what no-one will tell you about ageing . . . a rant

I’ll tell you, you sweet taut 20 to 35-year-old who looks at older women with a self-satisfied or dismissive smirk and doesn’t countenance that such a thing will ever happen to you.  I’m not old but I am ageing so I know . . . I can share my experience.  And while this rant is mostly focussed on the body, because that’s likely where your focus is right now, the heart and mind and spirit are all affected.

No-one will tell you that hair will disappear from some parts of your body and appear in others.  The blessing is that you are now in need of glasses so you don’t notice it for the most part . . . that is, until you are out somewhere and you feel a hair on your chin or you spot it in the unforgiving light over a mirror in the women’s toilet.  You will swear to carry tweezers in your bag but you will forget.

No-one will tell you that the hairstyle you want can’t be had because the gray hairs have the most rebellious nature, almost a mind of their own dear little individual selves going off in there own direction as it pleases them, a texture defying any attempt to smooth or curl.  You want sleek as it was in your youth without working for it? HA!  And perhaps you will decide to brave it out and go natural (Why the hell should that be considered brave?) or maybe you will just develop a reaction, allergic or just distaste, and decide against pouring chemicals on your head with any regularity.  Or maybe you’ll continue because you’ll be judged by your graying hair.  Pathetic and small minded as those judges are, they may have control of your potential income.

Wrinkles?  Yes they happen, and the pores of your skin on your face are more visible, your grandchild will be fascinated by your saggy skin so let them touch it, but never, ever, ever place a mirror on a horizontal surface to clean it . . . not ever!  Enough said about skin because the changes are inevitable . . . and if your self-worth is tied to your youthful appearance it’s doomed.

No-one will tell you that fit as you may be, supple and you may be, your body will change shape even if your weight doesn’t . . . and sooner or later bits are going to ache if you sit still for too long.  My advice is to simply keep moving.

Strength diminishes unless your lifestyle remains the same and for most, it changes because we have so many labour-saving devices . . . I used to have a push mower, use a hand drill and now I’m thinking I might need a skill-saw.  No-one will tell you that sooner or later some lids on jars will not come off even if you employ all the tricks you know and you’ll be tempted to go and get your electric drill (I own two), and take to it with a vengeance because you’re damned if you’re going next door just so you can have artichoke hearts with your crackers and blue cheese and besides, it’s 2:00am and you can’t sleep!

Sleep is something no-one will discuss when it comes to ageing . . . when your body wants to sleep you will and it doesn’t matter a damn whether you want to or not.  When you want to sleep . . . that’s another story.  Maybe you will and maybe you won’t.  I sleep like a baby; I fall asleep quickly and wake up every few hours.  I’ve always thought ‘sleep like a baby’ was perhaps the most ridiculous saying ever.

Your feet . . . comes a time when not only do you see the sense in keeping your feet flat on the ground . . . you can’t wear heels anyway as you feet just won’t stand for it.  Personally I would like to be barefoot all the time, socks in the winter, jandals (thongs) in summer and my old favourite boots in winter (they’ll die soon and then I’ll bury them with full honours, bugle at dawn, flag at half mast).

No-one will tell you that inside your body things have changed drastically even if you have retained stunning good health.   For me, menopause was so long ago that it’s just like a bad dream.   You know, one of those nightmares where you wake up and the emotions just won’t let you go?  Your heart is thumping with fear or you’re so anxious that you’re almost frozen.  Well, twenty-um years later I still have a hot flush with coffee (I have a 3-a-day habit and I love the stuff strong and black, unsweetened) and red wine is drunk advisedly because I know how I will sleep . . . hot and restless.

Skipping . . . yes skipping.  There will come a time when you realise that what you did all the way to school and home again is just so damned exhausting!  When was the last time you attempted to skip?  DO IT!  DAILY!  In the privacy of your own home, or on a deserted beach which is my preference, if you must but do it!  Why? Because sooner or later you will lose that spring in your step.  Honestly, this phenomenon really happens, one day you jump down off something quite low and you realise the bounce didn’t happen.  It vanishes somehow, somewhere there are a lot of bounces waiting to be reclaimed . . . they were ignored and took off to find new owners.

