The gentle pull of Wabi-Sabi

An artist’s work is not a flat line, one style equation. We get inspired, emotional and question things. We learn skills and combine elements and slowly our work changes.

Mine has taken many directions with some constants in terms of style, ethics and how it serves a purpose within a space or for a person. For the last couple of years, I was lucky to discover new techniques and skills that I had, dormant within me. All that being said, new skills can be both distracting and unsettling because the direction that seemed so clear on minute looks unclear.

But there is a reason why we change. We learn to absorb elements we believe in and that we feel are helpful to ourselves and to others. Last week, the teacher of my Mindful Art course lent me a book on Wabi-Sabi. [Wabi-Sabi is a philosophy embracing the cycle of life through natural materials and embracing imperfections]. I had for the last year or so collected images and elements linking to this Japanese philosophy but reading in depth about it shone a light on how much deeper some of my work wanted to go. Colours, textures, environment… all contribute to the direction of bringing mindfulness in how I work and soon on my teaching. Now the fact I tend to avoid bold colours makes complete sense. Or the need to improve environments to impact how people feel within them which has been with me for as long as I can remember. Funny how sometimes we know a feeling, emotion or impression but we have no words for it.

Wabi Sabi the Japanese art of impermanence

Wabi Sabi the Japanese art of impermanence

It is always worth to explore our hidden depths and feelings because they inform so much of what we do. We create from emotions which are sometimes bigger than us and it is good to know more where they come from. This book is not for everyone but if some of the peace explained within its page can shine through my work, I am happy.

Wabi-sabi a tranquil alternative

This morning I ran a Sketch group session (thanks to Eve the wonderful organizer of this drawing group in Falmouth) and I mixed wabi-sabi and one line drawing together.

First let me set the scene by explaining that this strange word means. Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy a few centuries old that embraces natural materials, the cycle of life and imperfections. Do not confuse this with wasabi which is the spicy green stuff you add to your sushi. This could not be different. It is calm and beautiful in  an understated way.

wabi sabi 1

The group of about 28 people (not exactly sure but this was the largest workshop I have delivered so far).Now I find sharing skills and knowledge gives me a real buzz. When I came across it a about a years ago, I did not realized how well it fitted with my work but reading a book about this week has given me in depth knowledge  that goes a log way to explain why I strive for unique works, muted colours and a gentle and calm approach. In a world of bold designs, I am clearly standing on the edge. But the magic is when it gets combined with other things like one line drawing that led me to embrace whatever happens. It is a wonderful tool  that I would almost qualify as a life skill in a fast moving world.

Ribbet collage

Wabi sabi is about taking a pause, not rushing and looking. Taking in the essence of what is there and honoring natural materials.

Finding out more about who we are through meeting people, learning about other cultures and taking in new information forms who we are and become. I am now a very different person to when I dew as a teenager and I had hardly any techniques in my tool box. This has changed and the last 2 years have been especially great in teaching me new perspectives. So much that I can wait for the next discovery…

When books lead you to other things

I have to admit I have never read as many books as for the last 4 months. None are fiction or even the type I would normally go for but it felt refreshing.

Now and then, I have started to read about a concept, a person and a tool. Whatever it was, if it picked my curiosity, I started Googling it. In fact, I started using my search engine, Wikipedia, Pinterest. I clicked on links and more links and I have gathered stars and gems. They started filling my heart with happiness, the very thing I was looking for but this time it came from inside because I was finding elements that resonated with me or should I say within me?

I grew up in a rural setting, had friends that were rarely my age (this is how few kids were living where I was) and at a time when Internet was at no one’s fingertips. I know it is now becoming harder to remember times before the www. and for the new generation it is an inherent part of life.

The one very subject that kept coming back was mindfulness. Then one night I was listening to a long (very long) talk of Tai Lopez and one of his colleagues (sorry I did not write down the name) mentioned MOOCs (in plain English a worldwide free access to courses on just about anything). I was there like a flash and found this

Screenshot 2016-04-20 16.29.39

Delivered by Monash University in Australia, I spent the last 6 weeks learning about tools I wished they had taught me at school! I learnt so much. The teachers Craig Hassed and Richard Chambers are amazing. The format was nothing I had experienced before. A mix of videos, articles and resources to read, a forum to answer questions and learn from others, feedback at the end of each segment. This is a new way of learning at a time that course fees are so expensive they are becoming out of reach… You guessed it, I don’t take no lying down very easily and I try to find solutions…

Now these tools of mindfulness are making a big difference in how I work, think and connect with others. My social and professional circles are expanding in unexpected ways but nonetheless very positive. On the face of it I have changed so little but these tiny changes are like an earthquake, shaking all the dust from old thoughts patterns and habits one step at a time.

