Monday 18 May 2020

Feathers of Hope: Homegrown Commission

Day 1 Hope for Clean Air
Pen on handmade paper

In the ongoing roller-coaster of emotions and experiences that is the 2020 Covid-19 crisis there are lots of glimmers of hope and positivity. Over the 10 years I've been writing this blog one of the recurring themes has been "and I would like more time for my own practice." Be careful what you wish for! In truth though the past few weeks have offered me the chance to really focus on my practice and I'm very grateful for that. I've also been finding new ways for me and my work to 'get out there,' mostly in a digital rather than a physical sense of course! In this post I'm going to share one of the ways I've been sharing my work.

Day 2. Hope for Kindness
Pen on tracing paper

The Stove Network is an artist-led organisation based in Dumfries and they believe that the creative community can and should play a key role in the development of the region. One of the ways they have been supporting their members during the pandemic is to offer micro commissions as part of their 'Homegrown' project. The key tenets of this project are open-heartedness, solidarity, perseverance and insight. The micro commissions are for small week long projects that embrace one or more of these ideas.

Day 3. Hope for Inventiveness
Coloured pencil on inside of an old envelope

I was really excited to be selected for one of these commissions for my 'Feathers of Hope' project. It was a simple idea; each day for a week I would draw a feather and share it along with one of my hopes for the future that will come after this pandemic. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about how we have the opportunity to create a fairer, happier society and so this project was a good way to focus some of those thoughts. The feathers and hopes were then shared on The Stove Network's Facebook and Instagram pages each day.

Day 4. Hope for Art Education

I was also excited about the opportunity to share work with people in my local area. As we're relatively new to the region I'm still finding my way around and it's great having organisations such as The Stove Network to help get to know what's going on. Even though we didn't move far last year we did move to a new region and indeed a new country and so it takes time to get to know what's going on and the people involved. Everyone I've come across has been so friendly and helpful and the positive arts scene in Dumfries and Galloway was one of the factors in deciding to move.

Day 5. Hope for Food Origin Awareness
Free motion embroidery on rust dyed silk organza

Taking part in this project has been such a positive experience for me. As well as being a good confidence boost it's introduced me to lots of other wonderful creatives and helped me feel more a part of my local arts community. It's also given me a good 'daily focus' and I found I very much looked forward to creating the drawings each day. Having a reason to give myself that time to be creative each day was very beneficial and led to lots of other work in the studio too, more about that another time maybe!

Day 6. Hope for Nature
Ballpoint pen on reverse of gold paper

As part of the commission I was also asked to create a short video about my practice. I'm not really that technically minded and have a fairly limited idea of what I'm doing when it comes to making videos and so on but one of the good (if also rather stressful) things about the current crisis is that it has forced me to learn how to do things. I now have a slightly less shaky grasp of video making and sound recording. These are really useful skills and as I'd been thinking about creating some online courses before the pandemic anyway I hope they're going to stand me in good stead! Making the video was also a good opportunity to think about my practice and what the really important bits are that I want to share with people.

Day 7. Hope for Positive Changes
Pen, chalk and pastel on coloured paper

As usual I've not written the post I intended; I was going to write about the actual work and the hopes for the future but writing this post has been a good opportunity to reflect on the experience as a whole so I'm going to hope (see what I did there) that the work speaks for itself and I also hope that you've enjoyed it!

Monday 4 May 2020

How to Stay Sane

Welsh Poppy in the Sunshine
As we first entered 'lockdown' I ran a series of posts over on my Facebook and Instagram pages sharing some of the ways I stay sane in the hope that it would be useful for people at this strange and scary time.

I had a really good response so I decided to gather some of the ideas together in a blog post, so here you are: My guide to staying sane! I hope that some of my strategies will be useful to you but 'sane' is of course a very personal and individual thing. Remember to be kind to yourself and to do what you need to do to stay well.

Part 1. Draw Something

Daily Drawing: Birds in the Garden
I've written a lot about drawing on this blog over the years and how beneficial it is to me and, I believe, to pretty much everyone. In this instance I'm talking about drawing just as a process, the outcome really doesn't matter. Get lost in the feel, the look , the sound of your chosen implement moving across the paper. Enjoy the quiet focus of looking and getting to really know about what you're drawing. With practice your drawing will improve no end and hopefully you'll enjoy not only the process but some of the outcomes too.

Part 2. Have a Cup of Tea (or Coffee)

Fabric Teacup
Have a nice cup of tea. It won't solve your problems but taking time out to sit quietly and really enjoy a nice, hot brew can help calm you and get things in perspective. I also like to have a nice cup of tea with me when I'm drawing, stitching, gardening, doing anything at all actually.

Part 3. Get close to Nature

Oh Deer!
Being close to the natural world, whether that's a dandelion growing out of a crack in the pavement or a deer bounding across your path, reminds us that there was a before and there'll be an after and really we are all just a small part of something much bigger. Personally I find that very comforting. It is also a constant source of wonder to me the infinite variety and adaptability to be found in the natural world.

Part 4. Stitching

Stitching: Work in Progress

Stitching is something I always return to, especially during times of stress and anxiety. I find that the repetitive rhythm, the tactility and focus required for hand stitch are perfect for keeping a busy mind occupied but it's also not too taxing. I find the same goes for knitting and crochet and since this crisis started I've been doing a lot more of all these things!

Part 5.  Grow Something

Planting a seed implies a belief in the future and at a time like this that's more important than ever. Growing something is immensely satisfying, watching it grow and develop and maybe even turn into something you can eat is both exciting and relaxing at the same time. It's also a good chance to practise Part 3 and get close to nature.

Part 6. Simple Pleasures

A Sunny Day
It's easy to get dragged down and worried, especially at the moment, but taking time to 'count your blessings' really does help. From a nice cup of tea (see part 2) to your favourite film being shown on TV to a good cup of coffee to clean sheets on the bed it's important to take a moment to notice and appreciate these things. It's also one of those things that the more you do it the more you'll notice how many good things there are in our lives even when times are tough.

Part 7. Reach Out

Feather Collage
You are not alone, we're all going through a roller coaster of emotions at the moment so don't feel that it's just you. Reach out and enjoy the wonders of modern technology; phone your friend, whatsapp your cousin, skype your sister in law. We have so many ways to stay in touch even though we can't be together.

Stay safe and stay hopeful; I truly believe we have the opportunity to come out of this and to create a fairer, happier society.