Away with the Fairies

Often when I am creating I go into another imaginative place. I feel that I am in a world of my own creation, the place of daydreams.  It is a great space to be in when you are writing or doing some visual art.  But at times this ability to put myself into a story or travel with my mind has not been appreciated by others.

As a child I became easily lost in the world of make-believe.  I remember going to a scary play when I was about 5 and became very distressed because one of the characters terrified me.  I thought it was real.  I had to be taken out of the theatre.  It was on a school excursion and the head teacher was not impressed. She obviously had no imagination and could not understand why a little child might be frightened.  I also found the MGM lion very terrifying because it was so big and loud. I thought he was going to eat me and hid behind my hands.

In kindergarten another girl and I were totally involved in a game we were playing and decided not to go inside when the bell rang.  We went to an area where there was an empty water feature with rock formations and continued our game.  Then the drama started.  The teacher started calling our names and we knew we were in trouble and hid behind the rocks and did not come out.  Things started to escalate and more people were looking for us.  Eventually we reluctantly decided to face the music and got into a whole lot of trouble.  Our mothers had been called and as punishment we had to spend the rest of the afternoon in the principle’s office nervously giggling.  We were only little kids acting out our fantasies but the reaction of the adults was totally out of proportion because of their fears.

As I became older I spent a lot of time in school daydreaming through classes or dreary assemblies.  I think that I missed lots of vital information by drifting off into my own little world.  Luckily there was always art class.  I could always concentrate on my artwork or a good book or anything that engaged me.  My early school reports often had remarks like needs to make more of an effort or would do better if she paid attention and concentrated on the work.  Any tendency to let your mind wander was to be discouraged.

All my day dreaming never did me any harm.  In fact without it I never would have persisted at any art form.  Ideas don’t just fall into your lap without time spent musing.  You can’t change reality without first imagining something different.  The world probably would not have many inventions or great works of art and literature without lots of daydreaming on the part of their creators.   Questions like “What if I do this? What would happen if? How can I do that?” are often answered by daydreaming.

Nowadays I tend to daydream in the garden, watching TV or gazing out the window when I’m in the studio.  For this reason it is good to have some kind of view, especially if there is a bit of nature.  It is also easy to daydream under the shower or in the bath because the hot water is very relaxing.  The only problem is that you can’t write anything down and have to quickly dry yourself and find a notebook before forgetting the idea.  Often when you are in this state your mind flits around from one topic to another so it can be difficult to keep track of your thoughts. If I am in that frame of mind I take a notebook into the bathroom just in case.

For those of us who have chosen to follow the creative path, daydreaming is an essential part of the creative process and losing oneself in some imaginative place is not something to discourage.  Being able to transport yourself somewhere else mentally or transform yourself into another character is really helpful.  A moment flight of fancy can develop into a story or a series of paintings.  Never stop your mind from wandering or as my parents used to say, being away with the fairies.

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Away with the Fairies

One midsummer night I dreamed

I’m in a tree far away

Visible in full moon light

I lie on branches with the fey

Faces glimpsed amongst the leaves

Figures hide behind the limbs

Bright beings with fragile wings

Stir the air and fan my skin

Some drift around me as I gaze

A whispered spell upon me cast

I finally slip out of the haze

To find my bliss at last

© theartistschild.com 2017

Daydreams can become reality so let yourself fly.

Kat

Here is one of my favorite day dreaming songs from the 70s.

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Doodle All The Day

Recently I found some of my old doodles that I’d  done on odd bits of cartridge paper.  From a young age I used to doodle all the time.  In front of the TV, when sick in bed, in school books, on scrap paper, in magazines, then later in sketch books, in a doctor’s waiting room.  They tended to be random doodles and had nothing to do with my more developed artwork.  Usually of figures, animals, insects, pixies, fairy tale characters.  Just silly little things.  Amongst my rediscovered drawings there was also a coloured illustration that was developed from the little pixie doodles.  I stuck them all into a visual diary so that they won’t get lost or accidentally thrown out.

Throughout history people have doodled on different surfaces.  Apparently people did them on the edges of clay tablets in antiquity and who knows what can be found on the odd Egyptian papyrus.  Probably doodling became more common with the availability of paper, given that the earlier vellum, made from animal hides, was expensive and took a lot of effort to produce.  You don’t see many doodles on the pages of medieval manuscripts.

