30 June 2017

Shoe stories

It's thanks to Bella that I embarked on "japanese-clearing" my shoes - she mentioned that she'd been through hers and got rid of some. (It's thanks to Janet that I know this approach works - she stood by and listened to my stories of the items I was getting rid of.)

This time I approached the task on my own, but I need to have a record of it, and to tell a few of my "shoe stories"... because every object has a history, and these histories somehow need to be remembered.

First gather ALL the items in the category. I believe that these are all my shoes -
 They look ready to march out of the room ... even the slippers. There are 31 pairs, including the silver sandals bought in Paris the year my sister visited, that hot summer in the early 90s. The next time I went to Paris I bought a pair from Arche that I believed were ox-blood red but later recognised as ... brown ... (I still love them but the heels have worn through and are kept somewhat wearable by applications of Shoe Goo.) After that, every visit to Paris demanded a visit to the Arche shop and the (major) treat of new shoes. The black sandals bought in Tours didn't work out, but others are still going strong.

I rearranged the seried ranks into "keep", "wear at home" (slippers - Hausschuhe), and "gotta go" -
 Those in the front row gotta go, including the comfortable, cheerful ones on my feet, in which a bunion has caused the upper to split from the sole. The black Camper boots have split too, and the colour has worn off the toes of the comfy beige (beige! next to brown, my least favourite colour!) Ecco pair.

And then there are the blue shoes, bought after my end-of-foundation-course show in 2010, when I realised that other people had nice shoes to wear to the preview and I had "nothing like that". The blue shoes look great on (even with bunions) but alas and alack they are not comfortable to wear. It's taken me seven years to realise that there's no point in having them around, tormenting me.

The orange shoes were bought in Paris early in the 2000s on a day trip , what luxury, and nearly caused us to miss the train back to London, so they have a certain poignancy. A private session with the immigration people was part of the delay when they were picky about the lack of the UK residency certificate in my current passport ... that cost £300 to have a shiny bit of paper stamped onto a page; fortunately it hasn't had to be redone in subsequent passports (Canadian passports must be renewed every five years).

The blue, the orange, the black shoes will get one final wearing to bid them goodbye (and remind me that Comfort Is Paramount), then it's off to the charity shop with them. I'm on the lookout for a shoe-recycling bin for the other three pairs.

Which pares it down to ... hmm, still a lot. Most of those in the photo below are currently in regular use, and most of those not shown are crammed into a few storage boxes (from ikea) to keep the dust off them till the season changes -
The pink espadrilles, ah the pink espadrilles - found in Hungeford when we took a wrong turning on a day out and decided to stop for coffee and have a little wander. So comfy and I love the colour; hopefully with rationed wearing they'll last a few more seasons.

The Sunjun sandals are a replacement for those found in Seattle in the 90s and worn summer after summer. It was a case of "wear these everywhere, anytime" summer after summer - surely the perfect shoe is when it suits every outfit and is comfy and lasts and lasts. (And if it has to be brown ... you wear it anyway.)

Unfortunately the black sandals, though both somewhat trendy and congenial for the bunions [if you are bunion-free, rejoice!!], have caused blisters on other toes so I'm wondering if they need to GO, even though they were new last summer. Once the blisters have healed, they get another chance, and won't be worn all day for lots of walking.

In the top row are blue suede shoes with dainty little heels which were bought in Gersfeld, Germany - my home town before the family moved to Canada.
Frontispiece of the photo album my mother made me, with a view of Gersfeld
 "Hanover auntie" had moved back there, and I visited her (and Frankfurt-auntie) fairly often. On one visit she took me to the shoe shop and we found two pairs of blue shoes - this must have been 1983 - and who should come into the shop but my childhood friend Margit (Schneider?) and her mother.
1952 - Margit and I saying goodbye, in front of my grandmother's shop in Gersfeld
I regret that our rather short conversation didn't lead, in those pre-internet days, to keeping in touch. One pair of shoes was worn so often they they wore out, but these were kept "for best" and now, for memory.

What are your thoughts about shoes - can we ever have too many? How are they best stored?

29 June 2017

Poetry Thursday - Into my own by Robert Frost


Into My Own

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as 'twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.

I should not be withheld but that some day
Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.

I do not see why I should e'er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.

They would not find me changed from him the knew--
Only more sure of all I though was true.

      Robert Frost (1874-1963) (via)

This poem, published in Frost's first book (1913), is the first poem in Robert Frost: Selected Poems (Penguin, 1973), which I've owned since 1975. The pages are looking a bit brown, but the words are as fresh as ever, and many of the poems I've never read.

