Like my dog, I like to hide inside blankets…


 
If I wasn’t afraid, I would run home now, pack a modest bag, grab my passport and head for the airport. Scanning the boards, I would pick a hemisphere, a climate, a culture, then confidently stride up to the information desk and push across my savings, knowing, as I did, I was making a commitment and honouring a contract.

But I am afraid: so my desire to travel is suppressed, along with my yearning for learning and adventure.

Playing it safe, my life curls into a ball: minimum challenge, limited contact. And while it doesn’t alarm me overly much, it doesn’t really excite me either.

Waking from a nightmare last night, I am full of agitation. Abandoned by my friends, left alone in a strange location which they, when they were here, trashed, my day is haunted by flashbacks. I feel nervous and scared too, too scared even to dig for the message my inner me wishes me to know.

All around me there are signs. Every day I am presented with options and choices of things I might do if I were brave enough and every day I shy away, fearing the consequences of standing up. And while I speak my truth and honour my feelings, never withholding even when speaking out might at times appear unkind: it is not enough.

I was born with an inner yearning to not be here. On earth I have never felt at home and I long for the peace that I know I used to have. In meditation and sleep I find it but like a drug the effects are short-lived. So I hang out with people who will leave me, seeking others who will let me down, knowing that because this is a repeating pattern, they will take everything I have.

by Rebecca L. Atherton


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Tiny red flowers

Repeating the same mistakes,
I find myself returning to people and places that hurt;

then, angry, hurt myself,
seeking salvation in tiny red flowers.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The Prince who Favoured the Beast

imageFor years now I have shared my bed with a beast, although he used to be a prince and still was one when I met him and when we married. “How did it come to this?” I ask myself, querying the question. “And why won’t I leave?” To which there is no reply. These are but a handful of questions pulled from a list of intimidating length.

They say that love is strange and life is complex, that there is no understanding either one of them, no dissecting the element to make sense of the parts. And I am inclined (albeit reluctantly) to agree; after all, who am I to argue with those who are in charge the universe, the people who research and study to lay down and prove? Besides, given my current predicament, I would have to say that they are right. But it’s not all bad, not always…

The man behind the mask is still present inside and on good days he even comes out.

The boy next door still lives on my road and when I visit, I can sit quietly in my car and watch him come out.

In fact, if I am truthful – and I suppose I should be because this tale is more truth than fiction and honesty is the main point: I suppose he is around for half of my waking life. But the nature of that percentage is fragmented and split up and cannot be relied upon to present itself. One can be walking, working, socialising, shopping, etc…. and suddenly he –the beast, the demon – arrives, descending like a cloud to swallow everything else up. Then, the hand that I was holding is replaced by a paw, the eyes I was swimming in turn to ice, the voice that was whispering growls complaints and I am trodden on and trampled until I submit. It’s all rather pitiful and I am ashamed to say it out loud. But sometimes speaking difficult things is the bravest thing we can do and sharing can help others to avoid similar mistakes and, who knows: medicine can come from anywhere and take many forms; mine may arrive as a result of this.

Anyhow, this is a cautionary tale and I implore you proceed with care: you never know when something inadvertently encountered is going to rise to trip you up. I’ve cried over poems and wept over books, made decisions based upon films. I’ve travelled far, experimented widely and challenged myself in ways I never imagined I would. I’ve admired, praised, loved; rejected, run towards and fled from. I’ve hidden, stolen, joked; lied, laughed and wept, etc… all inspired by creativity, in one form or another. It’s a powerful element and can do strange things – healing and hurting, helping and hindering, in equal measure.

A fairytale in reverse, this is the story of a Cinderella deprived of a ceremony, a Rapunzel raped of her virginity, a Sleeping Beauty hooked on Prozac and a Snow White sold into slavery. It’s a child abandoned, a sister denied, a lover subjected to violence and a mother deprived. All very tragic.

So how did it start and where are we now and why do we allow it to go on? And what went wrong and why did it happen and who’s really to blame? And do these things matter to anyone but me, when the result is just the same: unhappy, heartbroken, sick? I’m asking you to provide the answer because you are the only ones who can.

We all have our own story, each one containing multiple chapters. Some of us live a new one each day, our pages turning rapidly, our words snappy and fast-paced. Others are slower to reveal themselves and are longer in length, appearing more like entire narratives, a book in themselves. At different times in our lives, their durations will vary. And, depending on what we are experiencing, so will their themes. Some will be romantic in nature, others more comedic, presenting as silly, carefree, frivolous and light. Others still will be tragic and sad, pensive and deep. We will reflect upon the passing of the years, the coming and going of people, who we are, who we were and who we have become. Despite being hard: it is never boring, for we never know what to expect.

