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…

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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 www.futurelearn.com/courses/mindfulness-wellbeing-performance.

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.

 

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.

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 (http://grace-marshall.com/diving-deep/ ) 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

In a child’s mind…

… there are wonderful things, magical things and colours, lots of it. There is nothing that can’t be done. In fact, the world is an open shell where the most wonderful things can happen and they will help in any way they can. Children know what they like. That means they are tricky customers and they like to be involved. So my latest lampshade is for a 4 year old little strong mind, passionate about dogs and rainbow colours. When I started working with watercolours, I painted blobs of colours that happily spread into the fibres of the paper. My little one added a few drops of colour with a carefully applied brush and once done, we had a colourful base to work from. I then worked on some purple, pink and green threads free motion embroidery. I did not have any other brief on this one other than colours and lots of it so it was probably a bit more colourful than some of my recent work but I have to say I really enjoyed making it. I am also very pleased with the result and my little client is happy too. Not bad for a day’s work! Blooms detail So here are some pictures from painting to the final lampshade. Let me know what you think and if you ever consider asking me for a commission, don’t hesitate. This is great fun for all parties involved. BloomsBlooms lit

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.