another beginning

I have started to mend the Indian bedspread.  After some lines on paper I chose to use simple untidy running stitches that are wonky and without much of a pattern.  Like me they travel west to east, north to south so that they show up on both sides.   I’m not one for taking the needle through to the back and then to the front . . . I scoop, several stitches at a time.  I guess this has been my approach to life . . . take a stab, draw up all you can and trust that it will all come through okay.

The side with rents in it, now mended, strengthened.

The side with rents in it, now mended, now strengthened.

The side without holes but still strengthened.

The side without holes but still strengthened and lending it’s strength to the injury.

The birds in the centre have a problem.  The sun has eaten their orange feathers so some patching is needed . . . some soft unbleached calico set into the holes and leave the edges raw?  Perhaps.  Or patch them over with some old table linen I have found in my efforts to clear out the things that are trying to take ownership of me.

A bright bird . . . from the fold protected from the sun.

A bright bird . . . it wisely hid in the fold and was protected from the sun.

The sun has weathered away the orange feathers . . . it has lost its ability to fly.

The sun has weathered away the orange feathers . . . it has lost its ability to fly.

I’m loath to hide their scars, the ravages of time, any more than I feel the need to hide what time is doing to me.   And so the metaphor continues . . . time has an impact that can be read if you use eyes, and ears and heart.

There are many who would simply discard this cloth, deciding that with so many holes (about 30) it has reached the end of it’s decorative life.   But it can still serve its purpose because I have turned it over to the birdless side.   It has a place keeping warm someone who remembers as she stitches.

resolve and perseverance

One without the other?  Would that work?   If you have no resolve, can you persevere?

I keep coming back to the words of Deng MIn Dao in 365 Tao  where he wrote “each day passes whether you participate or not.”  I often chastise myself for not doing more with my time and get comorted that it isn’t true . . . but I know it is.

My first journal pages.

My first journal pages from 5 years ago.  The border is a printed page of one of Teesha Moore’s journal pages using a printer that was almost out of ink . . . I think giving credit is very important.

I’ve done little of this quality since . . . I had a “done that, what’s next?” way of thinking.  But something has changed, I can feel it.  It might be something to do with age, that feeling that time is becoming more precious when you know that perhaps 2/3 to 3/4 of you life has passed or it may be because I have the time to devote to . . . what?

If you visit here often you’ll be aware of the breadth of what I do . . . and I love that aspect of just mucking around trying many things but now, now I want something a little more.  In a word, I want excellence.

During the last couple of days I’ve left comments on two of my favourite blogs, that of Quinn McDonald and Diana Trout that excellence is my goal.

I’m such a dabbler flitting from one thing to another and while I can do a reasonable job in what ever I try, I’d like to be really good at one thing over and above all the others . . . to feel accomplished instead of ‘almost there’ and I guess that’s what keeps me going, the search for that fabulous feeling of a job well done at the moment of completion . . .  and then do it again in search of that high.  I need to focus or I’ll just fly around in circles like a catherine wheel and never achieve the best result that I’m capable of!

People get to the top of whatever they do because they have the drive and passion and perhaps that’s what others respond to as much as their work. I don’t necessariy want to reach some pinnacle of fame and fortune . . . I just want to be able to look at what I’ve done and say “Now that is well made!”   I want it to be well made to my satisfaction which, surprisingly, does allow for small imperfections.   I want to make things that think are original, unique.

So my resolve . . . to persevere in my search for originality and excellence.  Now I need to focus.  Continue to muck around, yes, but perhaps flit a little slower between my varied interests?  Is that possible?  To flit at a slower pace?  Maybe a month by month focus?

I started with questions and have ended the same way . . . that’s life.

 

creating womanhood

I’ve had time off for frivolous behaviour with the grandhearts but now it’s back to some pleasurable work.  When I have time out, it gets me into my head and thinking overtime which is not always a bad thing.  This implies that sometimes it is but that topic is not the subject this post.

