yet another late start

. . . but at least I am starting.   I have no valid reasons for not having blogged for almost 3 months.  If I put my mind to it I could come up with string of excuses but they’d be rather feeble and really, you’d see through them in a heartbeat.  So what if I work full-time in a demanding job?  Others do too, along with caring for their families and countless other responsibilities, yet they manage to blog more frequently that I do.  And besides, I’ve been on holiday for 4 weeks now.

My energy deserted me, me get-up-and-go got up and went . . . it’s as simple or as complex as that.  I didn’t want to so I didn’t. It’s not that I haven’t been working on creative projects or thinking deep, analytic thoughts and my sense of humour didn’t desert me.  It’s just that I didn’t feel the desire to blog about them at the time.

Fortunately, I’m not about to castigate my Self for sloth or admonish my Self for procrastination, it is such a waste of time and energy and will only serve to make any internal opposition stronger.  Aren’t I lucky that my ‘I/you-should-blah-blah-blah-muscle’ can be rested?

It’s not that I haven’t been working on creative projects or thinking deep, analytic thoughts and my sense of humour didn’t desert me.  It’s just that I didn’t feel the desire to blog about them at the time.

This Christmas every gift was to be handmade or be consumable so I made gifts and gave food and music (which counts as a pleasure-giving consumable with longevity).  I slipped up just a tad when I gave Adam and Yo a Corkcicle to keep their bottle of wine cold while they sit out under the trees in the evening sun.

Recycled jeans, acrylic paint and a little imagination.

Recycled jeans, a zip, acrylic paint, a handmade stencil (recycled acetate), bubble wrap and bottle tops as well as a little imagination.

The colours in this photo aren’t great.  The jeans were a pale grey and the red and orange, same as the ukulele inside the bag, looked great together.

Meg's unicorn, complete with false eyelashes.

Meg’s unicorn, complete with false eyelashes.  I was laughed at for buying these ultra-cheap eyelashes in Bangkok but I just knew they’d come in handy!

Meg had asked a while back if I could make a pink unicorn . . . I don’t usually take orders but in this case, how could I say no?  She was one happy camper!

I took a tacket stitch class with Diana Trout and this journal was the first one I made.

Tacket stitch journal

Tacket stitch journal, recycled cereal box, gesso, sprays and handmade stencils made from recycled acetate pages. I used the used the stencils and then printed with them to blot them dry.

Here’s a close up of the stitching.

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Tacket stitch journal #1

And my stencils!  One sheet of recycled acetate, one exacto knife and a pleasant half hour.IMG_1622I found that drawing an image and laying it under the acetate when cutting made the process easier.  I didn’t attempt to slavishly cut on the lines of the draft . . . they were just a guide.  Because the acetate sheet is clear I sprayed a page and placed it behind the stencil when I stored it in a clearfile . . . IMG_2469And then there were the little back-to-back notebooks as bonus gifts for friends and relations.  The covers were left over collage papers stuck to recycled manila folders or printed onto recycled and cereal box cardboard.  There’s quite a bit of recycling happening around here!

So I never really stopped, just a hiccup, we all have them, no need to explain.

good intentions honoured

Knowing that I had two weeks of holidays, albeit with some day-job work to do at home, I got out some books and supplies to start playing.  I will have a few days of granddaughters staying so the house will be completely given over to creativity as they have a tendency to get going before they even get out of their pyjamas.IMG_1835

I got out the pile of journals that I used in a rather haphazard way and was really surprised at how many there are . . . and horrors!!   I even found a travelling journal that the wonderful Quinn McDonald had sent me for a contribution before sending on to another journaler in this neck of the woods.  I cannot believe I have been so remiss!  What was going on in my life at that time that I forgot?  I’ll send it on very soon Quinn, I promise!

But I digress . . . here is the pile I have.

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The third from the top has “Draw you mind before it expires” written on it. As I’ve had it for about 4 years without using it much, I thought the time had come to give the message some serious thought!

The one on top is a duct-tape journal I made after watching a video of Diana Trout‘s.  It lives in my bag and has its innards replaced from time to time.  The zibaldone is my commonplace journal, my ‘everything but mostly writing, daily pages’ journal – read this and you would know my innermost thoughts!  It’s a 2002 diary that somehow did not get used and was put in storage while I was overseas.  While I’m thinking of it I should perhaps see if I can pick up a 2013 A4 diary before they get sent off for recycling.

A favourite for now is this visual journal with alternating black and white pages.

