Making your mark

collections, Colour, Connections, Egyptian, Exhibitions, Making
The Braille Collection by Sam Shendi. Collectively looking like an alphabet system

To quote Mark Twain, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why” has resonated with me for a number of years, firstly because my husband so clearly knows his own purpose and what he finds joy in doing but secondly because I have been very much the opposite of that. Like my shellfish star sign, I scuttle one way then retreat into my shell and then shuffle along in another direction. I have had so many interests over the years that I describe myself as ‘jack of all trades master of none’.

However, on Friday 12th July this year, my mother and I gracefully stumbled upon an exhibition at the British Library. In London, for a weekend away (my first without the boys in over 7 years I might add again) we realised neither of us had been to this tower of treasures before.

‘Writing: Making your Mark’ runs only for a few more weeks and it was a fortuitous turn that led us there. Delightfully, without children I was able to read every display case and successfully answered one of the little quizzes you could test yourself with about where types of writing originated from.

Not only have I struggled with a lack of direction in what I like to do I also need to overcome perfectionism. It is a hinderance. The desire to do things right overtakes the joy of an act. Yet somehow I have managed to keep this blog running for nine years despite my pitfalls in grammar and sentence construction.

It dawned on me in the dark depths of the British library that I have always been writing. Diaries, Journals, poetry, school work, blogging. I have dabbled in Russian, French, Japanese and now Arabic. Although, I am definitely not a linguist the idea of words, calligraphy and the art of writing is definitely something that I have a passion about. I wondered then from the belly of the building of books whether I had finally had that day. The second day that Twain deems an important one. I am declaring it almost so, for accountability perhaps. Fear that incase in a couple of months the idea of being a sports psychologist rears it’s competitive head or the family teacher trait takes a triumphant turn.

Ebony I

Writing features in the sculptors work in his Calligraphy collection and in one of his latest collection ‘Braille Branches’. This collection is one to raise awareness of environmental issues whilst simultaneously connecting with the visually impaired. The sculptures have different textures, surfaces and forms that lend themselves to touch and feel. The flat surface has raised patterns which allow the works to have a written message. When I was in the writing exhibition the section on Braille described it as tactile writing, patterns of dots or cells which can be used to represent letters, numbers and punctuation.

Ebony II
Ebony III

Something about these pieces looks ancient and futuristic combined, like modern tablets on ancient structures or alien-like forms with a primordial message. “Throughout history, we have engaged with writing in countless ways, using a variety of tools and materials. Writing and technology, have often developed hand in hand, inspiring and influencing one another. For thousands of years people have used writing to make their mark in a multitude of ways.” (Exhibition guide)

Today we use screens, express with emoji’s, communicate by text and yet I was thrilled to receive a beautiful fountain pen for my birthday halted in my endeavours to begin as I need ink! What will the future hold for the way we write, create, express and make our mark on the world. Thanks to Mark Twain I am eager to find out why and what happens next….

& -the lessons I have learnt this month.

Colour, Connections, Making, Steel

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‘Ampersand’ 2019. Sam Shendi

My husband was laughing that everyone would know I was poorly the other week because I posted about it on Instagram. Well now even more people will know because I am writing about it on WordPress. However, I have only a few followers so it is not as though thousands of people will know. What is interesting though is that my post had a few more likes and I am aware that the more you divulge about yourself or share yourself, the more likely you are to increase your followers. This is where I struggle because although I would like more readership and followers on some level. I am so introverted that the idea of posting images of myself of  doing stories where I am in them feels totally against my natural inclination.

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The reason I posted about being poorly was that it timely coincided with the sculptors evening photoshoot. Sods Law. I was literally bedridden with a fever and sore throat whilst the boys bounced around in the attic space, which we converted last year. They sounded like a herd of elephants. So I spent time being still and overcoming frustration on several levels. However, the positive is that we have more images to use for social media and galleries now.

