Artmap Argyll 2019 Open Studios in the Studio Barn Argyll
Artmap is a difficult weekend emotionally & physically, the highs of plaudits, the lows of disinterested glances, even though you know you’re not going to be to everyone’s taste you still take it a bit personally. Being an exhibiting artist is exhausting, you have to be on duty all day, ready with a smile to welcome to everyone who comes through the door, ready to explain the why & the how many times over.
I never expect to sell a piece of artwork or lampshade so I'm always surprised and delighted when I do. Behind the calm façade & fumbling fingers as they struggle with the string turn up the parcel there's an excited little happy dance going on inside!
Several people asked if I sold lampshades online… & I do so want to! But it is only me wearing all the hats in my business and with rural broadband not being what it could or rather should be, it takes a while to get to that point. Slowly, tooooo slowly, it is being worked on, and I hope to have the proper shop up soon … (ish!) Meanwhile do visit us on the hill!
For the first time I made clocks, which turned out to be very popular.
Taking advantage of the sunny weather to dry fabric and sort it out into size.
However, Rowan has just had a growth spurt and her pyjamas are now too short for her already! Some extensions will have to be stitched on...
She made her apron from some remnant cotton with a piece of sheet for the pocket. We used washing line for the ties with some built in extra for growth
The 1st of May is a Birthday ....
No not mine, that was in April. It was the second birthday of WRENS the Women's Rural Enterprise Network Scotland
W.R.E.N.S. came about following several chats with friends who run their own businesses, about the pros and cons of running a rural business, and how lonely that can be, however much we love what we do, sometimes you need another eye to look something over, someone to bounce an idea past. Even with the most supportive family, is quite lonely and family aren’t always the best people to give impartial advice. We felt that a networking group would be useful, to share the strains and the successes, and get general support and advice from like-minded women. It can be isolating working for yourself, especially if you live in a remote area.
With Facebook pages and other social media platforms it is easier than ever to belong to a focussed group ‘virtually’. However, sometimes it’s the face to face, real people thing, that’s needed, especially if they are in the same locality and, thereby have the same trials and tribulations as each other even though each business is unique.
The name arrived in my head one morning whilst in the shower! I wanted to create a name that would describe what the group was, i.e. Female lead, business orientated and rural-ly located, but that also became an acronym that could be easily remembered. I know the Scotland on the end sounds a bit grand and nationwide, but I couldn’t think of another useful ‘S’ word!
WRENS meets on the first Monday of each month at the Multiple Sclerosis Centre, Campbell St, Lochgilphead, and is open to all women running their own businesses.
More information can be found at www.facebook.com/WRENScotland
I was asked if I could make a new alter cloth to replace the rather disreputable Victorian one that Christ Church Scottish Episcopal church in Lochgilphead, currently uses.
The embroidered medallions, although worn in parts, are still rather lovely, the embroidery silks and appliqued fabrics have faded gently.
The tasseled silk edging was apparently made by hand in France and now cannot be replaced in this exact pattern. We will have to choose a new one.
Can you see the fren knots dotted around the cord spirals, almost like little bees.
You can see the french knots more clearly here, and some of the many darned patches.
The central panel, below. This is going to take a while to unpick & restitch!
This strange goldy brown fabric of the side panels was once green.
We have asked a local curtain maker to make the frontal and I will be unpicking the embroidered pieces for transferring on to the new cloth. Not sure yet when I'll be beginning this job. I think it will take quite some time!
are gathering, weekend offs have been arranged, routes planned, picnics packed. I would like to join the throng, but I also wouldn’t. If we went to any of our favourite spots today they will be busy, full of adults and children being happy and I don’t want to be around people. Being bright and breezy is beyond me. I have no energy to smile and be cheerful. I just want to sit and write, or sew, or best yet sleep.
But even the sight of the Daz white lambs didn’t lift my spirits.
So, we came home and, I went to bed for an hour.
The glums are staying in residence today. Hopefully they’ll move out tomorrow.
It was a gloriously sunny morning this morning even with frost on the grass and the car said it was 4.5c, walking in the sunshine was hot. Rosie and I went out and about for a walk & a bit of shopping before heading back home for a morning of computer work as my studio didn’t have any electricity until the afternoon
Even after my lovely day, or perhaps because I had had such alovely day, I had a bit of a difficult evening last night, as I said on my Facebook page;
"You know that way when you've a lot to do, a lot you want to do, a lot you need to do, and you don't know where to start so you keep standing up and turning around then sitting down again then your brain fires off another idea or remembers something unconnected but you need to do that too and then you go outside to call the cat in and it's lovely and sunny and you'd like to do some gardening but actually you've got backache from too much tension it's almost time to start making dinner and then there's washing to do and you come back in and can't breathe any more.
Well, you know that... That's me that is!"
