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behind the hedge …

November 25, 2020

Having finished stitching the ‘Hedge’ on a coffee sack; I tried it out.  I am somewhat pleased, but it does raise some other issues. I am not sure how much time, energy, alongside my inexperience I can spend on this; as I go into my second year of my MA and increased research. 

The star…

November 23, 2020

A day or two back I posted a film of a coat-hanger person in the street moving an egg timer.  It was never planned to be significant; as I said on the day the weather wasn’t promising any prolonged clemency.  I grabbed the nearest and only thing my fingerless person could hope to carry anymore than a few steps. It worked, with of course much room for improvement.

However, looking back at the film and story board for all its few seconds is revealing.  Although the backdrop is a street scene it bears no resemblance to mine. This tiny terraced house is one of many thousands built in the mid to late 19th century, for the workers in Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory, Courage’s Brewery and Sutton Seeds, have no front gardens and there are no trees. Very few have more than a tired Christmas Cacti on its windowsill. We have no space for the mandatory two wheelie bins, so they line the street two by two in military splendour until the bin men on collection day place them hither and thither. 

During the recent austerity and more in lockdown, neighbours have been placing unwanted clutter on their steps for others to take if required. A strange array of stuff hangs around for a day or two until removed, replaced or not. I too have enjoyed and benefited from this practice, whether it is cooking apples from a laden tree in the back yard, a sideboard and of late, props for my filmmaking purposes.

It would seem we are all seen carrying something. I have lived here for over 30 years and lost count of the times one or other of houses have been renovated almost beyond recognition.  Therefore, frequently there is a skip by the kerbside being filled with stuff ripped out with careless abandon that was ceremoniously built in some years before. Then men in battered white van bring more delights to replace it.

So my coat-hanger person is a star of the Clarendon Road Show representing time and things that pass usually unnoticed.

Keep hopeful …

November 22, 2020

Oh dear, without dwelling on my clinical mental disorders; yesterday self-pity was also a bit overwhelming.  That and high expectation as regards my studies and lack of ability was verging on the unreasonable.  Life is pretty rubbish at the moment; but at least I am fortunate enough to find ways to relieve fatigue and loneliness and understand that it is not always achievable.

Yesterday and the previous few days I was in a dark place. I talked about my lost short-term opportunities and my foreseeable end of life. Of course, none of us can plan for the future confidently anymore; Covid 19 notwithstanding, Brexit looms and Global Warming is not going away.

So, for me with that in mind I am grateful that I can at least address my disorders and discomfort creatively.

I was prompted to these thoughts while reading a book called Whispering Cloth, a children’s book by Pegi Deitz Shea, illustrated by Anita Riggio and stitched by You Yang.  It is a story set in a refugee camp in Thailand about a Hmong child who tells her story of terror in cloth.  While I cannot even imagine the plight of any refugee child;  this moving story urged me to carry on with my endeavours to cheer me and others albeit a feeble attempt for the time being. 

What’s to be done?

November 21, 2020

As I finish yet another very beautiful piece, label it and put it away with all the other lovely pieces; I grieve. When I began my MA in textiles, I understood that it is research-based course and could be done remotely with regular weekly visits for tutorials and lectures.  As I had an awkward and long commute, 2 days a week suited me; during the following 5 months, I enjoyed the library, communal workspace with the techs, BAs, and the PHD students.  I got a good sense of university life that I dreamed of in 1966.  When the first lockdown happened while it did feel a little like an estrangement; bolstered by several months of valuable research I was able to use the time to build a body of experimental work and went on to begin my professional practice as a film maker.  It was very challenging and rewarding and allowed me to enjoy my work and being alone.

As an artist and used to a degree of isolation I carried on pretty much as usual and now ready to submit my next phase of work for the course.

However, with the second lockdown along with the inclement weather; I am thinking the estrangement is harsh and debilitating and my work less pleasing.  I am despondent about the future; mine and that of the world in general.  I am seventy years old; hardly in my prime and any opportunities for an aging student are fading fast. 

In the short time and for the rest of the course I wonder, having considered film making as a professional practice linked with my textile background; how can I produce a final piece?  I have limited knowledge of animation, stop motion and moreover puppetry without professional guidance and feedback I cannot at the moment see the way forward.

I have enjoyed the 3 dimensional and digital element of my professional practice. While I enjoy stitching, dyeing and printing and find comfort in 2 dimensions and textiles; the space and depth within film making is fearsome and exciting.

I can presently champion the DIY qualities of my work and celebrate or disregard Covid 19 and isolation in 10 second loops; with the best will in the world with this I will not become a master as I hoped.

Between rain clouds …

November 18, 2020

While the weather has prevented me from being outside filming my little loops; I have been working indoors on back drops.  This morning there was a welcome break in the rain clouds so, I was able try out the first one called Outside looking in, looking out.’ With pleasing results … sadly the pleasant weather was short lived. So, I look forward to an opportunity to carry on again.

Imagine …

November 16, 2020

Imagine a world or a place where spoken and written words were forbidden, or we were struck dumb; I for one would find a way to communicate. I/we have become reliant on words to vent our feelings even with a limited vocabulary we can express ourselves.  As babies we cry, scream, gurgle and giggle when we are in pain, need food or are content. As we develop, we learn to articulate more complex feelings with sounds that are not yet words; more a convenient language that our families understand.   When we learn to read our vocabulary broadens and continues to grow through out our lifetime; there is no limit to the lengths of communication with the use of words.  I understand that there may be other civilizations in other galaxies in the universe I wonder how they communicate, how their children are taught to articulate beyond gurgling and crying. 

