Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The next 10 days...

On with the 30 day photography challenge. I am going to miss this when it's finished. Here were the last ten...

Day 11: Something blue


Day 12: Sunset. This was a harsh and unfair one; I've done some great sunsets recently but this was an unforgiving grey day and there was never a hint of a sunset. So needs must and I had to create my own...

Day 13: Cannot live without. Interesting moral question. The children were telling me that I needed to take pictures of water and air. On a more vacuous level I was half tempted to photograph a pile of chocolate and peanuts with my iPod perched on top. But in the end I decided that life would be very difficult to bear if I couldn't see colours.

Day 14: Eyes. God, the cat got fed up with me that day.

Day 15: Silhouette. See, I can do a sunset!

Day 16: A good habit. Another one up for debate...

Day 17: Technology.

Day 18: My shoes. I find myself fiddling about on the Palladian Bridge in Prior Park Gardens, trying to remember how the self-timer works and hoping that I've stepped into the tiny little section of ground that was in focus. 

Day 19: Something I want. Again a dilemma. Some of these have been troublesome! I could have done something lovely to eat. A friend suggested I take a picture of a gallery. It could have been all manner of silly fripperies in shops. I concluded that after a few difficult days involving very contrary children and a husband who is made up of the same genes, what I really wanted was this (a tranquil sunny beach, not just a deserted corner of Portishead, not that I have anything against Portishead...):

Day 20 (today): In my bag. I didn't bother with the dirty tissues, till receipts, sweet wrappers and used plasters, I hope you don't mind...


 I would like to see what other people might have to photograph in their bags...

Saturday, 10 January 2015

New Year and a Thirty Day Challenge

A good creative start to the year. Patchwork going well. Lots of promise on the felted art front: the pop up gallery before Christmas cleared me out of 10 pictures, and this week I packed up my remaining 8 and visited the lovely Angela at Popular Pots in Clevedon, who promptly took 6 of them to see if she can sell them, and asked for the 7th after I have reframed it. This morning a cheque arrived in the post as the 4 small beach pictures I had in Church House Designs in Congresbury had sold. A good positive feel, and for a lovely change, a big space in the room where normally lots of framed work lives, taking up space and nudging me into believing I am a failure at this art lark. Be gone! And the big space where that nastiness was is now beckoning me to fill it with new art, better art, art for North Somerset Arts week in May. Perfect timing.

In the meantime I have my other new creative passion to keep me company. I had a day or two of worry that once my photography course finished, the creative spirit would leave me and I would no longer have the ability or urge to take a beautiful picture. But the arrival of a few new lenses has helped, as has a resolution to ensure that one morning a week will still remain a photography morning. I was concerned I would lose the impetus to keep taking photos, so when trawling through Pinterest, I found a 30-day photography challenge, with a different theme for each day. Today is Day 10. Would you like to see?

Day 1: Self Portrait.
Not easy, or comfortable, but I found the wrinkles were suitably softened by the slightly hazy 150-year old French mirror I bought for husband for Christmas, that and hiding half my face behind the camera. I am also very aware that self-portraiture features twice more in the thirty days so there will be room for plenty of improvement from this...

Day 2: What I Wore

Day 3: Clouds. They were elusive on an unmitigating grey day, just a grey blanket of rain, nothing visible to focus on at all, and I had resorted to photos of clouds in mobile phone shops, art galleries and on pub signs. Then these arrived as I had given up and got back to the car park...

Day 4: Something Green. Easier today...

Day 5: After Dark. The £1.16 I spent on LED finger lights for the children's Christmas stockings was invaluable with a slow shutter speed.

Day 6: Obsession

Day 7: Changes to Come. A difficult choice. I started off doing a perfectly respectable shot of different fruit and vegetables, then dismissed it as being a bit too predictable as a New Year's health kick (as I have in real life, lovely doughnut earlier today). I found a frame and stuffed it full of wool, patchwork, a pincushion and a camera lens as a nod to my resolve to be more creative this year. But on reflection, it was just not a good enough picture. I was stumped. Luckily Day 7 was also my self-assigned photography morning and I had headed off to somewhere rather beautiful to take pictures. It suddenly occurred to me that one of these would count as a change to come for all of us at some point. So sorry, my dear recently bereaved friend who always reads this. But thank you Arnos Vale Cemetery.

Day 8: Routine

Day 9: Someone You Love. How hard it is when your two children have got sick of you trying to take the perfect candid picture of them, and they gurn their faces into forced grins, revealing the witchy gaps where new teeth are growing, and husband leaves before 7:30 am and is only home when you and he are too weary to think of taking a picture. I had a cute picture of the cat but didn't want everyone on Flickr to think I'm the mad cat lady. So eventually girl in the bath came kinda good...

Day 10 (today): Childhood Memory

What would you have done?

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Nearly there...

