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.

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.


you don’t have to like everything you do

When working with a class of 13 years old students identifying the values they held and the positive qualities they were developing, we used an art journal to record their work . . . some found it really challenging so I developed a simple way for them to critique their work when they didn’t like the results using three quick questions.

1. What, specifically, don’t you like.  It was often something quite small such as the way some lettering went off the page.  This helped me know what to teach them next or, better still, which other student could teach them something about layout or lettering etc.

2. What details do you like (so you can do it again and share it with someone struggling . . . see  #1)?  If I did this again I ask the kids to add their names to a skills list  so that others could use it as a reference for support.

3. What are some ways you can improve on what you have done?  We developed the ‘step away’ assessment to help with this question . . . prop it up, take four big steps back and look at what the work might need.

We also developed, in groups, peers critiques where people noted what really stood out for them, especially if they though it something they could do.  If a student asked for support in the form of a question such as “What would you do next if this was your work?” or “Who can anyone show me how to do XYZ better?” a suggestion could be made . . . other wise it was positive feedback only.

As a result students became adept at finding what worked well and didn’t dismiss their efforts so lightly.  They also saw that many other struggled with the same things as they did.

So why am I telling you this?  Because I attended a workshop with Gill Allen on the weekend and didn’t like every aspect of everything I did.  By applying the same three questions, I came up with just a couple of things I didn’t like and a longer list of successes.

The overall composition doesn’t really appeal to me so I learned that I should go with my first impulse when making a choice.  What It learned though, is that by sticking with the choice it was more of a challenge.  And I learned more about manipulating acrylic paint because that became the focus and not getting the composition right . . . I had no picture in my head to perfect.

I haven’t touched charcoal for years and did very little and I really enjoyed getting my fingers in there . . . it was a great way to warm up.

Charcoal on brown paper: 32 x 43 cms or12.5 x 17 inches. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Charcoal on brown paper: 32 x 43 cms or 12.5 x 17 inches.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

I like details, little squiggly details . . . even in charcoal.

Little squiggly details add to the texture. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Little squiggly details add to the texture.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

I enjoyed the limitations place on us by the exercise because it allowed a certain freedom to experiment.  Being pushed out of my default way of working also meant I learnt more.

I loved painting BIG with a BIG 2 inch brush and I’d like to have a go at painting BIGGER with a BIGGER brush.

Acrylic 90 x 65 cms or 35.5 x 25.5 inches Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Acrylic 65 x 90 cms or 25.5 x 35.5 inches
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Tiny pops of colour can make a big difference . . . even of a big painting.

The little scarlet dots made all the difference. Wendy @ Late Start Studio

The little scarlet dots made all the difference.
Wendy @ Late Start Studio

And this morning?  How do I feel this morning about the images?  I can see what needed a little more thought when I sketched out the original image and what could be changed now so using the ‘step away’ assessment more would have been helpful yesterday.  And I still like what I liked yesterday, especially those little scarlet dots.

Goals achieved (have fun and learn something), a great day . . . thanks Gill



3 in a row

It’s most unusual for this infrequent blogger to post three days in a row however here I am again reporting on my monoprint adventures.

Therewasn’t so much time to play today and there wasn’t as much success.  One thing I have discovered is that as much as I adore Hundertwasser’s paintings and architecture I think I have a long way to go in learning to manage strong and contrasting colours.

My successes came in the subtle colours or in the use of texture with bright paints.  That being said it is on the scrap paper where I rolled off the excess paint that I found small sections that delighted me.

Some of todays results:

A small secton using bubble wrap to create texture . . . I had painted the primary colours on the plate.   I can see I'll use sections of this and the one following but I must admit I'm not that keen on them.

A small section using big one-inch bubble wrap to create texture . . . I had painted the primary colours on the plate.   I’ll use sections of this and the one following but I must admit I’m not that keen on them.

Yello and red, mixed on the plate and pounced with a plastic bag for texture . . . close but no cigar.  Don't think I'm giving up with the bright colours, it's just a matter of cutting some more paper up and taking some time.

Yellow and red, mixed on the plate and pounced with a plastic bag for texture . . . close but no cigar. Don’t think I’m giving up with the bright colours though, it’s just a matter of cutting some more paper up and taking some time.

Using shades close on the colour wheel worked best for me . . . and the ghost prints were most appealing.

Using shades close on the colour wheel worked best for me . . . and the ghost prints were most appealing.  Lime through to turquoise was my favourite place to play.

The next two are sections of the large piece of paper used to catch the excess from the roller.  I really like them . . . the colours, the way they lie over one another, their transparency and the lines from tilting the roller to clean off the edges.  DSC00053 DSC00052 I would probably not have put these colours together on purpose . . . but I will now!  I’m not one to give up when there is so much to explore and so much fun to be had!

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.

squeezing in some creative time

Life has been very busy but still I managed to squeeze in a little time to doodle . . . not a lot of time but at least it was regular.

I often work with teachers and students to develop SMART goals: Specific, measurable, Achievable, Realistic and within a Timeframe.  On this occasion I made one for myself.   Often my goals are achievable but unrealistic so this time I kept to the KISS principle and Kept It Simple Sweetheart!  My goal was to do a very small doodle a day for a month . . .IMG_2170OTD stands for On The Day.   There were only 5 occasions when I was late so I feel really good about the other 25.  Why would I beat myself up about the 5 late ones?

Not long after I began this, Violette Clarke was encouraging everyone to do Messy Art Daily for much the same reasons . . . a little and often is the trick.

I’ve also attended a conference in Auckalnd recently and managed to squeeze in some creative work there as well.  I seldom take notes because I know I won’t refer to them again.  I tend to listen intently, perhaps jot down some key words or references and follow up with reading more on the subject later . . . this time I doodled as I listened, pages and pages in my Black and White Journal!

IMG_2172IMG_2174When I go away I take a minimum of materials.  The Doodle a Day needed just some pens and one Copic Marker (the damn thing bled through the page, most annoying!) however my watercolour crayons and pencils smuggled a ride along with a small Moleskine and spray bottle.IMG_2105The pencil-case is one of several that I made recently after borrowing Alisa Burke’s book, Canvas Remix, from the library.

So, how do your squeeze in some creative time when you’re run off your feet?