Often we discount little flights of fantasy like doodles, but they are a good way of getting ideas for a poem, a story, a larger work of art or illustrations.  I’d forgotten what fun you could have with a pen just aimlessly drawing.  I think I will put a sketchbook and pens in our family room out of the reach of the dogs so that I can doodle when I’m watching TV like I used to.  As long as it is not a foreign film with subtitles, then I won’t get too distracted.

Recent studies have discovered that doodling can aid memory and concentration.  Colouring books for adults have similar benefits and are very popular, but creating you own imagery is so much better.  You are not restricted by boundaries and can go all over the page wherever you like.  Even if you don’t think that you can draw anyone can doodle.  It could be patterns, little cartoons, or stick figures.  The whole point of doodling is to make a mark of some kind in a free manner.  You could start in the middle of the page, at the top or the bottom. There aren’t any rules.

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You can also use paint on canvas and just play around with the paint in a figurative or non-figurative manner.  This is just doodling on a larger scale and is a good way to stop getting precious about your work.  I did a painting like this not so long ago.  On a 30 x 30 inch canvas placed flat of the floor, I swirled around the paint with a brush or dripped it off a wooden chopstick.  This is not my normal way of working and it was fun be free and spontaneous.  I found it totally involving and the painting just evolved.  I still had to use my head and stopped before the paint became muddy and ended up with a painting I would be happy to hang on the wall.

Not everyone has a spare canvas lying around but if you want to use real paint without going to too much expense, you could use masonite board (a thin fibre board) as a surface.  I know there is suitable painting software for a tablet or a computer but it’s a more tactile experience working with real paint where you can create actual textures.  It’s also messier like a lot of things in life.  I had to cover the floor with plastic before I started and still managed to get it on my shoes but they were old ones. The dogs also wanted to help and nearly put their noses in the painting.  Many animals seem to like doodling with paint (chimpanzees, elephants).

Doodling can be an end in itself. Some artist’s have taken doodling to a whole new level, from pages in sketchbooks to huge artworks. Here is a link to some great examples.

creativebloq.com – Doodle Art

Doodling is a form of drawing that can be done anywhere and anytime.  From now on I will remember to doodle. When I’m on the phone, watching TV or when I just want the feel of a pen in my hand.  It’s good to remember that all art starts from making a mark.

Kat

Keys and Locks

The world is full of keys and locks.  Having the right key is important if you want to be able to do something creative.   Without this key or keys you can find yourself locked out and unable to progress.  This can be very frustrating and not good for your creative spirit. Finding the key to achieving your aims is never easy.   I hope that the following suggestions may help.

Sometimes the key is learning a new skill.   If you don’t know how to do something that is vital to your creative area you will never progress.   I found this with tapestry weaving.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, there were certain tricks that had to be learned to be able to do weave anything I wanted so I did all I could to master these skills.  It always pays to keep acquiring knowledge in your field, as learning is a key to excellence.

Often the key is finding the right person or persons to help you and for joint or group collaborations.  It is often difficult to get anywhere without connections and support.  “No man (or woman) is an island”, as the saying goes so don’t isolate yourself.  In any creative field working with others can expand your opportunities and is much more enjoyable. With music Ellie and I belong to a ukulele group.  It is a place where we can play and learn together, as well to gain support for each other’s song writing and performance.  This type of help is very important for anyone working in a creative field and it is good to join industry support organizations where you can get advice and assistance.

Another key to doing well in your creative field is gaining experience.  There are many ways to do this.  Volunteering for a local community group.  This will probably mean working for free, but it also means that if you are new to the field, organizations are less likely to turn you away.  Our ukulele group has performed for community groups and at a festival for free and it has helped us gain experience with live performance. I also volunteered before getting a job in a creative field.  I paid my dues by working voluntarily for over a year in various organizations before I gained a full time job.  The work experience made the difference.

I think that a major key is to make sure that you enjoy what you are doing. Without that element of fun it is harder to be produce fresh and innovative work.  Maintaining enjoyment may sound easy but when you are doing something all the time it can sometimes become repetitive and lose the fun aspect that attracted you in the first place.  So you need a way to keep feeling excited.

