Tuesday, 23 April 2013

I am just a maker...


I have a friend who thinks that I should be a little more forthcoming about myself for the folks that might not know me but may want to come to one of my classes, she's  drugged up on Chemo and Radiotherapy at the moment but I think she may have a few good brain cells left...


This is me in the seventies, a time when adults thought it was fun to give a kid a monkey to hold and make them wear patchwork flares.


This is my other half, also in the seventies, when it was socially acceptable to trim your kids hair using a bowl as a template.  That didn't put me off, he had improved a little bit by 1991, although he was rather partial to red shell suit.


We had a boy and I started making stuff.


I even got to make quilts on the telly with Phil and Fern,  Britain's Craftiest, I was fairly pregnant at the time although you can't tell.  I really dislike the term craft because I think that it generally downgrades handmade or handcrafted work.  Centuries ago 'crafts' like tapestry, stained glass and metalwork etc. were regarded more highly than painting but this gradually changed - thats a post for another day.  I go along with Richard Sennett, "The Craftsman" (best book ever), in a nutshell, to be an expert you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice, to know your craft inside out.  For example if you are a Clockmaker you must be able to take apart and rebuild so it is even better than the original, which means you are so knowledgeable you can work out how to fix any fault that presents itself and the more time you spend at your practice the more critical of your own work you become, you see the detail that others don't and you perfect and perfect and perfect your skill.  Your craft can be anything at all, stamp collecting, hairdressing, gardening, plastering, absolutely anything that you work at and can do with with your eyes closed, a skill that is the result of time invested.  There are no shortcuts.  Sadly today any old dross is passed off as craft, something poorly made, cheaply made, made from a kit.  What often goes under the name of craft is inferior and ugly and people accept it because it comes with the craft tag, which is why I say I am a maker.  The same reason I avoid anything that says quality, if you need to label it as such it probably isn't.



Then we had a girl, I made more stuff and took a liking to knitting.


I enforced an early love of Liberty Lawn.


I started small with textile courses at Burslem School of Art,  a couple of City and Guilds at Reaseheath -  Patchwork & Quilting and Embroidered Textiles, City and Guilds Feltmaking at Stafford College and then the big one, MA in Art and Design, (Textile Design) at Wolverhampton University.  My original degree was Art History.


I travelled the world looking at hand made textiles.


I even had men running to put on trousers on.


I would recommend India but it was good to be home.



I love wool and so do my owls, 


I like using old textiles, stuff just used to be better made,


but my favourite modern stuff is still Liberty.


I make dolls out of a bit of old stuff and a bit wool and a bit of Liberty.


This is Princess Angora, completely hand-stitched from pure wool felt, stuffed with proper sheep's wool, and a mane of Angora (rabbit), each strand individually stitched.  Her face is stitched with the most fabulous Danish embroidery floss and her dress is from an old piece of table linen.  ONly the best for a princess.
I am all about the fibre.


I have a little bit of a Junior Quilting Bee going on.


I also teach embroidery at the village primary school, 15 future creatives,  reception to year four, boys and girls, it's good always good fun but I sometimes need a lie down afterwards.


My philosophy on children is, start them young and keep them at it,


teach them about risk -  moulten jam in particular,


and make them fearless.


I reached the big 40 last year in Berlin.


For this milestone I decided that as I was on the downhill slope I would take up boozing and from being absolutely tee-total I thought I would just start at the top and stay there.  I partake in a bottle of Champagne every weekend and I can't see the point of bothering with anything else.


I have no co-ordination and was always the last to be picked for teams at school, unless they needed someone tall,  and consequently I've never done any sport.  I decided 40 would be a good time to start, I do 6 miles (10k)  in under 50 minutes, I will be improving on this.  I have run 12 miles in two hours but I did start to get a bit bored, even with Buggles, "Video Killed The Radio Star", as my power song.  I can't run in leggings like every other lady runner I pass,  I am sure they would be much cooler if they were brave, but it's serious short shorts for me.  I am learning to embrace the old lady mindset of not caring what I look like and I am trying to pass on this empowering attitude to my daughter who is currently under fire from all of the askew female stereotypes that the world can throw at a seven year old.  I have had success already with the twelve year old and he can usually teach me a thing or two.


I go to Spinners and Weavers, I don't spin, I just like going and they tolerate me, some more than others.  Betsy and I also go to WI and it's not a young WI as people keep assuming - apart from the 7 year old - it's just a good mix of women.  I despair when people ask if I know of a young WI, if you only want to mix with young women go to a night club!


I bake a bit,


and make stuff to eat from scratch,


and I have been known to make the odd award - first at the county show with about 50 other entries - winning quiche.  I may just add that for competition purposes the WI require that a quiche is baked all in one, no blind baking, and I can assure you we had no soggy bottoms, which is not easy.   I think prayer helped, they were praying for some divine intervention so as not to have to taste test another.

  I have vowed never to enter another WI competition,  they do not "Inspire Women" as their motto goes, the judges obviously live in a time warp and  the knitting judges must be high on the acrylic fumes of their  Jean Greenhowe world.


We love Shetland


We have roaming chickens.


I must shamefully admit that I was once defeated by a craft project, I think because it was called a 'craft project' and every tiny detail was prescribed.  I did keep it hanging around for about 18 years and 95% of it was complete but I reached a time in my creative journey when I just had to walk away.  It went in to a UFO swap, and did get it's own back because I came away with a half finished knitted ballerina. However some wisdom has come from my many years of being a maker, although it is impossible to throw one's own project in the bin it is very easy to chuck out someone else's, and I know that the ugly ballerina knitter knows that.


Finally, the best photo ever taken of me, sadly I am drinking rum out of a jam jar in the street.

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