Sunday, 5 October 2014

Scrappy and resolute

Although I was recently "commissioned" to stitch up a small paragraph for Year Two's display in the school at which I am TAing, I have found it hard to get on with Milk Thistle whilst I'm engaged in this short burst of full time work.
 
That's not to say I'm not enjoying the job! It is both more challenging and more rewarding than I was anticipating. Kids are also an endless source of amusement.
 
Alongside working I am beginning to put some plans in place for creative projects (some of which are even paid! I know!)
 
I feel as if I am at a turning point in my creative practice, and in many ways, in my life. I suppose everything is in transition right now, but I am rather enjoying going with the flow.
 
I think once Milk Thistle is completed and (hopefully) exhibited alongside my two other embroidered books, I will be exploring other avenues. I particularly want to return to working collaboratively and creating participatory experiences, and - gasp - to using other mediums in addition to embroidery.
 
I suppose my recent diaristic scribbles and collages are a reflection of this; I've decided that I'm going to spend some of my ill-gotten funds from TAing on art classes, and get back to drawing, partially because it's a skill that scares me a little. I've come to believe that I'm not very good at it, mostly because I've been out of practice. So I'm going to dive back in.
 
This desire/fear is reflected in the double page spread below; some of my drawings from the workshop run by Jake Spicer of Draw Brighton and Bobby Baker with Daily Life Limited are featured, as is the phrase What would you do if you weren't afraid? which I found whilst flicking through a free magazine on the train. A question we would all do well to answer and act on from time to time, I think.
 
These are accompanied by surplus photobooth snapshots (which I had to take for my new job), which complement a silly self portrait I did at the Experts by Experience workshop.
 


Foxes also feature heavily on the two pages below; but of course, they are one of my very favourite creatures, up there with mallards and the majestic narwhal.

Lots of potions, too... hopefully soon I shall be making some more...

Also on the page below is a synopsis of the glorious Our Lady of Nettles by Sylvia Linsteadt, a favourite and visionary writer. Scattered around the two pages are remnants of  the envelope in which the story wended its way to me.

 
I'm off now to check on some cookies I'm baking for the Eid party at school tomorrow; until next time,
 
Kate Elisabeth x
 

Monday, 22 September 2014

Tincture of Milk Thistle

I am imminently to be employed (finally!) so won't have quite as much time for making and blogging, at least for the next couple of weeks.
 
 At some point during that time I'm hoping to squeeze in getting the eighth and final page of Milk Thistle done, because, as of today, page seven is finished!
 
 
 
This page is based around a wise old crone; a white witch called the White Lady, who has some advice on bravery to impart to the young Milk Thistle.
 
The text reads:
 
The White Lady came to me. She told me
 
"Dab tincture of milk thistle under your weeping eyes.
 
It's good for the liver
 
and you need all the unlilying you can get.
 
Remember you're a milk thistle;
 
a tenacious weed"
 


 
The page is illustrated with the very tincture the witch describes. Milk Thistle is indeed used to treat liver problems (although in this case is used metaphorically, to treat a "lily liver"; to treat cowardice).







 
I'm quite pleased with the way the page has come together, particularly the tincture. I've got some puzzling over how best to portray the final page, though!



Thursday, 11 September 2014

Visual Diary

The last couple of weeks I've been trying to put plans in place and get my life together a little bit. So Milk Thistle has suffered somewhat, but I'm happy to report that I'm back on the stitching and page seven (of 8) is underway.

Inspired by my online contemporaries and the ever-present desire to write, I began keeping a diary last month. Alongside my lilac written diary, I've started collating a visual diary (or art journal) too. It's a lovely way of recording special moments and it will hopefully be wonderful to look back over the course of the year and realise that, actually, it was pretty good.


This first page depicts mine and Pip's visit to Brighton to stay with friends... with added mallards. On our trip to the seaside we ate far too much rich food, played crazy golf and despaired over the price of vintage.


Soon after, I stayed with my parents and grandparents in the Highlands, visited Tobermory (the site of fictional Balamory), and stocked up on fancy chocolates for Pip. This trip was characterised by, once again, eating far too much rich food.


When I returned, we visited Lucy Sparrow's rather fantastic Corner Shop, which I blogged about here.

The next day, I had a wander around Epping Forest with my Mum, marvelling at how verdant and heady everything smelled.


