By Kate MacDonald
A fear of failing,
Back from the doing,
A fear of failing,
Back from creating.
A fear of failing,
Back from the chance
This fear of failing
Closes my mind,
Roars through my head,
Fills up my chest,
Arresting my breath.
I know I should start.
Pick up the pen,
Just make a mark.
Wield a paint brush or
Ply a needle with thread.
This fear of failing
Prevents me from falling,
But it stops me from flying.
In my fear to start,
If I haven’t begun
I cannot then fail
Facebook was telling me that my 547 friends and followers hadn’t heard from me for a while. When I get 'head down & motoring' busy or I’m feeling a bit out of sorts, I do tend to forget to post on there. I think ‘I'll do that/say this tomorrow' and of course tomorrow doesn't ever arrive as it is always today then it becomes yesterday, and I still haven't popped by. The same happens with blogging. I have a number of started blogs, or a folder of photographs, but then something happens, or is it that it doesn't happen, and items stay unwritten until I sit down with that hat on and my fingers rattle over keys and a whole pile of 'stuff' gets done. Emails fly out into the ether, blogs get written, posts and pictures start to appear on Facebook & Instagram. A flurry of activity and a great deal of satisfaction achieved.
The main thing that has been taking up time recently is this 'White Butterflies Magenta Flowers' lampshade. I finally stopped painting it and sewed the butterflies on and then turned the flat to round. The client has seen photographs & her first word was ‘Stunning’ which is a bit of a relief as I really wasn’t sure about it! It is very different from my 'usual' blue themes.
Now it's full on with Christmas things and preparing for two SWI – Scottish Womens Institute weekend workshops on fabric collage. They will be making a tealight or picture and I need to get some examples sorted asap and also to sort through my fabric scraps which have spent some time ‘airing’ in boxes on the cabin decking… I need to check that everything is OK there. And write lists.... lesson plan.... materials.... equipment.... samples etc....etc....
This picture is of a lampshade that I made inspired by an old stone wall.
I've also started to get my Christmas hat on. I organise the Christ Church Winter Bazaar in Lochgilphead and it now has a great reputation for being the biggest and the best event in Lochgilphead, which I’m thrilled about. Taking place on the first weekend of November it really kicks off the Winter & Christmas Fairs and markets in the area. I’ve already taken a LOT of bookings including I think 11 new makers so it’ll be even bigger than usual! That's only seven weeks away, and then there is the Homestyle Argyll Christmas House .... with Friends .... Last year was such a success that we’re doing it again ….
All of a sudden, the month I thought was going to be quiet isn't!
The utter chaos that is my studio desk..... designs, with potential and without.... and rather refelcts the state of my head at the mo!
Many counties now have an Open Studios route at some point in the year. A weekend or more when you can see behind the scenes of the artists life. My local one is called Artmap Argyll. Dad has been involved from the beginning, eleven years ago, first as a Full member then more recently as an Associate. Mum then joined and was a full member, though rarely paints or draws now. I only plucked up enough courage to apply four years ago.
Originally Dad opened one end of the steading that is his workshop to put artwork on display, but after a couple of years we were inspired to empty what is known as the ‘Victorian barn’ and converted into a seasonal gallery space. You can see the change and the full story here www.studiobarnargyll. Now, as well as Artmap weekends we are open from around Easter until the end of September-ish, much depends on the weather.
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 tie up the parcel there's an excited little happy dance going on inside! Thank you!
Several people asked if I sold shades 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's going to take me 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!
I have made cards, mostly just for Christmas for friends and famliy, since a pre-Christmas, Christmas meal with my flat-mates when I was at college and realised that I had forgotten to buy any to go with the presnts. Being an art student, I had a useful supply of stuff in my bedroom, coming up with some card, a gold ink pen, gold paint and a wine cork, and 5 speedy minutes later I had elegant gold holly leaves wit golden berries on black card Christmas cards. They were received so well, that I made them for everyone I sent cards to that year. 28 years later & it has become a ‘thing’. I have to make our Christmas cards. My cards haven't always been ‘cards’, some have been designed to hang on the tree like the ones inspired by a Harry Potter film - I painted cork coasters dark blue, stencilled a gold crescent moon on one side and on the other were little spots of glittery stars, they hung from gold thread and were weighted with gold beads and a little bell. Others have been stitched, like the clove scented hearts with part of the ‘Little Donkey’ carol printed onto them. Another year it was the front of the Boots catalogue that inspired the design, interlocking Christmas trees. I'm afraid I don't have any pictures of thse past creations.
