Monday, 20 July 2015

Highs, lows and shows

A whirlwind of energies – good and bad – has swirled around me these past few months. For now, it feels as though the dust is settling a bit, and I’m able to see a little clearer.  Not completely healed though. That will take time.

I’ve been away from here for far too long, and the yearning to return has been strong. Thank you everyone, for your kind words and support. I could feel the waves of love way over in my little corner of the world.  Hugs to you all  xx

I would've liked to have made six textile sculpts for the show, but, life stuff stood in the way, and my ambitious thoughts of creating something large and spectacular just didn't come to fruition.  Maybe next time.
Through a fog of discomfort, when I just didn’t want to go into my studio, but knew I had to, I took each day as it came, and eventually my creations were done, one by one.

Starting with two characters from my "sewing stable" - my ever lovely Hares.
No matter how many I may end up making, each are like new friends and no two are exactly the same.
First came Claude. Then pretty Cleo took shape. I gave her red paisley inner ears and tail to contrast.

They are always a favourite with people.

One rainy afternoon, as I finished sewing the little patch on Claude's tummy, I must have subconsciously rested his paw on my arm. I looked up momentarily at his face and warmed at the sparkle in his eyes - the studio light catching them just so, as to make him come alive.
And my heart melted.  All thoughts of feeling sorry for my ill-self fell away and I couldn’t resist a smile, and whispered, “you are a handsome hare, I can't believe I'm selling you".  Sending them out into the world, after having them close to me is quite the tug.
But, go they must, and hopefully, they bring happiness to those who receive them.

I know it might seem corny to be taken with a so-called inanimate object. But, we artists breathe life into our creations as we work on them.  From conception to finish - when they come alive with their own essence. We spend so much time with them. It’s no wonder that they in turn take on a part of us and are somehow inherently given a little bit of soul.

Or… maybe I just need to get out more  :D

After my Hares, my mind pushed through mental mush to moments of clarity, as I prepared for my next artwork.
I had a firm and clear picture. How it was to be executed was another thing.
Two failed mock ups later, I was happy with the beginnings of my Raven.

Slowly but surely, piece by textural piece, he grew into the makings of a fine large bird, each stage falling into place. But, not yet had I considered his beak or legs.

As I sewed, I recalled the first stanza of Poe’s poem, The Raven ~

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore -
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door -
Only this and nothing more.”

Ever since a young girl, I have loved Poe and his melancholy works. Hardly surprising really…

The Raven is one of my favourites, and is universally loved by many.

Long had I imagined my own artistic version of Poe’s large black ebony bird, taunting the grief stricken narrator who pined for the “lost Lenore”, with an open locket held in its beak - a photo of Lenore enshrined within.  At any moment, the bird could fly off, taking his only memento of her far away.  To be seen… “Nevermore”.

Now, my ambition can very much get mixed up with my aptitude, and I worried that in no way could I realistically reflect that which was in my mind’s eye. But, I am nothing if not obstinate, and so I ploughed on.
Frayed and fringed feathers of fabric were sewn onto wings and body. My studio floor awash with thousands of tiny shreds of ebony filaments.

 Quick sketches for reference and Mr Gaiman’s words are always nearby…

Trusting in my muse, I completely gave over to her as the hours blurred, one into another. There were days I ran a fever, but I stitched on.

Finally, he was ready for his legs and feet. I worked my sculptors clay upon the wire armature, molding and morphing the lumps of grey into sharp, raptor-like talons.

***  A pair of magpies visit me every morning.  I can hear them caroling far off, singing their greeting to the day.  I whistle my call to them - one they are very familiar with now, and they come.
To see them winging their way, specks in the distance, as they glide and slice their way through the air to land at my feet gladdens my heart, no matter how shite I might feel. And, it is an honour.
These magnificent wild birds trust me enough to spend a small part of their morning with me.
Hubby says I spend far too long with them, but I have been able to study up close their anatomy – birds’ feet can be the hardest to “capture” realistically. ***

As a result, and with great surprise to me, my Raven’s feet and sturdy legs were crafted with ease.  My time with “the Maggies” well spent.
Now to the beak. A much more difficult proposition.
I had to make it natural looking enough to hold the chain from which a tiny oval locket hung.
After three attempts, I was satisfied. Eyes were placed, then the feet painted and attached to a wonderful old piece of time worn and weathered timber which hubby cut to size, then I sanded and oiled to bring out its wonderful grain.