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I look back and wonder if I almost brought about my own illness by worrying whether I would still be able to run next month. It is often so difficult to be content with what is happening to us in the present moment but it is the most important time to lean into the situation and learn. So my stillness sparked off doing some meditation which I have done off and on before but never with a regularity, which I was able to do being in bed. I realise now that as much as it is good to move and energise yourself, it is also as important to balance that with stillness. Stillness in a productive way.

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The more I read and learn, ‘Fear is being in a state, ‘not of right mind’. I have no reason to fear the future. Whether I will run or not, whether x,z,z will happen or not.  Fearing the future and worrying only prevents us from focusing on the present and actually makes us suffer twice or once unnecessarily. When you start to understand your own mind, you understand the world. The world is simply what you believe it to be.

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On a completely different subject my husband taught me a knew word when he introduced me to ‘ampersand’. It is quite amusing that he told me it, my husband’s English has improved over the years but I sometimes have to give him spellings or slightly adjust his pronunciation of words. Sometimes I wait a while because I quite like the funny turns of phrase he comes out with like, ‘learning curve” used to be ‘learning curb’. Anyway, I learnt that the alphabet used to have an additional letter, did you know? x,y,x,&. When reciting the alphabet they would say ‘and per se’ so eventually this ran together to become ‘ampersand’.

The argument about never beginning a sentence with ‘and’ is because, to introduce a sentence with ‘and;’ expresses an incomplete thought but it is a stylistic preference rather than a grammatical rule. So you can use it for dramatic or forceful effect.

And so that is why I have punctuated each paragraph with the ampersand sign. So also not quite starting each sentence with and.

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so finally this piece is finished. Usually the sculptor is fairly fast with the process from inspiration to creation, to carving to painting but this big boy has had a longer journey. It was initially created last year and has taken some work moving it and then smoothing it and finally painting it and then having the final photoshoot.

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to give it some scale:

to give scle to &

Temperatures and Temperaments

Making, Mother and Child

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Each afternoon this half term week, I have been in the shop which on these bizarrely warm February days has felt a little frustrating. This time last year we were deep in snow and forecasts do say snow is still on the way. As much as the sunshine has been lovely it is a concern that the seasons seem upside down. We are seeing the affects of climate change first hand. Temperatures slowly rising is not a good sign.

The eldest had his first gig last Friday evening which was amazing to watch. It was surreal to see him very relaxed and easily able to perform in front of a small crowd. He currently practises on an electric guitar at home and when he rehearsed at school one of their bass guitars. So, he desperately wanted to visit the guitar shop this week and look at a bass guitar. It was an interesting lesson for him to look and not purchase. He didn’t want to leave the shop. Teaching him patience.

The youngest had a flurry of football related activities to start the week off school which I had thought would help the arrangements for child care but actually just added in the complication of getting him to and from each day. Ambitious and anxious to do well in anything physical, he overcame his first day nerves and enjoyed three days of soccer in the sun.

I feel like the last remaining grains of our Egyptian holiday have finally disappeared and I am fully back into the routines and rhythms of daily life. Half term was needed simply to break the rhythm. However, it isn’t a break. Logistically more complicated almost but we have had sunshine! When it is good weather I have a compulsive urge to be out in it. I think, because there is never any consistency to the weather in this country.

I realise I live with an artist, a musician and a sportsman in my tribe, all with the temperaments to match. Which I joke, is why I did a Psychology degree, to be able to manage all these personalities. Having said that, I maybe the most temperamental one, my own mood was drastically affected by the moon last week which I have never felt such a connection to before. I do think the elements, the seasons, the weather affect us. What do you think?