(Futurelearn has a lot of other courses too…)

All of that started with one book! Choose well is all I can say, whatever works for you. Drop me a line and tell me what was life changing for you. It might be helpful to me and others.


“Stop screwing yourself”

I know this is a bit of a strong title but it comes from Mel Robbins, someone I discovered on TEDTalks a couple of months ago on this talk:

How to stop screwing yourself over | Mel Robbins | TEDxSF  you can find it here

I have to say if you have not yet listened to TEDTalks, make that the next thing you do when you have a bit of time. The talks are inspiring and in some cases will blow the cobwebs away. Mel Robbins did it but then again, this is what she has done for the last 17 years so this is not new to her. I loved her very direct talk in addressing issues in your life so I went on Amazon and found her book “Stop saying you’re fine” (The no B-S guide to getting what you want).

stop saying youre fine book collage

I am not going to digest this book for you because this is a personal journey with exercise where you have to address specific parts of your life that do not make you happy. I can’t do yours but I am doing mine.

I have not finished this book. Why? Because I have started working on the stuff I need to change and that takes time. Do you remember what I said about dipping in and out of a book? This is exactly what happens with this. You could read it from cover to cover and… do nothing. Or you could start reading and start doing. Yep. Life changing.

Before you go and buy the book, listen to her talk. Then read reviews by other people that read it then decide if it is for you. Do that with every book. Don’t just take my word for it… unless of course you want to plunge straight away and go for it.

I can share a nugget though. I hope she won’t mind. One of the exercises is to see if you are jerk or chicken. Sounds funny? Yes but it works. Pick a part of your life and see what excuses you come up with in that area. make a list of things you would do if you were not a jerk with yourself (sabotaging yourself) or chicken (scared). . cross out the excuses and start working on the solutions you have written down This is powerful stuff. If you have been unhappy for a while, this may take you towards what you need to do next to make a long lasting change.

The value of sharing

Writing after a long break can be a bit daunting. For me it is often “where do I even start”?

So last night I was reading a book called “Show your work” by Austin Kleon and this has given me a tip. Sharing one thing a day (more or less) about the things I love, experiment with, people I love the work off, my inspiration, work in progress or completed…

As it stands there are things I am working on right now that are not ready to be shared. It is a bit too soon so instead I am going to share elements of what is inspiring me right now. there will be a thread and a few detours (I don’t do straight lines or easy!) so as you follow this journey of mine you will pick clues and pieces to form the larger jigsaw that will reveal itself in the next few weeks and months.

First book to share with you: “Essentialism, the disciplined pursuit of less” by Greg McKeown.

essentialism bookI have always done a lot and on occasion so much I spread myself too thin. So finding a way to do less of what is more important started with this book. I have discovered that dipping in and out of a book is OK. Reading from cover to cover is not always what I need.
Of course this book has so much more but essentially it helped me in putting strategies in place to get rid of the clutter in my mind. I am not out of the woods yet but one day at a time suits me fine.

It’s been a long time

I cannot believe it has been so long since my last post. Well actually I can. It has been a whirl of activities with lots of craft fairs (lots of making) and running workshops so I found it hard writing as well as doing everything else.

My little one now 5 has started big school. This was a bigger shift than I thought possible. She is growing up. She is also spending more time away during the day so naturally, I started filling time with more crafting, sewing and anything necessary to prepare stock. It is amazing how much needs to be done just to participate to an event. Endless! Lots of fun but… you can end up with an empty tank. That was me in December. The last few shows gone, I finally settled to celebrated Xmas. My husband changed jobs after a period of uncertainty and associate stress but now he is a 10 minutes walk from work instead of a two hours commuting by train(that is when they are running on time or not breaking down altogether). I am now sharing my art room as my desk has been hijacked! OK I have free run of the rest of the house. Still….