As a student of dead languages such as Classical Greek, Latin and Sanskrit; I understand that scholars for millennia have refined sounds and letters to make languages and communication vital to civilised human behaviour.  I am not about to argue that there is a valid alternative and that words and language are not necessary. 

In my world however that has always been a little introspect and during lockdown more so.  I wonder how others have coped with silence when the motorway slowed to a standstill and the trains were running less frequently and aeroplanes ceased flying. Did we all miss the coming and going in the street.  How did we delight in the other noises that came in to play; the crows, magpies, red kites and seagulls, whistle and call and make sounds in the trees nearby in newfound less polluted air.

There has been sound and silence quite unlike the workaday noises that thwarted our thoughts and musings to be replaced by other noises that mystified the hopes and plans we have for a future normal or not. 

I am not an expert of words, sounds or indeed the general psychological effects of Covid 19 and its restrictions; but it has resulted in my not wanting to return to normal but to consider sound and silence as precious as each other. 

For me who appears self-sufficient and able, does rely on human contact and will reach out readily to research and question as required and get frustrated and dissatisfied if this is denied.  So, I ask, what I would do if this vital tool of communication was curtailed; what if my voice and language was illegal. Again, I find myself venturing into the realms of my ignorance and limited knowledge.  However, one does know of communities that have been starved of their native tongues in a tyrannical regime and found ways communicate and go some way to keep their traditions alive albeit under cover from the powers that be.

Things that come to mind: beacons, smoke, drums, waving, clapping, whistles, dancing, music, stitches, drawings, fireworks, kites etc.

I am not sure how my coat hanger peoples without heads therefore devoid of facial expressions can illustrate this fully yet.  I am new at animation learning slowly how to convey feelings.  While, my stories are verbal my films will be silent of words and suggestive sounds; for instance, a man clearly playing a guitar doesn’t need further enlightenment; we hear it in our head. For the same reason the cart will moan in our minds as it is pushed or pulled. 

Sketch Book …

November 14, 2020

For my MA a sketch book is required.  I am sure there a good reason for this; as it is my usual practice it wasn’t a problem or a reason to question.  I use many types of books; for me there is not one type that suites all situations.  I am sure on the day of reckoning I will have to make some tough decisions as to which one suits the occasion. Nonetheless, I will continue to sketch and today as I anticipate another day of confinement due to Covid 19 and the inclement weather I will begin work on my next back drop. 

I plan to make three and have finished one already; called Looking out looking in.  It is a view of a front door and a window and a rather sad tree; representing my confinement during lockdown the door and window acts like a mask; as a feeble protection.

The second is a hedge that serves as haven for birds and insects and disguises the walls beyond.  So, my pretty hedge has become as forbidding as any mask.

The last one is called A Banner; protesting or grumbling it seems is not an option as ‘we are all in the same boat.’ I want to grumble; vent my feelings. The banner is not a door or hedge it is a silent song and much like one hand clapping. 

The Charity shop …

November 13, 2020

This longer piece is a story …

The Charity Shop

Along with its distinctive old, used and dusty smell with overfilled racks and shelves this charity shop was no different to the others in the street, between the vape shops, coffee shops and nail bars that had gradually and seemingly unnoticed encroached on the town centre.  Here, at the end of a busy day young mums browsed the racks while children played beneath bemused by the outmoded and broken toys.  Old mums ponder on the coming spring and their meagre wardrobe.   Students selected a random collection of pots and pans for their bedsit kitchens. A man having reached for a suitable pair of shoes, idly flipped through and mused upon the records and their battered sleeves stacked beside the DVDs and CDs, and the bookcase crammed with well-thumbed novels and picture books. 

A volunteer in a bid to rearrange a jumbled corner selected some framed prints and posters encouraged that the students were interested in decorating the walls of their shabby accommodation. 

However, a handful of prints, faded, and way passed their former glory were put aside in case the frames had any value.  Picasso from his acclaimed blue period along with Matisse, Kandinsky and Degas; once would have hung over the mantlepiece, along a dark passage or strategically placed over an unsightly stain. 

It was the day before lockdown; no longer fit for purpose the prints removed from their frames.   Released, from suspended animation they could join hands and dance to the sounds of the old guitarist. The waiting ballerina distanced from her tutor, pirouetted across the shabby lino floor and the blue boy and the girl waltzed below the shelf of miss matched crockery the two girls rearranged the chair to win favourable glances. 

Old Rocker

November 11, 2020

This guy is an old guitarist inspired by that of Picasso.  I am not sure that The Old Guitarist would have played in this way; but my coat hanger people like to dance, in fact it is all they can do.  Having said that pulling and pushing a cart does require more than rhythm; so maybe their arm, hand, leg and feet coordination may improve in time. I remain hopeful.

Coat hanger people …

November 9, 2020

One of the tasks I juggle during my working week is stitching, like drawing and writing, it is my mainstay without them I would not function properly. Filmmaking is very new and challenging and has become a bit of an obsession. Although, I have a love/hate relationship with it; I am determined to master it or at least love it more; but it will take time.  I was reluctant and remain cautious about showing my films; but it has unstilled a need to practice more.  Sadly, the mist and poor light at the weekend put an end to that for a day or two.  However, I did begin embroidering a backdrop and that is going nicely; I hope to play with that soon, weather permitting.

I also finished a cloth book, that I have been stitching for a few weeks.  It is called a Gathering which it is, and it isn’t; this is a concertina book and a gathering is a book binding term for something a little different. Nonetheless, this is a gathering of dancers as they twirl through the pages.  My lovely coat hanger people don’t have to keep their distance.