Nor had I read the introduction, by Ian Hamilton. It starts:
Perhaps the chief difficulty in talking about Robert Frost, both for those who talked about him in his lifetime and for those who talk about him now, is the difficulty of separating the poetry from the public personality. During his lifetime Frost was the nearest thing to a 'national' poet that America possessed. His virtues and his wisdom were applauded as representatively, and hearteningly, Yankee - distilled from the soil, his poems spoke of rural labour, of dignified self-reliance, of shrewd, practical and yet respectful dealing with a nature he both loved and hated. They were also, much of the time, unblushingly conservative and patriotic. And better still, they seemed to talk; talk in a natural and no-nonsense way - a more or less ordinary man talking to more or less ordinary [people].

28 June 2017

A turnup for the books

While sorting out the books to go on (in?) the new bookshelves, I came across interesting things (but did not stop to read them at length!). That came later...

1. Catalogue of summer courses at City Lit. I signed up for a two-day sketchbook course, and a geology course over four sessions. 

2. "About Looking" by John Berger, opened at random, yielded this, at the very end of a section:

There is never a single approach to something remembered. The remembered is not like a terminus at the end of the line. Numerous approaches or stimuli converge upon it and lead to it. 

It goes on - as it's in an essay called "Uses of Photography" (1978):

Words, comparisons, signs need to create a context for a printed photograph in a comparable way; that is to say, they mst mark and leave open diverse approaches. A radial system has to be constructed around the photograph so that it mau be seen in terms which are simultaneously personal, olitical, economic, dramatic, everyday and historic.

3. And then there's the A4 notebook bought in Hungary and used as a workbook for The Artist's Way. When I started working through that book, I was not a happy bunny about "my creativity" and the time spent being creative and especially about the life factors that were keeping me from producing creative output.

 It starts with affirmations, then there's a summary, in five-year periods, of "my creative life". The date is 1998, and in the past five years I'd been focusing on textiles, attending many courses at City Lit, especially with Julia Caprara, and was exhibiting with Cloth&Stitch. Plus was doing some illustration courses.

The section that starts "where does my time go" eventually discovers: "Didn't answer the question - andswered "how do I use my time". ... Much goes in sitting & thinking - much. Or lying in bed & thinking. Or in the bath. I like thinking. I also like doing. It's getting from one to the other that's the problem."

Another exercise was to list the "things I enjoy doing" -
Not much has changed! I've given up "struggling with piano", though it was fun while it lasted (and a piano plus teach-yourself books would be my desert island luxury).

The "three obvious rotten habits" [what are yours...] and "three subtle foes" were interesting, and I think that writing them down and thinking about them has made a difference. Of course an important part of The Artist's Way is the "morning pages" - which I continued doing for years, having at first found the exercise "trivial, repetitive, boring" - and that was all about writing down but with a different emphasis: once it was written down, it was no longer buzzing round in your head. So at first you can offload all the negative stuff, then later you start to focus on the positive stuff. Eventually "on the page" was where I discussed my latest wild ideas with myself ... strange how the ideas that led to finished work were never those that I'd written about!

The letters to oneself, from oneself aged 80 and 8, are so interesting. I can't bear to go on reading them, they are so true to what's changed over the past two decades...

"10 items I would like to own" [what are your 10?] - I now do own a "comfortable vegetable peeler" but am still looking for the "fabulous all-purpose shoes" and probably never will find the "magic carpet (with time machine as optional extra)" ... alas ...

A section on money. The week of writing down everything you spent was so, so useful to me. And what I wrote about family attitudes about money is revealing: "In my family, money caused worry". Those were tough times, and many families are going through the same worry now. Some of us are so lucky to be able to avoid that ... by good luck.

"As a kid..." ... what did you miss, lack, could have used help with, dream of, want? (separate answers to each of these, please!)

The workbook stops with this page - a summary of the nice things about the past week -
I'll have to keep my eyes open for "small victories" ... perhaps one such would be doing those things not done during the day about which you say to yourself, "it doesn't matter". Turning thoughts into action, however inconsequential it might seem.

Half of this workbook is empty. I know I worked right through The Artist's Way ... but I no longer have that book, so can't check what the exercises in the last chapter were. Maybe some got left out? I remember being very uncomfortable with the "spirituality" ones, but didn't shirk that chapter.

It seems entirely appropriate to revisit the Artists-Way experience, and I've shared only the bits that don't make me cringe or yawn. (There is much more....) Thanks for reading - and if you decide to write those letters to your younger or older self, keep them safe and re-read them in 10 or 20 years.

27 June 2017

Drawing Tuesday - RAF Museum Hendon

 The museum is a 10-minute walk from Colindale tube station.

When I sat down and looked around, this is the view that made it onto the page -

The "sandy" plane is a Hawker Siddley Buccaneer S2B which saw action in the Gulf War before being put into storage. While I was having a closer look at the rivet patterns, a jolly member of the museum's "ground crew" told me about the in-flight braking mechanism, which I'd been drawing without knowing what it was. This is a e area under the tail springs open, and the engine continues to run at full revs, so that once the plane has fired on the plane it was chasing it can close up again and the plane can dart away.

