The Potential Possum and the Mostly Moon (as featured on Let’s Knit)

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Up until now:

The majority of my pieces are colourful narratives – bright, shiny and cheerful. They depict wonderful beginnings, beautiful middles and happy endings.

my textile work

My drawing, on the other hand, tends towards the opposite.

my illustration

Perhaps it has something to do with the tradition of the craft and how I see it: gainfull employment for hands that would be idle. It reminds me of classic novels and of women who were well-behaved. It is passive and quiet, undeniably elegant. It has no room for rage or despair; for the mess of external expression.

how I see the craft

Or maybe it’s because it was my grandmother who taught me and I see her as this shining light, someone who always managed to put a positive spin on things? Perhaps I am scared to taint her memory and infect her gift?

my grandmother

Or it could be that I am attached to the concept that we traditionally knit items to wear or use and embroider things to decorate and gift?

In trying to turn something ‘crafty’ into something ‘arty’, I am changing the rules and I think this attempted remodelling is where I have become tangled up. So this project is all about letting go.

Instead of having a vague idea of a theme for a piece, I shall clear my mind and work without attachment to direction or outcome, allowing my inner guide and my outer muse (the below-featured chihuahua) to steer the journey.


Something new:

Having decided to try my hand at something new, I decided it was only right that I use a new ball of wool and a new colour; that way everything would be different – the background, the method, the colouring. Worst case scenario, should I mess up entirely, I would simply fail to swim. And from the bottom of the pool, lake or ocean, I could float my way back up, either unpicking and correcting in order to continue or starting over afresh.

Sidar Snuggly Baby Crofter – Winnie (178)

I elect to make a plain square and begin by casting on 40 stitches. The purpose here was for the tension square to serve as a pseudo-type therapist; an entity both strong enough and reliable enough to accommodate my emotions, thereby enabling me space to temporarily switch off from all catastrophizing about the future in order to sit still and silent within the present. It kind of works.

40 stitches x 22 rows

Having completed my square, I am then ready to move on to the frame. This will serve to ground the square visually. It will also catch and hold straight the edges, which would otherwise curl. I have chosen to use white because it is clean and fresh and also because, being plain and simple, it won’t distract from what’s going on inside. The only complication I allow myself I limit to one row:

k2tog, yo; repeat

At the same time, I decide to approach the inside: the space where the story will sit.

Picking up my knitting doll, I select a length of yarn and proceed to make a cord, which I will coil in much the same way as with a coaster or mat. The process is quick, simple and meditative and I lose myself effortlessly to the rhythm of it.

My moon takes me three days: one to make the coil and two to decorate.

knitted edges and a spool moon

Next up, the focus of my piece: my person or animal. I have no idea what will come out; I simply pick up my needles and trust in the process. I watch with interest until it starts to look like a ‘something’ and then I intrude.

In this instance, the suggested is of animal inclination. Beginning as a cat, it later becomes a rat and then, finally, joyously, a possum. This feels right, reminiscent of my time in Australia and my love for the family of possums who lived in the trees surrounding my house. I loved watching them, constantly surprised that in their lack of dexterity and elegance, they never seemed to fall.

I give my possum a tail, slightly curled. Then I add two ears – one that sticks up, the other out. After this, I add a nose, a mouth and a cheek, all in various shades of pink. Lastly, I give it claws, a necklace and a bracelet.

my possum

Because at the moment it’s top right and bottom left with nothing in between, I decide to make a star, which, along with providing company for the moon, will help to balance it out. But as it evolves, it transforms into a flower – jasmine or honeysuckle. Knitted in mohair and angora, it is soft with a fluffy sheen. I decorate it in pearls with a single sequin at its centre, then surround it with more flowers, only smaller this time, made of pearl and sequin.

my star

Three feels like the correct number of elements for the piece, so I decide to leave it there. But something is missing. I decide to add some sequins and beads to the area beneath the moon. I leave their translation open to the spectator. To me, however, they are many things: raindrops, snowflakes, tears, shooting stars, meteorites, petals; their essence changing with my mood.

