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Not all of the birds have flown south for the winter.
In the slow turning to a new season, early morning mist blankets the distant hills,
the intricate works of spider-artists appear
and the hawthorn leaves whisper tales of the coming of Autumn.
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.
The sun came out from behind the murk some time last week. I walk past my favourite green-sided building on my way to work. Come to think of it, it isn’t the green or the actual building that makes it my favourite. There is a huge tree growing next to it. The wall faces west, so that when the sun is shining, the tree casts a beautiful shadow onto the building by late morning, when I walk past, and into the early afternoon. Last October, I was known to invent a 2 pm errand, just so I could go outside and behold the glorious shadows cast by the late autumn sun beaming onto the bare branches of this tree.
Last week, the sun picked out the achingly new, vibrant green leaves and traced their outlines onto the wall.
A 90° pivot to the right provides the background of my favourite terracotta and charcoal multistory car park. I love the contrast between the fluffy yellow green leaves and the delicate, airy fern green leaves set against the broad stripes of colour.
I’m happy for the shining sun and the beautiful shadows it casts. I’m happy to see the new leaves bursting and uncurling from branches which have been too long bare. I’m happy that springtime has arrived at last.
On still, bare branches
new growth appears.
At long last,
the end of Winter?
-Melinda Schwakhofer, 2013
Today is the Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year. Not that we’ve seen much sun today or even recently. Today was a day for staring pensively out of the window at the endless rain.
I have to admit that the lack of warmth and sunlight have been getting to me. However, I’ve been staying cosy at home. Turning the heating on and dressing in my silk, wool and sheepskin loungewear. Steve came home tonight after a few days away. I made baked chicken and roasted vegetables for dinner.
We had Pimm’s for an aperitif to celebrate the solstice.
I went out especially to buy some flowers and found these gorgeous peonies. I’m looking forward to watching these open up over the next few days.
So summer’s not so bad after all. Just a bit greyer, colder and wetter than I’d like. Still, as long as I can bundle up, pour a glass of Cabernet, bask in the glow from the kitchen light and (guilty pleasure) read some chick-lit, it’s pretty darn good.