I really was in a bit of a panic about how much there is to be done, I daren't write the list. I had lots of lovely supportive comments from people saying how they felt the same way and wishing me lots of love, luck & hugs. It made me feel much less alone.
This morning I did feel a bit better and although I didn't get up as early as I wanted to, (I will keep reading until the early hours!) getting out for a longish walk first did help. A bit of mind calming before the storm of the to-be-done stuff.
When I got back to the house the postie had been and my new organic calico had arrived. Really looking forward to seeing how this behaves with my painting as it is a bit heavier than the fabric I’ve been using until now. It’s a really lovely quality and the palest biscuity buff colour. I might use it for making clothes. Once I’ve washed some and found out how much it shrinks first!
This morning began with pots of tea and fruited flapjack at the @thecrinanhotel with the lovely Carole from @lazysundaycatering and as usual wiiide ranging discussions from parents and family to writing (we're both working on books & writing projects) through painting and food, memories and recollections to realising that the morning had passed and we do have work to do.
I popped back home to pick up Rosie and was delighted to find a parcel waiting for me. It had my first order from Firain inside. I came across @Firain after reading the newsletter from
@jessicarosewilliams in which she mentioned oatmylk soap-on-a-rope that she had bought from them. A quick surf later and I was following on Fb and Instagram and had been shopping on their lovely website.
I got some @soapdazedevon Ginger&Mandarin with exfoliating poppy seeds soap-on-a-rope with no plastic packaging, and the 'Jwrnal'.
I squeaked with excitement! What a gorgeous publication! I aspire to make my Needlesmith Journal look like this one day. I am really looking forward to reading it this evening. Probably after a shower to use my new soap!
Totally inspirational, recycled & recyclable packaging, a sprig of Rosemary and a beautifully hand written thank you card from someone who has checked me out and also thinks Rosie is adorable!
This has absolutely made my day.
Thank you Jo at Firain
Small businesses are wonderful!
Oh my goodness! Where does time go… ?
All I seem to write in here are ‘updates’ because I haven’t written anything else recently, this is a sadly neglected blog!
Here we are in April 2019 and the last time I officially showed up in here was September 2018. SO much has happened since then that I’m not going to try and write an update and instead of feeling guilty and harassed and giving myself a hard time about what I haven’t written I’m just going to draw a line under it and start again.
I’ve back dated a couple of posts, and added some poems, I’m not going to promise to show up in here every week although I will promise that it is my intention to make it here at least once a month….. however, you can find me a little more regularly on Instagram and Facebook. And I am writing the second edition of The Needlesmith so there will be more in there. (It's now on Issu and will open as a magazine if you click the link)
I am ab-so-loot-lee certain, that there are no longer seven days in a week. I keep reading articles, blogs, listening to podcasts about a simple life, slow living, slow travel. Maddy from aslowadventure.com, Kayte at www.simpleandSeason.co.uk endorses simple business plans, Jane www.Snapdragonlife.com is going to be having a quiet month experiment, Becky Cole www.beckyocole.com focuses on slow natural living...
... sometimes I think they must all have extra days in their weeks to be able to live slowly. As I feel that I am at least three days short in a week and often 4, it can be a bit frustrating!
However, I do prefer to be busy, and at the end of a difficult week, a cup of tea with a dear friend this afternoon, an hour and a half of talking about anything and everything, writing, and things we’ve read and listened to, seems to have gently cleared the blockage and my fingers are itching to write & type and paint & sew again. To Get ON! So I’ve made a start this evening with this piece, and some plans and a couple of outlines of articles for the journal. I’ve ordered some fabric tonight , oh and some handmade in Wales soap-on-a-rope from Firain www.firain.com as recommended by Jessica Rose Williams www.jessicarosewilliams.com in her newsletter this week, so I'll be sitting on the doorstep waiting for our grumpy postman soon!
Well, until next time I pop in, may your needles stay sharp and your thread not snap.
PS. Talking of sharp things.... my brother has been over from Glasgow this week with his 6 month old ferret called Dora such a pretty wee thing but boy are her teeths sharp! Further sharpened on my index finger and dad's thumb!
She also climbs....... fast!
When I was asked if I would be able to stand in for a booked speaker who had cancelled, at a local Scottish Women’s Institute meeting, I said ‘yes of course’, mainly because I haven’t yet learnt to say no, even though it often gets me in to trouble! This is that talk …
At the risk of sounding like I’m at an AA meeting, Hello I’m Kate MacDonald & I’m a Creative! I think many of you will know me from various places. I used to belong to the Kilmichael SWI, was President for a term & I have done a felt making demonstration for you. Or, you might have been on one or two of my sewing classes or been up to the Studio Barn during Artmap weekend, or maybe through Christ Church, the Scottish Episcopal church in Lochgilphead, where I am a Lay Reader, Peoples Warden and Lay Rep and involved in organising many of the events we run. You may also know, that I have my own business, Needlesmiths, that I am a textile artist & sewing tutor, that I do many other crafts like wet felt making and silverclay work. I enjoy writing, short stories and poems, I have a novel on the go, and on the first of March I published my new quarterly mini magazine. Somewhat less creatively, I’m also a Carer (with a capital C) for my husband and, increasingly, my parents. What you possibly don’t know about me is that I suffer from depression, anxiety and stress.
