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.

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.)

a handmade journal

Now that Christmas is over and the new year well and truly begun I can show you the journal I made for my daughter.    For obvious reasons I couldn’t show it before but now . . . here it is!  And very pleased with it I was too as I entrusted it to the New Zealand and Australian postal services.

Paint applied to calico with a roller, embellished with stitching, washers and beads.

Paint applied to calico with a roller, embellished with stitching, washers and beads. Bound with waxed hemp thread.

Interior page with commercial paper strip sewn on.

Interior page with commercial paper strip sewn on.

Interior pockets with tags and single page signature sewn on

Interior pockets with tags and single page signature sewn on

Small page insert with tab.

Small page insert with tab.

I really enjoyed making the cover, just stitching, embellishing and letting one addition dictate what would happen next.  And while my bullion stitch bridges are a little wonky . . . I’m rather pleased with them.  No doubt I shall improve with practise now that Karen Ruane‘s course Swathed in Stitch has begun . . . I would imagine it isn’t too late to join in and I heartily recommend it.

Most importantly, my daughter was impressed with her present!

time is of the essence

This morning I was reading a post on Diana Trout’s blog about Golden sending her nine of their new QoR watercolors.  She also talks about her recovery from her first eye surgery . . . it must be a very fraught time for an artist!

Any way, I started rabbiting on in the comments that I’d like Golden to send some paints to me as well but a little voice says “Don’t you think you should use some of the paint you have first?” And I agree, but I can’t sew,

More mended knees for Meg

More mended knees for Meg

and weave,

Dyed harakeke container

Dyed harakeke container

OC Detail

Detail of shredded harakeke, dyed flowers, beads and silver crimps.

and make thingies (very technical term that) out of shells and rocks

A beginning . . .

A beginning . . .

A shell mandala . . . a temporary sculpture, unfinished.

A shell mandala . . . a temporary sculpture, unfinished.

Centrepiece, prior to decorating with pearls and crimps.

Centrepiece, prior to decorating with pearls and crimps.

Plus small green pearls and silver crimps.

Plus small green pearls and silver crimps.


A beach is to walk on.

and plant some veg and walk on the beach, AND paint . . . something’s gotta give!

Remember when I bemoaned a lack of time because of the day-job? Now that I am gainfully unemployed, it’s got worse, not better!  I shall simply have to rise earlier because Baby, as a fully fledged, pioneer Creative Leisure Consultant, I have plans!  LOTS of plans starting with sorting out all my travel photos, from the quirky,

Taken at the end of my street in Tokyo. Dispensing machines for anything and everything are everywhere but the advertising on this one got me every time I walked past it.  Smoke and you'll turn into a muscled westerner?

Taken at the end of my street in Tokyo. Dispensing machines for anything and everything are everywhere but the advertising on this one got me every time I walked past it. Smoke and you’ll turn into a muscled westerner?

. . . to everything else.

Children of the Mekong

Children of the Mekong

a little self-exposure?

I’m very quick to say “Yes!” or “Why not?” and when Natasha White asked me to take part in a blog hop I didn’t hesitate and fortunately, I haven’t suffered from cold feet even though the questions haven’t been particularly easy to answer.

What am I working on?   As usual I’m working on a number of things . . . or should I say I have several projects on the go but like most people with one pair of hands I can only work on one thing at a time: more and more I am convinced that multi-tasking is a myth put about to make us feel like we should be producing more. I cannot do one thing well and be thinking about something else . . . maybe I can think about something else while painting the house or pulling weeds or hanging out the washing but I cannot weave or paint or sew without concentration.

So while I have a quilt started, a set of Inner Hero cards on the go, been messing around with watercolour for a workshop with Tammy Garcia, exploring soft fibre sculptures, darning knees in tights for my youngest grandheART and me, knitting a jumper for my oldest grandheART, painting some terracotta pots for the garden, assembling some driftwood sculptures for the garden, have a project from Jill Berry’s new book Map Art Lab started (buy the book it’s fantastic!), my main focus is designing a pattern for the taaniko weaving on my whatu tauri. The translation for that is, I am designing the taaniko (Maori twined weaving) on a sampler. The sampler is part of a weaving/raranga course I am taking. I need to choose a major focus for the rest of the year and thus far I have at least 6 wonderful ideas recorded! What am I working on indeed!

There is no 'give' in this fabric!

The unfinished Chinese silk quilt

Exploring soft sculptures


A kete waikawa for my daughter-in-law’s birthday.

Recent postcards

Recent postcards – sorry about the focus.

Creatively darning knees in tights - why not?

Creatively darning knees in tights – why not?

Flax/harakeke boiled and drying . . . still to be dyed and woven into . . . who knows what?

Flax/harakeke boiled and drying . . . still to be dyed and woven into . . . who knows what?

The question assumes I’m working on one thing . . . not possible!  And have I mentioned I have a day-job?  That’s a whole lot of creative problem solving too!

How does my work differ from others of its genre?   A genre? Me? Yeah, unless ‘making/painting/weaving stuff’ is a genre, nah. I do too many things and admire wildly differing styles to settle on one thing . . . and I like it that way.