In this regard other committed, enthusiastic people are invaluable.  Talking with your fellow creatives can give you more motivation. Looking at the work of creative bloggers is also very inspirational.  So is doing a blog of your own.  Taking some creative classes to get out and mix with others can revive your interest.  I have been thinking about doing some life drawing in the winter because I am a bit rusty in this area.  It is something I don’t do all the time and will improve my skills, as well as get me out with other artists and stop me from stagnating.

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So don’t feel like you’re stuck and getting nowhere. There is a key for every lock. You just need to find it.

Keys without locks

Locks without keys

Not meant to stay closed

Forever to freeze

Work out the secret

Find the right key

Open the door

A new world, a fresh breeze

(©theartistschild.com 2017)

Kat

Of Slaters, Microbes and Five-Headed Creatures

 

I was searching through a box of old papers when I came upon some very short stories that I wrote a long time ago.  I did these before we had a computer and the Internet.  I had typed them on an old manual Olivetti typewriter and had done some sketchy illustrations.  They are in a modern fairy tale style, with an absurd, macabre bent.

 

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The Slater and the Meaning of Life (©theartistschild.com 2017)

Have you ever wondered about what also lives at the bottom of your garden besides fairies? What lives in those dark corners or under that rock?  Well, in one small garden rockery lived a slater named Wayne.

Wayne was a typical slater.  He liked to go out with the other slaters for a nice cool drink on a hot night or to lie under a damp rock and daydream.  Despite such an easy life Wayne was dissatisfied.  He wanted to know the meaning of life so he set out on his many slater legs to find it.

The first being he met in the grass beside the rock garden was a slug.  He asked the slug if he knew the meaning of life but the slug couldn’t speak “slater” and slithered on its way.

Next Wayne saw an ant scurrying along carrying the leg of some dead insect but he could not get its attention.  He became puffed trying to catch up and had to rest under a leaf.  Before he could move on a beautiful butterfly landed on the leaf.  Wayne looked up and asked it if it knew the meaning of life but the butterfly was more interested in enjoying the sunshine and told him to push-off.

Wayne plodded on through the grass until he came to a concrete plain and started across it.  At that moment the owner of the garden came driving in and ran over him.

The moral of this story is if you happen to be a slater, don’t become a philosopher.

The End.

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Microbes (©theartistschild.com 2017)

On a shelf in an old pickle jar lived a family of microbes.  They enjoyed feeding and doing microbe things in a sticky green residue of old gherkin.  This might sound quite boring but it was the ideal life for microbes and they were perfectly happy.

One day the person who owned the pickle jar decided to make some preserved fruit and she took the jar from the shelf and placed it in a vat of boiling water.  Of course the microbes were not particularly amused by this action so they put on their heat-resistant suits and went into suspended animation to await a time when it would be safe to enter the world again.

After what seems only a short time to us but an eternity to microbes, the jar was opened and its contents of preserved fruit poured into a bowl.  The temperature gauges on the microbe’s suits were activated and they awakened to find themselves floating in a fruit salad.

Now as this is not a television show or movie, no one came to rescue them and they became part of the dessert.  Unfortunately they were not exactly harmless either, and the poor people who ate them died a rather nasty death.  But the microbes lived happily every after.

The End.

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The Five-Headed Creature (©theartistschild.com 2017)

Once upon a time there lived a creature that had five heads so that it was always at odds with itself.  It would sit under a tree and discuss various things, like the theory of relativity and how to make a yo-yo spin.

One day it said to all of its selves that it would be nice to find a five-headed girlfriend.  It had no idea how to achieve this end so it wrote a letter to the local paper’s advice column and signed it five times just to make sure.

For a week the creature scanned the paper for an answer to the letter and finally it was rewarded for its efforts.  The columnist suggested that the writer of the letter needed his head examined and should visit a psychoanalyst as soon as possible.

The creature made an appointment with one found in the yellow pages after considerable argument with itself.  After a long period of treatment it was pronounced sound of minds if nothing else and was given a large bill, resulting in multiple headaches.

This story shows that while two heads may be better than one, five will mean more money spent on therapy, sunglasses and migraine tablets.

