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my journey

April 13, 2021

‘Accepting the absurdity of everything around us is one step, a necessary experience: it should not become a dead end. It arouses a revolt that can become fruitful’ Albert Camus

While making a chronical of my MA experience during isolation and travel restriction I have to observe the difficulties that incurred along with the achievements.  All my research has been limited to online resources and books I have in my bookcase.  So, my journey has not involved travelling; I feel like Xavier de Maistre who journeyed round his room in 1784 while under house arrest for having participated in a duel.  It is a parody and humorously demonstrates that one can explore without having to leave one’s home.  Like my story it is a ‘shaggy dog’s tale’ (Maistre de, X. 2013) My journey and mindset as it began, was as Alain de Botton pointed out of Maistre or any traveller, that of receptivity, with no rigid ideas of what might interest me. I took delight in and was intrigued by everything. I left no stone unturned; made notes, sketched, and took photographs, frame by frame.  However, as time went on, I met a stumbling block, that of lack of digital knowledge and expensive technical tools.  It was like an unruly monster that appeared at every corner.  Meanwhile. my journey becomes more like Homer’s Odyssey, as Odysseus travels back to his wife Penelope from the Trojan war to Ithaca he met with monsters, plague and retribution which delayed his journey for many years. While his wife slavishly wove cloth by day and unravelled it by night to ward of her many unwelcome suiters.  While Homer dramatised the events for poetic effect, I can relate my journey to that notwithstanding the pandemic.  My adventure was often unsettling and not always exciting. 

Alongside the fear of the virus, travel restrictions and lack of resources was my desire to maintain my self-taught work ethic and to become recognised as an outsider artist.  While I wish to make a valid contribution to my community with my art by sharing, teaching and entertaining and this with minimal or no further education and costly overheads is possible.  However, if I wish to reach a bigger audience and achieve a modicum of notoriety, I will need to make further investment and possible extended education and therefore losing my autonomy and claim to outsiderness.  So the journey continues …

A promise …

January 30, 2021

After a concerted effort over the last 10 days decluttering and culling my many bookcases I have made myself a promise. Since beginning my BA with the Open University in the 1990s; with which to study Classical History in particular and many to do with the two Enlightenments.  Then while learning to read Classical Greek and Latin I accumulated dictionaries, grammar books and readers.  After graduating and with a love of dead languages I went to study Sanskrit at SOAS in London and Classical Tibet with ITAS and gathered more books about the beginnings of language, the culture of India, and Tibet and Buddhism with a view that one day I might translate some very early works and teachings. This didn’t happen due to events beyond my control and with some regret the books became redundant.  

Meanwhile, my bookshelves continued to fill with novels, poetry, books about art, gardening, food, nature, travel, and an extensive record collection; now beyond the gunnels, my life and home was sinking. The time had come to recognise that some books no longer have relevance in my life and if I wish to work and read for the next 30 years, I must address the issue now.

However, while I was ready to begin the task, it was not without physical and mental challenges. The books were many and some large I had no space for sorting or storing until they were sold or taken to a charity shop, logistically it was problematic. Then there was the psychological impact, the books bought at significant cost, some barely read, others beyond comprehension; all representing the pain of study. The guilt, shame, regret and surprising attachment and utter contempt was as powerful as any shackles and sword as I sorted the books one by one.  I was mentally torn and exposed as any criminal or worse an addict. 

While, I was able to sell some of the books the return will not meet my costs or indeed sooth the wounds.  Alongside this I have boxes of books ready to go to the charity shop, when they open after the pandemic.  The books remain a constant reminder that no matter what the blurb says they are merely a tool they are not the outcome and only go some way to make or improve me. They had become a ugly crutch.

I will continue to collect books.  While I was studying the Enlightenments, it seems that it was men who did the lighting up, the women remained in the dark in more ways than one. However, to address this is a tiny way I am going to continue to read and collect books and listen and collect music by women who have made a mark on me and the world at large, without shame or regret.  I may have to put a budget in place but pleasingly literature is much more accessible now and there are ways to ‘discover’ knowledge without filling up shelves. 

So this what I will start with this …

unable to hug a tree at present …

January 12, 2021

So I embroider some; somewhat crumpled and far from finished; was begun in response to images regularly posted on social media by a friend.  Each day during the pandemic she videoed the trees in her back garden to the sounds of an ice-cream van as it touted for business at 11 o’clock each morning.  Little loops of comfort as we all are prompted to look out in our gardens for hope.

Gingerbread houses …

January 11, 2021

My work seems to reflect my mood during the pandemic and in particular lockdown (s).  This piece began as an illustration of a gingerbread house as seen in the story Hansel and Gretel; who had been abandoned by their parents. In the story, one of many collated by the Brothers Grimm.  The children had become a burden to their heartless parents who instructed a hunter to leave them deep in the woods.  Alone and far from home they came across a gingerbread house, where a wicked and renown witch lived and was inclined to eat children.  Hansel was very cautious and wanted to hurry away; Gretel was hungry and was tempted by the cake and sweets. They were captured and caged by the witch  and the story goes on to tell of their escape.