No-one will tell you that you will become more sentimental, that little things will have the power to move you to tears and that the sound of young children laughing is the sweetest thing in the world.  No-one will tell you that as your body deteriorates and your thinking slows, even though your intellect remains intact (so don’t you dare think that because someone needs additional thinking time or forgetful they’re not as astute as ever!) your heart, your spirit, call it what you will, will enlarge and your capacity to love those near and dear will remain untouched.  You will regret that you didn’t call your parents and grandparents more often.

Now don’t get me wrong, even with the inevitable changes you will continue to love and honour your body as much as ever.  (You do, don’t you?  Something damned wrong if you don’t because it’s going to house you for a long time.)  You will still feel the thrill as a soft warm breeze caresses your skin, yes even that flabby stuff you used to call finely toned triceps, and appreciate where it can take you, and the skills it holds in its ancient muscle-memory.  You will continue to make demands on it, nurse it when its sick and curse it when it lets you down but mostly, you will love it.  It allows you to say I love you and to touch and cuddle and listen to music and laugh and cry and laugh some more.  Love it, better still, respect it . . . every tiny part of it.

So there you go you taut 20+ year-old.  And why has no-one told you?  Because you aren’t interested . . . yet.  You’re busy taking your youth for granted and perhaps feeling a tad superior to us ‘wrinklies’  however if you want to hear about your mind, how every time you forget something you wonder if there’s more to it that there was when you did that exact thing when you were 20 and question if it happens more often, well ask someone.  I’ll give you an honest answer if you ask but it’s purely from my perspective, no longtitudinal studies here, no polls, just my experience.

Now I think I must point out that today is a brilliant sunny summer day, birds chirping and all that, I’ve been for a walk and I’m about to water-blast the fence so I can paint it . . . I love my body but I’m tired of all the put-downs, some incredibly subtle, others blatant, and the elevation of youth as an ideal.  It’s fleeting . . . if you’re lucky.  Youth lasted a short time when I look back at it and I think I have about a thrid of my life to go still.

The fence behind these gorgeous blooms needs a coat of paint . . . and I needed and image for this post. Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

The fence behind these gorgeous blooms needs a coat of paint . . . and I needed and image for this post.
Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

Yes we have role models, mostly carefully made up affluent women who perhaps won’t leave the house unless they’re dripping with make-up and certainly styled for that photoshoot where the images will be cleverly photoshopped and airbrushed.   Let’s get ourselves our there, barefaced or with make-up doesn’t matter . . . let’s just get out there as we were in the 60s and be loud and proud feminists . . . our sons need it just as much as our daughters.

A little disclaimer here: my mother was still ‘getting old’ at 96, she was not allowed to work as a young woman, “Ladies don’t work!” was what she grew up with, but she owned a library, was a pattern-cutter in a knitwear factory, could mix concrete, swing a hammer, use a crowbar with devastating efficiency, and the first thing she did when she moved house at 95 was to plant beans and tomatoes.

my response to an offer

Recently, The Textile Artist made me an offer, 3D Mixed Media Textile Art, almost to good to refuse and if you’re in need to good, sound advice (this based upon the content of the site) it might be perfect for you.  I turned it down . . . yesterday I received an email asking for feedback which I responded to thus, albeit with a couple of minor fixes and changes:

I guess I’m feeling deluged by inspirational posts and offers of courses and resources and in danger of spending more time looking at the work of others that developing my own.  I have far too many read books on my shelves (my own and from the library) and ‘bookmarked’ web sites, more than I can hope to give adequate attention so I have unscubscribed from many blogs (not yours) so that I can focus on my own work.  As a mixed media ‘maker’ and someone who has always tried anything and everything it is time to focus and the only way to do that is to withdraw a little from all the wonderful work and wisdom available and simply do my own work . . . follow my own wisdom.

I appreciated being asked why I’m not partaking of what is obviously a wonderful offer as it has made me bring to the surface and articulate what has been gong on in my mind for a while now.

And might I add I’m still very tempted?

assembling a portfolio

Yes, I know, it’s been a while but I was away for two and a half months in the USA and settling back in at home has not been without some challenges.  But now, there is work to be done!

I need to assemble a portfolio at gain direct entry into the Diploma of Art and Creativity at The Learning Connexion in 2016 and I’m finding it an interesting and positive experience to look back at what I have achieved and the roads I’ve travelled to be where I am now.

