Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I have just finished reading Magdalena Abakanowicz's monologue Fate and Art, which is a mix of autobiography and her writing about her process. I so enjoy and benefit from reading about the creative process in others, whether or not I concur with their thinking or methods. It is the rubbing up against it all that sets my mind tingling. I shall certainly be reading this again, dipping in to different episodes to savour more specifically.
I love one of her sentences near the end - it so sums up my own thinking and realisation: 'As a youngster I thought a sage could share his wisdom with me. I searched for him many years to discover that like myself, he knows nothing for sure.'
It is all in what you yourself make of your experience, whatever that experience is. Hey ho.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
When people asked me 'where do you get your ideas from?' I was always stumped because the ideas were just there. There were more than enough, they were everywhere - the problem was not where to find them, but how to choose between them. Well, now I have stubbed my toe, and am staggering if not quite stumbling. My ideas are running out.
Input is perhaps the obvious source; but no - as I said, there is really no shortage of that. Sometimes, indeed there is too much input. And it could be said that I have worked non-stop through the last few years during difficult times. But the thinking had mostly been done: the stitching keeps me sane, but does not stretch the mind. What I had stopped was the thinking process: the mulling, the matching, the mixing, .... The connecting process, the editing process, the leaps of conscious thought which is switched on all the time, and the siftings and sortings of the unconscious mind set going by the concentrations of the day.
Instead while I have been stitching I have been thinking of how to best cater for my mother's emotional and physical needs. There generally has only been two hours of 'free' time between dealings with my mother, and even then I have been planning and preparing for dealing with her. There has been no time to take the creative input beyond my brain's reception area toward any kind of process.
In past years a friend and I had a system of projects which we gave ourselves to spur on and aid creative thinking processes. It was a kind of duodidactic system which more than made up for our not having gone to art college. I knew that I had to get back to this in order to regain my mind, and I set in train a preliminary exercise which I started just before a crisis fortuitously led to my mother going into a care home for a few weeks of respite.
My first exercise was to look back at my piles of accumulated stuff and use something which had come to a dead end by itself. In this case I chose a subject which had fizzled out many years ago when I was still working with knitwear design, but was starting to think about stitching as a more fruitful area for personal expression.
I had taken many photos of the beautiful tiles on the floor of Winchester cathedral. I worked on the designs at the time, and while on a class made a silk screen of that design. I had printed onto odd bits of cloth I'd dyed grey : an old flannelette sheet and some thin calico. But I got no further with them.
The first two pieces were made with the thicker flannelette fabric - although it is old and flat now. I had run out of decent pieces of silk screened work on that fabric, but had two pieces of the fine calico which I rather liked. By now I was feeling reassured with the effect, and have chosen to make a slightly more complex design which is still in progress. I put the two pieces of the background together by machine, and now am stitching the figure.
Again I shall cut away to the figure, and to a few added elements. The three are essentially the same kind of thing - rather simple, but involving some gentle problem-solving to set me on my way. I hope to carry on setting myself projects like this until my buckets are full once more and ideas flow freely.
I shall nonetheless continue to stitch those pieces which are already ready for the 'mindless' stage, as not only are they part of my continuum, but they too can contribute to the process once there is something happening between input and output.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Well, yes, ... and no. I have been draining my mental buckets of ideas which had been accumulating for some time, and neither refining those ideas nor adding to the supply. So much depends on making connections: despite keeping up a reasonably tolerable stream of input, somehow I need to be processing away in the background, middle ground, and foreground to be able to make something of - let us say weave these connections into developing pieces of work. Too often I think that I have been using already familiar links, making the connections tired and ultimately uninteresting to me.
Now, having been enthralled by the basketry exhibition I find myself with a few technical curiosities which I wish to pursue, but with a dearth of ongoing thoughts and ideas with which to link them. I find that to a certain extent I have been shutting myself down and relying on the same old same old. And now I find that I am not only recovering from a debilitating viral cocktail, from emotional stress, but also from a deprivation of creative activity. It is vital that I recover from all three - the first being the easiest by far, and the last the most difficult.
Indeed, inklings of this shutting down in anticipation of not being able to pursue deep all-consuming thought because my mind was already occupied by trying to cope with my mother's emotional needs had filtered through, and I began to set in train a regime whereby I would gain two whole free days per week. Unfortunately at this my mother decided that she was much worse, demanding much more attention, but this has backfired on her. I had to have four carers come in every day, rather than what would have been an escalation from one carer on two days to give her lunch to four carers on two days per week - and simultaneously I succumbed to such a bad cold that she hardly saw me at all for a whole week. It has ended with her staying in a nursing home for a few weeks, and my acceptance that I cannot succeed in making her life the way she would like it.
So. I am now examining the damage, with a view steadily to restoring my buckets - perhaps not to their brimming state pre-mother, but to a fullness from which I can draw deeply and move forward.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
So, best to start with a weekend right away, despite it being the first weekend of the school holidays for Easter. I always love going to the sea, and how about a textile exhibition too - so off to the East coast via the stunning basketry exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art. Norman Foster's architecture, the Sainsbury collection, and the excellent exhibition are destination enough on their own.
The basketry exhibition contains so much to get the juices flowing: information, diverse history, beautiful and intriguing examples, tradition, thought-provoking context, contemporary art, and above all inspiration. It was interesting to see how Mary Butcher has moved from mastering tradition to creating astonishing works of contemporary art. Ueno Masao's two large pieces are not only beautiful, but also provided me with specific inspiration from an elegant aspect of technique.
Head buzzing, it was good to make our way to the coast, where the sea helped me to sort through the tangled threads of inputs and ideas.
An attractive little town, Southwold was filled with folk, and so a stroll after lunch confirmed our decision to drive down to another tourist spot: Snape Maltings. This too was filled, but having found a parking space, it was easy enough to lose the crowd.