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This is me being a stage designer … bits of paper on a sack.

November 7, 2020

All the balls in the air, paper on a sack; being a textile artist making films and doing an MA is like juggling with plates with god watching.  I don’t mean to blaspheme; someone watching who has an opinion, whether it is valid or not, on everything.  An omnipotence who will judge my every move.  They will judge my story and board, the set, costumes, lighting, film making; need I go on?

From my point of view, each step is bittersweet; complex as regards my ability, supplies and even the weather is crucial.  Eggs in one basket, chicken and the egg and juggling is a messy concept.   

I would also like to point out that no person thus far has expressed any unwanted opinions; the demons I refer too are those sat as I speak on my shoulder. 

So, with this in mind a prayer to those watching, please be gentle, keep your opinions to yourself and allow me my moment of joy. As sure as eggs are eggs, plates in the air or not, this a good way to spend a lockdown.   

Out of my comfort zone …

November 6, 2020

When I began my MA a year ago, I had no idea what to expect and that state of mind continues with my studies and the current global issues.  The phrase ‘out of one’s comfort zone’ was expressed regularly; as a 70-year-old grandma during a pandemic that seemed unlikely.  Nonetheless a devil for punishment I was prepared to be proved differently.  As I have already discussed I have been researching stop motion film making with mixed results and much discomfort.  However, with the pain there has been much delight; especially during lockdown and its recent continuation.  It would be churlish for me to give up before I had barely begun.  When my tutor saw this video and the cart made by brother; she reminded me of a play by Bertolt Brecht called Mother Courage; a chronicle play of the 30-year war. Mother Courage follows the armies with a cart selling provisions and liquor to the troops with tragic result for her and her family.  While I cannot compare my experiences during my life and the pandemic with hers; it should be noted that wars, corruption and deprivation continue, and Brecht’s message is as valid now as it was then.  Another phrase shared over the last few months ‘all in same boat’ or in my case ‘cart’ is clearly not true; we are in the same ocean, but we are all left to flounder and make sense of the confusion in an unequal society.

So, my stories and films will be linked to the cart; I won’t pretend the stories will be anti-war or damning to the present government.   It will be an opportunity to tell stories and practice stop motion filming that might not have been possible when life was so much more comfortable; until we have a vaccine and out of lockdown.

Oh, for some elastic …

November 3, 2020

black star 1

Since when have I not been able to a yard of knicker elastic notwithstanding Covid 19, over the counter? Have I missed something? Then, is knicker elastic no longer called knicker elastic? I ask these questions as the rain continues to fall and I anticipate another day not in the garden. My supply of elastic is replete and whilst online as we do these days and more so since Covid 19 , I learned that a card of 5 metres, far more than I need; my characters don’t wear big knickers, costs less than the post and packaging. So, I added a couple more items to make it worth my while; especially as the feared further lockdown is eminent.  I duly waited for the goods to be despatched. How long does it take to despatch a card of elastic and sewing thread? The parcel finally arrived on Saturday; late but now I could start making a frock for naked Black Star; only to find that the elastic was out of stock and ‘to follow.’ Next, they will tell me I cannot buy an ounce of 3ply fingering.  Meanwhile, they do need knickers.

Getting back up to speed …

October 31, 2020

It has been a while since I posted to my Blog; I had missed, and not in a good way, the new ‘look.’ It took me by surprise and the result was not pleasing.   One thing I have learned about myself during the last year, is that I do have good muscle memory and very obsessive. While I don’t enjoy continued isolation, I do enjoy my own company; and considered by some an introvert. All this, with patience and time makes up for lack of talent. I am hoping that getting back into the swing of regular posts; blogging will come a vital communication tool during a painful lack of human contact.

During my flurry of too much new information yesterday I didn’t tell you about ‘Black Star’ who is to appear in my next set of loops called ‘The Cart : all in this together’ she is  lovely lady, but has serious issues as regards her honesty and allegiance during the ‘problems.’ The cart also is not to be relied on. She does try her best to do the right thing; while she doesn’t always have the resources, it is often far too late and for the wrong reasons.   

Meanwhile, on my part she doesn’t have a frock yet.  So today will be spent with one eye on the clouds as they race across the sky and the other on my stitch work and the magic will happen.

MA update …

October 30, 2020

Since I last posted to WordPress my life like most people of my age has become increasingly isolated. As one becomes less and less informed about the situation by the government, we go, one of two ways; either back to some kind of normal trying to keep safe or be more fearful and retreat further into the safely of our homes.  I am retired and can study at home and taken to the latter. I have ventured out on public transport, but it seems not everyone is following the rules and therefor I am little reluctant to go far.

This I find is not satisfactory; I need face to face contact with other students, technical advisers and my tutor. Now, as I go into my second year it is less likely that I and my fellow students, like those who graduated last year will not enjoy a final exhibition.  It would seem unlikely that artists generally and those emerging will not exhibit publicly again for the foreseeable future.  As a result, artists visual, performing or otherwise will have to find ways to show art or perform, to make a living or merely cover costs or perish; or as the government suggests find other employment. 

I am in the fortunate position that I didn’t enrol on this MA to increase my salary or enhance my career; I rather hoped I would recognise myself and be recognised. Not become famous but realise that I have a talent that I can broadcast and find mind space where I can continue working without doubt and regret.  As a textile artist this may not happen; while it doesn’t fit with fine art; as a creative one has to have a unique style and or a stable commercial vantage point.  For me this is not likely.  Nonetheless, I have invested a lot, financially and time and so I am going to keep going and pay my next instalment. 