For some of us, the element of surprise is alarming and we suffer greatly as a result. For others, not knowing is liberating, allowing space in which to experiment and expand. Ideally, we fall somewhere in the centre, permitting what will be to be without attempting to block it or stand in its way.

Love is equally as unpredictable and unreliable in nature. It comes and goes. It mutates. The quality rises and falls, often depending on external circumstances we lack the ability to control or predict. If we choose to indulge in this most human of experiences, seeking that perfect other half to complete our own gaping whole, then we risk falling and breaking. And if we decide to stick it out, believing still in spite of evidence that might suggest the opposite that things will improve, then we accept that the journey will be difficult. All this I have learned from experience. It is the hard way. But if we truly desire our happy ending, it may be the only one.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Morning has broken

imageLast night’s dinner covered in ants.
The metal contraption that cooks in various shades of black.
Dirty plates, empty cups.
A girl with broken eggshells in her lap.

The snake of uncertainty.
A spider without legs.
A dust mote, a cockroach,
a senile cat.

The hive of a head.
The blue beneath.
Paper birds.
Hide and seek.

Tripping over objects.
Impatient feet.
The man in the photograph.
A final receipt.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Empty cups

imageUncertainty wakes, rises, puts on a dress, washes her face and administers makeup; moves from the bathroom into the hallway, on to the kitchen, where she is blinded by light. Last night’s dinner sits in the sink, stale and menacing, covered in ants: creatures that smell a meal on washed-up plates, dine for hours on empty cups.

Indecision joins her, filling the kettle with tepid water, placing it on the hob to boil, taking four slices of factory bread from the artificial sheath that contains them, slipping them – slowly, carefully, ever so securely – into the metal contraption that cooks, painting their surfaces caramel brown and various shades of black.

The light flickers, the kettle whistles, the toaster clicks. There is comfort in action, reassurance in order.

Anxiety enters on impatient feet, circling, pacing, crying out in tones are far from dulcet, bereft of endearing; although her mother might love them, perhaps?

Uncertainty sighs and moves to the cupboard, extracting a plate and a bowl; taking a packet of something vaguely meaty, pouring it in; filling the empty hollow with dried-up balls that chime as they connect.

Setting it down with a tap like the rapping of fingers, the patter of rain, she begs a window of space from the creature that hounds her. The air, however, has other ideas. It hisses and cracks.

As she searches for purpose and meaning inside a present that is deceptively labelled, longing for a destination which manages to be both familiar and exciting at the same time; Indecision deliberates the tangle of life, feeling bitter and cheated, freshly abandoned.

Meanwhile, Anxiety circles, carving rivers of worry into the floor.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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A Fit Bird

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Dishing the dirt

OK, so it’s time to ‘fess-up and dish the dirt on all that I have been avoiding – and here I am talking about the things that I have been stepping around as if they were both odious and frightening: things that keep me awake, that play on repeat, that torture and torment me when they think that no one else is looking or listening in.

Of course, there are many of these (and I have no doubt that you possess your own fair share of devious miscreants you would like to ignore or outrun) but I have decided ‘in the nature of taking things slowly so as not to scare the tiny bird of courage away’ to start with one: my newsletter. It is an issue that I have been evading, posting bits of writing as and when they come but neglecting to show you my actual art as it develops and progresses. There is a reluctance to be vulnerable, to expose myself to the thoughts, feelings, whimsies and opinions of other people, in case they don’t match up and hurt me. And it occurred to me the other day that this was actually rather sad and something I will come to regret.

So, in a bid to reduce the measure of that remorse as and when it arrives, I have decided to begin at once and make a start. And while I might not feel ‘officially’ ready, because my website is still in progress: I am aware that it is going to be growing for quite some time, so I may never catch up. Besides, it’s about time I took my own advice. I am constantly gently pushing and encouraging others; I need to now take those steps myself.

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A leap of faith

Why is it important to document and share? After all, it’s intensely personal, entails risk and presents you naked and vulnerable to the world on mass. And when you put it like that, it sounds positively scary: something to avoid at all costs. And yet, somehow, it’s not.

From my point of view, documenting will be like building a time capsule; my newsletter serving as the all-important container. It will allow me to look back and remember and to observe both my evolution and my development along the way. It will illustrate the transition from blank to full, simultaneously revealing how each fresh piece came to life, gaining a story and a soul. And it will clear up the issue of just how long each one takes, resolving the mystery which has come to haunt me like a dinner-impatient dog, pestering the heels of my meticulous and details-oriented mind.

