nailing colours?

I was asked why all this carpentry, the nailing of colours to the mast – a familiar saying but what does it really and what’s the origin?

The meaning these days is that I’m giving my opinion, saying what I think, so like it or lump it!    To defiantly display one’s opinions and beliefs.

As for the origin . . . some time in the 17th century in the time when Britain ruled the waves, a British admiral had his mast shot down by enemy cannon fire.  When a flag was lowered it was a sign of surrender and of course if the admiral surrendered, or appeared to do so, the whole fleet was lost, but just because his ship seemed to have been defeated (no means of propulsion) didn’t mean the fleet was.  There was bit of creative thinking, perhaps by the admiral.  A nimble and brave man (reputedly one Jack Crawford of Sunderland) shot off to the highest point of what remained of the mast and nailed the flag to the highest point as a signal that they were still in the battle, still going despite everything – the flag was as a signal to everyone, his own fleet and the enemy.

So how does that apply to me?  I may seem, to those who only look at my outward appearance to be on the path retirement.  The most polite response would be, phooey!   Retirement?  More like advancement!  Look up the meaning of the word – retreat!  I’m not intending to retreat from anything!

And what’s more, I want to show others, by having my colours flying, that they can do it too – it’s never too late.  Or as someone dear to me once said “You’re a long time dead, make the most of it.”

The moral of the story, for me?  A bit of creative thinking, some bravery, and a signal can be sent to many people to keep on working, or playing, towards their dreams.

And do drop by Violette Clark’s blog, Violette’s Creative Juice.  She asked me MONTHS ago to write a guest post and this seemed like a good time.  Talk about flying my colours!  I feel so brave – you know that mix of trepidation and excitement?

nailing my colours to the mast

toi toi

apropos of nothing – toi toi against a clear, cold winter’s sky.

Those of you who have followed my blog will know that I recently went back to work full-time after a few months of unemployment.   Having that gift of time on my hands, I began to rediscover play and although I have the attitude that it’s never too late, I was becoming daunted by all the fabulous work I saw on the web, often by people half my age.  I need to remember that they have begun by making it their life work whereas mine has been in education.

Yes, I’m one of the many who have looked too much and done too little and become overwhelmed in the process.  Two people who are very dear to me and who know me well, lovingly let me know that the big difference between the artist bloggers and me was, that they did and I didn’t – and they’re right.

While I know I have a creative streak, can be really inventive and have courage, I was starting to think how these artists whose work and writing I admired, had been at it for years, homing their skills and developing their own style – I felt I had little of either yet what I did do was admired by the few who ever saw it.  Logic and emotion were having a difference of opinion.  I was also aware that I was making this shift, this run at a deeper self-discovery, in my 60s.    Was it too late?  Again, head and heart, head and heart . . .

I talked to friends and family who helped remind me of all the skills I have, of all the times when creativity has erupted like a joyous bubble to save me in one way or another.  During lean times – Christmas presents bought from the proceeds of macramé dog leads, vinyl cowboy jackets, rag dolls, or painted plant pots and how I made a living for myself and my son by sewing for clients.  And again during times when I was depressed and the act of creating something lifted me, and my hopes for the future returned.

Yet still, spontaneity and creativity took back seats, being a parent and provider took over.  As a classroom teacher I still managed to inject some art into my life – it’s amazing how much of the curriculum can be taught to young children using art!  Out of the classroom now, I use intellectual creativity to help others problem-solve.  Unfortunately this is only enough to keep a small spark going.  I’ve been doubting my skills, talent, and I guess, myself – and feeling I will never get up to a standard that I know in my heart I’m capable of.   But I also know that if I don’t do anything, I will never achieve what I want.  I sometimes feel a bit like a voyeur in my own life – looking, but not doing.  Imprisoned by perfectionism!  Do you know that big one too?

After sinking into this fug, I’ve heard or read things that have caused me to take some action.  Some were in posts on favourite blogs, some were words of encouragement and support, words of understanding and words that jolted me awake – BFOs, Blinding Flashes of the Obvious.

As an example, one day I opened Daisy Yellow and there it was, the quote I use under the heading of my blog with Tammy Garcia’s blessing, “You don’t need to catch up, just start.”  It felt like ‘permission granted!’

I’ve not been in the habit of doing something until I was sure I could do it – and I knew that that perfectionist procrastination wasn’t going to get me where I want to be, so I challenged myself and started the blog just following instructions and working it out as I go along.   As a now recovering perfectionist, starting a blog before I knew how to set it up or what it’s purpose would be was a really big step – I can highly recommend learning as you go.

There must be so many men and women out there who have poured themselves into their work and families and forgotten how to play, who have squeezed their creativity into a small box to open later, only to find it rusted shut.  Or, like me, have used it in other ways, creatively solving problems and finding practical, yet creative ways to express myself.   Still, it’s a struggle to find my own style so I’m spending time working in the style of . . . as recommended by Jill Berry when Ricë Freeman-Zachary interviewed her.