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Black and white journal cover – gesso and permanent markers

I had been thinking about how vulnerable the heart is, that while we need to guard it well, we also need to let others in.  I have mentioned the TED talk by Brené Brown, The Power of Vulnerability before . . .  do watch it.   I thought that for this serious topic, I’d have a little play with cut outs.IMG_1882IMG_1875Tomorrow, I’ll try for three posts in a row but no promises with the darlings arriving here this afternoon . . . I could be busy.

good intentions

On Diana Trout’s blog last Friday I wrote “Today is the last day of the school term, 2 weeks holiday just around the corner (although like most educationalists I’ll have work to do . . . bugger!) and I am determined to pick up AND USE brushed and pens EVERY DAY! YES!!! You heard it here first. And I will POST every day . . . except maybe when the darlings are here. :)”  I missed on the very first day!   It’s not that I didn’t have some playtime, it that by 11:00 pm I didn’t feel like posting anything.     Yes, good intentions, that’s me.

My day started when I was jolted out of a book by a thump on my house . . . I leapt out of bed to find a dead tui on the deck.    These native birds are beautiful, and have a distinctive sound as they chortle, click, whistle and sing in the trees nearby and I was upset to find that one had tried flying though my house instead of over or around.   I guess with big glass doors on both sides . . . this is the third bird and they’re getting bigger and I’m wondering what will be next.  We have big black-backed gulls aplenty, the odd pheasant hiding in the sand dunes.   Just as long as there’s not an albatross blown in by the storm that’s heading this way!

Tui R.I.P.

The plumage is beautiful, glossy black, gleaning with blues and greens and that little tuft of white on their throats.   It seemed unreasonable to just bury it in my garden so I rang the Maori language university,  Te Wānanga o Raukawa.  My guess is that some Maori weavers will make use of the feathers – I hope so.

Oh my goodness, two entries in a row where a pointless death is featured so just to let you know that play took over for the rest of the day, here are some backgrounds made with homemade stencils (cut out of acetate).

Homemade stencils

I used 2 A4 sheets of acetate and cut the shapes freehand . . .

Homemade stencil 2

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Chalk pastel overlaid with gesso

The trouble is, I get to this point and I’m not sure where to go next . . . I tend to just lay it aside for later and sometimes ‘later’ is a long time away.  For instance, this was a very early background that I just haven’t done anything with . . . yet.

Ah well,  maybe today it’ll speak to me.  I need to loosen up more and not expect to have a final image in my head . . . to just see where it will go if I make some random marks.

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.

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

Does that answer your question Diana?

un-shelving and 3 insights before lunch

Un-shelving is a word, because I just used it.  My blog had been deliberately laid aside, shelved, for a further two months for no reason other than I chose to do so . . . and that should be good enough.  It’s not that I’ve been busier than usual, unwell or not creating anything, it’s just that I make choices to (pretty much) suit myself and being able to do that is one of my most basic needs.

What I need in my life are very simple things: people I love and respect; peace and tranquility within; play, the activity when I get lost in the moment, is essential to my wellbeing; being productive whether at work or play is immensely satisfying to me; and power, the power to make choices.  These are my 5 Ps and I have been thinking a great deal about them over the past couple of months . . . well, years longer if truth be told.  Maybe I will blog some more about each . . . are you interested?

I could have blogged about the pohutukawa tree in my garden that burst forth in blossom in time for Christmas . . . IMG_1345DSC09963the art I have created . . . IMG_1207work inspired by Diana Trout on 21 Secrets, call it emulating or copying if you will, I really admire her style – it was wonderful so I signed up to 21 Secrets 2013 (check out all the amazing tutors) over at Dirty Footprints Studio.Meg's fish carcase and crab Emulating Diana Troutthe beach treasure that has been found and the creativity it inspired . . . Meg's fish carcase and crabJeanne's garden sculpturethe forgotten potatoes, desperate to grow . . . Potatoesthe 20,000 bees that thought the bench seat at my front door would make a great hive . . .Visiting bees my holiday visitors . . . Jeanne with flowersMeg and Elmoor even my new flagpole – you simple cannot live at the beach and not have one.  The flag represents the five elements and I brought it back from one of my visits to Hanoi . . .Flag - 5 elements. . . however I didn’t.  I chose to take a break and today, with the sun shining, cicada’s chirping and sound of the surf in the background, I have chosen to resume blogging partly as a response to thought-provoking blogs such as Quinn McDonald’s. 

I keep a journal, mostly writing, very personal and occasionally a blog or the journal itself will throw up a quote I want to use as a leaping off point for creativity or just to ponder and write another page.   Today I was reading the comments on Quinn’s blog entitled Speaking Up For Your Own Sake, the comments are always worthwhile. There was a quote from Meg Hess, “you can tell the helped by the hunted look in their eyes” and it made me think of how I hope to respond, both personally and professionally.  My success is variable.

And Violette Clark’s blog today had me thinking about balance and the struggle, that perhaps most of us have, in retaining our equilibrium.   Personally I think there is a lot to be said for shaking it up occasionally.