my moon

Overall, this piece has two levels. The surface one – which is sweet, playful and fun; almost childlike in presentation. And the underlying one – which speaks of hope and faith, goal and intent, apprehension and fear, sorrow and grief; of things let go and left behind, and of things yet to be encountered and enjoyed.

the potential possum and the mostly moon

I miss Australia: the buzz of the city, the contrast of towering skyscraper against colonial relic, the warmth of the people; Chinatown, it’s smells and tastes; the beach – Bondi, Manley, Cooggie, Bronte, with its bronzed swimmers and surfers, its vistas and cliffs; the animals – pelican, cockatiel, fruit bat, koala, possum, kangaroo; my house; the places I went, the experiences I had, the people I met.

Australia

I know that when I leave here, Mallorca, I shall miss the landscape, the sky, and the light; watching the sun rise and set, the moon wax and wane; spotting shapes in the clouds; counting the stars and looking for various formations, every so often chancing upon a lone crusader as it flies past on its way to earth. I shall also miss the peace and quiet, the land that surrounds my house and the walled orchard with its fruit trees: lemon, lime, orange, pear, plum and fig… each month delivering a new surprise.

Mallorca

In its intentions, this piece has been fairly successful. In telling a story that wanted to be told, it has given voice to a handful of emotions and feelings, setting some free while merely drawing attention to the presence of others. I have gained information and advice about necessary inner work and learnt that as well as grieving the departure of people, it is also important to mourn the loss of home and place.

Everything we touch, everywhere we settle, every experience we have… impacts upon us in some way. And whether small or large, pleasant or terrible, they need to be honoured and thanked.

This lesson shall go with me into the next chapter and the next piece.

• see the rest of the collection (as and when it arrives)
• learn about other pieces I have made
• visit my website

The potential possum and the mostly moon (full-length version)

image• Read short version (as featured on Let’s Knit)
• Read Let’s Knit guest post

Objects of beauty:

I am starting to tire of my current series: the pieces take too long to make and the repetition, although pleasantly meditative, has become boring. I need to shake it up, increasing the pressure in order to scare myself; for while I am a creature of habit in my daily life: when it comes to creativity I need to be challenged and stimulated.

Vitruvian Woman

This piece is part of a new series I am making entitled Square Pegs. It is based on the following concepts:

1) the suggested tension square accompanying almost every pattern (something I rarely do and so have decided to practice)
2) patchwork quilts – old, beautiful and steeped in tradition
3) my own obstinate peg, namely accepting and embracing it

In knitting square after square, working within the security of a fixed environment, I hope to provide an outlet for life’s challenges, honouring the grazes by transforming them into objects of beauty; the idea being that these small squares, with their individual narratives, come together to form a whole that tells an entire story.

A natural disposition to be good:

Most of what I am about to do is undecided and I have restricted myself to three changes:

• a yarn background instead of a felt one
• a smaller workspace
• a square canvas

This expanse of unknown excites me and I am keen to see how it will translate.

Up until now:

Up until now, the majority of my pieces have been colourful narratives – bright, sparkly and cheerful. They depict wonderful beginnings, beautiful middles and happy endings.

my textile work

My drawing, on the other hand, tends towards the opposite; although here, too, you have to know what you are looking for.

my illustration

My poetry and prose, also; both reflecting (often with alarming honesty) exactly what is going on inside my head.

