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I often feel a bit sheepish and slightly embarrassed when I write a post on my blog after a lengthy silence. Chastened by certain other bloggers who apologize profusely for allowing a few days to go by between posts. It’s kind of like being too quiet for too long at a dinner party. Do I blurt out some witty bon mot, start an amusing anecdote or act as if I hadn’t paused at all?
Anyhow I have paused. We’ve been having a fantastic summer.
I celebrated my 50th birthday in August.
We spent a very long weekend in London and Kent to celebrate both of our birthdays.
Then we took a trip to the Cotswolds, one of the most beautiful places in the United Kingdom and where I go when I need my faith in England restored.
I went on my first taxidermy course (an ambition I’ve had since I was 13). This is my muse and protégé, Mortimer Souris, the Tailor of Moretonhampstead.
We bought an ice cream maker.
I made a blueberry pie.
We booked our Autumn voyage to Isola di Procida in the Bay of Naples.
The endless sun beamed benevolently upon us throughout the months of June, July, August and into September.
And I’ve been making artwork for Devon Open Studios which runs from 7th to 22nd September.
In fact this brings me to the crux of this post. As an artist, I become inspired and have a creative vision. Sometimes I carry this inside of me for weeks or months. I’ve been focusing on a new area of work for about the past year in which I sculpt and meld images and light. I call these works Illuminations.
I started working on a floor lamp based on a contra jour fern I’d seen and photographed a couple of months ago. The first piece of rice paper that I collaged onto the surface of the lamp ripped. Just on the corner, but it really bothered me. It was in a prominent place and looked like, well, a rip in the material. I couldn’t repair it. I tried to ignore it, but there it stayed. I showed the piece to a couple of people and they didn’t even notice it. But it still bugged me.
I decided to wrap the whole thing in sheer fabric, which would have looked beautiful. I got up early one morning to do this work and when I saw the piece in my studio, I was so blown away by it that I forgot all about the flaw. I quickly realised that if I wrapped the piece in fabric, that I would cover up the flaw, but I would lose the subtlety of the piece.
I decided to sit down and be with the piece and write about just what I was facing.
‘Loving the flaw.
It feels huge, this flaw and fills me with shame. It distracts me from the beauty. I hate this flaw and want it gone.
Who cares if I destroy the piece in the process? At least the flaw will no longer be there.
[But if I let it remain] at best, the piece will remain in all it’s glory, with the flaw. If I can love the flaw and let it be there,
I reach a state of grace. Humbled.’
Grace (n.) late 12c., “God’s favor or help,” from Old French grace “pardon, divine grace, mercy; favor, thanks; elegance, virtue”
I think of grace as elegance and poise, but the old meaning is Divine favour. In a state of grace, I am forgiven my mistakes and can forgive myself for my imperfection. I can live with the flaw and see the beauty in the flaw. In my artwork and in myself.
I find that when I make art, the process reflects my whole life, and how I feel about and respond to my creations can give me insight into my entire life. There’s really no big separation between being inside and outside of my studio and my creative process.
Creativity can be such a fertile, fecund place, just like summertime, but there is still that dark heart at the centre of it. It is good to be aware of and to live within it.
I wrote this haiku which I put onto the piece.
In the dark heart of summer,
illumined beauty shines,
a state of grace.
– Melinda Schwakhofer, 2013
And I left the flaw right where it was.
I took a couple of photos of the Victorian house where my workplace is located. It’s a lovely old building with lots of character and a few period features.
There was the possibility that we would move out to a newer, but absolutely charmless, premise in Exeter Civic Centre, but we are staying put. Hurrah! This building has been offices for several years and is slightly shabby, so we are going to give it some TLC and a bit of a spruce up inside. I’m pricing up some signage for outside of the building, hence the photos.
When I’d downloaded them, I zoomed onto the arch over the front door and saw these two fantastic creatures flanking either side of it.
I love them! I’d never stopped to examine them before. They’re each different down to their tail, wings and skin texture.
I have them be benign dragons or griffins. What do you think?
This happy discovery reminds me of the treasures I often find when I stop and look at everyday things.
We’re having a bloody wet and cold summer here in Old Blighty. Steve and I went into Exeter last weekend and everyone seemed really grumpy. I admit that I started losing my sunny-side-up optimism and began grumbling right along with everybody else. Apparently the jet stream, a zone of fast moving winds, typically flowing around the globe about six miles above the earth’s surface, is lower than normal, which is making a wet, cool summer for the British Isles.
I’ve been feeling the lack of sun. I miss the warmth of sunlight on my skin and the low pressure system responsible for the wet weather has been dampening my spirits somewhat.
Normally the afternoon sun floods in through our west facing kitchen windows. The last time we had a long stretch of sunny weather was back in March, as evidenced by the calendar!
The other day, I rode the bus into Exeter for work. I used to take the 7:30 am ‘commuter’ bus, filled with sleepy students and tired wage slaves. Now I get the 9:45 am bus for my very civilised 11:00 am starting time. It’s a jolly bunch on this bus, people going in to shop or have lunch. As more people got on the bus at each stop, they laughed with each other about the horrible weather.
I know people who complain about everything and it’s kind of a drag to be around them. I don’t want to become like that even about the weather. Apparently this current weather system may last through September. The laughing people on the bus reminded me that I can choose how I view my world.
When I alight from the bus, I have a 5 minute walk across town to work and I thought, ‘I’ll look out for what lovely and different smells and sights the rain brings. I’ll find what is good about it’. Right away, I noticed how sweet the rain smells, the shiny surfaces of the streets and buildings and how pretty flowers look sprinkled with raindrops. I bought a new brolly from Laura Ashley, charcoal with light grey polkadots and fuschia trim. I’ve been looking out for a new raincoat and stopped in my favourite lingerie shop, which also sells outerwear, and saw a gorgeous German trenchcoat that I plan to go back and try on when I have some more time.
I am so enjoying getting up and NOT putting my painting clothes on! We’ve finally finished, although I will be painting my studio pretty soon.
This weekend, I put the non-orange portion of the kitchen back together, after having finished painting it on Friday, and gave everything a jolly good scrub, eg, floor, top of fridge, toaster, in the process.
I used some of my hand-dyed (by me!) and batik (store-bought) turquoise fabrics to bring a splash of blue into the kitchen and to add to this Summer’s festivities.
We’re having houseguests this weekend and a bunch of our friends over on Sunday for an Innaugural Brunch to celebrate our newly decorated flat, the Queen’s Jubilee, our 2nd wedding anniversary and just about everything else.
It’s so lovely in here. Sunny outside and warm enough to have the windows open. I’m going to switch sewing machines and do some mending that’s been piling up, while enjoying the birdsong streaming in.