From your perspective, on the other hand, which is arguably more important as you are the one reading this: it will hopefully unveil the particulars behind what I do, showing you how I go about it and thus encouraging similar imaginative forays and bold adventures on your side. I’m also hoping you will post pictures, sharing with me your achievements and your mistakes, and feel confident enough to put up your hand and ask when some extra help or advice is needed.

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Love thy neighbour

We live in far too isolated a world and our separateness creates so many unnecessary problems within the smaller circle of our lives. It is important, therefore, to protect ourselves; to have a network – a sibling, a soulmate, a best friend, a mentor, an advisor, a therapist, a parent, a partner, a spouse, a much older and wiser someone to turn to when things don’t work out, when we are scared or alone, etc… And they don’t have to be related or real. I have people who fill those roles for me and they come in many shapes, sizes and guises. My dog is one of them, even if she isn’t technically a person. My grandmother too, despite having passed away. I speak to them both and always they reply, although I might have to be patient and open to the signs, willing to read beyond the obvious for the advice underneath.

I hope that creatively I can be there for you, providing whatever you, in that moment, require.

I also want to encourage creative confidence and growth in as many people as possible. It is my wish for everyone to have a tool to turn to when they need something solid and safe to hold on to, something they can rely on when everything else appears to have let them down: when the world is still afloat, still rushing by, but when they themselves are sinking.

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Smile, you’re on camera

Below is a photo journal of my latest piece, featuring a flamingo. “Why a flamingo?” I hear you ask. “Well, flamingos are bright, bold and silly little birds and they remind me of summer.” Sometimes, that’s all the encouragement you need.

Alternatively, you can use the following links to:

View the rest of my work (i.e. my online gallery/portfolio)
Adopt a piece (what the heck is this?)
Commission your own bespoke creation (how do I do this? I’m intrigued)

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A proper tangle: day one

Selecting a colour palette

Each time I begin a new piece, I start by selecting a colour palette. Looking to my emotions for assistance, I let my heart do the picking, trying to stay out of the way, going with my gut. If for some reason I feel guided towards colours that clash or combinations I usually dislike, I don’t resist: I unravel, wind and cut. It is important to me that the entire process is organic, that it comes from deep inside, from the place where my creativity lives and thrives.

A bird by any other name: day two

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Destined to be a flamingo

This piece was destined to be a flamingo; I knew this from the beginning, before I even put needle to thread. Some friends here on the island (Mallorca, if you are unfamiliar with my background) have just opened a boutique and, obsessed with flamingos, built their brand around the leggy redhead. Never having written about, drawn, sewn or knitted a flamingo in any shape or form, I was curious as to the challenge it might present and intrigued to see how something I wouldn’t necessarily have selected might translate. This is the bird as it came off my needles, before it really resembled anything: a strange pink shape with various bits sticking out, camel-like in appearance. At this point, I am unsure about it, undecided as to whether I like it and whether it is good enough to be kept. But, abiding by my own rules – those of going with the flow, allowing, keeping, refraining from condemning or counting as a mistake – I am determined to stand by it. To do otherwise, would be a betrayal of myself, breaking the bond I am trying so hard to forge.

Sexy pins: day three

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It’s quirky and I like it

My flamingo is beginning to take shape, looking more and more like it should, developing a presence and a personality. It’s quirky and I like it. I have forgiven it for yesterday, when I was doubting the success of the venture and the ability of my hands. They know what they are doing and I should know better than to question the silent dialogue they share with my head. I may not be privy to the words or the message, but the physical statement is clear: when I allow, it usually works; when I interfere, it gets tangled up and eventually breaks. Standing back, trusting, waiting, listening to the stitches….. this is the way to proceed. 

So, what is there to report?

Well, first up my flamingo has an eye. It is pale blue in colour and matches the sky. It’s not what an actual flamingo’s eye looks like (they are yellow and beady with pinprick pupils) but I liked this one better, lit has more warmth and depth. In reality, flamingos are a bit spooky; they give me the creeps.

Next, comes the beak. It is made out of variegated sock yarn, which means it changes in colour as you knit, creating a pattern – sometimes complex, sometimes simple. It is pink in colour. It looks a bit sinister at the moment. Dare I say a bit fallic? But I have faith that it will soften with the addition of some shiny bits.