Why then, when I pick up a yarn or thread, does it always come out with a smile? I don’t understand it and while I don’t necessarily mind (for cheerful is always good), I would like to have more of a choice. That way, when I’ve got something on my mind: like when I’m worried or stressed or upset… I can allow its story an outlet along with the emotion it contains.

how I see the craft

Perhaps it has something to do with the tradition of the craft and how I see it: gainfull employment for hands that would be idle, domesticity at its best, a relic from a time that no longer exists? It reminds me of classic novels and of women who were well-behaved. It is passive and quiet; undeniably elegant. It has no room for rage or despair, for the mess of external expression. It was something that you sat and did, either in solitude or in company. Perhaps it is this that is stopping me, along with a natural disposition to be good?

a natural disposition to be good

Or maybe it’s because it was my grandmother who taught me and I see her as this shining light, someone who always managed to put a positive spin on things? Perhaps I am scared to taint her memory and infect her gift?

my grandmother

Or it could be that I am attached to the concept that we traditionally knit items to wear or use and embroider things to decorate and gift? Both are seen as crafts and craft, by its very nature, or at least according to it’s stereotype, is typically an airhead.

In trying to turn something ‘crafty’ into something ‘arty’, something with a message that goes deeper than a surface: “Hey look at me! Am I not the most lovely scarf, the most delicious hat? ”, I am changing the rules and I think this, the attempted remodelling, is where I have become tangled up.

An idealistic approach:

So this project is all about breaking the rules and moving away from the place where it all started. My previous work was different in the sense that it took embroidery and knitting as crafts and turned them into art, reinventing them and our perception of the form they take.

This work is all about exploration and doubly letting go, letting go a second time. Instead of having a vague idea of a theme for a piece: a pregnant rabbit, a frog in drag, a horse eating ice cream; I shall clear my mind and work without attachment to direction or outcome, allowing my inner guide and my outer muse to steer the journey. It is an idealistic approach, but one that excites me.

Phase one: humble beginnings

Sidar Snuggly Baby Crofter – Winnie (178)

Having decided to try my hand at something new, I decided it was only right that I use a new ball of wool and a new colour; that way, everything would be different – the background, the method, the colouring – reducing the risk of any and all attempts on my part to cling to the previously tested. I would dive in and wait to see. Worst case scenario, should I mess up entirely, I would simply fail to swim. And from the bottom of the pool, lake or ocean, (it’s length and breadth dependent on the extent of the mess I am in ), I could simply float my way back up, either unpicking and correcting in order to continue or starting over afresh. No big deal. It’s not like the wellbeing of the world or even myself depends upon it, although my confidence might be dented somewhat.

image

I elect to make a plain square and begin by casting on 40 stitches. My first time slot (I work in the car) allows me 22 rows. So far, so good. Not that that says much; although to a novice, even this might be a significant success. In my classes (I offer small workshops and private lessons) I have seen all kinds of things and it always surprises me how diverse people’s blocks and difficulties are – some struggling to cast on; while others steam ahead, only stumbling when they try to end. It fascinates me, this first dipped toe, this initial sampling, and I am always honoured to be a part of it.

Phase two: the next step

Repetition therapy

Having completed my square (roughly K40 x K36, although I must confess I forgot to count them), I am ready to move on to the next step and already I have an inkling about what I want it to be. But I shall keep that part of the narrative a secret until I have a photograph to accompany it: that way I maintain your attention for a little longer, allowing me pause to examine the benefits, if there were any, of the square.

Brief interlude in which I attempt to examine the benefits, if there were any, of the square:

The purpose here was to provide an outlet: the tension square serving as a pseudo-type therapist; an entity both strong enough and reliable enough to accommodate my emotions, thereby enabling me space to temporarily switch off from all catastrophizing about the future in order to sit still and silent within the present. And while it is far from a cure or a remedy: it’s a something, and something’s are things I am always grateful for. One doesn’t reject a thing just because it only delivers part of what is desired: a ball of acrylic is infinitely better than having no ball at all.

I think the solution is to keep making – increasing the pressure and the challenge, experimenting with what works on the outside and trying, as much as possible, to draw a parallel between that which is kind to my inside. The trick will be in uniting the two, so that my squares not only serve to tell a story but also to exorcise the emotions attached.

