’m focussing on getting my NEEDS met.IMG_2477Which brings me to my favourite tights.  They’ve died.  There is a hole in one knee and it’s just a matter of time before the other goes too . . . but I’m still wearing them.  Even mending is unwarranted as the stretch is going.  Although munted they can’t be replaced, Kozmik is out of business and these, you have to agree, are unique.  I guess I’ll just have to get out some of my fabric and some dye and make a new pair.  Do I NEED a new pair?  No.  Do I want a new pair?  Not really . . . unless they’re equally interesting.  Can I make a pair without buying anything else? Yes!  So if I want them enough . . . get my drift?

These wonderful tights . . . I bought them about 18 years ago and with some time-out when I didn’t wear them, they’ve lasted, although lately they’ve been getting a thrashing.  When an old favourite anything wears out it’s often irreplaceable and we have to get rid of the old, worn out whatever and accept something new.   Habits are like that too . . . the old habit has served it’s purpose, might not be taking us where we want to go in life but it’s hard to break and hard to adopt a new behaviour.

I am very reluctant to throw away these tights, I love these tights and if I decide to make them into something else I know they would just sit and be another job-to-do instead of a pleasurable, creative project.  They would become another bit of stuff weighing me down with responsibility.  So here’s the deal . . . when they cannot be worn decently around the house, I either make them into a toy as a keepsake or they go into the bin the VERY SAME DAY.  Oh . . . they’ll still be stuff for my son and daughter to get rid of!

Who in their right mind is so emotionally attached to a pair of crazy tights!  I think I need help . . . I kid you not!

Quinn McDonald’s guest!

I started my blog relatively recently however the people who have been the most encouraging have been at it for considerably longer and have a clear purpose.   I’m still looking for mine . . . here with this blog and life in general.

One of the blogs I visit regularly is that of Quinn McDonald.  The people who comment regularly give almost as many thought-provoking contributions as the posts themselves and appear to be a cross-section of people, all of whom seem to want to live more satisfying and creative lives.    My contributions are sometimes stream of consciousness rants and when Quinn suggested one as a guest post I was extremely flattered and, rather than procrastinate about it, the next time I had something to rabbit on about I sent it through to her.   I was thinking about all the poor choices I do, all the automatic, thoughtless habits, that stop me from doing and being the best me I can.  You can read it here or go to Quinn’s blog and read it there . . . I believe in giving choices.

Dirty Little Addictions

Yes, most of us have them and from time to time they get out of hand.  I have one: I knew of it’s existence before partaking but eventually a personal introduction was made by a friend, well it was more like the way a new convert would be indoctrinated into a cult and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.  At first it was harmless and I thought I had full control, no one, not even me, was being hurt.  Now?  I can’t quite say the same.  The effect of this energy sapping, mind numbing (most addictions are), debilitating and dirty little addiction is that I am wasting my time, time I can never recover.

Because I have had a month off work and don’t need to clear my mind of rubbish by putting even more in its place (how pointless is that!) I am noticing how much precious time this compulsion robbing away from me.

I’ve tried to ration when I allow myself to indulge but to no avail.  Do I need to go cold turkey?  Is that even possible?  Do I need to find myself a 12-step programme and work through it?    I joke that I have oodles of willpower but next to no won’t-power.  Not funny.  I have to come up with a plan whereby I am accountable for what is wasted on this dirty little secret of mine.

Perhaps some kind soul would come and wave a big stick around, threaten, cajole, encourage by turns.  That might be a fine plan but will hardly empower me to make my own decisions, live my own life.  There’s only one thing for it . . . do it myself.  I got myself into this mess and I know I have lots of company but small comfort that is!

I don’t need to tell you what it is; you might try and experience the initial thrill of it for yourself and so it’s better you remain ignorant.  No, I need to ‘fess up to myself, put on my big girl knickers and get on with living! First SpreadRemember, “Each day passes whether you participate or not,” Deng Min Dao, 365 Tao: Daily Meditations.

in search of a hero

Warning, the inner critic causes the use of mild expletives.  You see I have a copy of Quinn McDonald‘s new book The Inner Hero Creative Journal: Mixed Media Messages to Silence Your Inner Critic and I’m working my way through it.  As a first step I let the IC out so we could get acquainted.  If you take a look at the very generous preview on Amazon you’ll see what I mean.  Not that I purchased the book from them . . . Book Depository is a far cheaper option for me, or even Fishpond.

But I digress.  What I wanted to tell you is that, while I knew the IC is really negative and does not hesitate to criticise me, undermine my confidence and reinforce any little hesitation on my part so that it overwhelms me to the point of inertia, I did not realise what an utter bitch it is when challenged!  So if or when you delve into this wonderful publication, be prepared!  Even my digression about book suppliers started a minor skirmish.  “You can’t stick at anything for long can you!”   These criticisms are always said as a statement of fact, they are not posed as questions.