The End

It’s a good idea to keep all your early writing attempts, as it is fun to look back on what you have done and see how you have developed.  I’d forgotten how much I liked writing quirky little stories.  Life must have gotten in the way.

I also discovered a draft for a short story that I had left unfinished because I did not have enough confidence in my writing ability and started to doubt myself.  That old destructive self censor.  Reading it again I can see that there were some good things in that story so I think I will finish it.  I don’t like leaving anything uncompleted.

Don’t be afraid to go back to something that you have put aside in the past.  It might be better than you thought at the time.

Kat

Bags of Creativity

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In this world of mass production I love handmade things.  They tell the story of their creation and continue the skills and traditions valued by the people who made them.  I have a collection of handmade bags and purses from the past and the present.  They are examples of textile crafts that require time and effort to produce and reveal the various ways different cultures embellish utilitarian objects.

Some of my little bags came from ancestors and old family friends.  They were produced in the early part of the 20th century when ordinary women had more time to make their own clothes and accessories and they learnt various crafts that are now usually practiced by artisans and keen hobbyists.  Other more recent bags and purses in my collection are examples of the textile crafts of other countries that are still being created in villages and towns today.

The black beaded evening bag and two rectangular purses were made in the 1920s and 30s by an old family friend.  She must have spent hours sewing or weaving the tiny beads into art deco style designs that were fixed to the fabric backing.  Women’s eveningwear would have been an added expense in those days, especially around the time of the Great Depression and many women made their own party clothes and accessories.  They probably got ideas from overseas fashion magazines.  When I look at these I can hear the sound of jazz bands and the clinking of martini glasses and see couples dancing in their finery.  Such objects remind us that the owners were once young and enjoyed going out to parties and other celebrations.

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Japanese Crochet Beaded Purse, 1960s

I also have a small vintage 60s beaded crotchet purse from Japan.  This type of Japanese beadwork was popular in the 50s and 60s for bags and purses.  You can find lots of examples for sale on the web. It seems to have been a common Japanese style of beading and purse shape. These tiny purses were widely produced and are still being made today. I like its miniature size and design. It must take a lot of patience to do such fine, fiddly work and to fit on the small beads while working with a crotchet hook.

Beaded bags are still admired in the 21st century and new ones are readily available.   I have a grey beaded evening bag made in china and a small red beaded purse from India, where handicrafts are still common and are created for a wider market.  There are also many obsessed independent crafts people who create their own beaded purses for sale online.  It is good that this time-consuming craft has not disappeared.  There is something magical about the way light catches on the surface of the beads.  It is like miniature mosaic.

Another popular craft of the past and present is needlepoint.  I have had a go at this with cushion and picture kits and it is a slow and relaxing pastime.  Before these kits became commonplace women would use unmarked canvas to create their own designs or could purchase graph style patterns to copy.  Of the two bags that I possess one is a combination of petit point and standard needlepoint and the other consists entirely of petit point.  An ancestor created the former in the 1930s and the latter is an example of Austrian petit point, possibly from the 1950s.  One can only imagine the eyestrain caused in stitching such fine needlework, especially before the availability of magnifiers with lights.  Austrian bags like this are still made today but are extremely expensive because they are so detailed and slow to produce.  Anyone who does this painstaking work deserves to be paid well. Luckily there are still plenty of vintage bags available for a reasonable price for those of us with limited means.  I sometimes wonder where the owners took these bags; from the theatre in the 30s to concerts in Vienna in the 50s, it seems a world away from our modern life today.

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Hand Embroidered Silk Evening Bag, 1950s

Other types of embroidery were applied by hand to mid-century bags.  The stylish 1950s black silk clutch in my collection has very fine couching embroidery on the top flap. Nowadays a soulless machine would be employed do this type of detailed embroidery.  This purse reminds me of Audrey Hepburn’s elegant style in a Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

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Embroidered and Crocheted Guatemalan Bags

Buying craft items made in another culture helps to keep the local textile traditions alive.  I have three bags from Guatemala that demonstrate examples of different textile crafts. From woven fabric and rich embroidery to crotchet, these decorative bags represent the work of individual Guatemalan women.  An ordinary bag is turned into a joyous expression of their creativity.  I love their use of color and texture and when I carry these bags, they make me feel happy.

