Monday, June 28, 2010

Older, wiser, sexier... ?

Given the ahem, intriguing title, you may be asking yourself just what exactly I was up to during my time in Wales ;-) Was I on a luxury, week long spa with black peat body packs and  pure merino sweat blankets? 

Noooo friends - but given the copious amounts of great vegetarian food that I lacked the strength not to take extra servings of, I had to run a lot of kilometres through the black peat that week, startling more than one poor sheep out of it's slumber at the unGodly hour of 6am most mornings as I scaled the green hills above the retreat centre. Why so early? Can't miss breakfast! It's the most important meal of the day. Well, along with lunch and dinner that is ;-)

Many of the people I was with rose at dawn for their yoga practice. Regrettably there was no chocolate to encourage me to stretch that far so I opted for long runs where I could lose myself in the heath and banish all thoughts of chocolate from my head. Not that I got lost - my running partner had a map. This comes in handy when you're in unfamiliar territory. So does chocolate ...

In fact, I spent my week in meditation and reflection all about life and what the heart wants. So far it appears that my heart wants the same things as Ava Gardner. Ok - before I'm old and grey it wants a few things too ... but a girl can have a long term goal too can't she ? ;-)
For now, I'm back to working on the photo above. Reckon at my age I'm wise enough not to ever be seen in a midriff shirt again, but I'm working on my sexy sweeping glances and hoping they will be enough to clean the house. Efficiency girls! 

If you get the chance, check out this little pearl of a book by very talented cartoonist, Bev Williams. I've often bought her gift cards in England but it was more than I could do not to let out raucous squeal of delight in the middle of the rather British calm department store when I found a whole book of her anecdotes on life.  It almost made up for getting home 5 days late after the transport strikes!!  

There is more to tell of my trip - but I'm still reeling from the magnitude of it. So the telling of the tale will have to wait until I can find the words adequate enough not to reduce the whole marvellous experience to new age hype. 

In the mean time - I have been slowly getting back into blogging. Some of you may not be fully aware of this as although I've been finding just the right amount of time to read your blogs, my attempts at commenting have so far been thwarted by Libellule's unplanned for broken wrist, Chickpea's impromptu school art show, racing out at the last minute to buy gifts for the teachers, make costumes for the afterschool activity finales and generally trying to climb the new mountains of washing that have materialised out of thin air. Of course, this has been exacerbated by the amount of time it takes to master my sweeping glances which unfortunately seem to have NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER on any of the tidying up that needs to be done around here!

Joyfully I can say that the last day of school is tomorrow and there are week long summer camps coming up - for the kids - so I shall be free of school obligations, the loads of washing that mushroomed while I was away have started to dwindle and bit by bit life, and blogging, will be back to normal at La Rivière. 

Thanks for all welcoming me back... Here I come!!

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

To discover new oceans...

...means finding the courage to lose sight of the shore!
(who DID say that?)

The last 20 days have been magical, trying, not with out their challenges, and not unlike discovering an ocean either.

After the usual French air traffic strikes that kept me across the other side of the ditch in lovely Wales a little longer than I expected (I vaguely thought about swimming across but my suitcase doesn't fit snugly enough on my back ;-), I've just spent the last 3 days battling the dust bunnies that had all but taken over my living space and welcoming spontaneous displays of affection from my giggling, cuddly messmonsters. 

I do believe I have 20 days of catching up on all your news now. What have you all been up to?  
During a brief truce with the dust bunnies yesterday I somehow found the time to start Amelia Critchlow's Experimental Art E Course which has motivated me to get stuck into finishing those bits and pieces for my Etsy store.

I'm all excited to be home and dying to find out how you've all progressed in Bloglandia while I've been away.
Any of you discovered a new Ocean I should know about?


Thursday, June 3, 2010

They didn't know it was impossible... they did it anyway.

Attributed to Mark Twain

I told you I had a secret to tell you. A couple of you already know because I've whacked you over the head with it hinted about it. But I'm still shy about saying it. Seeing I'm hiding away for two weeks (I'll tell you why and where when I get back - hehehe - just for some more suspense), I thought it was safe to tell you now. 

See that plank up above?

Well, I look at it every day and motivate myself - making myself believe what's written on it. And as such ... I've actually managed to convince myself that what I have in mind might work. Are you ready? I'm taking a big, deep breath in ... and out ...ANNNNND IIIIIIN ... here goes:

I've been working on a series of 10 'positive planks' like this one (but in different colours and with different motivational texts) to start up a fair trade project with refugee Tibetan artists in India. It's taken me a while to get the design for the prototypes perfect - even though the 'O' in 'Possible' has slipped over to the side a bit and we'll have to rectify that ;-)

What I'm still working on, are the colours. You would not believe how much I am influenced by the lovely pale and muted tones they love so much in France. To the extent that it's really hard for me to hit the bright, bold colours I think these planks need - especially if they are destined for children's rooms. Amanda at Small Acorns has inspired me with her passion for chartreuse and framboise! What about you? What colours would you put on your wall - in a bathroom? A hallway? A kitchen? Your kids' rooms?