After 14 years on dialysis, in September last year, my husband Brian had a very unexpected kidney transplant which has been life changing for both of us. An incredible blessing, it hasn’t come without its problems and hitches. One of the unexpected issues has been the emotional fallout for both of us. Because it was so sudden, there wasn’t any preparation time. He went on the list again on the Monday and had a transplant on the Thursday, I didn’t believe it was happening, and still didn’t really until I saw him the day after the operation and there was an 8inch wound on his tummy, so something must have happened! Things got a bit bumpy before Christmas, but I had things to do that helped to distract me from the hospital visits and the worry, commissioned lampshades, stock for events and for the new store in Glasgow that sells my work. Events to organise at church and the Homestyle Argyll Christmas House event, and presents and cards to make for family and friends. It was a time of major creative output, of painting and sewing, of designing and printing, of hospital dashes, and preparations for seasonal visitors. I couldn’t have been happier! Then it was the kerfuffle of Christmas and New Year, I thought I would have a week or two to relax and then off I would go again. Only that didn’t happen. It was as though I had forgotten how to paint or sew. Then Brian went into hospital again for a week, and then dad went into hospital for a month, and I couldn’t work. I tried tidying up, I started two evening classes. No dialysis meant we had more time & I could do these things. Although I could write, I still couldn’t work. I started to walk the dogs further in the afternoons, they didn’t complain, and it meant that I didn’t have to pretend to be working. I started to question what I was going to do. There was a lot of noise in my head and I didn’t know how to shut it up. There was a rising tide of panic in my chest, settling like a stone. I was tired but couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t hungry but picked and ate to try to squash down my feelings, an increasing waistline didn’t help the way I felt. A fear of failure kept me from trying anything. The insidious envy I felt at friend’s successes and holidays ate away at me. I couldn’t read magazines because I would compare my position with others. But to the outside world I was smiley, and all was fine. A health scare didn’t help matters, I had no-one to share my concerns with, so carried the worry it until tests were negative only then did I ‘fess up and that I had fibbed about my whereabouts on one day. But those dog walks, and my two evening classes, where immensely helpful. One class was Creative writing, and the other is Printmaking. Not an area I’m terribly familiar with so it made me think and concentrate on the task in hand.
What I now realise I should have done, was stop properly. Take time out, enjoy doing nothing for a while. But I’m not really made that way, & I didn’t stop to really assess how I was feeling. Now I’m the other side of that wall of mud I can see things much more clearly. In January there is so much flying around about planning for the year ahead, on the radio, television, on social media, in magazines, new resolutions, new beginnings, but at the time everything looked a bit grey and muddy.
I was thinking about my ‘Why’, my ‘What’, and my ‘How’, with regards to my business & our new homelife. It is hard for someone who strives to live with less, (still trying get this through to my clutterbucket, shopaholic husband!), who has been very ‘green’ for much of her life, who hates waste and plastic, to then make products and encourage people to buy them! But who is also unable to live without creating stuff, sewing, painting, making, writing and who also needs make a living as she is pretty much unemployable these days.
I shared a few things on-line and had some lovely responses and messages which really helped me put things into focus. In particular, a comment from someone (who might be in the room…) who had been in one of my early sewing classes 4 years ago or so, about how she is still sewing and upcycling fabric. It made me realise that I didn't have to try to save the world on my own, and that by running workshops I can teach others how to sew and how to reuse fabric thus creating less waste. It was a real lightbulb moment. I was now able to plan the first quarters workshops.
My lampshades made me pause, and gave me a headache, but I was told that they bring people joy & happiness. And I do love making them. After a bit of research, I am delighted to have sourced organic, Fairly Traded calico which I will start to use for my artwork & lampshades and that helps me to feel better about the new fabric I use. I’ve recently been investigating recycled thread made from plastic bottles. I still have mixed feelings about this but am willing to give it a go and see how it behaves. Cotton, although obviously a natural fibre, isn’t very environmentally friendly to produce, I haven’t found a bamboo sewing thread yet although it is made into fabric and knitting type yarns and embroidery silks.
With the off cuts of calico, I make hand-painted cards. The card stock is made in the UK from recycled paper. I don’t put the cards into single use cellophane sleeves but use a paper wrap to keep envelope and card together and to have somewhere to put the price label. So, I’m happy with the way I produce these.
All of my fabric waste and thread snips I send to Mary’s Meals as they can get money for scrap fabric by weight.