I have been reminded of my blog by an old friend from around 20 years ago, who in a Christmas card said she checks out the blog every so often. So here for you, Dawn, is a little, much belated update. God it's been busy. Horrendous - yes. Fulfilling - yes. Exhilarating- yes. Exhausting - yes. Nearly at the end of it all now and it's been a roller coaster. I started a post about 5 weeks ago but it was so out of date after 2 weeks that I got rid of it before it ever came to light. So let's hope I can complete this one before it gets out of date too...

What can I tell you about? There's been quite a bit going on.

1) PTA, Christmas Fair. Yes, I am definitely never doing that again. Properly resigned this time. Some people might not believe it but it's true. It's a lovely warm feeling to have raised so much money and to have given so many people a great time, but, oh, the mental anguish! I really should shut up because the more I moan, the less chance there ever will be of anyone taking over from me, but it is so exhausting, swimming against the tide for so long. I could go on but choose to turn to the future instead.

2) A pop up gallery, in Clevedon, for 5 weeks. This has been the best thing to happen to me for ages. It was a North Somerset Arts venture, and 25 of us paid a little up front to put our art on sale, and some of us volunteered to man it for a few hours each week. For one thing, it was lovely to meet the people who came to see it, and hear the wonderful positive things they had to say about it. For another, to meet some other artists and befriend them, what fabulous people. Every day a little something to bring home: a hint or a tip, a name of another artist to look up, a little bit of wisdom, and even one day a nudge to go and see a gallery in the new year as the owner was keen on my work. For another, the enforced tranquillity of having to stay in a peaceful gallery for 4 hours instead of rushing round flapping about Christmas shopping. And for a final boost, selling 10 pictures there and over 40 cards. It's been a struggle as everything else in my life has had to squeeze into a much smaller slice of time, but it has been worth every minute.

3) Gosh isn't the whole Christmas thing exhausting? The season of goodwill is coming to me late this year after having to squeeze all the work into less time after the above two items. I squeezed it so much that the true spirit of Christmas has been distilled into a rather nasty concoction of materialistic gift obsession. I spent way too long chirping myself up with the research into what I fancied for myself (some beautiful new lenses for my camera) and was left with just a few days of trudging from shop to shop to shop and then back to the first one in desperation, in an attempt to make Christmas perfect for the three biggest people in my life. And if I'm honest my children are being hateful in a horrible attention-seeking way because I haven't had the strength to give them much time when they've got home from school. Time to slow down for all of us, what a relief.

4) Sad to have finished my photography course; I've adored getting my brain to think in a rectangular beautifully composed way for a few hours every Thursday. I've been given the chance to really grow something very exciting by the lovely Graham of Shutterbugs Photographic Experiences and the bud will only grow bigger and better with time. Here are some of my highlights of the last few weeks...









Merry Christmas, and may the New Year bring everything to balance our lives perfectly and make us better, happier, more comfortable people. Here's to some creative juices being given a chance to flow...

Thursday, 6 November 2014

With different eyes

I haven't yet mentioned my photography course, have I? Well I have in the past, but only to say that I hadn't started it yet. And in fact I last posted on here the day before my course started. Well what a change. I don't think my pictures will ever be the same again. Thank the lord for that, I hear you mutter. It started slowly, gradually, without me even noticing it, but over the last couple of weeks it has become clear. My eyes see things differently. I have a long way to go, of course, and some things still baffle me and always will. I'll never be a great portrait photographer. But give me a little detailed something and a half-decent background and I can now do it justice...

I have learned all about shallow depth of field and manual focus...

So much more about composition has seeped into my bones...

And I love it, just love it.



Monday, 29 September 2014

Happiness is a big pile of fabric

Frustrating few weeks. Frustrating term so far. I can't seem to get on with the projects I want to get on with. Recently I have had too many hours getting sucked into the Internet for no good reason, cooking complicated things for hours on end that get wolfed down unnoticed in minutes, cleaning the new kitchen for hours on end to stop the inevitable grubbiness from becoming permanent, finding myself embroiled in other people's problems and inevitably being pulled back into the PTA quicksand when I'm sure I uttered the words that I was resigning. But there have been some glimpses of the happiness I could be helping myself to more of if I just organised my life a bit better:

I have finally started my photography course. Every Thursday morning I can disappear into a little self-indulgent world where I can at last get inside my new camera's brain and start to find out how to take a decent picture instead of just finding once in a blue moon that one has happened by magic. Who knows, the pictures for you here might even improve a little over the next few weeks.

Loud music, fast car. The best way I could find the other night to get away from the gloom in my head brought on by two children deliberately trying to make eachother's life miserable after school.