So, my three insights or BFOs (Blinding Flashes of the Obvious) before lunch?

  1. Helping is something I try not to do, even when asked, as I believe the most valuable thing I can do is to make a space where they can help themselves.
  2. I respect my body: we’ve been through a lot together.
  3. Just like a tightrope walker . . . getting the wobbles is fine as long as you know where your centre is.

So there you are . . . I’m back, how often I have no way of knowing.  Sometimes daily, but I doubt it.   Maybe weekly?  It will be irregular and although I’d like to say I’ll provide X posts a week and have a particular focus, that isn’t me.   Yes, there’ll be links to interesting blogs and inspriational TED talks, yes, I’ll posts about my delightful granddaughters, yes, creative endeavours and insights and, goodness knows what else . . . I just don’t like being boxed in.   My need for freedom of choice is way too high!  Ah, the power to choose!

I am content with myself at this point in time.

kokesi dolls

I was fortunate enough to spend some time living in Tokyo and collected some kokesi dolls, as you do.  After visiting Diana Trout’s blog this morning I thought I’d post the a picture!Of course they don’t look like real Kokeshi dolls – I’ll post some photos of them tomorrow perhaps.  And if it looks like I was heavily influenced by some artist or other I probably was – I just wish I could remember who so I could give them the credit!

It’s nearing the end of the school holidays here and I’m off to pick up my wonderful wise grand-daughters for a couple of days – lucky me!

why a late start?

Truth to tell I started when I was just a kid mucking around – never able to settle on one thing, trying everything.  I could swing a hammer, use a drill and saw, and I sewed clothes for myself without a pattern from the age of about 10, my first commissioned drawing was from a boy in my class when I was 11 – it was a girl in an itsy bitsy teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikini so I think it was my artistic skills that were the attraction!  And the subject matter of the drawing will tell you I’m in my 60s.

After reading Diana Trout’s March 14th, I thought I needed to say a little more about why Late Start Studio.

As I approach retirement and experience unemployment, temporary I trust, I have the opportunity to start again, to learn how to play again.  So here I am, living just a few houses from a beach, able to put some serious effort into learning how to play again – how to just muck around for the sheer creative joy of it and learn about life in the process.  Isn’t that what play is all about?  There must be millions of unremarkable remarkable women and men in the same position as me – I’m unique yes, but my situation isn’t.

Serious effort into play, serious play or playing seriously?  Either way it’s a challenge after a lifetime of working, making the most of creative opportunities as they arose however they were for practical purposes for the most part – to add to my single income and two kids to support, lifestyle.

Christmas presents were bought using the proceeds of little vinyl sheriff jackets, variations of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls, painted terracotta pots, or beaded, macrame dog leads, the occasional dressmaking commission.  You get the picture – it had to pay for itself and I had to fit it in around teaching and parenting.  I had to be pragmatic.

In the meantime I’ve found my inner critic has been quietly gaining strength and needs constant redirecting or gagging.  My critic started off by thinking it was keeping me safe and then becoming to big for its britches and trying to take over!   What?  Just do it for you own pleasure?  Who do you think you are?  No-one will give a damn!  I will win – it’s a no-contest – there’s no question about that.

Now I have the opportunity to make, play, to just muck around again, so I carve pumice stone, make driftwood stamps, the occasional journal page, sew dress-ups and dresses for my grand-daughters, quilt, doodle, make MUKKA creatures, grow vegetables, walk the beach, and generally find there are not enough hours in the day.   Mucking around is to be recommended as an antidote for just about any emotional ailment.   Heartsick, lonely depressed, anxious?  Muck around – preferably with others!

Quite how I will manage when I get a full-time job I have no idea!   Perhaps I could find an anonymous benefactor to sumptuously support my lifestyle?

wonderful weekends

I have been blessed with two wonderful grand-daughters and there’s nothing I like more than when they come and spend a weekend with me at the beach – with or without their parents.

Jeanne has a strong creative streak and playing around with her as she makes whatever has popped up in her inventive young mind is a privilege.  A couple of weekends ago she made a duct tape journal – we followed Diana Trout’s instructions.  Jeanne's journal I have one to which I use all the time for shopping lists etc.  I just put new pages in as I need them.Duct tape journal And of course the beach is a wonderful source of materials.  She made driftwood nests for the little felt birds she had designed – one for her and one for a friend.Driftwood nestsMeg is younger, nearly 4, and I think her favourite place is the beach – striding off through the grass blithely ignoring the established track or running up the sand dunes, jumping over the marram grass and sliding down again.  This photo of the little trail blazer was taken last summer.Meg trail blazingWhat is your greatest joy?