I was cruising Facebook and looking at all the lovely art and couldn’t help noticing all the pretty young female faces with model proportions in the work, vapid faces I thought, and for the most part exaggerated in their appealing features . . . big eyes, full lips, long flowing hair, a body that doesn’t reflect the norm.  Now please don’t misunderstand me.  I have nothing against these images as such and most are beautifully executed however it was the images that got me thinking about how women are represented in the media and how we accept and sometimes perpetuate  expectations and myths about womanhood.

As a child I thought I was something less, less that worthy and the measure of worth was masculinity.  My mother always said she should have been a career woman but was not allowed to work . . .  she grew up in a time when her parent believed that ‘ladies’ don’t work.   Strangely, I was one of the few children in my class who had a mother who did work, who had her own business.    This didn’t mean that she embraced gender equity she unconsciously perpetuated the gender stereotypes of her time.  Males ran everything and if a woman had managed to accumulate any power it was done by stealth or she was an exception.   My mother was an exception, she could swing a hammer alongside her carpenter brother and led me to believe that if a male could do it then so could I.

Before this turns into a treatise on the roles we are socialised into let me give you a couple of examples of how women are still put down and how we put ourselves down.

If a woman is strong and assertive she’s often described as a bitch.  I’m strong and assertive when I need to be but I don’t have enough nipples to be a bitch, although my very sweet-natured dog does.  Quinn McDonald wrote a post on her blog  recently entitled Words Worth Dumping where she talked about a couple of terms that de-value women and that confirmed for me that it’s about time we started protesting about their use and certainly stop using them ourselves.

A while back a blogger, I forget who, talked about her need to develop more courage and strength and ended by writing she was going to grow a set of balls . . . I was appalled!  Grow a backbone yes, but why balls?  Was her goal to be more masculine or to be a strong woman?  And believing that men have some superior source of inner strength is ludicrous!  I’m sure she doesn’t but she has, by her language, said that as a woman she isn’t as worthy as a man.  And no, I am definitely not anti-male, I love good men in the same way I love good women and what is more I raised a very good man.

As a child I hated being called a tomboy, a Jack of all trades, told that I should have been a boy.  And why was I?  I loved being outside, climbing trees, playing up on the hillsides near our house, messing around in the vegetable garden with my father, using carpentry tools . . . but I was not a boy nor did I aspire to be one so why did adults define me as some almost-boy?    Even then, as a quite young child I was aware that 1) language was powerful and 2) gender bias was not weighted in my favour!

And don’t insult elderly women by calling a dithering, ineffectual man an ‘old woman’ nor a boy who can’t throw a ball well that he throws like a girl, nor a sensitive young man a ‘girl’s blouse’ (I’ll accept that one is seldom heard these days but there’s bound to be a modern equivalent).  Have you seen this video?  It tells us that young girls believe in their strength but women collude with the lie.   “Throws like a girl” is a cultural bias, one women perpetuate against their own gender, and one that the MythBusters spent time disproving.

It is only by standing tall, learning to do things for yourself (I had a colleague who couldn’t even screw the inside of the french press back together when it worked itself loose because her husband “did that sort of thing” . . . that sort of thing?  Practical, basic, screwing a small part back together?  Give me strength!

So, my point.  Watch your tongue, listen to how you and others language your gender, be proud to be a woman (I am not a girl, I am a woman and woman friends, not girlfriends) and please, include mature faces, not the rich and famous cosmeticly enhanced but real, woman-next-door faces in your work.

And here’s a little reward for reading this far: a not-yet-complete free motion embroidery experiment.   I’d hate you to think I’ve only been walking the beach seething.

free motion embroidery - a not-yet-complete experiment.

free motion embroidery – a not-yet-complete experiment.

 

retirement?

I’m fed up with being asked, have you retired?  I’m not sure how to respond . . . it’s easier to say yes but that’s far from true.  If I say no, I have to explain and I have an intense dislike for explaining or justifying myself.

When you check the definition of retirement the meanings are all basically the same . . . no longer being involved.  Whether it’s going to bed, retreating from a battle, leaving your job or withdrawing for rest and seclusion it’s all so, so similar . . . so no, I haven’t and won’t be retiring any time soon even though I have chosen not to work at the job that gave me so much satisfaction for most of my working life.