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Iroqui Uzbek Cross Stitch, Uzbekistan

A small handmade cosmetic purse that I use all the time comes from Uzbekistan in central Asia.  It is an example of Iroqui cross stitch, a traditional craft of the Uzbek tribe which uses silk thread.  Equally colorful yet so different from the Guatemalan textiles, this purse belongs to the stylized aesthetic you associate with the central Asian communities along the legendary Silk Road.

At a time when computer technology is giving humans less to do manually in the workplace, it is good that there are still some things where a machine does not produce the best result.  Automated textiles just don’t have the same character as those created by hand.  It is the imperfections that make them unique and visually pleasing.  No wonder so many people are rediscovering old crafts for their own pleasure or to sell on-line.

My small collection of handmade bags and purses display craft traditions from several continents that span nearly a century.  It is wonderful to see the varied methods that have been employed in their creation and decoration. I really admire the patience and ability of the makers of these objects. They have transformed what is just a receptacle for carrying around ones possessions into expressions of their creativity and concepts of beauty.

Kat

The More You Know The Less You Know

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Woven bag: My first weaving project

You see an art or craft that looks relatively easy and fun to do so you give it a go.  Then you get into it and soon discover that there is so much more to learn and various avenues to pursue to gain more knowledge.   It’s a continual learning process and as with most art forms, it is usually a case of 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration to become really proficient at any creative discipline.

I was reminded of my creative journey into tapestry recently when I received a craft catalogue in the mail.  One of the products was an easy weaving kit.  This brought back the memory of how I started learning to weave that ultimately led me to study tapestry design.

In an old set of 1970s magazines called Golden Hands I saw instructions on how to make a frame loom to do simple weaving projects.  It peaked my interest enough to want to make the loom, which I did.  My fist project was a woolen Greek style bag, made by folding the woven fabric, sewing up the sides and knotting the warp threads to form a fringe at the top.  I attached plated shoulder straps.  It turned out quite well for a first project, but because I drew and painted, I wanted to learn how to do my own imagery in woven tapestries.

This involved more research and I bought a basic book to learn how to weave tapestries.  I modified the loom so that it was now a simple frame that I could use vertically with a clamp, rather than horizontally and bought a metal dog comb to beat down the weft threads, as recommended by the book.  At first my attempts were quite amateur because I was using a very basic technique and needed to learn more sophisticated methods if I was going to improve.

Luckily I saw an advertisement for classes at a local tapestry workshop and enrolled in a short course.  This was really helpful as it taught the methods used by the workshop and my weaving improved greatly.  I ended up doing a more advanced course there and I was hooked.  I was now able to weave from my own designs and the final results were much more proficient.

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Tropical Rhythms: My first tapestry after completing the short courses

Ellie was also interested in textiles and I taught her what I had learned and she also got the tapestry bug.

But I still wasn’t satisfied and felt that I needed to learn much more to become highly skilled in tapestry design and production so, as previously mentioned in this blog, Ellie and I both enrolled in an Art course where we could major in tapestry.  It was a very practical course and we were constantly challenged to develop our skills and learn many new techniques.

From textures to interpreting complex designs, we had to continually stretch ourselves so that nothing was impossible to weave and were encouraged to develop as visual artists.  We took part in workshops with master tapestry weavers, both local and from overseas.  We learnt textile technology and how to dye wool, as well as occupational health and safety so that we did not poison or injure ourselves.  The only downside of doing a course is that sometimes you must do projects that do not always interest you creatively and this can take away some of the enjoyment.  But if you want to do this professionally you must learn that there are times when you might need to make compromises.

The course was quite intensive and after I graduated, I had to take a break from weaving. So did Ellie.  I have been doing other creative things, like drawing and painting, as well as music, but now I feel that I want to get back to creating small-scale woven tapestries and rediscover my love for the medium.  All because I received that catalogue in the mail.

What begins as a simple creative pastime can turn into a complex adventure.  To become really good at any creative discipline takes a lot of hard work and dedication.  It helps to have a never-ending thirst for knowledge, as there is always more to learn.  And even if, like me, you take a break and do other things, you can always return to your earlier passion with a fresh viewpoint.

Kat