One problem with these big objects, we agreed, was fitting them onto the page.
Janet B's Mustang

Janet K's collection: Hawker Tempest, Percival Mew Gull, Hawker Hart

 Sue was round the other side of the Buccaneer, and also included a De Havilland Mosquito

Extracurricular activities:
 Janet B's felt pots ...
...and her very useful bag (which happens to match her top)

And finally, these jolly models on display in the gift shop -

26 June 2017

The second bookshelf

... is ready!
Filling it took all day and involved much sorting and dusting; whereas
building it took weeks and much skill and perseverance
For quite a while the room was reduced by the necessity of having a "painting section" curtained off so that spray-painting could take place, several undercoats and finally the topcoat. Only the sprayer suddenly stopped working and had to be sent back for repair - so the top coat was done with a brush after all.
Furniture tooooo close for comfort

Work in progress

All this is going ... where?

That final coat ... perfection

Meanwhile the drawers need attention

... and tools spill into the room ...

... while other projects take over the studio space

Tools on the landings...

... and what's this?

Careful on the stairs!
Then on Sunday - yesterday - I came home to this: the shelves have all been painted and just need to cure overnight. Oh, the anticipation! -
Ready for action
These are deep shelves and the smaller volumes can be double-booked. Lest they get forgotten, I've photographed the hidden layer and will print out those pix and put the photos in a "library book" for reference, as a reminder of what's there -
Some little-used cookbooks...

... are now being kept in the dark on the third cookbook shelf
(in the first bookcase).
It's great to have the cookbooks all together again.
 After three hours (and three cups of coffee, and no computer time) -
(The plants are back on the window sill)

Tom's childhood books, which sat in a corner of the landing for months, have been stashed behind the top rows of the new shelves -
 ... and some of the less-used poetry books have been put behind a solid wall of Persephones, above the poetry shelf, which already has its extra layer in place. And wouldn't you know, I've already forgotten what's behind there -
The small shelf is handy for the desk and is useful for library books
 or paperwork that needs dealing with

I look at it and smile

And in the lowest corner, spilling out of the shelf, a temporary
sewing-supplies storage area.
(Note the change in colour of the drawers on the right; others need doing immediately)

25 June 2017

Paint marks and stitch marks

As we get nearer to finishing the renovations, more painting is going on - and has left "impressions" on the material used to protect the floor -

The CQ Summer School retreat has got me enthusiastic about stitching again, and the production of "chimney pots" continues -
Stitiching in the park - using what's to hand -
till receipts for my lunch

Stitching while watching art on youtube
Finished - solidly stitched

Today on the way to a lovely course about Veteran Trees in Greenwich I started the stitching on a new one -
It's about the inside as well as the outside

Coming along...

24 June 2017

Water into wool, or vice versa

Chris Ofili's tapestry, commissioned for the Clothworkers Company and woven at Dovecote Studios in Edinburgh, was submitted as watercolour drawings. The qualities of the watercolour - especially when it represents water - is captured in wool, many colours of wool, thanks to the skills of the weavers, blending up to three nearly similar colours to get many variations. 

The tapestry will grace the guild's dining hall, but first it's being shown in the Sunley Room of the National Gallery (till 28 August), and makes an impressive display. 
The background, designed by Ofili for the installation, shows gods or perhaps merely demigods (one of his fascinations, both classical and contemporary) - they look like frescoes and are said to have been made with "a traditional fresco technique" (by the scene painters of the Royal Opera House).

The tapestry was woven in three panels on an 18-foot loom and took 6,500 hours of work over 2-1/2 years. The main lines of the drawing were traced onto acetate, then blown up to 877-times the size, and placed behind the loom for weavers to keep referring to. The main lines were transferred to the warp - each one inked all the way around each thread - and then the work started, finishing three years later. 

It's a collaboration - and both Ofili and the weavers speak of what's involved in the film that's shown in the exhibition. There are also some of the preliminary drawings - and there's a book.
The film explained the imagery - Ofili his been fascinated by a black italian footballer, Mario Balotelli - one of those demigods! - and he became the source of the unseen cocktail waiter who is filling the glass in the centre that the tipsy woman is holding, serenaded by the man with the guitar. The figures at the side are pulling back the curtains for us to see this scene, as if it was a stage; the caged birds are held by the figure on the right, and the figure on the left holds the  food that is given to them to make them sing. There are three kinds of water: the rock pool, the waterfall, the calm ocean behind. As well as the tropicality and luxuriance, there's a sense of threat - trouble in paradise....

When Ofili was doing the final art work, he says in the film, the turquoise in the jar held by the figure on the right ran a bit much, and he thought "oh no, I've ruined it" (but hadn't) - and the weavers, with their long slow process, captured that instant in the making of the work.

The tiny video clip on the gallery website (https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/chris-ofili-weaving-magic) talks about "the quality of human time embeded in the tapestry".

There's an excellent 10-minute video on the Art Channel - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3mDWHAIr6I - with closeups of the weaving and lots of information about the background of the work - and without arty jargon.