Just because I decided to become gainfully unemployed for the time being does not mean I am retired.  In fact I’m not withdrawing from anything, rather I am propelling myself toward so many new adventures, some of which may yield income and some not, that I’m spoiled for choice!  I still have an interest in education (my former profession) but my focus is now, quite simply, elsewhere.   I am not financially rich neither nor financially poor . . . I’m somewhere in the middle I guess but I am richer now in ways that I never have been before in my life.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.  There is no cure for curiosity.”   This wonderful quote by Dorothy Parker seems to indicate I have a condition for life . . . no retirement for me!  So no, I have not retired and while my brain functions, my heart beats and a desire to be creative and curious continues to be part of who I am, I never will be.

When I now longer act or think creatively . .  perhaps I will have retired.

When I no longer act or think creatively . . . perhaps I will have retired . . . and perhaps not.  We will just have to wait and see, you and I.

sailing . . . but where?

I love the vessel I’m sailing in, it’s sound, tested as sea worthy, and I’ve come to realise that I can land at any number of ports . . . thanks Quinn . . .  Quinn McDonald is a very astute life coach with a mind like a steel trap, ears that miss nothing and heart, lots of heart.

Spring is a time of change, particularly when it comes to wind direction here in New Zealand.  There’s not a lot of land out there to shelter us and the Roaring 40s are well named . . . we expect it but I have to tell you I am OVER IT!  I would like some nice settled weather to get out, walk the beach and think, I think better when I’m walking.  I used to think best when I was running and I had up to 64 kilometres/40 miles a week of thinking time!

I’ve thought so much about what I want to do, which direction I want to go, that my head hurts, and my good-sense-self says “if it hurts, stop doing it!”  So I will, I’ll stop the thinking and just do, do whatever I like, when I like and how I like.  Oh such luxury to be in this place . . .  but I am spoiled for choice. An apt expression, it’s that word spoiled, it brings to mind rotten meat or milk that has soured, eggs that have sat out for far too long, citrus fruit mouldering in the bowl . . . spoiled.

Yes indeed, a plethora of choices is not necessarily the easiest thing to manage.  It’s that whole, ‘to choose one thing is to shut out a lot of other things’ conundrum . . . a very black and white way of looking at it I know.  So like the Lord High Executioner, I have a little list,  sorry about the Mikado reference but it always echoes in my head when I say “I have a little list,” and I don’t even like most musicals!

Sometimes lists are great, you get a wonderful feeling crossing items off upon completion, keep you organised when times are stressful and they help sort out what’s important, especially when the items are arranged in the form of a PMI (Positive, Minus, and Interesting).  I wrote down everything I liked to do, as well as everything that needs to be done, on little bits of paper so it’s not technically a list I tell myself.  (How picky!)  I then shuffled around the bits of paper into the different PMI categories.  After that I put shuffled the items according to my level of enjoyment or lack thereof, and began to see that some of what I get the most satisfaction from work well together.  Of course there is no way to wrap everything into a neat package however a lot of things fit into bookbinding.

I looked at satisfaction level more than what I’m good at . . . I have learned that just because I can do something well doesn’t mean I have to.

Just some of what I like to do . . . before sorting.  The 'after' will be evident in what I produce.

Just some of what I like to do . . . before sorting. The ‘after’ will be clear in what I produce.

So there won’t be a change in what I do, just a slight shift in direction towards yet another destination.  I started small yesterday by refilling a notebook cover I made ages ago with stained sketch pad paper . . . I just felt like hoisting sail and going off in that direction.

A3 sketchpad paper, stained with blackcurrant and apple tea, salt crystals on the puddles, dried and repeated on the reverse.

A3 sketch pad paper, stained with blackcurrant and apple tea, salt crystals on the puddles, dried and repeated on the reverse.

And while I am allowing myself to be propelled by impulse for a time, there will come a point when I know I will need a goal, something big to work toward, because I know me, and I know the NBG (Next Big Goal) is not going to come while I’m thinking . . . I need to be doing.  Direction does not come in a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) as an adult any more than it does when you’re a young adult starting out in the world, you find your way through finding your way . . . somethings don’t change.