I need to demonstrate technical competency in two of three areas: painting, drawing and 3D work.  The latter is easy, there are many examples on this blog, and although I don’t draw much, I have examples to present, it’s painting that is more the challenge.  I don’t consider myself to be a painter, but if a label is required then I’d describe myself as a mixed media artist.  For me paint is just another material to use but not the primary medium in my work.

It’s not that I haven’t painted.  I had a foray into oils and it was the lovely feel, the lustre, even the smell that I loved but now. for convenience, I use acrylics for prints and making collage fodder. I even use watercolours occasionally.

I started by copying . . . as you do . . . before attempting to work in the style of Modigliani, one of my favourites, but with originality.

Would that I could recall the artist!  If something comes to mind please let me know in the comments.

Would that I could recall the artist. Why didn’t I write a note on the back!  If something comes to mind please let me know in the comments. 400 x 325 mm, oil on recycled cardboard.

Another copy, this time by a New Zealand artist I think . . . I do wish I could give them credit. 410 x 575mm oil on recycled cardboard.

Another copy, this time by a New Zealand artist I think . . . I do wish I could give credit to the original artist. 410 x 575 mm, oil on recycled cardboard.

Inspired by a photograph and with more than a nod to Modigliani. 640 x 500 mm, oil on cardboard.

Finally, inspired by a photograph and with more than a nod to Modigliani. 640 x 500 mm, oil on cardboard.

Despite the last example being a little unresolved or incomplete (she has no nose, just nostrils), there are elements that I am well pleased with such as the background, the proportions, the tilt of her head, the shading on the neck.  No, I’m not completely satisfied but critiquing my own work, what meets my learning goal and the next step to work on, that is what drives me to improve what I do, and at the time, I was satisfied with my results.

I’m hoping these three paintings will met the requirement to demonstrate technical competence however I’m left wondering . . . Why didn’t I persevere with painting for its own sake? Why did I relegate it to the background? And, do I want painting to remain there as something I did in the past?

a job well done

I think the job has been done well but time will tell . . . it depends on my expectations about how long I have extended its use, which in turn depends on how much care I am ready to take as I spread the quilt out on my bed, whether I lie down on it to read or take the time to move it aside . . . will it last another year or five?

When I began mending my old Indian bedspread (another beginning) I knew there were quite a few rips and holes where the sun had eaten entire patches of colour away and that the fabric was whisper thin in places.  First the rips where no patches were needed were mended and then the holes, where a piece of recycled unbleached calico was underlaid and stitched in place.  As I worked I inadvertently created a few more holes . . . ending up with somewhere in excess of 120 (I stopped counting).  If the mending had not given rise to so much reflection I doubt I would have persevered . . . I have a low threshold to boredom.

As I worked I gave a lot of thought the what I hold as precious, what beauty means to me, that crossover between practical and beauty as if they were on to separate continuum and the was a sweet spot where, for me, the meet.

If something is truly practical, it does its job better than I had hope for, perhaps the look doesn’t matter so much . . . perhaps the truly ugly tights I wore under my ski pants, the rusty old bottle opener (although there is sentiment attached to it).  And if something is gobsmackingly beautiful, that alone is enough . . . beauty is its use perhaps?

And then there is age and sentiment. From newly minted, the loveliness of the just created right through to decayed, not wearing but truly worn, when an object, or person, can take on a new beauty, one where sentiment plays a part, where life is visible in every crack, every scar, every wrinkle.  Is there a sweet spot where the continuum of new to old crosses over the others?   (This could turn into a rant about human beauty, societal expectations, roles, power . . . but that is not my intention or at least not this time.)

So I pondered on all of this as I sat patching in pieces of cloth on a bedspread I am not quite ready to hand over to recycling . . . running stitch, back-stitch, simple stitches in simple cotton cloth.

Simple stitching around the patches, frayed edges visible, scars exposed.

Simple stitching around the patches, frayed edges visible, scars exposed, fabric whisper thin.

A wonderful week

Last week I had the privilege and pleasure of spending the week learning alongside 7 other wonderful women . . . Lucy Worsley and 6 other workshop participants on “Stitch it together with collage”  organised by Fibre Arts New Zealand.   I took the workshop as a challenge . . . collage is not my strong point by any means although I’m a dab hand on the sewing machine and recently I’ve enjoyed hand stitching as well.

