And, 6 months later …

We are back in lockdown. Here in Wales we are on day 14 of a “sharp firebreak” of 17 days. Yesterday, England went into lockdown for a month

If you told me 6 months ago I would spend the time sowing masks – I don’t think I would have believed you! I am not the kind of sewer who is happy making the same thing day in day out – but that is what was called for, and that is what I did. I am probably a better seam-mistress for it – but don’t ask me to alter your clothes …. trust me when I say I am not that good at “proper sewing”

I also took the time to have a really good clear out in the studio plus a re-paint and re-arrange. I am truly happy with the way it is now. Somehow the work-flow is much improved – although I still have huge capacity for it to look like a tornado has passed through after a few hours of working!

My friend Jane has recently leant me an embellishing machine (Sometimes known as needle punch or felting machine) I have never used one before and I am so excited to be giving it a go.

What can I tell you? …. I find it really easy to break a needle – fortunately the one Jane has leant me has 5 needles and you can replace the needles individually – I imagine that this is better than a machine where you have to replace the whole unit every time one needle breaks – so far, in three “goes” on the embellisher I have broken 5 needles! However, I replaced them all with some that describe themselves as “strong”. Fingers crossed that will make a difference! The possibilities seem endless. I imagine that I will use it as a way to create backgrounds for working free machine embroidery on – but who knows.

The only downside that I can see – is that having spent a month getting rid of a vast amount of “stuff” from the studio that I will never use, (for example postage size fragments of material left over from cutting out masks), I keep thinking;- I could have embellished that!

I also could not resist trying to create a little vessel – very happy with my first attempt!

6 weeks or is it 7?

I thought perhaps being in lock down would spur me to write here at least once a week, and yet I see that it is 3 weeks since I sat here, possibly because if a textile blog is about “show and tell” I have nothing to show you!

There is a piece of work rumbling around in the back of my mind, but it is very dark, and I think it may need to be created before I can move to lighter things, it is possibly a piece that once made will go and sit in the back of a cupboard, it will probably be uncomfortable.

So – if I have not been in the studio – where has my attention been? mostly on food – I am determined to come out of this a few pounds lighter – which is a strong possibility as there is no popping to the shop 4 doors away, so, digestive biscuits and crisps have become a memory and chocolate has not passed our lips in an age, apart from a small Easter egg thoughtfully left by a friend.

Being “sheltered” means I cannot go out at all. The supermarkets have my name, and kindly send me emails telling me I now have a priority spot as I am a vulnerable person – sadly, there are still no priority spots with one supermarket, although the second does have a few – yes here in this part of West Wales we only have two supermarkets that deliver to your door.

Friends have been wonderful, and my cupboard doors are pinned with lists. Lists for various shops should anyone be going to them, lists for a couple of friends who regularly do bits of shopping for us, lists of how much I owe the said friends for shopping, so that I can put it in their banks when it totals a sensible amount – none of my friends want to handle “money”.

I bounce between a sort of weird cushioned contentment, when I am really OK and despair. I see the faces of the doctors and nurses gaunt and bruised, the numbers of deaths, rising daily, the complete stupidity of some people unconcerned about the lock down and flouting the rules at every turn. I am fearful, fearful for myself for those I love and for my community. I feel paralysed. The sewing group in the village are amazing, making masks, hats, wash bags and scrubs for the NHS – I could do this, and yet I find myself unable to complete even a simple mask. 

I do wonder how we will come out of this. Will life return to how it was “before”? As a nation, as a world – will we have learnt anything, will we do anything differently. How will the world be for my children and my grandchildren? All thoughts that make my heart clench.

Meanwhile I make my shopping lists, do my exercise, make contact with friends and family and think;- I really, really should go and make a mask …. or two.

And then I got a letter …

This week I have found myself cleaning! 

When I have reached the end of a block of work in the studio, and it has been delivered to a gallery, packed for a craft fair – or whatever the event is. I always spend the next few days cleaning and sorting out my studio.

It is a pause, a breath, a moment, before I delve into the next project is.  I have always thought of it as giving myself breathing space, but now I wonder if it has another, deeper meaning.

I have not got on particularly well in the studio, my drawings of boats and starfish have been scrappy and not very useful. So, I decided to clean my bedroom, and not just a quick hoover and dust! Everything came out, every stick of furniture, pile of books all the “stuff” that can accumulate when you are not looking – it was all put in a spare room, I moved into another room.

