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Kintsugi through the back door …

February 14, 2023

I don’t call myself a ‘puppeteer’ as it seems rather a lofty assumption.  Having said that neither do I easily assume the title ‘animator’.  My dolls rather than puppets come from a place of necessity and animation followed quickly after.  During my studies and since I have researched both extensively and discovered they are masterful arts far beyond my humble attempts to make and perform.  However, I do want to learn more and be part of the scene and community, if possible, in the time I have left in this world.

Which seems rather alarming, but it is super empowering.  As it seems that the average age expectancy in UK is, give or take is 85 years, having reached my 73rd year just last week I have decided to spend these relatively few years I have left achieving something good, and not wasting valuable time on shame or regret. While I have not yet made many plans to this end thus far, I did attend a puppet making workshop this past weekend and made this crazy creature. It is a puppet that will be animated soon, and is made with rope and parcel string,  the many knots in the recycled string I have strengthened with gold sealing wax.  Which makes me think of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken crockery where the glue used to join the pieces is mixed with powdered gold, thus enhancing the damage rather than disguising it.  Comparing my string creature with such an art is also rather presumptuous I suppose … but my dreams are lofty!!

Fruit bag dolls …

February 2, 2023

When I began making dolls for my MA I intended to use discarded wire coat hangers. However, they were very difficult to cut and bend so I had to buy softer wire.  So, I am unable to wave the banner for saving the planet in this aspect. Nonetheless, I try my best to recycle, reuse and repurpose as much possible. So, these dolls dressed in skirts made from plastic bags are very pleasing …

Time will tell …

January 14, 2023

As you know I go to a studio in the centre of town once a week to make films.  While stop motion animation can be undertaken on a tabletop, and the equipment required minimal and potentially packed away quite easily much like any other creative equipment. This is a misconception, especially as I have other art supplies that remain unhoused. Furthermore, my house is bereft of natural light certainly not enough for photography of any type so while a studio was vital for a professional artist it has proved to be a happy routine where I can make films but also just be creative and meet likeminded souls. Sadly, towards the end of last year I hit some troublesome times and wasn’t enjoying myself so much.

With the new year and lifted spirits I am seeing the light in the tunnel and pretty sure it isn’t an oncoming train! I am back on track and looking forward to new opportunities and applying for funding.  I am not holding my breath regarding the latter, but the former may just be a rich by-product. Application for funds requires much research and planning and the resulting material must not be overlooked. 

I have made five new characters for a particular story although that has not yet been written yet. They are much like the coat hanger dolls, made with wire and felt, but with heads, faces and hair and perhaps a little more characterful. I have also made a dog and a lion, I have not animated a dog before so there is much tail wagging, ears lifting, up and down, he is good at sniffing and wandering about nonchalantly. So, what new?  There is also a devil with red eyes so there maybe an element of mythology which might suit the lion and me as I don’t have access to the plains of Africa in my studio.  Light and space is all I get so with lots of hope only time will tell. 

With the ugly one …

January 9, 2023

I had lots of kind and thoughtful responses to my post yesterday and I feel much loved and grateful. 

My depression is like an ugly companion with whom I spend my days but with management he/she doesn’t impinge too much, sadly it’s the anxiety,  self-loathing and doubt, it brings that restricts me sometimes and particularly this time of year. 

My ugly friend is a bully (or a kindly project manager) who keeps me in the moment and ensures that I keep working to block out the grief … as a result I do have a substantial body of unseen work for a book perhaps.  I have also applied for a commission which involves a substantial sum of money and a film and remains beyond my wildest dreams. 