Phase three: two birds

Moonlight and right angles

Moving on, it is time for the frame: the knitted edging to replace what has previously been in ribbon. This will serve to ground the square visually, making it easier to work with. It will also catch and hold straight the edges, which would otherwise curl. I have chosen to use white because it is clean and fresh and also because, being plain and simple, it won’t distract from what’s going on inside. The only complication I allow myself (for even when striving for simplicity, there has to be one), I limit to one row: k2tog, yo; repeat.

At the same time, because I work my interiors while stationary and because I don’t want to start anything else for fear of overwhelm or distraction from the task, I decide to approach the inside: the space where the story will sit.

The mostly moon

Picking up my knitting doll (old and much-loved), I select a length of yarn and proceed to make a cord, which, when done, I will coil in much the same way one does a coaster or mat. The process is quick, simple and meditative and I lose myself effortlessly to the rhythm of it, re-emerging only when I am done. One of the things that I love most about sewing and knitting is that it is all-encompassing – swallowing me up thoughts, worries, distractions, life pressures and all… rescuing me (albeit temporarily) from the current weight of the world and the speed in which it invariably flows.

When I have roughly 25cm of cord, I make my coil, which I then loosely secure with cotton so that I can work on it. I then bring out my collection of sequins and beads and deliberate over which sizes and colours to pick. The larger my collection, the harder the task, despite my intention being the opposite.

My moon takes me three days: one to make the coil and two to decorate.

The potential possum a

Next up: the focus of my piece: my person or animal. At this point, I have no idea what will come out; I simply pick up my needles and trust in the process. My hands move independently and gradually a shape emerges. I watch with interest until it starts to look like a ‘something’ and then I intrude.

In this instance, the suggested is of animal inclination. Beginning as a cat, it later becomes a rat and then, finally, joyously, (I couldn’t abide having to devote myself to such an odious creature: its yellow teeth, its scaly tail) a possum. This feels right, reminiscent of my time in Australia and my love for the family of possums who lived in the trees surrounding my house. A cross between a cat, a rat and a squirrel, they were among the most curious of all the creatures I had the pleasure of meeting. I loved watching them, constantly surprised that, in their lack of dexterity and elegance, they never seemed to fall. I still struggle to accept that something that maladroit can live securely amongst branches and leaves.

I give my possum a tail, slightly curled. Then I add two ears – one that sticks up, the other out, separate to the piece so that’s 3-dimensional. After this, I add a nose, a mouth and a cheek, all in various shades of pink. And lastly, an eye: fishlike and slightly Egyptian, reminiscent of pyramids and the calligraphy that decorates their walls. Lastly, I give it claws, grey, a pearl necklace and a tail bracelet. I work slowly, concentrating on each addition, careful not to overload it. I want it to be likeable, and the jewelery helps this, but at the same time I don’t want it to feel overdone. I’m pleased with the result as well as my restraint.

The budding star

To balance the piece out, I decide to make a star, which, along with providing company for the moon, will help to balance the piece out. But as it evolves, it transforms into a flower, jasmine or honeysuckle. Knitted in mohair and angora, it is soft with a fluffy sheen. I decorate it in pearls with a single sequin at its centre, then surround it with more flowers, pearl and sequin in nature.

Three feels like the correct number of elements for the piece, so I decide to leave it there. But something is missing. Sitting with it for several days, looking at it often, thinking both in front of it and away, I decide to add some sequins and beads to the area beneath the moon. I leave their translation open to the spectator. To me, however, they are many things: raindrops, snowflakes, tears, shooting stars, meteorites, petals; their essence changing with my mood. Raindrops and tears are sorrowful, regretful, remorseful and hurt, representing certain people and events and the way I feel about them, along with the future and what it potentially holds. Shooting stars, snowflakes, petals and meteorites are more positive, signifying birth and transformation, possibility and change. Again, elements belonging to the future, but one I feel more warmth towards.

Summing up:

The potential possum and the mostly moon

Overall, this piece has two levels. The surface one, which is sweet, playful and fun, almost childlike in presentation. And the underlying one, which speaks of hope and faith, goal and intent, apprehension and fear, sorrow and grief; of things let go and left behind, and of things yet to be encountered and enjoyed.

