You would think nothing would be easier wouldn’t you than to be able to create connection – but it isn’t always. So when something comes along in your week to lift you up , something that prompts you into that exalted state of thrilling to create, its a big bonus.
I was in a slump, but keeping going, as lots of us are in this limbo existence of Covid lockdown. Nothing really bringing savour to the day, when a message arrives in my Etsy mail asking me to produce a book to present a poem. That made me sit up , and as I dug deeper into the project, it sat perfectly with my own sensibilities. Tom Pickard established the Morden Tower reading series in Newcastle in the 1960s and ‘70s with his first wife Connie, hosting readings by international and British poets, including Basil Bunting, Allen Ginsberg, Heaney, Hughes and his poetry is published by Carcanet Books as well as being available at the Poetry Foundation. I was awe struck by that history! I have included a few pictures of the book gift that his wife commissioned for Tom from me to show the finished project. It does not show the complete poem.
Tom’s poem took me to the places I go when I scout the beaches in Scotland, and find myself nourished by the invigorating sense of belonging in nature, and existing as part of a much greater consciousness outside my own.
The poem is protected by copyright belonging to Tom, and is available from Carcanet Books ‘Winter Migrants’ and my thanks to Gill Pickard for letting me share this here.
Please let me know if you have any project you would like me to make a book from – I am happy to discuss any ideas! If you want to see the sort of books I have created to date, please pop to my etsy store https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/modestly
Happy New Year! I haven’t shared some of my new card designs on here for some time, so here we go! This is a tiny selection – there are lots of different designs that I make to order with personalised greetings printed inside. To see the full range please come and browse https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/modestly
What a week of loveliness – I have invested some time in finally getting around to researching, designing, printing and binding my homage to John Keats. It has been a splendid time of learning and remembering – I listened to the fabulous Jacke Wilson on The History of Literature podcast to deep me in the mood of ‘negative capability’ and was pretty pleased with the end result. Thanks have to go to my lovely customer who prodded me into creating it as I had forgotten that it was on my to do list. ( To do lists live in my head and rarely see the light of day). Years ago I was in Rome with my husband, enjoying the vibe and drinking in the sights and sounds that saturate, when we came across the tiny museum that houses Keats memorabilia, and which were the rooms where he had removed himself when his tuberculosis was at a stage he understood as life threatening. He spent some happy moments there before the disease totally incapacitated him, and spent the final days and weeks with his friend and companion Joseph Severn. One of the remarkable insights you get into Keats by reading his letters is the intensity of the connections that he made – his friends were incredible at giving him care and celebrating him. Whilst I was moving from room to room in that museum, I was struck by a very powerful sense of the poet – an almost uncanny sense. I was entranced really, and extremely moved by the experience. I later wrote a poem about it, and that has made it’s way into my homage too. It can’t be called poetry in the same sense that John Keats wrote poetry – but it does record my moment of transcendent delight and sadness that day.
The facts that surround Keat’s young life are themselves a fascinating insight into a young man of genius – his early life of losing a father at 8 years old, a mother at 14 , then going on to nurse and subsequently lose his beloved brother Tom to the same disease that killed him – form a character that goes on to dedicate himself to the power of the imagination . He trained as a medical practitioner, but changed his choice of career to become a writer – although financially he was always on a back foot, having been swindled out of his inheritance (another Dickensian sub plot.
And so he goes on to write some of the most memorable lines in English poetry ever written . Thank goodness. Please check out the podcast I mentioned if you are interested – it is such easy listening. http://historyofliterature.com/208-john-keats/
Making it matter – it’s always the little things isn’t it? and acorns encapsulate that idea with perfect clarity – because I love spending time amongst the trees. I have a majestic oak just beyond our window – and it is the same tree that my eldest son would sight from his bedroom when he lived here, and he loved that view. Somehow a tree manages to connect me with something I can’t quite name, but it is a feeling I treasure, and I think I share that with him. Autumn is so glorious and a treat I look forward to every year and I am preparing for a trip to discover the grandeur that Scotland offers at this time of year. It never fails to take the breath away. So I am going into the archives to find some of the Autumn pictures my husband has shot over the years. I really shouldn’t keep them all to myself!
Please do not use the photographs without permission. Any interest in the photographs please DM me.
And before I sign off a very big thank you to Annie Mason for spending time getting to know me in a virtual interview – we live at opposite ends of the globe but share a common sensibility for plants, painting and all things lovely. If you are interested please investigate the blog
So now I am venturing into the space of creating design for fabric which you can make into whatever you want to! After spending the past few years creating surface pattern design for products at Society6, Redbubble and Curioos, I had a lightbulb moment! Why wasn’t I designing the fabric that ends up on lots of those products, so that an end user can make their own amazing creation – whether that be for dresses or upholstery or making jackets for dogs. So I am introducing my little corner at Spoonflower in the hope you want to get creative too with one of my fabrics!
If you click on the Shop icon above magic happens! I hope you have a foray into my latest venture, even if only to see what I am up to there! It’s exciting to be learning again – and creating new opportunities! Keep staying safe everyone – lots of handwashing and mask donning!