So, if we are talking ‘book’ then I have much to learn about self-publication and Affinity Publisher and a film then, I must design a set, dress some characters and write a script …  bring on the kind project manager … but this can only happen if I can keep the anxiety and doubt at bay …

It is what it is …

January 8, 2023

While I have busy since I graduated in 2021, I haven’t been able commit to anything in particular. I enjoyed build up ant the focus of my studies and the anticipation of a new beginning after it finished. Like I said, I have kept busy in the studio, at home an in my garden but it all seems pointless, and I lacked purpose.  I kept making dolls and films and even joined some local groups, but I was uninspired and seemingly stagnant. Winter arrived followed by Christmas and with my mood so low, I was dreading the New Year unless I had a change of outlook. Friends and family became concerned and even suggested medication and therapy. I wasn’t convinced. Wasn’t I doing enough to be happy? I am creative, enjoy playing and listening to music, I take regular long walks, I eat and sleep well etc. Why should I be depressed. I have a kind supportive family.

 I have suffered from depression for decades I have undertaken years of medication and therapy I can and do manage it well.  However, this time it all feels so much more difficult to find a stable path. They say, ‘I’m not alone’ and its true the world is depressed. Everyone is trying their best to balance not to be ‘happy’ or even not ‘sad’ just to keep on a path of kindness … but it isn’t easy.  It is Sunday morning (or it was when I began writing this) I got out my toolbox of ‘good’ intensions again! Being grateful, forgiving myself for doubt and any other misdemeanours that got me into this dark place. I sit gazing and accepting that for a while this is how it is!

Just a wet and windy Sunday morning and we need rain. 

Lost in my library …

December 8, 2022

While I have been unwell and then recovering from ‘flu’ not COVID apparently, and between poorly episodes I have been contemplating and reading or at least looking at books. I was not and remain reluctant to meet the outside world or even the internet, so it has been off the bookshelf for the last few days (why change habits of a lifetime?) After reading about a poem by Frank O’Hara in the newspaper last week I thought I might read a little more from my copy of Lunch Poems, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was a librarian; it should be in the poetry section, shouldn’t it?  But no, misfiled? So, I searched everywhere and assumed it has been mistakenly culled last year. I was considering its replacement but even second handbooks are expensive.

Then encouraged by another prompt I looked for other book I knew I had ‘somewhere, but I could not find that either.  It was a graphic novel by Lizzy Stewart, I have been buying and collecting graphic novels for a couple of years so I suppose they should have a shelf of their own, but I thought it might be just a passing phase and the ‘problem’ would solve itself. Instead, the collection grew, and it became increasingly difficult to categorise. Yes, they are graphic novels and probably located in Waterstones amongst the comic books, but the subject matter is vast I cannot for instance put a book about Woody Guthrie (music)and even that is debatable or Georgia O’Keefe (art) beside a book about a Siberian prison camp (which incidentally I have filed near my poetry books as it has reference to haiku)   I say near because of it size; that it another cataloguing dilemma folio or quarto? Its okay to have separate shelves for larger books in a vast library building … my tiny house is full to the gunnels!

So, this story goes a long way to explain, I did find both books in my ‘walking’ shelves Lizzy Stewart’s book is called Walking distance and by co-incidence beside Frank O’Hara’s called Lunch Poems and the poems are written while taking a lunch break during a walk in Manhattan.  While I marvel at my logic sometimes, I am in despair but not yet ready to digitalise!

All the time in the world …

November 7, 2022

Although the weather is mild for the time of year (here in UK) there is a real feeling of Autumn. I love the change of seasons particularly this one when the air and light, have a magic that we simple must enjoy because it only lasts a few hours before the darkness of night comes and is seemingly far too long.   

During the daylight hours I continue to work wrapped up against the chill; since heating costs have gone sky high, I am having conserve energy as much as possible.  Fortunately, the garden can take care of itself for now but remains a constant delight to watch from my kitchen window.  So, while my teapot has a cosy and the dolls have hibernated. I am undertaking reflective and gentle tasks.

 I walk daily just as the sun comes up and it is a time when I can feel and see the weather and change of season more fully. After breakfast with some short-lived vigour, I practice playing the piano and ukulele with mixed results but while no one can hear I allow myself to imagine I am in a concert hall with a modicum of applause. 