And yes, more than anything, a big pile of fabric. Why is that? Not just any old fabric. I have the makings of a new quilt in a bag on the kitchen floor. And even more exciting, not a self indulgent quilt for me, but a service for a friend who has wanted a quilt for a while and just hasn't the time. There are little bits of history in the bag, little personality traits in the bag, and some new fabrics that are simply gorgeous in the bag. It was horribly nerve wracking at first, cutting into someone else's fabric, hands shaking for half an hour, but now I am off, whizzing away with the rotary cutter, cutting square after square after square, and it just makes me happy. The patterns shouldn't go. But I know they will. I am following a vague design I used last time, involving 6-inch squares and the magic maths involving the number 6. Got your maths head on? Good. So I have some 6 inch squares....

I have some 5 inch squares, which I can team up with 1 inch squares along 2 sides...

I have some 4 inch squares, which I can use with 2 inch squares to make the magic 6. Or I could do them 3 in a row which would make 12 inches, so a double of the 6 inch square (hope I haven't lost you yet)...

I have 3 inch squares. These of course, if I use 4 together, will make a 6 inch square...

I have 2 inch squares. And yes 3 x 2 is 6 inches...

I have 1 1/2 inch squares. Now 4 of these can make 6 inches....

And lastly I have 1 inch squares. These are great with the 5 inch squares and of course I can put 6 in a row to make, yes, 6 inches. These make me a bit nervous as accuracy is paramount when you work on this small a scale but a few will be great.

The beauty of this is that once I've made up as many 6 inch squares as I can from these various combinations, I can put them together in a lovely random way and the whole thing will zing with these fabulous patterns and colours. Happiness!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Get an eyeful of this!

Once again, I haven't written for a while, have I? Not because of a lack of subject matter, as I have plenty of tell you about. I could tell you about my recent holiday, of floating in the Brittany sea early in the morning and the tiny fish swimming around me, of langoustines wriggling in the bag just before being plunged into hot water, and of the butteriest, sweet-yet-saltiest cakes known to man, but I seem to remember that I told you about all that last year twice and not a lot has changed since then, apart from the realisation that if you stay in a holiday home three years in a row, you get a kiss on both cheeks from the landlord and the neighbours start to speak to you. I could tell you about the children being off school for six weeks and the desperate need I have to be alone for a day, but I will get that soon enough. I could tell you about the art in my head waiting to be made, of beaches and sailing boats, of sunflowers and rape fields, but I think that ought to wait until it becomes reality. No, right now I want to, need to, tell you about my kitchen.

I always try to give you a bit of a visual treat when you pop by and today, it's easier than usual. If you know me, I apologise, I have been a complete kitchen bore for months so I'm hoping that if I blurt it all out here, I might get most of it out of my system. It's been an interesting journey. I had a brief and regrettable dalliance with the sleek handleless German, pans-in-drawers kind of kitchen. I planned on the kind of built-in ovens they have on the Bake Off with the doors that slide underneath, until I allowed my head to be turned by something very big, Italian and yellow. Heart over head. Reliable Germanic versus a swarthy unpredictable mediterranean type... better say no more. So then I planned the colour scheme: a big hunk of yellow with a nice soothing grey for the cabinets. I started shopping for grey accessories and I bought some heat-resistant wadding to make some coordinating trivets and pot holders:-

Then I had a strange and unexpected odyssey involving Farrow and Ball samples and the kitchen told me it couldn't stomach the insipid greys and that it wanted something altogether more lively. The trivet doesn't go at all. Ah well.

So a few months on, and with enormous thanks to the very clever and lovely guys at It Woodwork, it is all done, bar a final lick of paint, a few more boxes unpacked and a splashback behind the cooker (when will the husband come up with the goods?). Come and see (but excuse the photography, I still haven't managed to go on a course to do my camera justice yet)...

Meet my new magnificent yellow best friend...

And the matching radiator...

I think I knew it would be It Woodwork when I first saw their spice racks inside their larder doors; I've seen similar ones since with dowels, metal rods or just straight pieces of wood to hold in the spices but I laugh in their faces; mine are a much smilier shape...

The pan rack is a revelation: at first I thought it looked a bit small and that I'd never fit all my pans in. But it turns out that the more I pile onto it, the better it looks. And it's still on the wall. It feels like a giant game of Buckaroo. 

I love the new tap. It is amazing what you can find on Pinterest. So many dull taps. So many horrible taps. And then this one. It took a bit of hunting down, being only available in Sweden. I resurrected my ancient university Swedish and six weeks and a few thousand krona later, Bob was my uncle and my Swedish tap turned out to be made in Italy. Maybe it talks to the cooker in the night.

Then there is the dresser. The design started out as a perfectly normal dresser with shelves but I thought it might be good to have a few doors and drawers to hide the clutter in. Before school one morning I did a quick drawing of a bonkers idea:

And just look! The bonkers dresser now exists, only with straight lines instead of my wobbly ones!

It makes me feel pretty good to gaze up at one big yellow happy light, and another light covered by a  lampshade that I made out of a map of my favourite corner of Brittany (thanks so much Ruth for all your help)...

I guess it's just a love thing.