The next day, inspired by this walk, Kat and I took a bunch of photographs in Walthamstow Forest, which you can see here.

At the end of the week, Pip and I went to two special screenings, the first being Stuart Murdoch's bittersweet twee musical God Help The Girl, the costumes and songs of which I enjoyed immensely, although the extent of the earnest, melancholy male gaze in it was almost painful to watch. Still, mostly good fun.

The second film was outstanding. I'm slightly biased, as Brief Encounter is my favourite flick ever, but this screening was very special; the film was presented in concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and the soundtrack of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 (with which the film is so inextricably bound up) was painstakingly removed and then played live and seamlessly at the appropriate moments. It was so technically astute, in fact, that I often forgot the orchestra were there at all.

I've got some visual diary-ing to catch up on; I find it quite therapeutic and nostalgic; in this world of instant media it's refreshing to go a bit analogue. Do you art journal?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

God's Own Junkyard

Today Pip and I visited Ravenswood Industrial Estate in good ol' E17. The name may sound somewhat unprepossessing, but the Industrial Estate is now home to some fantastic local independent businesses.

First off on our trip was God's Own Junkyard, a little bit of Las Vegas in Walthamstow; a veritable neon wonderland.

It's the kind of place that would be incongruous anywhere, but none more so than in Walthamstow; the colour and spectacle is almost too much to take in.

The Junkyard is frequently used as a location for fashion shoots, film and television, and its neon signs are sold in Selfridges and Scream Gallery.

The Junkyard houses a cafe that I'm eager to sample on another visit. I wouldn't mind doing my own photoshoot there, but as recent clients have included Vogue, I doubt I could afford it!

I'll let the photographs speak for themselves.



















We were torn between a tipple at Mother's Ruin gin palace and the Wild Card Brewery, but Pip kindly agreed to plump for gin; I'm certainly not a mother yet, but it just might be my ruin.

There is a varied and reasonably priced cocktail menu; we both went for a mulberry gin fizz, which was deliciously sharp and sweet. We'll definitely be back!


I'd recommend the businesses on the Industrial Estate to anyone; their wares would make great Christmas presents! It's always good to find new bits of your home town to explore.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Experts by experience


Remember I talked about crying and making art about crying yesterday? Well, today I am reeling from doing the same; making art about crying, but not actually doing the crying itself; from laughing and smiling and making and chatting and absorbing and opening up and being receptive and empathising and oh, the list goes on and on.


You see, I attended a very special workshop today; facilitated by the brilliant Jake Spicer of Draw Brighton, it was run in participation with the also rather brilliant Daily Life Limited, set up by art hero Bobby Baker and based in Stratford (where Pip's from and a short bus ride from me, coincidentally).


I'd met Bobby very briefly once before, when my dear friend Jess and I went to see her performance Mad Gyms and Kitchens at the Barbican. I did write about my experience there, but unfortunately it has been lost in the annals of the internet. Suffice to say it was a practice (if not life) changing experience. Bobby was lovely to meet then, and she was lovely to meet today too, as was Jake, the rest of the Daily Life Limited team who were present, and the other artists participating in the workshop.


The workshop was based around the idea that people who experience mental ill health are experts by experience, and more generally, who is an expert/what makes an expert?


It was suggested (though by no means prescribed) that we consider what we were experts in/of in our drawing experiments. I drew myself as an expert at crying and an expert at eating. 

Thankfully I don't cry as much as I used to, though I'm sure my many years of unwavering service to tear-letting still qualify me as a professional weeper of some expertise.

Eating is a funny one; it would be hard not to be an expert at eating in my rather food-centric family. However, when I am unwell it's often the first thing to go out of the window. It becomes a way of punishing myself for my many perceived failings. I am happy to report that for now, however, my eating is prolific and unlikely to wane in quantity or quality.




The workshop was a particularly interesting one to undertake whilst I'm looking for work. I have a funny feeling that a lot of "expertise" is blagging anyway.




Aside from the self-portraits, I was back to portraying potions (and emergency glitter!), which I plan to bring back into my practice in a big way in the near future.




The most lovely thing about today was meeting so many like-minded individuals (in more ways than one). Even at art school, people weren't necessarily open about mental health, and my fellow workshop participants today just made sense to me. If anything, they were more sane than a lot of people I've met who haven't been through the mental health mill.








I now feel invigorated to go out into the world and make some damn art! Thank you, Bobby, Jake, and co!