Meanwhile my embroidery has a story of its own and becomes gingerbread houses; and representing the houses on a nearby housing estate.  They are, I am sure built to utmost standards, with the finest design features, style and worth millions of pounds; yet so bleak and lonely.

With my needle and thread, I have tried to see and embroider some joy…

Next step …

January 6, 2021

As I step from this module for my MA, that was about my reflective practice, self-criticism, progression to independent workmanship towards professional development into considering my final piece and exhibition I must learn to departmentalise.

While it is difficult to separate being a puppet and stitch maker from being puppeteer, animator, stage designer or that a story teller; being able to isolate these tasks in the studio environment will go a long way to ensure that while art and creativity  is maintained and progresses, the result as a film or within a frame is produced with a professional balance and appearance.

When making the puppets, the story, and story board is in the back of my mind. To fore, is the wire sculpture with its strength and continued flexibility, the felt must be constructed to a fine and durable quality, the costumes designed and stitched to create a characterful colourful actor. All this takes place long before the animation comes to the fore.

Back drops, while they may be treated as a two-dimensional element they do fulfil and important function and cannot be ill considered when being the stitch maker.  Firstly, they might tell part of the story like the stage set or form a barrier from an unwanted background. However, they must not distract; the camera is a fool and easily distracted; so, the background must not have an obvious focus. Its function is a mere suggestion of a garden or street for example.  To that end, threads and fabric are carefully used without positive or negative lines or impressions.  Unlike the puppets or coat hanger people who as described earlier as characterful there is no subtlety. We must be assured of their importance.  In their isolation, neglect and the mundane they take centre stage and star.  

For my work for the next few months regardless of the outcome; while perfecting  the backdrops I will ensure the puppets will be well made, balanced and stage worthy. 

Coat hanger people or puppets?

January 4, 2021

As I begin to think about my final piece which will be much about studio work; for example: finding a story, giving my characters a role, making props and stage sets and animation.  While I have thought much about it and even have a plan; where I begin remains mystery.

This saddens me and find myself distracted by ‘other’ things and even further research is so attractive.  This weekend for instance I taught myself crochet; learning, however that it will not have a place in my final piece. 

On the other hand, this was far more interesting a hand puppet in a drawing by Bruegel 1564 and would like to know more about the stories that were being told 5 centuries ago.  I am not sure where my coat hanger people and puppets meet; if indeed they do.  I am also interested in the use of puppets and animated creatures in art and communication

Still in holiday mode …

January 3, 2021

As I begin my day before dawn; reading, writing and walking; my breakfast at 9.30 is a welcome feast and my pot of pu-erh tea is heart-warming. So, until my next pit stop and while I am still in holiday mood and brevity is of the essence … another character or two of note these are goat like … and dance very well .

New year colour …

January 2, 2021

The sun is up; there is a tiny break in the clouds and blue sky is peeping through.  After so many days of grey; the colour is so welcome.  During these days while I have been culling my collection of books; I have been looking at and being inspired by the work and writing of Friedrich Hundertwasser and Paul Klee.  These books will not be going anywhere.

Düchting, H. and Klee, P. (2018) Paul Klee painting music. Prestel.

Restany, P. (2010) Hundertwasser. Parkstone International.

Inside out …

January 1, 2021

In the 14th century after a 100 years of the Mongol Yuan dynasty; Emperor Zhu Yaunzhang became the founder of the Chinese Ming dynasty. One if his first acts was to ‘establish a new dress code;’ he banned the barbaric Mongol styles, but bought in his own rules that distinguished the nobles from ordinary people.  The story is complex and thrilling; the book called The fabric of civilization; how textiles made the world by Virginia Postrel describes it fully.   

My coat hanger person wears a coat that relates in a small way to the laws as regards the wearing of silk and embroidered cloth. Commoners were forbidden to wear such luxurious textiles; merchants would flout the strident rules and line their mandatory plain coats and jackets with fine fabrics. 

resolution or revolution?

December 31, 2020

Oh dear, it is New Year’s Eve; the last day of a year of immense difficulty and helplessness. We hear today that another vaccine has been approved and ‘rolled out’ but it still looks as if spring is a long time coming.  I haven’t been to a New Year’s Eve party in decades; seeing the new year in with Jules Holland at home on the TV has become a family tradition, that, and lots of champagne. I am wondering if that too has been cancelled, as so many live events this year haven’t happened. If so it will seem, albeit a little melodramatic, like the last straw.

So, with that I must be truly grateful that my family, friends and I have remained safe and that with the vaccine things will get better.  Not back to normal or as it was, for me that will not happen. I cannot afford to lose time, so I am making wishes, making changes, allowing myself to find ways to realise new invention within and without the digital development and fulfil my dreams. Is that resolution or revolution?