So after a longer break than planned, I stared resting after feeling burned out. Now If you knew me, you would know that I don’t do rest. I don’t do “doing nothing”!  My diary used to be filled through and cracks and gaps that would dare to show a free space.

One thing changed though. I changed. Mindfully.Photo-2016-01-11-09-29-01

First I read a book called “Calm”. Beautifully tactile, it was a gem filled with the kind of pictures you see on Pinterest a lot. I started meditation and learnt that it is not what I thought it was. Just breathing, nice long  deep breaths. Then taking the time to notice thoughts, single ones, patterns, habits… I felt refreshed but still low in being able to define “what next?”. This had nothing to do with a new year resolution but rather something within that said I was not happy.

Bullet journaling diary, the end of classic diaries

Bullet journaling diary, the end of classic diaries

I am just coming out of hibernation after a lot of reading, drawing (having re-started drawing after 25 years interruption), and maybe the key feeling happier than I have ever been.

Now this is something coming from within, not looking for acceptance from others by from myself. Creative people can be so harsh with themselves. Trust me, I am one of them and it started when I was a child, when my mind started being non-stop.

It feels quite strange to write again. I know it will become more natural as I write some more but this is a reflection on the journey I have taken as a creative mum.

Someone I know said the media around us feed us a lot of short stories of success. Social media does the same when we get highlights of our friends life. Matching any of that, getting success takes time, work, good days and bad days but sometimes we need to know what is really going on, because we can relate to that and find strength in it.

I am now part of a community on an app called YOU. Beautifully made, it is full of people that set micro-actions to change their life. Don’t know what a micro-action is? Well imagine you want to change something big. Ok break it down in tiny pieces, this is where you will find micro-actions. Change happens beautifully in tiny actions that you make every day. And it is free…

the YOU app

the YOU app

This is one of the many things I have changed since I have started adding mindfulness in my life. But this is the start of another post so keep tuned until I write the next instalment.

Be happy, be safe, be well.


With smiles as always

Gaelle by the sea

A date with myself

Weird? No. Essential? Yes.

But first, what is a date with myself?

Well. It is time to escape and recharge the batteries, explore and be open to possibilities.

It is taking time out. No dog, friend, kids or phone. Just go and be in the moment.

Be in the moment

I came across this a few months back in a book called the artist’s way by Julia Cameron. A friend of mine told me to get a copy and it started changing my life.

The man thing is that I started looking after the artist within. It was a strange concept at first but I did not count on synchronicity! Taking time out never came easily to me. It was more long lists of things to do and feeling guilty when doing nothing, with that feeling that I should be doing something, anything. Grace Marshall would call it scanning in that clever article ( ) and it gave me very little time to dive deep into nature, inspiration and new ideas.

There is this guilt though, almost a nagging voice that loves to remind me to do all these things at home. I wonder where it comes from. Education? The age of technology and multi-tasking that keeps adding tasks to our daily routine? But guess what? Strange and wonderful things happen when I ignore that voice.

So this morning it was my first long day with myself whilst little P. was at pre-school until 3pm. The weather was finally softer and brighter. All I needed was a destination.

The qtearroom in St Agnes

The qtearroom in St Agnes

I did not go very far, just a few miles down the road and my first stop was  cafe called the q tea rooms which also works as a tiny gallery. Just before walking in, I had a look in the studios next door and some ceramic work caught my eye. No name or cards left but… chatting with the owner of the cafe, it turned out she was the artist in question. We exchanged mental notes about laid back wedding, mine just gone and hers in a week. I felt I had made a connection.

The work of Caroline McDonald

The work of Caroline McDonald

What’ s important here is not where it takes me in the future but how an artist date helps me being in the moment. Everything else can wait. This is what makes me wonder why on earth this is not what they are teaching at school. This would be a gift everyone should be able to enjoy whether they are creative or not. Instead a lot of the teaching goes into these subjects that are to me, very remote from making well rounded individuals that will value time to stand back, enjoy unplanned encounters and recharge batteries. So one day at a time, I am learning myself so I can pass this on to my little girl. I know she is much stronger inside than I ever was when I was a child. But somehow, I can see that some of my experiences might be in her already. We can share and enjoy times together. The world can wait!

Upside down