And finally, the legs: the pièce de résistance; for what is a flamingo without its legendary pins? – they are, after all, it’s most distinguishing feature. They need them to wade through deep water to get to the fish. And also to balance. What you think are their knees, are actually their ankles. Don’t believe me? Read this. Anyway, back to the point. I used the same variegated sock yarn here as before and allowed the wool to dictate the colour. I think they worked out rather well, considering I made them up. At any rate, my camel now looks like a bird.

All that shimmers: day four

This piece gets more exciting each day and I am enjoying watching it grow. As I add to it, I slowly warm to it and fall in love. This part of the process is vital: for without emotion, there is no creation; when I hate a piece, I find it almost impossible to work on it; like reading a boring book, it drags, every moment agony.

Today I added beads and sequins, which, as you can imagine, took a long time. It also required a good deal of patience. But I find the process of accessorising quite therapeutic as it allows me to zone out, disappearing into my head.

Redeeming features

And my beak has redeemed itself, as I knew that it would. It’s almost crown-like in appearance: a tiara encrusted with jewels, making my flamingo look royal, a creature with a distinguished roots. Does that make me, its mother, blue-blooded too? Or is something bigger than me to credit for its aesthetic demeanour: the Universe, God, ancestral spirits, Mother Nature, elves, fairies, etc…?

I spend the rest of the day adding to various parts, working slowly so as not to overdo it. I have a tendency to crowd a piece and I am trying to remedy this: pulling back, listening before responding, waiting for the inner message to emerge, giving myself up to the process.

Fly by night: day five

Next comes the wing, a vital accessory, necessary for both beauty and movement. After all: a bird without wings is like a spider without legs.

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A spider without legs

Interestingly, the common assumption is that flamingos can’t fly. I, too, believed this. And why not? They look too big, too heavy. Their legs are too long. However, thanks to Google and an article on the anatomy of said bird, I have now been set straight. Flamingos do indeed fly, it’s just not a widely known fact because they mostly fly at night and we don’t see them. They also aren’t actually pink. Their colour varies, depending on the foot they eat. The more Beta Carotene, the deeper the pink. Conversely, flamingos that are white are malnourished and sick. So, if you see an alabaster flamingo, don’t just admire it, simultaneously documenting it and posting it on all of your social networks: take out your mobile and phone the R.S.P.A or your respective country’s equivalent. Otherwise, it might die. 

This wing took me several hours and is all I have to report. The rest of my time was spent on another piece, which contains a rainbow frog and a pink-haired fairy standing in a meadow underneath a cloudy moonlit sky. With a pastel palette and lots of beads and sequins, it is very colourful and shiny.

Anyway, I think the wing worked, adding an element that was missing. It needed something to balance it out. So far it has been all head and leg. The wing makes it feel more complete, like a story with a middle as well as a beginning and an ending.

Luscious locks: day six

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More fictional in nature

Applying hair made me laugh. Technically, a flamingo doesn’t have any hair, but I wanted mine to have more character than the real thing and to be more fictional in nature. It’s like fairies: as far as one can prove, they don’t exist, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t or that I can’t choose to remain open to the possibility that they might. After all, who am I to say? Believing in Father Christmas got me presents; The Tooth Fairy, cash. And anyway, life is better that way: more mystical and less daunting. If one believes in fairies, then one can believe in fairy godmothers and magic and bad things going away. It’s the same with my flamingo: if she has wings, she can fly; if she has hair, she can look pretty and secure a prince, and, if I am lucky enough to meet her, even in my dreams, perhaps we can talk? After all: if she has one made up thing, there’s no reason why she can’t have others. 

I also carefully cut around my flamingo with sharp scissors and stitched her onto a larger piece of felt. Now she is centre stage, ready for the rest of her narrative.

Will it be day or night? Will the weather be foul or favourable? Where will she be: the beach, the city, the forest, a meadow, etc…? Will she have companions? If so, who? And what will be her underlying message? All of my pieces have a story to tell about something that is happening or has happened in my life, reflecting the events of the world around me and my own personal landscape. The longer you look at them, the more you see, picking out your own messages and writing your own script, their translation unique to each individual who comes to visit.

A shiny tail and a beaded bottom: day seven

Now for the finishing touches, at least to the bird. The background comes later and shall be documented differently, or else we shall be on this journey forever, you and I, and getting distracted. Not that it’s an unpleasant journey. It’s just that there are other things we should be getting on with and it doesn’t do to delay in one area since the rest then gets neglected. I have a frog and a princess to complete, a cabled iPad case to finish, a Kindle case to knit, a necklace to design, a cheer-up present for a friend to stitch and send off, and a pair of gloves to block. Added to that, there is writing and drawing. My hands are never idle and neither is my mind.