The whole week was then spent washing and hoovering, sorting and discarding, cleaning and storing. The room is nearly finished, the drawers are immaculate, the books are organized, the place is sparkling, and I feel more settled.

I was, I realize trying to create order out of chaos. At some level, I was reacting to the chaos that abounds in our world at the moment, I can do nothing about it, I cannot help, I cannot make it better for anyone. I turn to cleaning and organising within my own life, so that I feel that I have some semblance of order, there is something I can clean, organize and make better, even if it is only the bedroom. I had some sense of achievement in the house, and then I got THE letter.

I knew I was vulnerable and at risk. I was social distancing and self-isolating before it was mandatory. I wasn’t comfortable doing this, I am not great at asking people to do things for me and I felt a bit of a fraud because in my own mind I am not ill, not ill at all.  And I am not ill, but I am an asthmatic and now have COPD. 

For the past 10 days Shedman has also gone down the self-isolation route with me, that is easier than trying to keep to the government guidelines involving separate everything.

A strange week then, a looking glass world, the days have blurred a bit, and Shedman and I do seem to check in with each other often “What day is it?” Being the most common question! The pre covid-19 commitments have gone, and there is little to define and punctuate the week. There is a weird sensation of not having enough time to do things, because the days have been filled with wonderful phone calls to and from friends and family, the challenge of organising our food, planning exercise, washing everything that enters the house and keeping up with various online groups. The News? …. Not watching that so much this week.

Self-Isolation, but very little Art

It’s strange, since setting up the new website I have dithered about the “blog” should I blog, If so – how often? Is blogging dead? The usual jumble of thoughts that can chase a monkey mind!

A few days ago, I saw a comment from a garden blogging friend Victoria;- I first met her many years ago when a gaggle of garden bloggers and a collection of textile artists published their blogs regularly. There are a few people who I met through the internet at that time and they have become very dear friends, (You know who you are, Michelle and Elizabeth)

As world events are rushing on at a ghastly pace, with Covid-19 and the fact that we are now confined to home, blogging again seemed like a thing to do, but it has proved harder than I thought.

Initially when the UK government said the vulnerable will have to self-isolate for three months, I thought whoo-hoo – I am an artist, wonderful, 3 months of uninterrupted studio time, and part of me still feels like that, but the truth is that I have struggled in the studio.

The exhibitions and fairs that I thought I would be part of, may or may not happen. The ones early in the year won’t happen – the ones later in the year might happen. I always work better with the slight pressure of a deadline, and so to some extent the uncertainty of what the future holds has pulled the rug out from under me.

What is unexpected is that instead of free days to peruse my creative muse – the logistics of self-isolation seem to take up so much time! Checking in with the groups I belong to, (and the news) bookmarking sites that may give my creativity a prod, even though I know deep down I will never return to them, getting calls from friends I haven’t seen in ages, which is a delightful treat. Checking in on (the news) my Mother daily – by phone – as she is also in the vulnerable group and lives on her own. Worrying about my adult children and my grandchildren. Asking neighbours who can still shop to pick things up for me, trying to get a slot for online food shopping, requesting a volunteer to get my prescriptions, and phoning some elderly friends who I know live alone. Oh, and let’s not forget my daily walk! (And the news). When written down, these things are small, not mind blowing, the minutiae of everyday living. But it’s the thinking about and organizing them that I find fills my mind.

Leaving all that aside, what have I been working on? I was invited to put some of my notebooks in an exhibition entitled Costal and Maritime. The covers for these books are made from hand-made fabric paper, which is painted, stamped, stencilled, cut and pieced to create a textured and unique cover for each book. 

I always do a little research when I am working in my own sketchbooks, I didn’t know that crabs had 10 legs or that their blood was blue … but I do now

Fabric-Paper note book covers

Coming Up for Air

Not perhaps the best “snap” but it was a quick picture I took on my mobile phone before the private view of the Folklore and Fairytale exhibition.

My two pieces are happily hanging in the local gallery Ty Meirion. The whole exhibition looks fantastic, the 20 + artists have pulled out all the stops, the result is quite magical.

And now what? It is as if I have run out of steam, just a little bit! Many of my friends are taking part in a variety of craft and art fairs over the Christmas period. Shedman is creating some lovely wood items. I, however decided not to do any fairs this Christmas – which is kind of weird.

Nevertheless, I do need to move on with something – (other than making new curtains for the kitchen). So it is back to drawing in the sketchbooks and making plans for what I will do, and when, in 2020

PS – In case you were unsure, mine are the two coloured ones in the middle!