It’s not been too different for me during this period of lockdown – as an independent surface pattern designer I work pretty remotely and mainly on the end of a p.c. I create time to make my handmade books because it helps me to step away from this obsessive need to create further artwork for uploading to print on demand sites such as Society6 and Redbubble. I have been so grateful for that opportunity to produce work that gets printed and displayed in homes worldwide – always a thrilling reflection. The past year has led me to want to supply to UK outlets too – most of my design work is bought in USA, and it would be lovely to feel they were enjoyed closer to home too. So besides having some of my prints now available locally in a lovely heritage centre – Beeston Canalside – I am working to get a piece of the action at Wraptious who support UK artists to get products made and sold around and about. They have a summer competition which I entered – five of my artworks are available there on cushions and prints, and if I get enough points , I may get invited to be on their books! Everyone loves a trier! You can vote via facebook, or you can share via pinterest etc, and if you are really impressed, you can make a purchase whereby I get 100 points!!
It’s not been my only endeavour – I am looking to upload some work to Spoonflower too – just sampling there at the moment, so it may not be long before I can offer fabric to my customers too. The power of modern technology never ceases to amaze me!
Would you be inclined to pop across to my page at Wraptious and lend a helping hand to my efforts there? Sharing on your facebook page would be great, or to pinterest. Well anyway you like really – I am so grateful for any support!
Hope to see you at Wraptious!! Enjoy the rest of the Summer and stay as safe as possible. If you want a funky face covering you can find my designs on face coverings at Society6 and at Redbubble! Here’ s a link to all my work
I haven’t been resting on my laurels – now there’s an interesting phrase – this lockdown has put me in a creating frenzy and I have been adding new artworks to my handmade creations at Etsy and to my print on demand stores , Society6, Redbubble et al. And of course now we are all wearing face coverings it has to be derigeur to make them as creative as possible. The new fashion accessory of the decade was the result of a global pandemic – we live in interesting times. My partner and I are, like many, shielding from the possiblity of catching this deadly virus. The daily round looks a little different – click and collect shopping and socially distanced dog walking, but much of my routine is still the same. The worst aspect of the whole lockdown is not being able to mix with my sons and stepsons, and extended family – so as long as they remain safe I content myself with that thought. I cannot imagine how frightening it must be to have family affected.
But somewhere along the line, we will be accommodating living with this new peril – there really will be no alternative, so daily living will be changed forever to some degree. The more at risk will necessarily be more restricted until a vaccine comes along – let’s hope at least for a vaccine.
But to more cheery considerations, the reason I commit my time to creating art is really down to its therapeutic value. It helps me to distance myself from all the real world anxieties – global warming, social injustice, the growing disturbances in the world. And turning to making something real is truly liberating – the necessity to focus on practical considerations of making something as well as is possible results in losing a sense of self – I am lost in that feeling of ‘flow’.
So here are some pics from the last few lockdown weeks – some of the new work I am offering and some showing the processes of getting there!
I had a lovely bulk order from America of my card ‘In the Library’ – an illustration based on detail taken from a wonderful painting by Barthélémy d’ Eyck 1442 – 1445 Still life with books. I popped a little slip around them to help protect each card , (I don’t use cello).
..and I added a lovely fold out to my book at Etsy which is a tribute to an ancient manuscript The Voynich.
..and my illustrated Prufrock got some bespoke wrapping paper and a postcard sent with it!
..and this is where the magic happens! My easel is an aide- memoir – it carries messages and reminders of what I need to do next!
This has been such a joy to create – I have been meaning to create a handmade book based on some of the epic poem by the American poet Walt Whitman for some years, so this lockdown crisis created the perfect opportunity. Whitman wrote to a friend that the poet Emerson had brought him to a boil – ‘I was simmering, simmering, simmering’..On completion of Song of Myself, he sent his hero a copy of Leaves of Grass, to which Emerson wrote the reply, “It has the best merits,namely, of fortifying and encouraging.” That it does, and continues to do so. ‘Leaves of Grass’ is the ultimate expression of a large man – an expansive, modern man. There are lots of very good essays available on the biography of Whitman, and a host of work on his work. The best thing of all is to get straight into the poems, and rest there.
I have chosen some of my favourite pieces – no doubt those choices will change over time, and illustrated them , then printed and sewn into a small book to add to a collection somewhere!
O.K. then…not always happy exactly, but that’s what you get when you have the temperament of Eeyore – the melancholic donkey in A.A Milnes Christopher Robin. One way to lift my spirits is to turn to my handmade endeavours – the cards, the prints and the handmade books. I have been doing this for a few years now, and the pace is probably just about right for me, I have enough orders to keep my interest, but not too many to make me anxious. The books are very time consuming as you can imagine, so if I get a spurt of orders on those then I have to extend my lead times. But so far it has worked for me. Recently my contact at a local gallery has taken my prints to display, and just before lockdown had asked me to do some cards to sell there. I generally do as I am asked, but before I could get them to him, the world had to shut down.
So I am sharing them here, in the hope that they may excite you enough to visit my store at Etsy, or if you like any of the artwork here and would like it as a print on A4 rather than printed as a card, which I have shown here, please message me! All my cards at Etsy are available here etsy.me/1PgIKTD and can also include a printed greeting inside.
‘Do you come to art to be comforted, or do you come to art to be reskinned?’ she asked in a 2003 interview with Jeanette Winterson.
The ‘she’ mentioned is one Ali Smith, novelist extraordinaire. Ali Smith was born the year after me, and it is always interesting reading a contemporaries view of the human experience. Reading Ali Smith is like submerging in a more real world than the one I live in. This is why reading excites me so much when the writing is so good you want to be there. Or aroundabouts, not necessarily in the middle of. But the things she writes speak more articulately to me than the world around me does. Increasingly I find myself an uncomfortable fit in a perplexing world of paradoxes. It is a world where we know more about the laws governing the universe than we have ever known before, and…