The tail is another element added for aesthetic pleasure. It evens out the head and the wing, bringing the bird as a whole into balance with itself. It’s also rather fun and the more beads and sequins the better. I like their softening effect, the otherworldlyness they add to a piece. Looking at the bird now, I think she is finished. I will start to work on the rest of the piece and return to her later if compelled. From here on in, I shall document on a weekly basis. Most pieces taking two to three months to complete, that’s plenty of pictures and accompanying text. Any more, and you’ll have fallen asleep on me, drooling on your desk and ruining your paperwork. This is not, after all, a novella. Although you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

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Added for aesthetic pleasure

The ribbon, in case you are wondering, is the one I have selected to border the piece: my version of a frame. I like the fact that is is bright and colourful, like my bird, and also that I haven’t used it yet. My choice may change later, but for now I think it fits.

Under the light of a silvery moon: week two

This week I French-knitted a moon and some waves to represent the sea and continental-styled a lace pattern to serve as clouds. Something new; something previously untested: I was interested to see if it would work. I have made fingerless gloves using this pattern (lots – I have a tendency to get addicted*) but nothing abstract, nothing entirely my own. So far, so good. I am pleased with its appearance on the fabric and will do a little more, perhaps down the top right-hand side of the piece to cushion the moon.

* Last year it was socks and now I have drawers full of them. The year before, it was hats. It’s anyone’s guess what comes next…

A moon and some waves

The moon itself is made out of a Fairisle-effect yarn – faux-Fairisle to be precise, similar to the one I used for my iPad case. In fact, it may be the same ball. It’s a pretty pastel pattern and nicely represents a sunset in the Mediterranean.

The sea, a baby blue in a hue that I adore – soft and delicate, warm rather than cold – is also new for me. I haven’t tried waves with water. Usually I just make it flat, a calm sea, undisturbed by life and nature. This time, I have curled it up and down and then added French knots (because I love them and like to let them exist at least once in every picture) just above to represent the froth; the white horses, so to speak. The yarn beneath the waves is a paler blue, with a fine metallic thread running through it: tricky to sew with but worth it for the effect. To me, it suggests magical things: the beauty that often lies hidden beneath the exterior, the wealth inherent within the subconscious mind, what we all conceal and entrap for fear of harm or pain. It also accommodates the unpredictability of nature, the chaotic dance of life; the constant movement each of us must endure, embracing or resisting, up to us.

Slow and steady: week five

Pretty in pink

Stitching in earnest

I know I wasn’t going to continue here, instead beginning and from there updating another post, a fresh one, but I decided in the name of simplicity to remain and to keep a tight rein on myself. In the future, it means everything is in one place, neat, tidy and ordered, which is the way I like to live my life.

As you can see, I have begun to stitch in earnest – first attaching my flamingo scene to a plain piece of felt and then edging it with ribbon. It is a slow task, heavy on the eyes, and I proceed slowly limited by the available light. Evenings have begun to draw in. I have lost an hour of creative time and am fighting off the darkness at 8pm. By 9pm, I have lost the battle. All is black: blue a distant memory, white absent, save for the silvery moon, which shines intermittently. Although she too has been elsewhere lately, deserting me just as surely as my manmade substitute has. The hotel terrace where I currently work has sequestered my gerkin for alternative use and it now lights the tourists frequenting the outside BBQ as opposed to me. My flamingo and eyes morn its departure as deeply as if it were a close and long-held friend.

Crossing over: week 6

Closure

Ready to fly

I’ve had to wait for pity to descend in order to continue. Stitching without light is unwise, especially given the fate that befell my previous piece Wings and Webbed Feet. Once bitten: twice shy, so to speak. I am suitably humbled and chastised. Luckily, an unlikely benefactor came to my aid and I have been gifted a fresh light. The chef in charge of the BBQ, a man whose food I have never savoured and in passing only once spoken to, took pity on me, fearing for the health of my eyes, ordering the return of the one he took away. I think, in his bottle-top glasses, he learned the hard way and, in his kindness, sought to at least attempt to save me the same fate.

