Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Elusive

I have been seeking a folk song.  Several years ago, while I was my mother's sole carer and thus not my usual otherwise alert self, I happened across a television programme of a folksong gathering.  A woman described the folk tale behind the song she was about to sing - perhaps in Gaelic (Irish, or Scottish, I cannot remember).
It was the story which gripped my mind.  I do not remember it at all clearly except the bare bones:
There were two sisters; one - let's call her Catriona - had a lover that the other - let's call her Fiona - coveted.  So while Catriona fell asleep at the low tide edge, Fiona tied her hair to the rocks.  The tide inevitably came in, and Fiona walked off with the lover.
I cannot remember enough details to google effectively, so have not been able to track down the folk song, or the tale.  I keep trying at odd moments, but meanwhile the worm has been at work in my mind.  The seaweed on the shores of the Outer Hebrides provided the hair.
It is not a literal illustration of a mis-remembered story, but what hearing the story generated within my well-established relationship with the sea.  After my return from holiday I have been working on the idea above. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Holiday stitching

I am still working my way through Soliloquy, a panel at a time - only eight panels to go before I stitch them together.  I did not want to risk them on holiday, however, so I took Classic viola to finish, and Quiet work.
The latter was my main occupation, with the leaves taking up the time.  I finished the rest once I returned home, and before resuming Soliloquy.
I have written in more detail about the development of Quiet work on my work blog.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Summer between storms

I had not seen the Hauser and Wirth garden in Summer, so I jumped at the opportunity to meet a friend there yesterday.  I was so lucky with the weather: I drove through a rainstorm to get there, and it poured for hours after I returned home, but whilst there we even had sunshine at one point!
Our own garden has benefited greatly from the rain, so a good day for gardens as well as catching up on friendly gossip yesterday.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Recent fiction reading

Jessica Benhar: Woman Reading (Image from here)
I read four novels whilst on holiday recently.  I started with The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain.  I very much enjoy Tremain's storytelling.  Without effort I am wafted to place and time, immediately engaged with character.  This was no exception, and I loved the quiet melancholy through which Gustav gently progresses.  Beautiful.
Two novels were both by Margaret Drabble.  I had not read her for some time, and having just bought her latest The Dark Flood Rises, I decided to read The Pure Gold Baby first.  To say that Drabble delivers a slice of life, cut across characters and class is an over-simplification.  She examines subjects such as disability in The Pure Gold Baby, and old age and death in The Dark Flood Rises, but treats those threads within contexts which we recognise and believe - as well as the slightly off-piste, and with which she has this reader fully engaged.  Drabble created a group of people with whose lives I was so wrapped that before going on to the second novel I decided to read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon which came to my attention in a Guardian review.
This is very much in the same vein: wrapped in a neighbourhood where everyone knows everyone's business - or so they think.  Everyone has dark(ish) secrets, and two girls set out to solve a murder in their summer holiday.  Amusing and profound as children can be, there was a smile on my face as I read this novel in almost one go.
Then on to old age and dying.  Sounds depressing - especially with me in my seventieth year and feeling the creaks of time.  But not at all: Margaret Drabble deals with so many aspects of the end of life with a light touch, amusing characters, thoughtfulness, ... I very much enjoyed The Dark Flood Rises.
William Patrick Roberts: A Reading of Poetry (Woman Reading) Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art  (image from here)
And now for something different: Quite Ugly One Morning by Christoher Brookmyre.  I heard about this on the BBC Radio 4 programme A good read just after we returned from holiday.  It is a whodunnit, written by a Scot, and set in Edinburgh - it contains lots of bodily fluids right from the first page - but was just right as the punctuation mark I needed to get back to reading my pile of non-fiction.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Playing


Several years back a friend and I used to work closely together.  We did our own thing, but every three weeks met, and gave ourselves exercises to stimulate thought, work, and discussion.  Life got in the way, and the close association dissolved, and I do miss that constant stimulus.
Of late I have felt myself on a kind of plateau - plenty of projects to process, but a whiff of same-old same-old creeping into my horizon view.  So, I decided to do two positive things. 
First I shall not fret.  I have a lot to be getting on with, as is the way with hand work - so on with that I shall get.  Meantime I shall set myself exercises.
A long time ago when I was similarly in the doldrums about what new fiction to read in order to widen my experience, I set myself the exercise of for instance buying the thinnest book on a shelf, or one with a red cover, or the first one I saw with something specific in the cover design, or title, ... etc.  I encountered very few duds, and enjoyed the stimulating experience greatly.
So, for my first exercise I chose a square sketchbook (from my embarrassingly large pile of empty or almost empty sketchbooks!), pastels, made myself a stencil, and was to use at least one postage stamp (from a collection my brother and I had as children - he does not want them, and I am thus slowly disposing of them).  The stencil I made is of a group of five running figures.
The image at the top of this post is the first attempt, with a stamp of one of my favourite mosaics.  I decided that the stamps I chose should have some personal meaning for me, and the one below reminds me of the hours I spent in Singapore airport in the mid-1980s!  (I was flying out to Jakarta for work every couple of months, with an eight hour wait at Changi between planes - those trips involved me watching a lot of tropical fish!)
After my first attempt at the exercise I wanted deliberately to do something that needed 'editing'; working on in some further way.  So this was a lot looser in approach. 
I tried not to have any idea of what that further work might be, but as I scanned the scribble this morning my memory dredged up a photo of water lily leaves I had taken a couple of years ago.  So I had a little play with that.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Summer tradition

On Sunday we went to see this year's pavilion at the Serpentine gallery.  It was a delightful sunny day, not too hot.  I really like this year's pavilion.  It is a design which could be replicated in many park or garden situation.  I very much delighted in its simplicity including the simple shapes, and elegant ingenious method of catching the rain to pour as a waterfall into the centre.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Magic beyond analysis

I'm someone who enjoys figuring things out.  Rationalising, post-rationalising, analysing - all are enjoyable occupations which sit happily with creative appreciation.  But the most exquisite pleasures come beyond explanations - like the enchantment I felt when seeing a boat-shaped sieve hanging from a ceiling above us in an art centre cafĂ©.
I am attracted to baskets, and I am attracted to boats.  But this was more than simply an amalgam of those.  Admittedly part of the magic may have been related to the Lobster and the Lacuna exhibition which had filled me with so much delight.  But it was more than that.
This vessel, high up in the rafters, amongst the light buoys, as if we were stuck in the depths below it's airy progress, this vessel struck me as the island equivalent of a magic carpet.  My researches found that it was made by land artist Chris Drury and is titled Land Water Vessel.
It made an extraordinary impression on me.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

'Tis the season

For stitching while watching tennis.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Herring Girl

It was raining, my knees had had enough, and I was making my way to the car when a woman caught my eye.  Such a beauty - I had to have a closer look.
We were in Stornoway - our first visit and a fleeting one.  I had noticed a few sculptures around, but it was a sheer delight to encounter this one.  The plaque said that she is a Herring Girl, by Charles Engerbresten and Virginia Hutchison.   I just love the attention to exquisite detail, the basket, the knitwear, the fish.  The makers worked with local craftspeople to recreate them, and the sculpture was cast from life. 

(After we had left the town I discovered that there is another Herring Girl in another car park - something to look forward to seeing on our next visit.)  The herring industry was an important one for Scotland and the women played a vital part.  I had heard of them previously in connection with the North East coast of Scotland, but had never seen any commemoration as beautiful as this. 
In beginning research for the links here I found the ceramic work of Katie Scarlett Howard.
Her researches, and her work, with the impact which the sculpture in Stornoway made on me, have inspired me.