Subsequently I’ve found that I can marry my passion and the necessity for sewing & creating with treading more lightly on the earth. That I can sell my products in good conscience knowing that they give pleasure and happiness alongside sound environmental & ethical practice.
And that includes silverclay believe it or not.
Silverclay, and copper, bronze, and gold clays are produced by recycling the metals from computers, mobile phones and so on, combined with recycled fabric and paper fibres then mixed with a non-toxic organic oil.
I have been obsessed with textiles since forever. As a baby I was put down to sleep (& keep out of mischief) in a large wicker costume hamper at the Birmingham Rep theatre. My parents worked in the Props and Costume departments and I think that that early contact with fabric rubbed off on me, literally. Playing in dad's workshop with trims and ribbons, hiding in the fabric store with bolts of material standing in corners, shelves stacked with folded textiles, tins of buttons and strings of beads. But it took me a while to be able to create textile art, even though textiles have been at the centre of everything I’ve ever done creatively. For my A levels I screen printed fabric and sewed it into a pair of curtains & a matching laundry bag to fit in with a ‘bedroom’ scene that I had created and that included designing and making a futon style sofa bed with storage – Parts of which still exist 30 years on. I soaked fabric in clay slip so that it ‘fossilised’ when I was on my foundation course. I presented an exhibition design stitched onto hessian during my degree course, which wasn’t really appreciated and probably contributed to me leaving before completing my degree! After a few years in the wilderness that is the Sky megacorporation in Fife & West Lothian, my increasing interest in green issues and galloping disinterest and disinclination for working in a bullying office environment and a chance read of a tiny advert in a Sunday paper for casein (milk based paint) lead me to work for a building conservation charity. There I introduced weekend workshops and lead my first workshops introducing homeowners and professional decorators to chemical free paint. Then Brian & I moved west, and I started my first business selling natural building and decorating materials. This was about 17 years ago, and I was well ahead of the curve and fashion. Then Brian & I open M.A.C.K. & M.A.G.S. (Mercantile Arts Centre Kintyre & Mid Argyll Green Shop) some of you may remember, in Tarbert. Again, we were ahead of the game, doing gluten free, dairy free, vegan, food & drinks and eco products in the shop. Brian became ill & I couldn’t manage a 7 day a week business, a husb who at that point could barely walk, and although we don’t have children, we had three dogs and five cats and it’s not so easy to get a babysitter for those with four feet!
Throughout the time Brian was ill, learning to dialyse, sitting at hospital beds I often had a creative project on the go. Something I didn’t really need to think about that my hands could do by themselves. Designing my own tapestries was a good one. Easy to pick up and put down, no counting or dropping of stitches, no forgetting which way the crosses went. Just enough concentration to let the mind settle and get off the hamster wheel.
This was now 14 or 15 years ago, but it wasn’t really until very recently that I realised just how much creativity, making and doing was tied into how well I felt or didn’t feel.
About three years ago I went on a creative weekend away in Cambridgeshire. I was terrified. Just getting there was going to be for me, an epic journey, drive to Glasgow, hotel overnight, then three trains to Cambridge where I was going to be picked up by my kindly B&B owner. By the time I arrived down there everyone at the workshop were going to be monsters. I was so far out of my comfort zone, I was in a different country! Even if it was the one I grew up in! In the end of course, it was a fabulous weekend, everyone was lovely, and I made some really good friends who I am still in touch with. The lady who ran the weekend, Emma Mitchell, known on line as Silverpebble, has suffered from severe depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder for many years. She has found that making things, being creative and walking, in all weathers, deliberately observing what is going on around, not just plodding head down minding the rain and avoiding the puddles, really helps to boost her mental health. A scientist by training she has read the research that backs this up and explains how studies have shown that interacting with the natural world can influence the serotonin levels in the brain.
She wrote her first book about crafting her way through the dark days and her second book is a diary of her year in and out of depression alongside the months and seasons and how she feels. They are both very lovely books and I highly recommend them.
(At this point I gave a demonstration & made some silverclay mussel shells)
If you’re feeling blue then doing a workshop, being creative or going for a walk, will really lift your spirits. Obviously, I run a variety of courses and creative days, in a number of different skills, but also locally Love Dove Studio – opposite the Square Peg next to the Sweetie Jar in Lochgilphead - are doing evening & weekend workshops on floral displays and painting. Lochgilphead college does evening classes, in pottery, printmaking, photography & creative writing, and the MS Centre has craft afternoons.
So, this, in a roundabout way with many a side-track and tangent is my story and how I manage my mental health and how out of something that looks a little bit muddy some silver will appear!
Talk given to the ladies of Lochgilphead SWI in March 2019
Author - Me!
I am a ‘Creative’ - designer/maker/teacher/writer, Art/Homewares/Creativitea Craft Kits/The Needlesmith.