Reunited, almost leant up against, fighting for space with the moths, I have stitched in earnest and managed to arrive at the end. My flamingo is ready to fly, to go out and officially meet the world. I am happy with her, given that we have been on an eventful journey with many highs and lows: waiting several weeks for a new order of sequins to turn up, just one of them; others entailing hunting every haberdashery department and shop I could think of on the island in order to find five pale pink sequins for my fish who, although far from greedy in her requirements, managed to exhaust my existing supply. Because I often buy things on impulse, keeping them for that ‘special’ piece, not knowing exactly when I might need them or if I even will but sensing that I will appreciate the instinct and foresight one day, I regularly lose track of where they originated, sometimes even in terms of country. When this happens, it takes me a while to hunt them back down, or, in extreme circumstances, locate a substitute. Usually, bar the one incident where I lost through no fault of my own but the manufacturer discontinuing the line, I win, even if it means I have to go through Ebay or online shop clearance bins. Where there’s a will: there’s usually a way; and if not, the creative thinking that ensues eventually lands me somewhere far better than if the simple solution had applied. For this reason, I entrust my path to fate and the whimsical nature of the Greater Power up above.

• Meet the rest of my flamingo’s friends
• Check out my shop

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Wings and Webbed Feet

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Once upon a time…

A long time ago, before either you or I were born; before, even, most of us can remember – not our mothers or our grandmothers, or their mothers and their grandmothers – there was a handsome prince. And, like many far-off fabled princes, he was spoilt and mean. He teased his sister, chased his maid, terrorised the kitchen staff, shouted at both of his parents; refused to attend school, whether home or otherwise, and spent most of his spare time (which, considering he rejected investing in anything that wasn’t directly relevant to him, was a lot) catching moths, dissecting butterflies, tormenting little kittens and stealing baby birds.

The prince who favoured the beast

The handsome prince

His family, being good God-fearing people, suffered his behaviour to the best of their ability, attempting to instil their beliefs and values into him in the hope that, eventually, he would change. And for a while, they genuinely believed that he would.

But as the years passed and he grew from a boy into a man, drawing ever closer to the time when he would, traditionally, inherit the kingdom: their concern grew, it’s toes extending into every corner.

Fearing the destruction of everything they held dear: the community they had built, the people they worked hard to protect, the landscape that not only inspired artists but attracted writers from miles around, they called in external help, turning to the one person they knew they could rely on. And while her ways were initially painful, often confusing and unusually harsh, they accepted that they were also always right.

The one person they knew they could rely on

The one person they knew they could rely on

So began a time of mourning, in which the kingdom wept a thousand tears and all who lived there learnt to pray for compassion and forgiveness.

Years passed and nothing much happened: the king turned grey, the queen grew plump, the staff became less vigilant and the townsfolk gradually withdrew, for, although they knew it wasn’t their fault, they couldn’t help feeling responsible for the way that things had turned out.

The frog prince

The prince, and what befell him

As for the prince: he grew into a man – bitter, twisted and resentful, all the worse for the feelings his punishment had evoked in him.

Hiding inside the palace walls, he survived the comments, whispers, stares and judgement by keeping to himself.

And then, one day, the king of Mercy arrived with his daughter, Grace, and the prince, who was now a frog, awoke, the beast inside him dissolving in an instant.

The fairy princess

The beautiful princess

Determined to win the hand of the beautiful princess, the not-quite-so-beautiful prince set about improving, first attending to his own (up until now) wicked ways, and then extending his efforts further into every attainable interior of the kingdom.

Slowly, the chill began to melt. Life returned, laughter resumed and, once again, love remembered.

And then a question was asked and a hole was created – inside of which, there existed everything.

Meanwhile, in the present day…

So far, so good…

This piece is under construction and currently receiving lots of love. I am working on it slowly, in conjunction with several other pieces:

a pink flamingo
• a collection of beaded spindle bracelets
• a cabled iPad and Kindle case (mini iPad and iPhone to follow)
• a cheer-up present for a friend

Having more than one piece on the go helps to keep me in motion, the pressure providing motivation that, in the heat of summer, it is otherwise hard to maintain.

A place where anything can happen and often does

The inspiration for this piece is loosely based upon the tale of the Frog Prince, the title initiating a journey I then followed independently; the idea being that all little boys are smelly and nasty and mean to girls, pulling their hair and spitting at them until they grow into big strong men, who can – if kissed in the right way, by the right girl – turn into princes and later kings.

Like so many of my pieces, this one, too, is evocative of fairytales: a place where anything can happen and often does and good wins out over evil, eventually…

I read vicariously as a child and was enchanted and entranced by mythology and folk law. I still am, especially the dark stuff. My favourite authors include: Aesop, The Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, Hans Christian Andersen, Giambattista Basile, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve… to name but a few.

I also have a deep love for Enid Blyton, William Nicholson, J. K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, Ursula LeGuinn, Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood.

An colourful proposition

This narrative, mine, as pictured both above and below, depicts a frog and a fairy princess in a state of limbo: the frog deeply in love, desirous of the princess’s hand; the princess not quite so sure, for, while not terrifyingly ugly, the frog is a little garish with his rainbow dreadlocks and his feet that refuse the inside of shoes.