I decided to make some cards for sale this year when I went to the Handmade Fair at Ragley Hall. I had a beautiful display of lampshades but knew that not everyone would want one (sadly!) so I made some cards from painted and stitched fabric left over from lampshade making. I hate waste and couldn’t just throw these painted pieces away, So I had been keeping them thinking that one day they would in useful... I decided to buy 100% recycled card stock & envelopes which are made in the UK. Being a fervent supporter of the reduction of single use plastic items, I didn't want to put them in cellophane envelopes, so I had some paper strips printed saying that the card is a Needlesmiths Original, that it is a hand painted, on recycled card, & made in the UK. It also gave me somewhere to stick the price label. They were admired and lots of people bought them. As a supporter of the ‘Just a Card’ campaign & now participator, I was very pleased with the reaction. Each one is a different and tiny artwork, I have gone on to make more and they form a regular part of my stock now. Many have been taken home to be put into frames and not sent to anyone as they are ‘too nice’!
As I make cards but am not a ‘card-maker’, I have only recently discovered another movement ‘Naked Cards’, and as you can see from the sidebar here I have 'Taken the Naked Card Pledge'. This campaign encourages card-makers not put their cards into plastic sleeves. Some use ‘paper belly wraps’ which turn out to be that strip of paper I had ‘invented’ to keep my card and envelope together and to put a price tag on!
I’m really pleased to support and be part of two great networks and grateful to be supported by the many visitors to events, fairs, and the Studio Barn, who buy “Just a Naked Card”.
Do support the 'Just a Card' Campaign if you can. You can find them on Twitter & Instagram & Facebook. And of course if you can support an independant artist, designer, retailer or gallery, then all the better!
More again soon
I was at the Argyll Festival in Glasgow at the weekend. Organised by CHArts Argyll & the Isles (Culture Heritage & Arts) who are charting all the culture, heritage & arts activities in the Argyll area. Argyll Fest was about the best that Argyll has to offer by way of food, drink and artisan crafts. I was delighted to have been accepted and been part of the event.
We had arrived in Glasgow the night before as I hadn't wanted to travel across country in the early hours & it meant we could go to the cinema and see something loud and nonsensical the evening before. Glasgow was fully booked up, my favorite hotel had run out of beds. So we took the first one we could find with a vacancy. Not the nicest but we went to see Mission Impossible which was loud very nonsensical and just what the Dr ordered!
After a late night, as I was up until all hours sending emails for Artmap weekend, we left the hotel to get to the venue, slightly antsy as I was tired and feeling stressed by the day to come. Arriving early, when we realised that we had driven past the venue twice before eventually finding it, I had written it off as a waste of a weekend. If we couldn't find it what chance did was there of any customers coming in? Then I discovered that there wasn't any electricity as had been requested and promised. I was stomping around by this point. We hadn't been able to park terriby near by so I had a lot of to-ing & fro-ing to do before I could start to set up. However an electrician arrived and power points produced, I stopped being hot and bothered & fakely smiley, was provided with a cup of tea and gradually I calmed down and properly smiled at people! I discovered later flags and bunting etc got hung out and so people did come in to see what it was all about, LOTS of people!
The Briggait is an interesting space/venue. Now full of workshops for over 100 artisits and creatives with a huge central space, fantastically light and bright. (I was actually quite pleased it was a bit of a grey rainy day so that my lit lamps and shades did show up.)
It is situated in the medieaval part of Glasgow, Merchant City, a category A listed building originally built to house Glasgow's fish market, it was completed in 1873 and used for the market until the late 1970's.
I didn't take this picture but have nicked it via Google from discoverglasgow.org. I probably should have googled it before we went so that we knew what to look for when we arrived! There's also a, now restored, steeple/clock tower, which can't be seen in this picture, that dates back to 1665, an interesting building.
I was very rubbish at taking photographs that day and was too busy chatting to customers and fellow stall holders to remember. Periodically Mr B brought across a sample of one of the gins or whiskys or ales that were on offer and food. It turned out to be a really nice day and we decided to stay an extra night and managed to book into our favorite quirky urban chic hotel 'The Z'. Also an interesting old building, formally a printworks.
A very mixed weekend!
I haven't posted much about workshops recently, mainly because I've postponed most of them! The weather has been far too good for people to want to spend time indoors. However over the last two weeks half a dozen ladies have been making lampshades.
Click on the galleries to enlarge the images
Lampshades in the making. The painting was done during the first week and then this week all the detailling gets added. One student tried free-hand embroidery for the first time and got such an adrenaline rush that she described it as being "like white water rafting but better" and, presumably, drier!
