Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Art Exhibition Extraordinaire

It was a privilege to be invited to participate in the first village art exhibition; to attend the preliminary meetings, where I always seemed to have plenty to say! And then to walk into the Church the day before set-up day and see where we had been allocated a space. I was thrilled with mine - out with the tape measure to find it was all of 5ft x 5ft, backed on two adjacent sides by white display boards, on a third by the wall of the early 14thC de Mohun Chapel, and the fourth 'the way in'. I wanted to create a little art room, and hit on the idea of it being at the top of a castle tower (Stokesay in Shropshire sprang to mind). Back home, I measured furniture (all made by my dear Raymond over the years - and as he was exhibiting too, it was an extension of the space he had not been given, but that's another story).

Finished mixed-media journals: paper and textiles; old maps - and
many other recycled materials and artifacts
Next day (Friday) came the unearthing of my chosen pieces, the carrying downstairs, the loading into our trailer, the lifting out and carrying up the long path into the Church, the manipulating down the aisle and past the lectern and another exhibitor's booth into my available space. Exhausting (and we knew we had to dismantle it all at the end of the day). It would have been easier had the chapel door alongside been open, but the key was missing!

Working sketchbooks and illustrated journals
Well never mind, I eased our tables into place and then set about arranging the work I wanted to show, and the artifacts I had created for sale - proceeds to be added to the window-repair fund of this ancient Church - village history is fascinating; details appear in my great-aunt's book on medieval architecture. A beloved lady from whom my love of history first sprang (and that, too, is another story!)

Items created for sale: label tag-notebooks, pocket note-holders with
my own 'pressed-flower' printed notelets; bookmarks and blank
travel journals made from altered antique maps fused to textile covers
And so my castle turret became my workspace for the Friday evening preview, and the Saturday show. I did not want it to be something static; I wanted to create the feel that my map-trails, illustrated journals and textile books were ongoing living things (indeed they are) and so positioned myself with my pocket-sized diary and mini-paintbox to continue the miniatures I sketch when away and rarely have time to finish. There was time to chat, about what I did and why.

Working in my 'castle turret' (5ft x 5ft space in the de Mohun Chapel)
Time to share with others my joy in creating; not to show off, but to show that anyone can begin with a single word, a first scribble, and from that what you do can grow, and - as I discovered to my delight - give pleasure to others. It was a wonderful experience, demonstrating something I love doing so much, in snatched moments. Actually my life-line in times of stress (and that is yet a further story).

Close-up of my work table and display of finished travel trails

Work in progress: Malvern Map Trail -
words, sketches, fused napkins and photos
relating to working visits to the stunning
Malvern Showground (with thanks to TCAS)
Let me end with my 'artist statement' which we all had to produce for the show catalogue:
"An Unfinished Journey: My life as an amateur mixed-media art-maker has evolved alongside my work as a published writer on travel, gardening and craft. I have moved through many genres and phases over the years, involving paper, yarn, fabric and stitch, documented in my illustrated journals. I am currently working on a series of decorated map trails and quilted books. 
From writing diaries and journals on an almost daily basis since childhood, I have only recently progressed to adding sketches and illustrations; and, for certain items, transferred and stitched photographs, hand-embroidery and patchwork. Articles on some of my mixed-media work have appeared online and in a number of magazines. "     

The exhibition was for me one of those unexpected life-changing moments; something that in my declining years I now plan to weave into my daily life in those fleeting moments of snatched creative bliss. Stay with me, I still have a whole world of creativity to explore ...

Monday, 14 November 2011

A little bit of adventure

Crossing into Wales
We are back from a week of wandering: a double assignment - assessing a new motorhome and, alongside that, a circular tour from Bristol to Wales and back again through Shropshire, Herefordshire and Somerset. Four campsites in seven nights; a workout of the not-yet-on-the-market m'home (the Bailey Approach 620SE launched at the NEC last month, and loaned to us for the week by the manufacturer), plus route description, photos, where to go and what to do in Carmarthen, Knighton, Hereford and Bath.

This is not a full account of the week - for that will appear in 'Discover Touring' magazine issue no 3 in February 2012, but more a taster for what I will be posting over the weeks ahead in my other blogs. There was something of everything for us in these seven days, and hopefully also, for readers of blog and magazine pages. History, gardening, mapping, art, journaling, and at the end, a link with where I began my life 74 years ago.

Climbing the steep and somewhat muddy path on Knucklas Castle 'mound'
It rained for much of the time, which was good for testing the vehicle, though there was much mud to contend with. We seem to favour campsites in fields near rivers; and even with the rain, managed some photos and brief strolls in watery conditions: the rivers Towy, Teme, Wye, and a tributary of the Somerset Avon. The motorhome was luxurious but most of the trip was spent driving between venues, and report-writing - hardly the holiday we so needed. We managed a morning in Aberglasney - the gardens are restful no matter what the time of year, with a delicious lunch on the covered terrace, despite the rain sweeping in sheets across the valley onto our table! And another day in Knighton, eating again (!) in our favourite tearoom. We climbed to the top of Knucklas Castle hill - spectacular views - and enjoyed the poem trail through the new community orchard; I was minded to whisper my own (never go anywhere without paper and pen); but they are for another time. And so via Presteigne (yet another tea-room), Hereford for an overnight stop, and on to Bath for a publisher's book launch - a scholarly and entertaining book covering three hundred years of the Pump Room Orchestra. We'd been invited because I had supplied some material relating to my father's time there conducting; the year I was born, 1937. 

The week was not without its heartache, which had nothing to do with what we did or where we went, but has affected my future outlook on all I attempt to do. I need to think hard and deep as to how I can continue, and without my dear husband's love and continuing support, I would not be writing this now. Life is all about decisions, and this last year has seen me needing to make more than usual; and I am so weary.

I'll never forget this monument to the past, on the top of  the Knucklas Castle site. Looking north up the Teme valley towards its source. I can forget weariness and troubles when remembering the climb, and descent, and just being there for a few brief hours.