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A state of limbo

Is matrimony to such a creature wise? And why does she have feelings for something so slippery and slimy anyway? Where did they come from? Her emotions unnerve her.

Indecisive moments twinned with periods of doubt

The working title for this piece is ‘The Frog Prince and The Fairy Princess’. But I don’t know if it’s right.

Playing around with other ideas, I am considering:

• Wings and Webbed Feet
• Beauty and the Frog
• The Frog Prince

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Otherwise known as

What do you think?

If you have a flash of inspiration, a stroke of genius or a brilliant brainwave, let me know. The top answer will be declared the winner and awarded a crown: one of my own; self-invented, hand-devised.

The point at which I say…

Ok, so this is supposed to be the point at which I say: “Hurray. We are finished…”, pushing myself vertical to dance in public; twirling, euphoric; jumping up and spinning round and around. And I did, for a day. And then I came back and looked again – closer this time, inspecting for detail; searching for mistake, error – and it struck me, slowly, that something wasn’t right. Something was missing, felt off. As a whole, it was incomplete; the landscape, too white.

So, as much as it pains me (and it does, because I have spent so long on this already: days, nights, etc.), I have to go back and attend. I’m thinking some French knots around the edge of the inner canvas. Or a thin knitted line – something to box it in, pin it down. Also, possibly some embroidered stars, or some beaded and sequinned ones? Or some knitted tendrils, like on my previous piece The Princess and the Pe-kinese and similar to those on the tree above? I will ponder it for a week and then decide. There is nothing but disaster to be gained from leaping. Less haste: more speed.

A stitch in time

To be, or not to be…

I am praying in earnest to all of my stars, lucky or otherwise, that what transpires is what I need and that that will be the solution. It would be a shame, a tragedy, even, to be left with an unusable piece. If I don’t love it: I can’t sell it. Besides: if it looks less than great, it’s not like anyone else will want it either, unless they have a penchant for collecting lost and hopeless things, things that need rescuing. It’s probably something I would do. I collect broken things: objects, animals, people, plants. I cannot stand to see them standing alone, needing comfort, requiring aid, acceptance, compassion, forgiveness. It physically pains me.

When I was a child, I could never part with my toys. I worried about their feelings, how they would fair. I couldn’t bear the thought of their pain at being thrown away or at being deemed unwanted. They had hearts, souls. They were alive. They got lonely if they got left, dismissed. Hurt if they fell or were dropped. It was a complicated job navigating all of them and still having room for me. I’m not sure I ever managed it.

But I digress… Back to the art. That is, after all, what you are here for, what you are really interested in. My childhood, my past, my injuries and my neuroses: they are part of another world, one you can subscribe to if you so desire but one which I will not force upon you if not.

Strength and perspective

Absence makes the heart grow stronger and distance provides perspective. After having stepped away for several weeks – focussing on other projects; concentrating on things that, kindly, were working in my favour – I have returned: doubly inspired, solution inhand.

Like most things, it was actually relatively simple when it came down to it; the mistake, easy to remedy, not entirely of my hand. The culprit, the ribbon, was the wrong colour: too dark, too oriental, beige. It needed to be more subtle, not to compete so much with the piece; to compliment it, frame it, rather than dominating and weighing it down.

I searched around in my ribbon drawer (yes, I actually have a whole drawer dedicated to housing ribbons… And, my goodness… I have so very many. I think I’m a little obsessed, acting like a squirrel preparing for winter lest my current shop of choice – and, I hasten to add, the only one available to me here – should close down, move away or sell out) and found the perfect design: delicate flowers (blue, orange and yellow) on a white background.

Now all I have to do is carefully unpick the existing one so that I can sew this in its place. Having only just finished adding the ribbon edging to my pink flamingo, I am aware of the time involved, the concentration required and the damage such detail does to my eyes and, potentially, the piece. It is not a task I relish or approach with enthusiasm. But it is an important one, worth every bit of the pain for what it adds to the result.

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Free from offending entities

As I said above: absence makes the heart grow fonder. And it does, because, having removed the offending entity without consequence, I am thawing out again. The dominating ribbon, the ribbon that wants to overpower the piece – ruling me, my handiwork, my princess and my web-footed prince out of the picture and into the ether of non-existence and negative effect – is once again separate, sequestered to the relevant drawer.

Now I just have to attach a fresh background of white felt and then add the new ribbon. I sense a series of long evenings.