Why do I write/create what I do?   The answer is easy . . . I can’t not create. It’s simple really, and you either understand the urge or you don’t. I love that feeling of taking raw materials and making something out of them that is useful or beautiful or, joy of joys, both! I get a buzz out of seeing something rise up out of my hands and particularly learning a new set of skills.

How does your writing/creating process work?   I’m not sure I have a process but if I do, it starts with and idea bursting forth in a rush and a roar, a fit of spontaneity and enthusiasm, and I immerse myself in the project. My internal clock is disregarded until I suddenly realize I’m hungry or thirsty or, even more inconvenient because I can’t ignore it, I need the bathroom. If I can’t work until I drop, sleep and then rise and throw myself back into a project because the day-job calls, I might lose focus or worse, the inspiration to do something entirely different might strike.

Does that sound undisciplined? I guess I am but that’s okay.

A question not on the blog hop is what do I want to achieve? That, for me, is by far the hardest question to answer. I love to learn new things . . . for me learning equals fun. That joy of stretching myself and trying a new activity, of mastering the skills without becoming highly competent is fine by me. And I’d like to use my teaching skills to share this joy of making something from almost nothing. I think most of all what I want to achieve is to show my children and my grandheARTs (my muses) that creativity in some form is a life-long, joyous, satisfying, essential ingredient in life.  And one day perhaps, I’d like to take part in an exhibition of some kind . . . even if it’s just a local café.

And now, to whom do I pass on the blog hop baton? I have asked three wonderful women who are not only wonderful artists in their own right but also generous women in their encouragement of others.

Violette Clark’s blog Creative Juice was the very first I began to follow . . . I felt as if I knew her although we have never met.   Her book Journal Bliss started me off on a journey. Violette is an artist, author and an Idea Factory/catalyst who loves helping women brainstorm creative ideas for their business. She lives in a purple magic cottage in B.C. Canada.  Yes, really, you can check it out here on You Tube

Diana Trout is highly creative and generous artist, instrumental in my late start as an artist. Her book, Journal Spilling, began my exploration of watercolours.  She has wonderful workshops and one day, I am determined to attend one in person!  Diana’s blog is another favourite.

And third? Coffee and Quinn Creative starts my day! Her blog with its wise commentary on life and creative adventures provides a venue for community of wonderful people to come together.   Quinn McDonald is an outsider artist, writer, and certified creativity coach. Her book, The Inner Hero Creative Art Journal touches on all those identities.

Of course there are more artists I could have asked because of the role they played in getting me here on the web . . . the creatively prolific, enthusiastic and generous Tammy Gracia is constantly being referred to at the Late Start Studio and her quote is up there on my header. . . Jill Berry who pushed me to explore some colours that I thought I wouldn’t want to use when I took a week-long workshop with her recently . . . and then there’s . . . oh!   I do hate limiting myself.   I had just three choices.

Check out the blogs now and especially again on Monday the 19th of May when these three lovely women will answer the same questions . . . perhaps not the last one though . . . that was a challenge I gave myself.

I’m still here

I know . . . it’s been forever and I will explain it a little but just not this morning.  This is the teaser:

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading – Lao Tzu

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined – Henry David Thoreau

Put your ear down to your heart and listen hard – Anne Sexton (via Quinn McDonald)

Each is true and each is what I am thinking about . . . as well as working full-time and spending an extra 2.5 hours a day commuting in my car.

A recycled jersey, now a dress for my granddaughter – a little hand-sewing (so unlike me) and thinking (too much like me)

Now . . . I’ll be late for work!

a pair of bears

There is a small bear on the couch complaining that it feels neglected – such whinging you never heard from a bear!

I washed both bears’ clothing and started darning the moth holes in one bear’s pants – before I knew it I was running amok with embroidery thread.   I managed to stop myself short of adding beads and sequins as I think the bear, formerly referred to as he,was about to undergo a gender reassignment operation for which I don’t have signed consent.   It now looks decidedly androgynous.

Well, the mended bear has a friend who is feeling out-of-sorts – I am being accused of neglect!  He(?) has very plain clothes and is beginning to insist on a make-over.   He doesn’t mind his worn face and paws, however he feels a little bare and would like to have some jazzy clothes to wear just like his friend.  I though at first he said he felt a little bear and told him to leave his friend alone but he soon set me straight.  He says that just because he’s getting older, that’s no reason to be drab and I must admit I feel much the same way.

Small bear - as a boy

small bear number 1 – before, as a boy bear?

after being mended – with friend

The pink arms are the fabric the body is made from – I seem to have misplaced the green jacket that, although stained, is to be replaced along with that stunning, perfectly matched, pair of buttons in the photo.  If I can’t find the jacket I will make some wonderful sleeves out of the same blanket ribbon I used for the bow.  The second bear, as you can see, is looking a tad grumpy.

These bears could both end up without an identifiable gender but I’m sure they won’t really mind too much.

how I darn moth-holes – is there another way?

I set out to do a sympathetic restoration but somehow . . .  I’m reasonably sure my mother, who made the bears just over 35 years ago, would approve.