By some strange twist of fate, I find myself doing stop motion films; using my rather large handcrafted felt characters.  Although it has been challenging, I am beginning to make progress so much that I would like to show my films.  Having said that I am still reluctant as I have chosen to use a free app on my mobile phone; as it started as a game I didn’t at the time want to invest in expensive apps and editing features.  However, this option left me on a bit of a limb as the Animation Department at University only support Dragon Frame, Adobe and iPhone all of which for me are costly and presently overly complicated.  So, with my simple phone and basic editing I have been able to make short loops and a rather robust, yet attractive DIY style as developed; which I hope to maintain.  Nevertheless, with the best will in the world I am on borrowed time; as my app fills with films, my gallery topples, and editing becomes an issue.  The DIY look is as cosmetic or shabby chic as any and will need to be carefully preserved.  I will have to make thoughtful changes to my practices and frankly I don’t know where to begin; and wonder if it is still a little early to make financial changes.

Meanwhile, I will start with using my WordPress differently and post my loops on my Blog.  I have tried linking from photos on Google but that doesn’t work; so, wondering about ‘converting’ my films to something compatible to WordPress but is all a bit too much for me. 

I understand that this stuff can be done virtually with help and that I do not need to move from my laptop; let alone out of the front door.  Yet for me face to face contact and conversations over a cup of tea are a lifeline to one who has spent the last 70 years, asking, searching and watching with colleagues, friends and family being alone hurts a lot … there I said it.

A nod to the NHS and the Family Allowance.

June 1, 2020

I have been reading history books that relate to rural life in UK pre 1950 and conclude that up until when we had the National Health System, Family Allowance  and Social Security, life for poor people was no bed of roses.  It was pretty rubbish, not even hand to mouth, the incomings never met the out goings. I will never understand how my parents coped.  We didn’t pay rent it was a perk of the job.  However, they did have to build our houseboat home.  As a skilled craftsman my dad was paid £5 a week.  My mother got nine shillings (45p) Family Allowance a week for my little sister; all this could not possibly feed and clothe us.  I am sure my father was able to do work ‘on the side’ I know that he would make a bus journey to Southampton with a bag of metal for the scrap man.  Alongside my other chores looking out for and collecting metal bits and bobs was always appreciated. I am sure this went some way to make ends meet.

I am not sure which one of my characters represents this poverty; they are all poor. These last two don’t have names yet, but they are wearing silk trousers and lawn shirts with beautiful tiny mother of pearl buttons. They are experiments … but I think they are good to go as wide boys or scrap men.

Saturday’s very short story …

May 30, 2020

I have talked much about my shopping exploits as a child in previous posts.  So, today’s very short story is it in a nutshell.  Writing with a needle and thread does have the uncanny knack of making me succinct.

As you know I am teaching myself stop motion animation; now there’s a thing.  To make a 30 second film takes hours of work.  They are not ready for human consumption yet as the ‘work’ goes.  Now, I am working out the sound effects and I have a cunning plan but like Baldrick’s less cunning more foolhardy. So, I feel there will be tears before supper.  Stage sets too are a bit of a mess and I am trying to work out ways to project a backdrop.  However, this is a step too far along the technical road, yet.

Enough of me … have a good day.

Netta, is a slave.

May 26, 2020

As children we were not encouraged to swim in or play near the water.  Long story short it was a working river not a playground.  However, during the summer holidays we found ways to go under the radar.  Big boys would mud lark. When the tide was very low and the mud exposed in the creeks, they would chuck themselves from one side of the creek to the other trying not to fall in the mud to score a point. However, if you fell in then you would side down to the bottom and scramble to the top, to try again.    When the game was over so a free for all ensued.

As my sisters and I were largely unattended such larks were out off the question.  During the summer holidays my mum might take us with a picnic, down river to a stretch of shingle where we couldn’t build castles but find crabs and little fish and gather cockle shells. Using a rubber ring, we learnt to swim.

I wonder if children and young people over the centuries found time to play in the river. Slide on their bottoms in the creeks or tuck their skirts in their knicker elastic and puddle at the water’s edge while their mum nursed a baby on the bank.  Then have a picnic with jam sandwiches and orange squash as the sun goes down.

This is Netta …

a slave (it is recorded that a slave is buried in Botley) so safe to consider others did come with the Romans and other migrants.  I would like to think she did have opportunity to play with her mum or charges.


This one is called Hiprose …

May 18, 2020

One of the tricks the river girl used was to make herself invisible and proved to be invaluable as life (or the moods) went on.  Some days she would like to be noticed and others she didn’t.  The trouble was that she didn’t always know which way her mood (as her mother called it) would take her.  The mood was as unpredictable as the tide. The mood and the tide were one of the same she had to be ready for both.

In a ‘real’ fairy story, a fairy might make a spell with a rosehip to make herself invisible, for the girl they contained itchy powder no magic potion.  So, she would steel herself, to run like fury in the opposite direction or sidestep into a holloway and take another path.  Or smile and ask him or her to see her across the road.


Very short story Saturday …

May 16, 2020

‘ … down at the water’s edge Wassa stoops and with a stick of drift wood that she had gathered during the morning, she …’

While thinking about my short-animated films, I have to consider a narrative. The easy option would be background music, spoken word or sounds, none without cost and or expertise and I am without both at the moment.

Nonetheless, a story is vital I can draw on my own experience not of course directly, remember these are fairy tales and I ain’t no nymph (bad grammar intended) with magic dust and all that. Trouble is they must be short, and I don’t do short.

Unless of course I am sewing then the words must be succinct or I would be sewing all night and need several bed sheets.

One of my jobs as a child was collecting drift wood to burn on the fire, It was a little adventure or it had to made it so.  It was an endless and thankless task in all weathers.  I never knew what I would find next.