Flat pieces ready for rolling
I hadn't been having a very good week this week, and it got worse when I realised, just as I was explaining how the lampshades went together, that I had forgotten to pack the double sided sticky tape .... and you cannot make lampshades round without it .... I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. There was nothing I could do, no-one I could call, nothing I could invent. A really ghastly moment. As I started to explain what we would/should have been doing, one of the ladies from Oban remembered that she had brought a present for the other one as a thank you for driving, a lampshade kit! There was tape in that box and they were able to make their shades round before they went home! The two in the pictures at the top in the gallery above. The others were kind enough to meet me today to finish off theirs and we were able to set them on lamp bases to see how they looked lit up.
I think you'll agree that they are all really super. Everyone was rightfully very proud of themselves and carried off their shades destined for pride of place in their homes.
More again soon
PS If you should be in the Bellanoch area of Argyll during the week of 29 July - 3 August then do pop in to see us, Homestyle Argyll, in our pop up shop there.
Comraich Chickens Part I
The red wattle of the elder statesman, jowl-like and pendulous,
wobbles and shudders as he stiffly stalks past.
Fluffy undergarments on show, tiny pink combs
perched just so, the young girls trip ahead.
Matrons, bosomy and usually bustling, sit and doze
dazed by the afternoon’s heat.
Yellow pollen pannier’d bees buzz busily
in and out of blooms
Birds twitter, an ant scurries across a stick
A weathered white whelk shell spirals out
From between the rocks on which I sit.
Comraich Chickens Part II
From within the acid yellow bright ragwort,
The frothy cream of meadow sweet,
Amongst the cool green swirl and furl of ferns
Comes a chattering chirp, a gentle chunter,
Drying grasses rustle and part.
The regal rooster and his hareem appear
From the shadows into the sun.
Full of purpose, bright eyes sharply peer
Seeking out the next seed, ant, or fly.
A bluetit watches as they pass by,
Perched high in the leaves of a lime,
Then he too about his business goes.
Have just entered a couple of short pieces to the Tarbert Book Festival ... eek! It's the first time I've entered a competition & I won't hear for a while so I'm not going to hold my breath!
There's a track near us that runs along the side of Loch Sween called 'Glean a Gealbhan' pronounced 'Gleneealavan'. It's easy walking, ducking under branches, and there's not often anyone else there so the dogs can roam free. Over the years I have walked along here dozens and dozens of times with different dogs. It's a great spot for gathering rowan berries. It's also, for some reason, where I write storis in my head! The plot for 'my novel' and it's follow up came to me when I was walking along here.
With the loch to one side of the path on the other is steeply sloping hillside, the trees grow tall and straight, towering over the path, bracket fungus and Old Mans Beard lichen adorn trunks and branches.
Waterfall of rocks, moss covered and topped with rushes and bilberry bushes. The path is edged with the swirl and curl of ferns, alongside Argyll’s yellow flags, wild iris, sharp yellow amongst the emerald greens.
Grasses have put on their firework display of seed heads, knee high & starred by umbellifer.
At the far end the path opens to a small clearing with access to the shore - for dogs anyway - although the way back up was a bit steeper than someone thought!
More again soon
Hot, Hot, HOT and Hot Dogs sums up the GWCT Scottish Game Fair weekend earlier this month. Too hot for comfort and really too hot for sales. No-one could be bothered to make a decision, unless it was whether to have an ice cream! However, it was great for dog watching and the stall two down from us did a roaring trade in cool jackets for dogs, and they had a paddling pool especially for dogs, we did, briefly, consider going to stand in it too!
The Homestyle Argyll marquee looked very elegant, and we received many compliments for the wonderful display of cushions, lamp shades, animal heads, seascapes and pretty tinkling glass in the faint breeze we managed to conjure up by opening up the sides of the tent, but mostly I was about the dogs.
All ages and sizes and breeds from Scottish deerhounds to dachshunds and everything in between. Wirehaired German pointers; English and Douglas setters; every type of spaniel; a Rhodesian ridgeback; whippets and greyhounds; Vizslas – smooth, wire haired, and long haired; retriever's – golden, flat & curly coat; Labradors by the barrel load; a pack of nine Irish water spaniel's; Collies; a pug; Jack Russell’s; a couple Fox terriers and several Borders; a standard poodle or two; a Bloodhound, a great Dane; even a wirehaired pointing griffon, and lots more besides. Given just how many there were I was initially astonished at how incredibly quiet it was, until it was pointed out to me that gun dogs are trained to be quiet! And there wasn't a fight to be seen, thankfully. I manged to get to see a wee bit of the Agility trials in the main ring which was great, and as we were situated next to the Scurry we saw lots of retrieving going on (& some not retrieving but having fun anyway!)