At first I struggled because I was looking at the image more than the colour and texture it would impart to a background.  Once I shifted my way of viewing the materials I had on hand I began to explore abstracts based on a cruciform composition.

What I ended up with was a series of three images where I was able to incorporate my love of topographical maps and texture.

Topography Series #1

Topography Series #1

Topography Series #2

Topography Series #2

Topography Series #3

Topography Series #3

So what have I learned?  Listen to feedback and then decide for yourself what to do, step back, sleep on it, return and decide.    Pare back . . . less is sometimes more, don’t allow a desire to use materials to swamp good design, in short, let materials speak for themselves.

I felt so encouraged when the first of the series sold as it hadn’t occurred to me to offer it as this was an exploration at a workshop however another participant loved it.  So there is was at the showing with all the work from the other workshops with a little red dot . . . how happy was I!    Before I left #2 and #3 were also sold . . . Goal #1: ‘To make work so appealing and interesting that people would want to own it’ achieved.

Happy, happy, happy!  Now, to work towards Goal #2 . . . I’ll let you know what it is when I achieve it.

 

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.

 

faffing around

Faffing around is a bit different from simply messing around, for me at least.   Messing around is a bit like what Tom does in How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen (by Russel Hoban and illustrated by Quenton Blake).  It is perhaps my all-time favourite children’s book.  You see Tom’s fooling around, thought to be a senseless waste of time that looked too much like play to his aunt, Miss Fidget Wonkham-Strong (who wears an iron hat and takes no nonsense from anyone), was very useful when it came to challenges.

Similarly my messing around has always been playful but usually has a purpose.  It may look decorative but more often than not has a purpose . . . well the garden sculpture that blew down in a gale twice, not so much, and maybe not the pumice stone carvings although you could use them to get all that hard skin off your heels if you wished.

Small carved pumice stones.

Small carved pumice stones.

And all those stones I covered make great door stops.

A stone from the local river covered in knotted harakeke/flax, embellished with beads.

A stone from the local river covered in knotted harakeke/flax, embellished with beads.

Faffing around is messing around with no end purpose in mind.  So now, having signed up for Swathed in Stitch with the wonderfully talented Karen Ruane, I have this lacy stuff (for want of a better word) and no earthly use for it.  Yes it was a bit of fun and with some practise I could make something rather lovely, but I sort of don’t do rather lovely without a purpose any more that I do tea-stained faux Victoriana.  You know what I mean, all that delicate embroidery that takes forever and looks gobsmackingly beautiful.  Already I’m trying to break some rules in what I’m learning (can’t help myself really) and stretch boundaries . . . and I like it!  But what the hell am I going to do with it?

Machined lace . . .  with a feather

Machined lace with a feather . . . or an attempt at a feather.

I can't take any credit for the starfish, but I do like the foamy, delicate edge I achieved here . . . but what will I do with it?

I can’t take any credit for the starfish, but I do like the foamy, delicate edge I achieved here (by accident but next time on purpose) . . . but what will I do with it?

Until I have a reason to do more, I probably won’t.   I’m sort of thinking myself into a hole . . . actually lots of holes . . . with beads.

Machined lace on muslin with quartz beads.

Machined lace on muslin with quartz beads.  There are another four holes to edge and weave into but why?

You might well ask “Why are you taking the class?”  I’m taking it so I can learn about design, stitches, techniques, materials and watch an expert at work . . . and then I want to incorporate it into work that is more along the lines of Jude Hill‘s yet mine, not a poor copy.   Did I mention I’m doing a class with her?  Small Journeys?   Small Journeys is different . . . it’s like getting to sit beside her and listen to her process, how she thinks about a piece in development.  And have you seen her work? Check our her photostream on Flickr.

Now don’t get me wrong, all of Karen’s work is useful and so is Jude’s . . . it’s just that me and an embroidery hoop?  I used one for the very first time today and it felt weird, like I was channeling someone else.  I’ve just got to face it, as much as I think Karen’s work is divine, Junko Oki is much more cup of tea, sort of messy . . . and I do like to mess around.

So that’s why I feel like I’ve been faffing around for the last two or three days . . . and don’t go and give me the ‘it doesn’t have to be useful’ or the ‘you’re too much of a perfectionist’ lectures.  I’ve heard them before.    If I could just work out how I can use all this prettiness . . . or how I can make it more . . . edgy?   (Insert a very big sigh here.)