Australia

I miss Australia: the buzz of the city, the contrast of towering skyscrape against colonial relic, the warmth of the people; Chinatown, it’s smells and tastes; the beach – Bondi, Manley, Cooggie, Bronte with its bronzed swimmers and surfers, its vistas and cliffs; the animals – pelican, cockatiel, fruit bat, koala, possum, kangaroo; my house, the places I went, the experiences I had, the people I met.

Mallorca

I know that when I leave here, Mallorca, I shall miss the landscape, the sky and the light; watching the sun rise and set, the moon wax and wane, spotting shapes in the clouds, counting the stars and looking for various formations, every so often chancing upon a lone crusader as it flies past on its way to earth. I shall also miss the peace and quiet, the land that surrounds my house and the walled orchard with its fruit trees: lemon, lime, orange, pear, plum and fig, each month delivering a new surprise.

In its intentions, this piece has been fairly successful, although incomplete in its remedy. In telling a story that wanted to be told, it has given voice to a handful of emotions and the feelings that were attached, setting some free, while merely drawing attention to the presence of others. I have gained information and advice about necessary inner work and learnt that as well as grieving the departure of people, it is also important to mourn the loss of place and home.

Everything we touch, everywhere we settle, every experience we have, impacts upon us in some way. And whether small or large, pleasant or terrible, they need to be honoured and thanked.

This lesson shall go with me into the next chapter and the next piece.

• see the rest of the collection (as and when it arrives)
• learn about other pieces I have made
• visit my website
imageTo keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

• View or buy my work at my online portfolio
• Save 30% and buy from me direct
Learn more about my work and the inspiration that guides it
• Keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter

The Reluctant Robin and the Blue Bud

image
This piece is part of a new series I am making, entitled Square Pegs. It is based on the following concepts:

1) the suggested tension square accompanying almost every pattern (something I rarely do and so have decided to practice)
2) patchwork quilts – old, beautiful and steeped in tradition
3) my own obstinate peg, namely accepting and embracing it

In knitting square after square, working within the security of a fixed environment, I hope to provide an outlet for life’s challenges, honouring the cuts and scrapes by transforming them into objects of beauty; the idea being that these small squares, with their individual narratives, come together to form a whole that tells an entire story.

This is the second piece in my collection. I have called it: The Reluctant Robin and the Blue Bud.

~

The robin was reluctant to admit to his part in the affair: the things he had done, the words he had said, the actions he had taken and the others he had withheld; things which, collectively, had led to the arrival of the blue bud – a despondent bloom who did nothing but weep, crying over today as if it were the last day on which it were possible for such things to be shed. Such was the weight of his woe, he had quite saturated the garden, coming very close to drowning an earthworm and several small slugs.The robin sighed: how did one deal with such a creature? Should he approach with a handkerchief and attempt to wipe the stain from his nose? Or should he prepare a pot and serve hot tea instead? Whatever… whichever… he had to do something: the pathetic plant was driving him mad. Besides, he didn’t have time to indulge the dramatics of others, not when he still had so many of his own.In addition, to further complicate, he had been raised to see all forms of weeping as weakness and displays of emotion as frail. Tears were for the faint-hearted: those who couldn’t function adequately or competently cope; the type who were afraid to go far and who would be fated to fail if ever they should. To show oneself in the company of strangers (most of whom would likely always stay that way) was both unadvisable and unwise. They might haul you in and examine your head, ply you with medication. They may even lock you up: the bud was obviously unstable, in need of help; anyone could see that. But he wasn’t about to be the one to give it: not now, not after so long… and he resented the feeling that was trying to make him believe he should.The sun rose slowly, breaking through the cloud blanket, weak rays caressing the darker, still shadowed landscape. It woke the robin, gently tickling his eyelids. It roused the bud too, evicting it from its respite. With reluctance, it awoke. Lifting its head, it turned its face to its only companion, attempting a smile. Then, failing – as entirely as one might manage to fail when attempting a venture whose outcome they had vested an amount of energy and interest in – it looked sadly away. It knew it had to do better, figure something out. But how did one attempt to wrestle the weight of the world, placate the paralysis of problems? Did one? Could one? It wasn’t sure.