We moved some of our stock out into the sunshine on Sunday in order to attract a few more visitors to the marquee. Everyone was happy to wonder around just looking at things in the sunshine. It was far too hot to be carrying handful of shopping bags.
I did do some lampshades and lanterns with the Game show especially in mind, the fishing ones were popular. Huntin' Shootin' Fishin' lampshades
Highland Homewares Catherine & I were staying with B’s cousins nearby which was lovely. We were able to sit in the garden until 9:30pm without midge’s only going in when the last of the sun had left the garden. There wasn’t anything else I felt I should be doing, no dialysis, no washing to process, or dog walking to do, or just feeling like I should be doing something other than sitting doing nothing! It was simply perfect, a super weekend and even hough I was 'working' it felt like bit of a break.
The drive back west to home on Sunday evening was beautiful, even after I realised I’d missed my turning and ended up going home via the very scenic route, which took an additional hour and a half! Ugh! Towing a fully laden trailer meant I wasn’t going much above 40 miles an hour. It was a looong drive, eventually arriving home at 20 to 1 I collapsed into bed!
Now it's back to work, some more sorting out of my cabin going on, concentrating on my sewing room this time as I’ve discovered that my lovely old school drawers were absolutely riddled with woodworm and needed to be thrown out. Yet more organising, rearranging, and consolidating of stuff has been going on this week.
Coming up … there’s a make your own lampshade workshop this month on the 18th and 27th of July. Due to demand I've been asked to do an extra SWI Fabric Collage weekend workshop one will be in September and another in October.
Then I’m out and about with lampshades again with the Homestyle Argyll girls locally this time as we are having a week-long pop up ‘Summer House’ shop in Bellanoch at Smithy House, a bit like the Christmas one, only in the summer and for a week. That’s from Sunday 29th July to the 3rd of August. I was delighted to have been invited to judge the Homecrafts section at the Mid Argyll Show this year, that’s on the 11th of August, then it will be Artmap Open Studios weekend before I know it. It's all go and there seems no time to relax, so it's back on with the sorting then I can get on with the making of some new shades & lamps, and I must also remember to finish off writing my fourth sewing booklet which was promised sometime last year…!
More again soon
On one of my afternoon dog walks last month, we walked along the Forestry Commission path at Loch Coillie-Bharr (pronounced: Coyee Var). Past the abandoned township of Kilmory Oib, and to the ruined mill and back. It was one of those, half dry half wet walks, so familiar here, where you start off in the dry but come home wet.
On the way back with my jacket hood up I mostly looked at the path. The hood is too big on my bright yellow fisherman’s ‘oilskin’ and I have to tip my head back to be able to see.
I knew where I was going, and I was quite happy walking along looking at the raindrops splashing in puddles and running in rivulets between the stones. There was a lot of leaf litter lying on the path. Incongruous in summer to see the lanes strewn with green leaves, it was just after storm Hector and we had been fairly bashed about by winds and buffeted by rainy squalls. As we got closer to the carpark the trees change to forestry pines, tall slender firs, they are better at hanging onto their sharp green needle leaves.
The winds had blown through spring cleaning the branches of dead needles, the pathway was strewn with thousands, hundreds of thousands of needles, in shades of browns. They had gathered along the routes of the rainwater like a ladder, swirled into gullies, fringing the edges of pools. They reminded me of stitches, lots and lots of hand embroidered stitches. A bit longer than a seed stitch, but just as haphazard where they had stuck to the wet stones but appearing to have purpose where they had been caught up by the torrents.
They remind me strongly of the work by textile artist Marna Lunt, one of my textile art heroes. All of her work is done by hand, stitch upon stitch upon stitch. Each one precisely placed but with so many they can seem haphazard. Marna’s layering of coloured thread to shade, to sculpt, to define, is second to none and is something I aspire to, but I know I don't have the patience for.
And then we're back at the car again, biscuit bribes guarantee good, if expectant, behaviour and jumping into the boot of the car, then it’s a short drive home to dry us all off & a large mug of tea.
Until next time ..
Fabric hoarder & sewing stuff accumulator; Tea drinker & cake eater; Artist; & Carer; Teacher of things made with needles ...