And the Christmas market? Not a raving success up on the school stage away from the throng. While a little disappointed I’ll try again, sell everything off, recoup my outlay, and then give away or donate what is left to charity.  And think again?  No, no more thinking.  As much as I enjoyed some aspects of the preparations, I don’t like the feeling of being on a production line so I shall make ‘one-offs,’ bespoke items, and then decide what to do with them.  Maybe take the odd request, but I shan’t use the word order, I don’t take orders at all well . . . it brings forth a strong rebellious streak.

On the positive side, my work was much admired at the market and I received many encouraging comments although one child was rather bemused that I had already painted the pages of the small notebooks . . . he thought they should definitely be white.

There’s just no pleasing some people.

Acrylic on sketch paper, recycled manila folders as covers.

Acrylic on sketch paper, recycled manila folders as covers.

And the winner of my giveaway? Using a random number selector Jo’s name came up!   Congratulations Jo, I’ll rustle up a box and have it ready to send as soon as I have your address.

Cheers everyone . . . kia kaha . . . stand strong!

when at first you don’t succeed . . .

I was rudely awakened in the early hours of yesterday morning by an earthquake.  The epicentre was some way off but here on the sand and with a house built on a concrete slab, it was noticeable.  It reminded me once again how, despite our best efforts to build a secure home life, everything can change in an instant.  It brings into  perspective that most of what we think are disasters are merely annoying and that nothing we do can withstand the forces of nature . . . wind and rain will triumph.

Recently I created some maṇḍala out of shells, raised a tepee of flax/harakeke stalks weighted down in the centre with a  net-covered stone that weighs about 7 kg or 15.5 pound.  I thought it would be strong enough to withstand the wind and rain until the flax stalks gave in to time.

Local stones, triangle shells/kaikaikaroro, horse mussels/hoemoana and flax/harakeke flower stalks.

Local stones, triangle shells/kaikaikaroro, horse mussels/hoemoana and flax/harakeke flower stalks.

One night the winds came in from the sea and moved the lot . . . again!   Some of the horse mussel/hoemoana shells and feather have since blown away as well.

IMG_0341So what do I do now?  Plan C, it’s idiocy to repeat plan A or B.  I need to splay the ‘legs’ out further, secure them to the ground (tent pegs perhaps) and bring the apex of the structure closer to the ground and replace the hoemoana shells with stones.

Hardly an earth-shattering disaster, nothing of that magnitude (puns intended), just annoying because I expected it to last the summer . . . when it gets here.

a serendipitous mistake

Learning a new  craft is teaching me more than a new set of skills.  It is teaching me about my attitude to learning, creativity and more importantly, making mistakes.

I set to work making another kete/basket.  Each time I set myself a new challenge while trying to improve on the basic techniques.  On this one I was wanting to make a ridge at the base and near the top with a horizontal twill between.

It all went well until near the top when it quickly became clear that I should have done one less row of twill as I was runing out of material.  As I tried to finish off I pulled the ridge too tight in one place so that when I completed the kete and turned it right side out . . . bugger!   There were the offending tight bits right in the front.    Now aside from saying “bugger” I found myself thinking about what I could do to use this mistake . . . I did not berate myself, the IC (Inner Critic) did not even get a say!

So what to do, what to do?  It should have looked like this on both sides albeit with a wider band at the top.

Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Using the principle of enough of anything can look good it now looks like this on the front.

Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Wendy @ Late Start Studio       Beaded Kete

As if it wasn’t enough to add the fringing (shredded harakeke/flax) I broke out the beads that have sat in a bag since I left Thailand 5 years ago and went a little bonkers . . . and I think putting the beads in took almost as long as weaving the kete.

Wendy @Late Start Studio Beaded kete detail

Wendy @Late Start Studio       Beaded kete detail

So what did I learn?  Yes, enough of anything can look good (but I sort of knew than already), a mistake can lead somewhere interesting if you embrace it, time is of no consequence whan you’re having fun and I know to do another round of taki tahi (one under, one over weave) before I finish off.

Often times I’ll ask, “what’s the worst that could happen?”   The answer, in this case was I might need to undo some of it it and the weave up the last few rounds however my mucking around worked . . . a treat . . . even if I do say so myself.

Learning is such a pleasure when we choose to participate.