Hotel haiku

On Friday night, Steve and I stayed on the tippy top floor at Malmaison in Birmingham.   When we’re away, my camera and I often go out first thing to explore, but it was way too cold to venture out.

Next morning, I was first up and sat in the window with a cup of tea.


It was so cold that it started to snow!  Little pinpricks at first, then they became larger and fluffier as though feather pillows were being turned inside out far above me.


The snow stopped by the time we headed back home, but I had loved dreaming over the snow dappled jigsaw puzzle of the city high above the rooftops.


BTW, I’m very happy that most hotels still supply notepads and pencils. 🙂



Loving the flaw

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.




The white cliffs of Dover

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.


At Hidcote Manor

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.

Strawberry ice cream

Strawberry ice cream

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.


The Dark Heart of Summer, light (detail)

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.