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.)


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.

being transparent

I can’t say being honest because sometimes, like most of us, I lie to myself, however I try to be open so that you can really see me . . . flaws as well as strengths.

Now that I am a Creative Leisure Consultant (my fees come in the form of some good wine and cheese at this point in my career) I am grappling with issues and those aforementioned flaws on a full-time basis.  By the time I have them sussed I’ll be able to charge wine, cheese AND crackers as a koha (donation) for my services!

Seriously though, I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up and I’ve had several attempts to grow up . . .  sometimes life events have given me a nudge or a good kick but inside, I still feel like a gauche 11-year-old going on 66-year-old sometimes.

So the questions is, because I know you want to hear the wisdom of my vast experience with this conundrum, what do I do about it?  I embrace it!  It’s a bit shortsighted to reject parts of yourself isn’t it?  I mean to say . . . here I am with almost 66 years experience at living in this big wide world and I reject a 11-year-old aspect of myself?  That 11-year-old had more creativity in her little finger than I have in all of mine!  Sure mine are more skilled perhaps and my logical brain can team up with the creative part and problem-solve extremely well but she was freer, braver, less inhibited.

So I sent in the Wise Crone to stand alongside and tell her that she can take life one day at a time, she can try anything she wants, she can step out in any direction because she’s going to have a strength not available to many . . . she will be versatile.

My first commission was to draw a picture for a boy in my class . . . it was a girl in an Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini and no, there was no actual payment but I was 11 and I did feel special and that was a very rare feeling for me around that time.

Since then I’ve been asked to make all sorts of things from painted flower pots, vinyl sheriff jackets, beaded macrame dog leads (must make one for Rosie) to Raggedy Andy-type dolls and I sold them as well to fund Christmas presents for my children.

Do you see a pattern here?  They are useful, they were marketed . . . however the thing that gave me the most satisfaction was the drawing of a girl in a bikini.

So I tell that gauche girl to hang on to that joyous feeling, hone her skills, her talent will always be there to be utilised in any way she chooses.  It will be always be there and will be fed by world travels, relationships and ideas from out of left field.  She won’t always have to think of usefulness or marketability.  And the main thing that will undermine her talent is her own criticism of herself.  I tell her to simultaneously to harden up and to be vulnerable . . . to be real . . . to be a gentle warrior!

Kia Kaha Wendy is what I say . . . Stand Strong!

I am trying to stand strong and it isn’t always easy.

Rosie: my new, shy, little sheltie who has perfect manners.

Rosie: my new, shy, little sheltie who has perfect manners.

my wonderful news

I was planning on writing a post about my news and I began wondering about what makes some information news.  I could tell you about something you didn’t know and that would be news to you but perhaps not the rest of the world.  Or some event may be news but insignificant . . . is it still news?  And we talk about breaking the news and even breaking news . . . telling it as it happens.  So if you read about a recent event and are not at all surprised by it . . . is that news?  I digress.  This is news, my news, and while a turning point for me, not important in the great scheme of things.

If you read my blog closely, you may not be at all surprised by my news . . . which being a week old now is not news at all I guess.  It was certainly news from left field when I announced it at work . . . that I would be there for just 6 weeks longer.

Yes folks, I have handed in my notice at the day-job.  I have handed in my resignation before I get stale, before I don’t want to be there at all because I find myself wanting to be doing other things all day.

Most people have assumed I’m retiring becuase I am of an age to do so, or perhaps I have another paid job to go to but neither of those are true.  There is nothing retiring about me or indeed any of the members of my family.  So having no further paid work planned, just working at play, what do I call myself when I fill in a form?  Am I still an educator? Teacher?   Probably but just not employed in that capacity.

I will call myself a consultant.  I am a Creative Leisure Consultant!  And f you would like to consult me about how to spend time creatively . . . feel free.  I shall be liberal in my services.  Payment will be in laughter, for both of us, I will offer extended consultations is you bring wine, I will travel to your town if you provide accommodation and I will bring you a shining example of how to live a sometimes challenging life, and be smiling and, by turns, satirical and optimistic as I begin to contemplate the future.  According to my mother you don’t begin getting old until your 80s and she thought she might be old when she was about 100 . . . maybe . . . so I have a good few years before that happens.

I have good genes, good health, a good attitude and I intend to have few regrets although I may own up to a few remaining dreams.

Reaching out to grasp the furture.  A map completed in a recent workshop with Jill Berry organised by Fibre Arts NZ Wendy @ the Late Start Studio

Reaching out to grasp the furture. A map completed in a recent workshop with Jill Berry organised by Fibre Arts NZ
Wendy @ the Late Start Studio