So yes, an utter bitch and there’ll be more on the gendering of insults and compliments at a later date . . . I have made a note.  If I start in on that particular rant now I’ll get it in the ear again.  I will let you know up front however, I bought my copy of the book, I am not being paid to review it in fact I haven’t read it all yet, oh, and I do follow Quinn’s blog . . . I start my day with a coffee and Quinn in bed . . . just the coffee, not Quinn.  It’s not just her posts that are great, the community of people who comment is marvellous.

This fiendish IC seems to not only carry all the negativity and criticism that I grew up with but has some very tricky and slightly more benign company.  Yes!  There are two of the little buggers!  Do I need to point out that ‘bugger’ is not considered swearing here in New Zealand or in Australia?  Check out this ad, there were several of them over the years and although there were complaints to the NZ Broadcasting Authority but they weren’t upheld.   In fact to call someone a bit of a silly bugger is almost affectionate (mental note, write a post about NZ colloquial language) but I have no affection at all for these two.

IC #1.  You would be amazed at what this guy says to me . . . I’m not sure of its gender but I think of it as male, a great ugly, sticky, black cloud of a fellow who is now out on his own trying to fend off my attack.  What does he say you ask?  Well, as the mouthpiece of all the historical criticism,  both real and perceived (my reality Pete if your reading this) he seems to spurt an almost constant stream of verbal diarrhea aimed squarely at my self-esteem.  I’m thinking that I must have a healthy self-esteem or he wouldn’t shout so bloody much!

The tone of his barbed comments is rather predictable.  They’re barbed like fish hooks that stick in to you and can only be removed with some pain but oh the relief when you get them out!  The comments, similar to the one above, are all about how I’m unlovable, undeserving, unworthy, inconsistent and ill-disciplined, just a jack of all trades and have no originality.  What utter garbage!  But of course now that I’m on to him and challenging at every turn he thinks it time to step up the volume.

Want to know what I do?  I laugh!  And say “Yeah, right!” in a very Kiwi way.  No, not the fruit, they’re actually kiwifruit, I’m a Kiwi and a kiwi is the bird.  See IC, my digressions are f-u-n-n-y!  How do you write a word so the reader says in s-l-o-w-l-y? As if to someone having trouble understanding but in this case, loaded with sarcasm.  I can give as good as I get!

I’ve also reframed some of the comments over the years: jack of all trades is now versatile and flexible in my thinking.

IC #2.  Now this character was harder to isolate because it had a purpose but then went rogue on me.  This one is probably feminine but very, very sneaky now because she doesn’t want to be uprooted.  Mind you if she could join up with an Inner Hero (they get the courtesy of full title), she might just go back to her role of cautionary protector and get something of a reprieve.  You see I think this one tried to stop me exposing myself to criticism but very quickly became the perfect squelch to creativity and originality, to taking risks.  Yeah, Squelch is a good name . . . slimy little character.

Ah!  I feel stronger already!  Expose the enemy and highlight their flaws for a change!  IC #1 has absolutely no sense of humour which it why laughing works for now . . . no doubt he’ll disguise his bitchy self but for now, I have the nasty little bugger cornered!  And IC #2 is just a timorous wee beastie.

I have a Warrior Inner Hero who stands up for the misunderstood, the marginalised, the frail and the less fortunate, and now she has armour on and is standing up for me!  Happy hunting Warrior Woman!

Want a pretty picture?   Here you are. I found this piece of driftwood, shaped like a pregnant belly on the beach a while back and it really needed the stud in its navel.IMG_2366

spring – time for growth

I look at trees, the way they grow if they’re sheltered and what happens when they’re buffeted by the predominant wind.  They’re like people.IMG_1744Bent, broken, misplaced, alone, determined to survive.

I think about trees as metaphors for people a lot as I drive.  Trees cut back as shelter belts, never achieving their own form, or bent out of shape by the demands of their environment.

IMG_1198There is something truly beautiful about a mature tree, having survived the inevitable challenges of time. Yes, trees are great metaphors for people.

where did joy go?

Where did joy go?
Muffle your laughter; let your tears fall silently.
Let silence fill the world even if just for a moment.
This is not a time for joy,
This is a time to be struck by the miracle of living and despair at the cruelty of Death.

IMG_1769My dear friend’s daughter is just like mother: she has much grace and strength.   I can only trust that she and her husband have sufficient of both to bear this eviscerating blow: the death of their beloved Emily Rose.  Just 3 months and already showing she had inherited much those same traits through her mother and her grandmother, my friend.

Not for them the joy of their wee bairn flourishing within the circle of their love.  For them, the harrowing pain of watching Emily’s peers growing and thriving on the love of their families.  What, were there nine of them lined up on the couch?  Most of them there with parents to farewell that beautiful baby who was yet to become a child.   Their combined grief was harrowing.