The afternoon I spend writing and drawing and have the makings of an illustrated poetry book. 

Soon it will be gin o’clock when I sip a little or a lot and knit socks…

my dolls need a song …

September 29, 2022

My home and studio are small and making music and recording in some sort of privacy for me and my family would be impossible unless I have audio recording equipment for my laptop and my electronic piano.  So, with that and an app for my phone, I am,  potentially able to layer short and vibrant sounds and patterns, to complement my films.

I would like to say that there is a happy ending to all this and there will ‘one day’. Not only do I have a box of ‘sound’ making tools I find myself relearning to play the piano and learning to play the ukulele. The piano has alwaysbeen in my home since my youngest child learned to play.  The ukulele happened to be unused in the eldest’s house and begged to be played rather than gather dust. 

So, while my films remain silent, I have come out of the doldrums, even if the world of music is not as I expected.  The piano playing is improving day be day, but the ukulele is a monster with whom I wrestle daily.  Perhaps, the challenge will give me subject matter for my blog, or the post writing might give me respite from the utter disharmony I have in my life at the moment.

Change of direction needed?

September 27, 2022

When I started making stop motion animated films it was a knee jerk reaction to the pandemic.  I could not go to college to study or work in the studio and showing art in real time and space was not going to be an option then and for the foreseeable future. I had to think of a way to show my work not only to my tutor but also to the outside community in a world where everyone would be presenting as well using every skill imaginable to get noticed.  I had to think of a way to show my work in the mass of talent without going out of my tiny studio.

In the few weeks before COVID19 I had managed to accumulate much dyed and printed fabric and learned some skills that proved to be vital.  When I discovered I could make dolls with wire and give them ‘felt’ flesh and dress them, it was not long before they lent themselves to me and a free app on my mobile phone and I began life as a film maker and graduated with a distinction which proved to be catalyst to the career, I find myself in. 

I was a complete novice when I began animation it was difficult, tedious and lots about problem solving and time consuming especially when trying not to lose the art in the mechanics.  Adding music and sound effects the was not considered deeply so I convinced myself the films were best silent. However, as time went on, I became bored and paralysed in a creative routine bubble.  Looking okay, but inside feeling as if I had lost the impetus to explore and experiment as I had done all my life and certainly during my studies. I had allowed myself to retire from the outside world.  Not noticing that I could push my art a further level,  adding sound might be an opportunity to add some vitality to me and the work. At first, I thought of household sounds and began collecting instruments and sounds., while this does remain an option it didn’t meet my needs; it was too linear and bland. I needed music, not music per se but rhythm, texture, tempo, and colour to reflect and complement the dolls …

Coming soon …

September 24, 2022

There has been a lull in my life, particularly in my blogging space. This is a shame as my blog and writing in general has been a vital part of my life since 2010. I was in a place where I was able to record the happenings in my life.  I celebrated the finds I made. I documented the ups and downs of previous and present experiences at work and at home. 

When I retired from full time employment in 2017, I didn’t cope well mentally or physically without purpose, or so it seemed.  I found it difficult to manage my life and balance time and space without work to do.  So, I busied myself with art projects and my home and garden not venturing far and not stimulating enough interest for posting to my blog. As a result, the input was infrequent.  Until I began my MA in textiles, when I found much to write about and share.  While much time was spent being creative, I was able to use my research material fruitfully on my blog. When COVID came I found myself in the doldrums still creating and active in the garden but not finding it any more interesting and it didn’t compare to that I saw on the social media.

I continued to make and dress the dolls and film making became my life and an opportunity to share and perhaps filled the space created by not blogging.  It was exciting and I now have found a community and studio space in Reading where I can experiment with filmmaking and explore the opportunities that are opening every day.  The lifting of the stringent COVID restrictions helped, but it seems that being able to show work in social media is immediate and very rewarding. I have become more active on the World Wide Web in a different way which is somewhat consoling. Especially as I begin one or two more ventures that I hope to share as they become more presentable. 

I will share I hope soon ….