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.

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From vision to reality

To me, a few words is all it takes. My brain engages, visuals start coming to me and the main elements are constructed within minutes of a conversation with a client. Then comes the research. How do I make this vision become a reality? This bit is harder and this is where the work starts. Sometimes elements will fall nicely together, but more often than not they will not, like an escape artist which I need to catch, sometimes, at the most unlikely moment. It is not always like making a recipe from precise measures. It is most like tweaking techniques that I used before whilst trying out new ones that fit this particular client or design better. I just know when it happens.

See, recently I have had this idea integrating Siamese fighting fish, swimming gently in a shallow pond in between rocks. I inked paper to add details of lily pads and dew. Stems holding the pads were ready to go. Except that when I starting painting the watery background, I decided to strip my design back to the bare essentials. I kept the hand painted Tyvek rocks with sand and I swapped ink and acrylic for the fish. It became more gentle but at the same time much more powerful. Less is more. I have just carefully applied glue to the rocks to assemble them to the watery backdrop. Tomorrow, I will make the final lampshade. At the time of writing this, I am less than an hour away from having a finished product and photographs I will be able to share with you.

Shallow pond 3

You may think that this process could be much shorter and to the point and sometimes it is. But on some other occasions it is when you start putting elements together that they start making sense … or not. The techniques I use or try hone my style into a more controlled finish that I am happy to hand to a client. Some of these techniques become easier to reproduce so that I can make this design again as part of a standard line. Some techniques I have perfected this week I will be shortly use for a couple of commissions I have started working on. Because whether this is working from my own ideas or making someone else vision, these techniques will surely come in handy at some point.

Shallow pond 1Shallow pond lit

Next time you see a handcrafted piece, functional or not, remember this process. Things do not happen from thin air but require materials, skills, research and “making” time. They also require marketing efforts so that we get the products in places when you can see and maybe touch them. With the best descriptions in the world and a selection of photographs, it will never match the product in the flesh because reality is so much better, It is tactile and textured, details will keep you intrigued for a long time and the result of not rushing this process will be all the difference between mass produced and unique pieces. Come and see me at home or at one of my exhibitions. You will get a warm welcome and maybe a vision of your own you want to make reality… with a little bit of help…

Getting out there

Getting our work out there takes time. A lot of planning, dithering, tweaking, pricing… You name it, it is part of the process. Sometimes it takes quite a few conversations with a retailer and then… nothing. Yep, big silence and the opportunity is good. Actually, maybe it is natural selection and it is best to know early. But when it does take off, it is exciting.

Earlier this month, some of my work started to be featured on the Cornish High Street online shop. Finally an address to source beautiful and Cornish inspired products. From artwork to jewellery, food and home accessories are now available even if you are not local to us or miss our region. My page http://thecornishhighstreet.com/search.asp?types=The+Gallery+%3E+Gaelle+by+the+Sea looks stunning. See, for me, having my work out there is one thing. Having it on a website that looks so good is a moving and exciting time.

Then, this week a video was produced to celebrate products for Valentine. My work was in there too so here’s for a bit of sharing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_G_uI11cXmo&feature=youtu.be

So now I am planning a bit reveal of some lampshades soon and more frames. Life is good!

From the heart

What a year this has been! We have just come back from France for a cosy Christmas with my family. We left this morning for a 12 hours journey with many white roads, a light covering of snow and our little one saying ” I really, really want to make a snow ball!”. Not enough down and having left late after a lazy relaxed breakfast with my mum, there was not enough time either. Now we are back, it would be nice to have a snow dusting here too. I love snow, It completes Xmas ad makes it really magical.

We were in such a rush before leaving. Making many handmade Xmas cards and some presents added to the pressure. When people still had 4 days of shopping and the like, we had to be packed and ready. Well, we were, just after recovering from a lingering cold and my voice going very raucous for a couple of days but we were ready. What is it when you make something really special that the pressure builds? It is not that I did not know what I was doing, far from it. One of them simply had to be finished in time for us to take on our journey It was just a mix of trying to impress my mum and making something she loved that may not be something I would have in my home. I had to reflect her taste and not mine but without compromising on quality and a style I would be proud to add to my portfolio as someone else may like it and ask me to do something similar.

So what did it take? Lots of cotton to sew the different trials and final lampshade. A few hours of carving lino stamps that are stored until I use them for a different version. A few heated moments struggling to get some fabric glue to work and going for a an alternative in desperation. Spreading myself literally quite a bit leaving sorting out the house to the last minute… After a lot of anticipation, my mum loved it, my brother too and I think quite a few of the people that saw it since too. It is deceptively simple but has a lot of flowing lines sewed in the background and orchids added for the final flourish. This will join mum’s collection and cover that bare bulb naked for over 3 years! Here are a few pictures.

Orchids lampshade  with close ups from both side.  This was designed for a ceiling  but has not been fitted in situ yet as I have discovered since the French fitting is different to the one we have in the UK and  needs changing. Nothing expensive but a picture of it properly fitted will hopefully soon.

Orchids lampshade with close ups from both side. This was designed for a ceiling but has not been fitted in situ yet as I have discovered since the French fitting is different to the one we have in the UK and needs changing. Nothing expensive but a picture of it properly fitted will hopefully soon.

So, after all this making, I have just had a free week which felt quite strange and the main reason is my brain has engaged into a very creative process for the last few weeks, even during the orchid lampshade. Ideas are just parked in a corner of my head waiting to come out. I have also bought new materials and tools before I left which I have not had yet the chance to “play with”. Yes, some of what I do includes paying and experimenting. What I call “happy accidents” when something turn out unexpectedly to create a bit of magic. You can’t rush it, you can plan for it. You just do it.

So now the new year is approaching, I am planning more experimenting time, a few lines of wonderfully bespoke lampshades and artwork. Oh and planning a wedding! Yes a we are back on after putting things on hold for a year. Less than 6 months (if we get the date and venue we want) to organise a handmade (you could have guessed that) and laid back wedding filled with wild flowers and unconventional moments. If you like formal, look away now as they say!

But before I do all that I wish you all a year filled with health and happiness. I also wish for more peace in a very agitated and suffering world. It should not be that way and if we can all put out two pence of peace in our patch, maybe it will have a ripple effect, you never know. Fancy trying?

Best wishes to all.

Downtime

What is a maker/crafter/designer to do on the lead to Xmas?

Well, as shop started to sparkle I took part in some Xmas fairs or fayres as some spell them. I visited some to check venues and events out for next year. I made things and am still planning a couple of things a s presents.

This time of the year is always a bit manic, between the things I feel I have do (not all necessary but there you go) and the more earthy, chilled side of me this year. Because I have made quite a lot of things I stayed away from the high street store which all get the same generic stuff and have very little good service added to it. I always wanted to make more things but this was more a wish than a reality… until this year.

I have taken part in some regular workshop which have given me the chance to have a go at many things like wet and needle felting, soap making, mono printing… so I have taken a few pictures. These workshops have given me some well deserved time out that me and my little one both enjoyed, learnt new skills and in some case confirmed I don’t want to do something ever again!

So I hope you enjoy the following pictures and they may inspire you in making things for yourself, as a present or even just for the pleasure of discovering a new craft.

Chocolate goodies

Chocolate goodies

Handmade soap

Handmade soap

Wet felting and free motion embroidery

Wet felting and free motion embroidery

Hand painted clay decorations

Hand painted clay decorations

Fizzy bath balls

Fizzy bath balls

Foliage decorations

Foliage decorations

Merry Xmas.