Uncharacteristically moved, the robin asked if it was hungry and offered to get breakfast in.BWhile he was away, most likely foraging in another farmer’s field, the bud decided to confront the intruders, attempting to deconstruct the darkness in order to remove it from his life. Lifting a leaf, he poked and prodded in the space around his head, believing the problem to be in his stamen. But when he brought it back out, it was empty of defect and blight.CRefusing to give up, he tried his roots, pushing another leaf down into the soil. Jackpot: immediate resistance: a creeping, crawling, carpet-skinned thing that felt like it was made up of hundreds and thousands of creatures. Ants? Beetles? Bugs? How undignified. And how horrific to have the source of his malaise situated there, somewhere so far from his immediate person and in a region he couldn’t ever hope to visually reach?9The robin returned, presenting a slug. The bud faked grateful, forcing a smile, surreptitiously sliding the odious thing away. Didn’t the robin know that slugs were poison to buds, likely to remove whole chunks from leaves and half bites from heads? To eat it would lead to his destruction: a slow crunching and chomping from the inside out; him disappearing – bit by bit, cell by cell – until he was dry, brown and brittle, a hollow shell.Or maybe that was the plan? And if it wasn’t, then maybe he should adopt it? At least then he would have a choice. And being eaten by a slug was less intimidating and worrying then being possessed by beetles and ants. At least it would be quick.11The ants, on the otherhand, wishing only to torment, would stay – hanging around to forage and bring back to; running up and down, in and out; hiding, holding – until he found another conclusion to escape the confines of his life.

• see the rest of the collection (as and when it arrives)
• learn about other pieces I have made
imageTo keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

• View or buy my work at my online portfolio
• Save 30% and buy from me direct
Learn more about my work and the inspiration that guides it
• Keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter

Days like these….

image

Some days are just plain painful, not for any reason in particular (at least not one I can attach any tangible sense to) but just for the sheer fact that remaining upright is an effort and maintaining a smile bearing any vague semblance to a genuine entity a chore.

My head throbs. My eyes prick. My neck and shoulders are locked: stubbornly resistant, oppressively tight. There is this malicious thing going at my chest with a fork. It is blunt and tarnished, void of serration and shine. It is old, too and overly admired. As for my heart, that most delicate of creatures: it feels fragile and weak, like it’s been recently broken by some element or identity it most desperately loves.

I’m not sure where to attribute the blame: the weather, the date, the season, bodily hormones, the phase of the moon, events, recent treatment of self by self and/or by others, or just life in general and the incomprehensible nature of it.

Not that blaming helps. Attaching a label is never a wise thing to do and rarely serves a greater purpose beyond shrinking and limiting. Call a glass of milk a glass of milk and it can never be anything but a glass of milk. Present it as a potent vessel, life-giving liquid, a substance matching a March moon in colour trapped within a container resembling in clarity a pair of NHS glasses or else tri-annually cleaned windows, and it is immediately that much more interesting. At least in my book it is. To you, it may now just be confusing.

As I said: I have a migraine and my thoughts are jumbled. I’m writing in an attempt to evict the pain and because, otherwise, my afternoon will be empty of employment. I can’t read. I can’t sleep. The thought of meditating, although tempting, also seems like a waste. I want to do something useful but my options are limited. This is the compromise.

Pining August, missing her already despite still sitting pretty within the arms of her last day embrace, I am trying to remain in the moment. If I look back, I see the ribbon of summer – colourful-worn and spent. Forwards, I see autumn leading towards winter, the approach of weather that hurts, sky that is mean, sun that doesn’t like very often to come out. A time of wrapped up, curled up, hunched in front of while the wind screams in earnest and the clouds weep. I see me disappearing. My voice fading. My confidence failing. Tears close by.