I spy: not a lot

I have been straining my eyes on this one, racing against the setting sun, the following darkness. I have turned German too, if only in my antics, running out onto the hotel terrace where I work most evenings in a bid to secure my usual seat, the only one with light, before anyone else takes it. I’m not sure why, but the rest is unlit, bereft even of candles. It’s strange. Silly too. Do the management not realise how depressing it is to sit in the dark, struggling to see what colour your drink is, what your companions look like; unable, even, to read? Or do they presume we all have Kindles and iPads to accommodate our needs?

But what if you are eating? This isn’t Dine in the Dark, no matter how much I would like that – just the once, if only to try it. It’s on my wish list after my brother did it in Singapore with his wife. It sounds like a laugh, even if you do end up with food all down your front and indigestion from eating goodness knows what.

Stitching myself blind

A fresh piece of felt and two lengths of ribbon

After three nights or roughly six hours, I have managed to attach a fresh piece of felt and two lengths of ribbon. Two down: two more to go. Or it should be, only there was a slight technical hitch yesterday afternoon leaving me to navigate a temporary delay. Well, there had to be, didn’t there, if only so that this piece could live up to its reputation of a noxious little beast. I blame it on the frog, I think he’s a little too fond, reluctant to leave the lap within which, nightly, he is lovingly caressed. And who can blame him? It’s a lovely lap, even if I do say so myself. I, too, would prefer it to the wall or a drawer; unless it happens to be your wall or your draw, in which case I would infinitely prefer it to my lap.

Anyway, the hitch: I ran out of ribbon. I must have used this pattern before and only begun with half the two metres I usually have at my disposal. I’m an idiot for not checking first. I was near the haberdashery shop only last week, buying sequins for my flamingo piece. I could have saved myself a long walk: up cobbled steps, down narrow streets, past hordes of tourists meandering lost in the mid-day heat. There’s a lesson to be learned if I can manage to remember it. Hopefully, I will catch the shop before it closes for lunch. They take four hours here and then stay open until late. It’s forever tripping me. It was the same in Australia (only with the ending, not the middle) where everything shut at 5pm. I got ousted from cafés all the time, left with two hours to kill before my ride home arrived. It was a pain. In the end, I usually ended up walking home, even if that took over an hour. At least it was action. It’s the hanging around that kills me. I hate delay.

It’s the same right now with my future, which is all up in the air. I’m waiting to find out where, when and how, knowing only the why and the pressing urgency of it. In order to cope, I have devised a new motto. To find out what it is, click here.

Let me introduce you

The straight and narrow

The finished article

Finally, the ending: long-awaited and much-coveted. This piece has challenged my patience more than most. But it has also charmed and entertained me so I cannot chasten it. Besides, it was my first tentative foray into the landscape of ‘less than pretty’ and a complete experiment. I have drawn uncertainty and darkness, unsightly and different, but I have never knitted or stitched it. It was time for a change, time for a challenge. In this sense, it was a success.

Next up, I plan to attempt something a little different, going back to the knitted background and building up from there.

And, perhaps, I will change the dimensions; try something circular or square? We shall see… After all, it’s not up to me in the end. My hands simply obey what is delivered from beyond.

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Protected: In Sheeps Clothing

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A dark-winged moth

Like a dark-winged moth
coveting a flame that will surely kill her,
she sits just inches from the light –
a plastic monument
similar in shape to London’s Gerkin,
only smaller and many miles from the Thames.

The last time she went there,
London’s Southbank,
was years ago.
The closest she’s been since was dinner in Eton:
same river, different town;
an hour from the capital.

She wonders how much it has changed
and if it has missed her?
She wonders if any of her friends still live there
and which of them remember her when she did if they do?
She wonders when she will go back and if she ever will,
why she would want to?

She wonders why she wonders about things so much
when wondering only creates problems
she has no idea how to solve?
Wondering this,
she decides to stop;
only it’s not that simple,

and somehow,
wondering about the little things,
the trivialities,
helps stop her from thinking too much
about the things that really matter,
like family and friendship and love.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Invisible Clouds – poetry

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On the terrace, I watch the moon get swallowed and then spat out,
passing through the belly of invisible clouds.
It’s late and the sky is black.

Overhead, a plane roars,
briefly drowning out the drone of crickets.
The wind stirs, making several twigs snap.

Inside, ants surround the sink,
descending on crumbs
I forgot to clean up.

Their perceptivity fascinates me,
but I am tired
of murdering tiny creatures.

I do not understand this place –
the moon, the crickets, the ants:
acting on impulse, driven by instinct.

Subject to the whim of emotion,
ruled by my own dark tides:
I covet their simple lives.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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