Monday, 27 January 2014

late january inspiration


Walking with children

I've written about things that inspire me before, usually music, books, art or nature. But I wanted to write more about being inspired by the every day, or, depending on how you look at it, the extraordinary.

Since my children were old enough to toddle, we've pounded the streets, on errands or just for pleasure. I love walking and my kids to be fair, have never complained about walking to the High Street, or to the library, park or friends' houses.

Usually, as we leave the house, shut the door behind us and emerge onto the pavement, I'll casually reach out my hand sideways and without even looking, open up my palm. Almost immediately a smaller, podgier version of my hand will find my own. I clasp onto it and we'll walk together throughout our journey. This happened with my son until his little sister was old enough to walk but more often than not, it'll be her hand in mine now. This is such a normal, casual, everyday occurrence that most of the time I hardly notice we're doing it. But some days...

holding hands mum and daughter

Some days as I reach out my hand and it meets and enfolds my daughter's little hand I catch my breath for a second. There's a swell of pride and love of course, the feeling that I am her protector in this big, bad world. There's also the comfort of knowing that this hand irrefutably belongs in mine, that we are and will be for ever tied together. Our love comes easily, without question, and in this one simple gesture, one that is so completely normal, I feel something exquisitely wonderful and simultaneously painful.

The feeling is tinged with sadness because I know that our days are numbered. There'll come a time when we won't hold hands. Not in the same way at least. I'll feel a certain loss when the time comes I'm sure. But time needs to pass. We need to keep moving. I remember being completely aware, on a summer school day back in the early eighties, playing leapfrog with my friends and knowing this would be the last time. We were all getting a little too big for childish games, with our tight skirts and pop star plastered lockers. I think I slipped into melancholy for a while. But there were things to come, life experiences, that I couldn't even imagine, aged eleven. I knew they were coming though. And that filled me with excitement.

I suppose I'm talking about finding inspiration from wherever you can. About concentrating on the details, taking time to enjoy and be inspired by the minutiae of the everyday. Also there's something about trying to capture transitions. Nature gives us some awesome examples - when the setting sun drops from the horizon, or a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. Can I possibly capture something like that in an embroidery? I have no idea. Perhaps it's enough just now to be aware, and to enjoy holding my daughter's hand while I still can.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

how to avoid pneumonia and other thoughts about crafting

Ever ask yourself why you make stuff? I started sewing and crafting when I left my vaguely creative job as a factual entertainment/documentary producer to have and raise my children. I still needed a creative outlet. What I realise now is that my old job was really about story telling, and so are the craft pursuits I really love now. Whether it's embroidering meaningful lyrics or creating a personality for a stitched character, there's always a story in it for me.

embroidered song lyrics jackson sisters

Over the last few years, as my craft skills developed, I started making more things to sell. I sell most of what I make. I do well from the three or four fairs I help organise a year with Bearwood Handmade. And I get a few commissions throughout the year to keep me busy. But sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the need to find a piece or product that people will immediately like and want to buy. I'm sure anyone who has ever had a handmade stall or online shop has felt the same. It's trying to second guess the market. Big companies spend millions on developing and predicting trends. It's not something we in the handmade world can hope to do.

hand stitched felt men

I've written about these feelings before, here. Good friends told me to keep it real and go with what I loved making. And that proved to be great advice. I suppose it's taking a more artistic view. But like many artists, I sort of need a muse. Not so much as a source of inspiration, but as the driving force, to make it all worthwhile.  I can't just make for me. I have to think someone else is going to love what I'm making as much as I do. More even. I can't help that, it's just how I tick.

origami papercraft boat made from book page

I found this quote today from writer Kurt Vonnegut, of Slaughterhouse-Five fame, which I'm sharing on here so I'll have it as a constant reminder. It's about writing, but I think it can be applied to any creative pursuit. It's good advice and funny:

“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”

I'm trying to avoid the pneumonia. Stick to what I love. And for 2014, make things with just one person in mind. Do you have plans for finding inspiration or for boosting your creativeness this year? Do you have a favourite quote that helps you focus? Care to share?

Once again, my other plan is to blog more. Ha, I can but try. After such a break I suppose I'll be lucky if even one person reads this, so the 'write to please just one person' hasn't been a stretch at all!