I have no idea if any of these Tibetan artists are going to want to work on this project with me. I won't find out till I get to Dharamsala later this year. And maybe the planks will undergo a transformation because we rarely end up with exactly what we envisage in the begining. That's the beauty of collaboration and the whole process of art itself, eh Jackie ;-).

Do I know how and where I'm going to sell/distribute them once they're made? NOPE! Not yet anyway. First things first. For some reason I'm just driven to having them made, getting some positive out there and working with women's and girls' groups again like I did at UNESCO. It's sort of like a culmination of my life at this point...  Women's education, Art, Empowerment, Positive ... 

Do I panic sometimes and think THIS'LL NEVER WORK? 

Never! Nearly every day. I try desperately not to listen to that little inner voice that says, 'Who do you think you are? Anita Roddick? There are REAL designers out there who could do this better than YOU! Every one else is already trying to save the world - what do you think you're going to achieve?!'  In fact - I literally knock that voice out of existence with a flurry of paint and a whirl of the paintbrush full of positive intentions. Persistent little bugger - it keeps coming back. Yup - really have to arm myself with these planks to keep afloat ;-)

Well - there you have the secret. Please don't tell me you think I'm crazy. I know that already! Too long in France being 'not normal' does that to you. Any advice on making it work - I'm listening!  Didn't you hear me say I was planning on homeschooling my kids? Until I am lucky enough to move back to a different school system - YES! Life is likely to be busy so I'm arming myself with a big sense of humour right now!

Speaking of busy - I have a flight to catch!!!

Raspberries and yoghurt in turquoise bowl ready for the kids' Bircher muesli tomorrow morning - CHECK,

Notes on everyone's pillows saying I love them - CHECK

Special whipped cream in a can that I never buy because I'm to ecological sitting in the fridge with an 'I miss you!' note on it? CHECK!

Selection of French cheeses and saucissons in suitcase ready for friends across the ditch - CHECK!

Blog post written - CHECK


Flying out the door. See you in two weeks ... I'm going to miss you all enormously!



Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Joan: the making of a story

Today as I was urging my bike against the wind that hurtled across La Vallée de la Save, my mind was frequently peppered with the words and images I was going to use to describe the incredible transformation of Joan (you haven't forgotten her already have you?). 

And as I huffed and puffed pedaled, I realised that the transformation 
really isn't Joan's, but my own. 

'Huh??' you ask, 'Oh no not another Reality TV, Ange bares all confession!!'
Keep reading - it's not that bad I assure you ;-)
Let me use the words of one of my favourite artists to explain it instead:

The thing has already taken form in my mind before I start it.

(OK - that's not entirely true in Joan's case but she's an exception. I had no idea in the beginning what I wanted her to look like, nor what I wanted her to say. She told me herself.)
The first attempts are absolutely unbearable.

I say this because I want you to know that if you see something worthwhile in what I am doing, it is not by accident but because of real direction and purpose.
Vincent Van Gogh


Am I going to elaborate further? 
Just kidding. Actually - in Joan's case, I've purely and simply enjoyed a process of playing around and trying stuff out, which is something I NEVER allow myself to do. I encourage my kids to do it. Encourage other grown up types to do it. And never find the time to do it myself. Funny how we are programmed to think that the 'fun' is only 'allowable' if it's definably productive.  Yet it's been sooooo necessary. Why - I may never stop!

My intentions for Joan then? 

1) play around and see how many layers of paint and text I could put on one piece of wood.
She now has officially 8 coats of acrylic paint and gesso in varying degrees of disrepair. 
2) make her look like someone had randomly scratched a message into the paint.
3) make her look like a sort of guerilla art/improvised object that you might find hanging nonchalantly somewhere beachy, on a beach hut or batch - for you kiwis, a weather worn fence etc ... to give some food for thought to passers by. 

What I actually got out of all the playing was much more than a shabby Joan, but rather a knowledge of which instruments work best on the irregularities of wood other than the fine brush I am used to calligraphing with. I got to find out that drawing gum works as well under gesso and thick layers of acrylic paint as under watercolour and ink. I got to enjoy trying lots of different alphabets - none of which were suitable for my purpose but which will look great on other pieces later on. And I got to wallow in indigo, pthalo, ceruleum, turquoise and Hoggar's blue - some of my all time favourite colours. Not to mention allowing myself an hour's hard bike ride because I'd been a good girl and 'discovered' stuff that might just save me time on future pieces! Oops! Have to justify - can't help myself. 

I still don't know if calligraphing is a real verb either... 
Why am I boring you with all this two posts in a row?
Do you really need to know all the nitty gritty psychological benefits of my playing around with paint and wooden objects?
Do you not have busy lives full of much more important things to read - like fashion magazines, recipe books, Ikea instruction manuals... ?
Of course you do!
But thanks for reading anyway.
I've got a case of ...
... NERVES! 

Nervous about what I have to reveal to you (my REAL direction and purpose - or one of them at least) on Thursday just before I disappear for two weeks holiday, leaving the messmonsters in the extremely capable hands of the very overworked Beaker!
I think he will be needing some of this:

Watch this space...
Time to pack my bags.
See you Thursday.

PS - for the curious person who asked me what drawing gum was. The English translation on my French bottle says, Liquid Frisket. The mind boggles ;-)