So I’m trying to stay where I am. Trying to make the most of every day I have. Trying to do enough so as to warrant justification and stave off regret. And I am managing, just about. Even with this pain, I am obedient to routine: traveling to new places, working out and about, visiting people, being as sociable as my limited diary will permit. I’m not slacking. I’m not shying. So why isn’t it easier? Why does this black thing, this shadow, follow me around and about? What did I do to deserve it? What can I do to make it go away?

I rest. I exercise. I meditate. I read enriching books. I express myself in words and in imagery. I make sure I get enough air and light. I eat raw ingredients and buy organic products. I avoid sugar and processed foods. I restrict, as much as possible, violence and crime, distressing information, destructive people, depressing news. I protect myself. I love my dog and I allow her to love me. I express myself openly and honestly – to my partner and to my friends, allowing them to do the same back. I try to be nice to everyone I meet, to give instead of take. I put in as well as extract, invest as well as lay claim. I believe in my purpose, my destiny: something I have looked deep to find, worked hard to own, and attend to daily. Surely life should be better having done and still doing all of this? That is, after all, supposed to be the answer.

But who is this omniscient being who professes to know what makes us tick; what repairs the cogs that are dented, the coils that are squeaking, the wheels that are turning the wrong way? He’s not God. He’s some intellectual who has studied a lot, some guru who claims to be enlightened. He’s not the real thing. He’s not even always a ‘he’. How can we, I, trust something so ordinary, so similar in genetic makeup? We can’t really and we oughtn’t to, but we do, because at the end of the day all any of us wants is answers, solutions to problems and questions; because the not-knowing how, why or when is just too big, vast, empty to live with. Like looking over the edge of a building or down into the depths of a well, there is this aching feeling, this hollow scream, a carved-out wound that feels like a child that ought to be there but isn’t, a lost baby, a dead pet. It makes one want to jump, to just hurry up and get it over with, to bail out. And it also makes one feel absolutely terrified. Far easier to simply buy into, accept, adopt, leap onto and cling. Whether it’s Deepak, Robbins, Hay, Hart, the Dali Lama, Buddism as a belief, Christianity as a crucible, Gestalt and Jung as theories and philosophies: anything, everything; one, two, ten… is a better thing to cling to than empty space.

I look. I find. I try. I attach. And for a time, I am full. Then the gnawing returns and my soul complains that it is hungry again and needs to feed. Like a child with worms, there is no sating it. And it’s the no sating, no solving, no sedating, that enslaves me.

So I lie here in limbo, an adult crying for a parent who no longer exists, yearning for a breast that has long-since been interred; essentially waiting for a miracle that may (or may not) eventually come. It’s a sorry state of affairs to be managing and yet somehow I am in charge of it.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

imageTo keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

• View or buy my work at my online portfolio
• Save 30% and buy from me direct
Learn more about my work and the inspiration that guides it
• Keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter

A Fit Bird

image
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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A little white Chihuahua

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While looking through my window,
I had a great surprise:
a little white Chihuahua
was floating in the skies.

I ran to fetch my camera.
It nearly was in vain,
for very soon she disappeared
and it began to rain.

by Howard Atherton

I have to credit my father for the above poem, as he wrote it for me as a present in response to one that I sent him. I was charmed and touched by it. So much so, I had to share it. I hope he forgives me for the impulse. I love you daddy.

Searching on Google, I found some more cloud dogs. Here are just a few of them.

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Weak at the Knees

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Walking on air,
I fall head over heels;
I’m in deep.
My ankles buckle, as if under pressure.
My toes slip.

Collecting injuries,
like there’s no tomorrow,
I take my pain to bed,
curling around it like a senile cat;
feeding it and licking it.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

imageTo keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

• View or buy my work at my online portfolio
• Save 30% and buy from me direct
Learn more about my work and the inspiration that guides it
• Keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter