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.


“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.

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

There was silence…

… well on this blog anyway.

So what happened since last time I wrote? As it happens a lot.

The biggest things is that I got married. I said YES!

Me and Adrian said yes, we do!

Me and Adrian said yes, we do!

It was the most beautiful day. We filled the venue with handmade things and wild flowers. I will tell you more later but for now here is one sneaky picture.

I had two weeks before the wedding to get ready after 3 exhibitions back to back, one of them over 4 hours away from home.

Oh yes I was busy creating my new website, another WordPress but this time more specifically designed to promote my work. I will keep hovering between the two because this blog is where I started. I has a special place in my heart and it allows me to write as I please. This doesn’t happen on a website!

So there is much more I want to write but to avoid delays I will stop here and post this and write some more later.

A final thing though, I have just handed a commission today and here is the story


When hope takes over

4 weeks ago, my life got turned upside down. Mind you, not just mine. My whole family’s. There are many times I could have sat down and started to write… but somehow it did not feel right. How could I write about flying to see my dad because it could be the last time I saw him? How could I write about some of the dreadful things that we were told to expect? But in the midst of what I could describe as testing time at the very least, my brain carried on doing that positive thinking that I started when we came back after Easter. I had decided then that, if I could do nothing else, I would inject stories and other things into the repetitive medical conversations. I thought that I could talk about something else to make him think of something else. Call me naive but in the two weeks I was there, everyday he improved, one smile and one joke at a time.

So I started by putting my little one at the local pre-school to create a language immersion. It was also a distraction for little P. to avoid long daily commute to the hospital and having to behave for long hours, coming back late in the evening (there were also too many visitors so I had to share). She was so good though and never complained about going to the hospital. I have never mentioned on this blog that despite my first language being French, I find it hard to speak it at home. I know, I know, I agree, it is a shameful waste so I made this trip a milestone in changing that. The second week, we started a summer camp instead because it was the summer holiday. It was fascinating to see how adaptable she was and how popular she was too. From her usual half days, she started spending long full days in a new set of schools, with a new language and she loved every minute. It took the promise of feeding the Billy goats on the way back to get her home everyday!

We also designed things together and took them to my dad, watched hardly anything other than French kiddy programs at home (more immersion) and now she understand why she is learning French. She started asking for more words and understand which language is which, negotiating sometimes to revert to English! Gosh, I wonder what she will come up as a teenager!

But as all these things happened, my dad started benefiting from the brain radiotherapy to stop the bleed in his head. He also started loosing his hair but generally he was comfortable physically. I hate to think what he is going through emotionally though. As he said to me a couple of days ago, “I can’t plan anything long term anymore. ”

photo credit: canonfather via photopin cc

photo credit: canonfather via photopin cc

I left the days little P. was at school to visit the library, reminisce about my childhood and design a few concepts for my new fabric design range. See, when I was a child, I lived in places quite remote with very little company of my age. When we moved to where my parents are now, it was better but relationships did not materialise like they have later in my life. My knowledge was so little. The window onto the world was small and I started wondered what would have happened if I had had access to internet then. What if I could have explored the world from my bedroom? Would this have changed what I do now?

I know “what ifs” are immaterial. I am a different person now and the designs growing in me at the moment are the results of years of yearning, experiencing and exploring with new media. I think we underestimate how much we have at our fingertips. The downside it that we have to wade through a lot of rubbish and we take on too much. We also have to ask the right questions and, trust me on that one, it took me a long time to find the right words. So maybe this is it, now is now and talking design with my dad for the first time in a very long time  keeps bringing more positive energy because, each day that passes with him is filled with hope and everyone has moved onto “hope mode”. We can’t help it, we all have and we take each day at a time until such a time that we have to drop everything and be where it matters the most. Hope is a very powerful emotion and until recently, I had no idea. Not about this kind of hope. I am still not sure this post will be one of my best but it goes some way towards reconnecting, because writing also heals…

Capturing an emotion

Emotions come and go like butterflies. But sometimes you want to capture them forever, especially if you want to celebrate a special event. So today, I am writing the story of Jo’s frame, complete with goats and how it came about.

A few months back, I took a couple of my frames with me to a baby group and showed them to a couple of people, one of them being Jo. She was overwhelmed by one of me which was one I did for Valentine and was the story of how Adrian and I met. Jo wanted one. But then doubts set in because she thought maybe this was more something she would like but was not so sure her husband would be as keen as her. I just told her that if the story was about them He probably would. So time passed and a few weeks ago< I got the go ahead to make one for her wedding anniversary which is, at the moment of writing this, tomorrow.

We had a coffee together one morning and chatted about how they met. Even though there were nice memories, none was standing out enough so I said to her maybe that is not where the story was. See, when I made my frame, it was with a person and an intention in mind. You cannot reproduce that. You have to listen to the clues. Then, Jo told me how she knew he was the man she wanted to marry and I thought “that’s it, we’ve got the story!”. In a couple of minutes, I had jotted down notes about them and picked on the visual of the gats. The day he proposed, they were in a field in Portugal surrounded by goats!

So I searched for goats! Oh and a bell! Jo said “wouldn’t it be great to add a bell?”

Easier said than done but I like a challenge. I found one coming with Tibet of all places last weekend at an fairy festival. Sometimes, when all normal places fail, you just have to look beyond! The layout changed to accommodate a goat big enough to wear the bell and I removed the glass. A I wrapped the frame in tissue paper, I could hear the tiny tinkling of the bell. Not discreet but lovely.

A wedding anniversary present bringing back how you know he is the one. Gaelle by the sea

A wedding anniversary present bringing back how you know he is the one.
Gaelle by the sea

I have delivered the frame this morning and I am glad to say Jo was over the moon. I can’t wait to hear from her husband. I met him this morning and he knows there is a surprise waiting for him. Part of the pleasure in all this is the build up. After that I am safe in the knowledge that each time Jo and Pritch glance at the frame, it will probably bring a smile on their face and most likely take them back straight there in that field… I love what I do and being able to capture an emotion, a moment in time and bring it to life, the best job in the world.

Do you have stories inside of you? I would love to hear about it and you never know, I could even help…