The final touch - the lost Lenore.
“How”, I asked myself many times, “does she look?”
In my mind, Lenore was still young, vulnerable, beautiful yet “saintly”.  An angel.
Who, to me, looks like that? So many models and Hollywood stars are far too recognisable and truly not as untouched as the Lenore of my imaginings.
I searched through many archived b&w photos until I came across the naturally stunning Broadway and silent film actress, Maude Fealy.  One of her many images in particular stood out to me.

It is she who is my Lenore.

And so, my Raven was done. Titled, “Poe’s Sorrow”.

Poe wrote The Raven whilst his wife, Virginia, was terminally ill with tuberculosis. Perhaps much of the poem’s un-named narrator’s despair echoed Poe’s sorrow for his own beloved.

Black, textured pieces are super hard to photograph, and my photography skills aren’t honed enough to do him justice, but he really is lovely in reality.

With my Raven finished, I had enough time to create the last artwork to be submitted.

Wesley - the wise woodland owl - was born “an old soul”, fairly quickly and easily.
It’s as if he was in a hurry to burst forth in a blustery flurry of wildly frazzled feathery wings.

I swear, I heard him muttering and grumbling at the state of the world as I feverishly stitched him into being.  His furrowed fabric brow and stern stare reflect his thoughts about, “the shenanigans going on in society today” and how we humans aren’t learning from our past mistakes, and even worse, are losing what values we once held dear.

Crafted from recycled clothing, Wesley doesn’t give a hoot about material things, and says neither should we hold them in such high esteem. Values of respect, patience, ethics, caring, community, integrity, honesty and responsibility, among others, are what we need to focus on once more… 

Don’t let his grumpy disposition fool you, he truly is wise ;)

I figured that Wesley needed a pair of good solid feet on which to stand as he surveys his domain from on high.

And so finally, my fine fabric friends destined for the gallery were tagged and kissed on the nose and forehead for good luck and delivered… the deadline met.

The Grand Opening was held on Friday night.  I really didn’t feel up to going, but hubby took me nevertheless. Free bubbly, gourmet finger food and the chance to rub shoulders with some of Melbourne's VIPs?  Why not.  A rare occasion for this hermit.

The hall was literally filled to the rafters with very fine exhibits from many talented artisans. So full in fact, that even the smallest of space was truly at a premium.

Seeking out my Raven, I found that he had been awarded “highly commended”.

I was told by an organizer that the judge found her decision hard to make, and that he came very close to being awarded first prize.  I am incredibly grateful.  Seeing as there were no second/third prizes, that’s not too shabby for my very first art&craft exhibition in Melbourne, making my delirious days of doubt all worth while.

I silently allowed a tear to roll down my cheek before I quickly wiped it away…

To be assessed and judged by one’s peers, in a capital city where the arts community is vibrant, strong and fiercely competitive, is an honour, and it encourages me to continue to create and grow with confidence as I find my feet…
… until the demons of doubt once more gnaw at my heels and hopes, and I must fight them off with an iron will, and sharpened pinking shears :)
The inner rollercoaster is an artist’s lot, I’m afraid.

Oh and, one final word from Wesley about the.....  umm, Wesley?  Wesley?


Saturday, 4 July 2015


... life has been a continual series of discomfort, sickness and ailments, mingled with the need to start and finish artwork that is to go into a gallery exhibition in two weeks, scattered with long sleepless nights, and stretched into seemingly endless periods of waiting.
Time marches on, waiting for no one, while the clock ticks endlesslessly.
Tick Tock.

Soon, I hope to return to Blogland in better health and higher spirits.

Til then, sending you all warmest hugs.

 biding time