I’m going to listen to more podcasts, and look at less images because words often spur me into action. And the podcasts I’ll listen to?  I’ll start with any of Ricë’s.   She made a podcast Tammy Garcia recently and I heard her say “ . . . if you set out to make it perfect then you’re not going to be satisfied with anything.”   Yes, another BFO.

I’m going to openly work in the style of the artists I admire, giving credit to them as I go, and then maybe, I’ll find my own.   So what if I don’t have so much time available?  If I really want this, to be able to say, even if only to myself, “I’m an artist” I’ll find time.

And I do believe I have now found the purpose of this blog, to share how one woman is striving to express herself freely, with child-like creativity, and to show that you do indeed just have to start – even if you’re a bit late.

There you have it.  Watch this space!

making my own paper tape and stamps – cheaply!

Palmerston North, New Zealand has the most wonderful Arts Recycling Centre where $1.00 got me 10 beautiful fat corks (wine bottles no longer have corks it seems), and a roll of paper adding-machine tape – now that’s not to be confused with tape for a paper adding machine because for a start, I don’t think an adding machine made from paper would be of any use to fish nor fowl although someone may have made one!

I used my very old acrylic paints, an old credit card, a stamp pad and some white gesso as my white paint is all but gone.  I carved the corks and having used them, find they have cleaned up well and that I’m rather fond of the ‘square-peg-in-a-round-hole’ and the ’round-peg-in-a-square-hole’ stamps.

Here’s the results!

paper-tape 1

wiping on the acrylic background

paper-tape 2

the results

I’m much happier with the results where I used the black stamp pad however I guess I can always touch up the detail on the white and purple stars and moons.  I did think about using glue and dusting them with glitter – another time perhaps.

Each strip is about 150 cms long by 6 cms wide (60 inches by 2.25 inches).    I’ve found the tape tears very nicely down it’s length and although it curls a bit when it’s wet, it’s okay.

So not quite free, but very cheap – and I still have 5 corks and a lot of paper left!   Great value and a bit of fun on a Sunday afternoon!



Matariki is the Māori name for the Pleiades and the beginning of the new year – the stars become visible once again, close to dawn in the eastern sky.  I looked for the constellation this morning but there were too many clouds over the Ruahine Range to see them.

The winter solstice was today and tomorrow we will have a few more seconds of daylight – we are moving toward spring.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the worst of the winter weather is during July and August and there always seems to be a southerly storm bringing snow in the south just after lambing.  So while you sit there enjoying your cold drink in the summer sunshine, there are those of us who are deep in the depths of winter without the benefit of Christmas or New Year.  It’s no wonder that celebrating Matariki is becoming more popular.

I’m sure if I was an animal I’d be something that hibernates!

more mucking around

I was feeling a little disappointed with myself for not doing anything much during the week.  I did some knitting but that was all, mainly because I didn’t take any supplies with me to my week-time abode – I left them on the spare bed!

Today was cold, there’s snow on the tops of the Tararua Range and we had a very rare frost here at the beach so it was heating on and much mucking around – mostly doodling.

Some doodling was on index cards – I was supposed to post something blue and link it through to Tammy Garcia’s Daisy Yellow ICAD2 challenge on Thursday but couldn’t – no cards, no blue anything except a ball point pen.

Other doodling was in my sketch book where I explore options – just pen and water-colour pencils. Lots of women about 8 to 10 cm tall.

Not great works of art but fun, and that’s what matters.

I’m really looking forward to the school holidays in two weeks time when I will have two whole weeks when I can get the Chinese brocade quilt off the back burner!

the simple things

One of my favourite songs is Joe Cocker singing The Simple Things and that’s the kind of weekend I’ve had.  A wonderful 3 day weekend that began with my son dropping off his delightful daughters for 3 nights.  We did all those things that make childhood happy and they were all simple things.

A pair of socks, transformed into a dinosaur and a banana to eat in the winter sunshine.

Doodling on paper . . .

Doodling is like letting the pen feel free in your hand – Jeanne, age 7

. . . and in the sand.

You can doodle anywhere – Jeanne, age 7

The discovery of a jellyfish washed up by the tide.Being alone with your thoughts ankle deep in mud .Heart-shaped puffballs to poke.There was a DVD of Curious George by candle light, in pyjamas with crisps, a cuddle any time of day and a dance recital for the toys.

Shadow puppets and a light show using a red tower torch – made with a lunch-wrap roll, toilet roll tube, cellophane and Nanna’s torch.And then there’s the surprise installation of a 4 year old.

We’re always wanting more than what we have
What I’ve learned, is what I really need are. . .

The simple things
That come without a price
The simple things
Like happiness joy and love in my life
I’ve seen it all from so many sides
And I hope you would agree
That the best things in life
Are the simple things

Writers: Rick Neigher, Philip Roy, John Shanks

Ah . . . such are the joys of little girls and grandmothers.

Saturday play update

I played with a fine black pen over last week’s effort – it was addictive and I found myself putting in much more detail than I intended . . . I hope you like the update.

And a close up . . .

It was really enjoyable, soothing even, to take simple doodling that step further.  And now to try something even more random . . . bolder . . . .