I cannot imagine that this overwhelming pain they are feeling is in anyway comparable to what I have experienced, my loses pale into insignificance: they are a young couple without their first child, completely in love and loving.

I have no more words . . . please don’t comfort with talk of your god needing another angel . . . no god needed that baby more than her parents . . . I don’t believe in that god.   It makes no sense: it is not right.

From Emily Rose’s service, the words of Michael Leunig’s poem, When the Heart . . .

When the heart
Is cut or cracked or broken,
Do not clutch it;
Let the wound lie open.
Let the wind
From the good old sea blow in
To bathe the wound with salt,
And let it sting.
Let a stray dog lick it,
Let a bird lean in the hole and sing
A simple song like a tiny bell,
And let it ring.

And yes, I went straight from that sad, sad funeral to my son’s to cuddle my granddaughters, to hold that family tight and feel blessed.

winter, keeping warm

The shortest day is coming and I know after that, the worst of the winter weather will strike.   At the moment, walking on the beach is a weekend activity or on those days when I can get home in time for this . . . . staying warm is on my mind.

IMG_1762When Diana Trout asked the question “How do you feel about your clothing?” and spoke of Fast Fashion, I began thinking about the Slow Fashion movement and began responding about how I thought about clothes.  When I started rabbiting on, as is my wont, I decided my feelings needed a whole post.

Sometimes my attitude to my clothes is that they just cover my body and keep me warm.  At other times, I dress to alter my mood . . . I clothe myself much more carefully if I’m feeling low.  I made my first wearable garment fro myself at 11 and made almost everything for many years after, even earning my living sewing for clients for a while.   My claim to fame is making a strapless wedding dress that was worn by the bride for 12 hours straight without having to be hitched up once!  Sewing now?  Well I have boxes of fabrics I can’t bring myself to part with, and sometimes I’ll have a burst of enthusiasm and make my granddaughters dress-ups or tights (there’s a neat factory shop that sells the fabric nearby) or I might make merino tops for myself for the winter.  I wish I had more time to make more interesting garments than these pedestrian items but a full-time job doesn’t leave me with enough daylight hours.

I’m no more vain that the next person, I like to look good however I don’t really like shopping for clothes.  Fabric, yes, clothes, no.  I get annoyed by racks of clothing that are all the same, racks of clothing cheaply made from cheaper fabrics by someone in India, Pakistan or China that must be bemused by the size of these garments given that they could fit 2 or 3 people into one of them.  I get annoyed when a shop assistant tells me that something is popular, as if that should make me want it . . . it has the opposite effect.  I get especially annoyed when I see women slavishly following a fashion trend that must have been thought up by some misogynistic, money-grasping charlatan (male or female). I get especially annoyed to see young women looking self-conscious or uncomfortable in their fancy-dress (yes I know that’s my opinion but I think that’s how some look).

So from that little rant you’ll know I like good fabric, quality construction and practical yet interesting design that allows me to express myself.  So do I make or buy clothes regularly?  Not really, a few garments each winter or summer: good quality, thoughtfully sourced, classic items that augment what I have . . . and some garments have been in my wardrobe a long time.

It all comes back to consumerism, we must buy, buy, buy so someone else can work in substandard environment and some one else can make more money than they really need (my socialist leanings exposed here).  I try to be a minimal consumer, a recycler, a reuser, endeavouring to have as little impact on the environment as I can . . . I’m not very successful in some areas of my life but I try and I’m getting there.

When I read the following in my book of mediations by Deng Min-Dao recently, I realised how important my efforts are in this respect.   I’m sharing just a few of the thoughts expressed in the daily meditation.

Decadence

How do you know when your life verges on decadence?

When etiquette and morals become more important than righteousness . . . When procedure becomes more important than creativity . . . When patriotism becomes more important than measured governing and enlightened treatment of other nations . . . When the act of eating becomes more important than considerations of nutrition . .  When the opera becomes more important than helping the homeless . . . When style becomes more important than function . . . When books become more important than teachers . . . When expediency becomes more important than the elderly.

When you smell these things happening, you are not far from decadence.

IMG_1699

Recycled and repurposed grocery bags became kites that cost nothing and gave great pleasure.

Does that answer your question Diana?

sitting with my demons

I envisaged this page complete and just did it . . . no procrastination or consideration about the time or materials, I just picked up the nearest pencil and drew.   The whole page was there, a visual BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious)  in my head . . . or is that my heart?IMG_1677Sitting with our demons

I think perhaps that our demons are nothing more than our hurts child selves, that if we sit beside them and listen quietly we would be able to understand and help them to heal. 

Wouldn’t we all do that for a child? 

Why not ourselves?

Let me in.

Let me help . . . please?