I am attempting to make little changes at home, using refills for washing liquid, washing powered, hand soap. Trying to buy things without plastic but I wonder sometimes how this helps. There is so much more I could do but it is hard to be consistent and to keep on top of. Do you refuse, reuse, renew, recycle? We were clearing out the shed and tidying up the back yard last weekend and my fantastic, not so long ago purchased, glass water bottle, was left by me in a place which was perhaps precarious. Despite it’s rather sculptural silicone wrap, landing on the concrete  slab  yard meant it  smashed into several pieces. I was rather upset about it for numerous reasons. Of course all my boys seem to think that if it had been plastic it would have been better!

We are awaiting several projects in the pipeline and so it is a matter of waiting to see what will happen. So the sculptor is slightly in limbo waiting and with one of his metal pieces needing lots of sanding time he has set to work on a collection called, ‘Broken Clouds’. Going to collect the eldest from the studio who has been helping the sculptor in the afternoon has meant I have seen the progress of this new creation. It has been more of an experimental one but also a return to resin again which the sculptor had decided to stop. You can almost smell the toxicity in the air on approaching the studio. I now understand why the sculptor is concerned about his health. I think the studio is probably the antithesis of my approach to our home.

I like this collective title ‘Broken Clouds’ as it links to our current concern with climate change but perhaps also a connection to ourselves. Is the weather reflecting society. Is everything broken? I don’t often think too far in the future but when I consider what the world might be like when my boys are adults and for future generations, I do hope we can start to fix things. I believe it all starts with us. We have to be the one making the change.

“The greatest threat to our planet

is the belief that someone else will save it”, Robert Swan.

What is sculpture?

Connections, Making

bustblack

My Dad gave me a brilliant article titled, “When does art become art?” by John-Paul Stonard. Stonard argues that when we look at art “we depend overwhelmingly on the presence of the artist’s name”. Is it the ‘art’ that makes the artists rather than the other way around? “We take the thing we are looking at as ‘art’ because we have been told that it has been made by an artist”.

But what makes an artist an artist?

Micheal Craig Martin’s theory is, “As soon as you make a piece of art, you’re an artist”. You can only emerge in the art world as an artist if the work of art gives credit to the master. So the artwork has to be of a standard or quality? However, I am not sure we see that so much nowadays. It is not always about a thing of beauty. For my husband the idea that if you make art you are an artist doesn’t feel right. His idea is that to be an artist it is a level that you achieve when you combine, creativity, ideas and natural talent along with years of practise. My husband’s opinion is that:

“Art is like a world in a different galaxy, you have to travel for years to get to it and when you arrive anything you create becomes art”. 

His answer to the question ‘What is sculpture?’ is that it sculpture is a statement which shares the space with the viewer. It isn’t alive but it is a strong element or subject.

An old colleague of mine, having seen my endless Instagram stories about, ‘what is sculpture’ sent me a message saying his University tutor once said, “sculpture is the thing you bump into when you step back to look at painting”. Before meeting the sculptor I was always so much more interested in painting, I think for me art was painting. Where as now I feel there is something a little more sophisticated about sculpture. There is more of an avenue for abstraction and ambiguity. I was always interested in whether abstract art was a way forward or a dead-end? I think my opinion on that is ever-changing.

However, historically sculpture had more focus and attention. Monuments erected to dominate and display power and prowess. In the past, the Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans used their sculptures to connect people with gods. Sculptures were used to overpower people with the presence of three dimensional statues deemed to be a deity. Rulers had sculptures made of themselves. Sculpture was valued and therefore a method to mark out a society.

Duchamp changed the art world with his theory that the role of the viewer completed the work and created a total withdrawal from physically completing work. Heidegger in his ‘Origin of the Work of Art’ in  1935 argues that the artist remains inconsequential.lifeboat-2

“Beginning with art, rather than the artist , returns to the poetry of art”

The Industrial Revolution changed the possibilities available to sculptors. Carving had always been the main skill perhaps where as now fabricating, assembling, combining together materials seem to all be sculptural qualities. After the rise of modernism, the artist became able to manufacture all sorts of materials for the production of sculpture. Duchamp’s radical gesture opened the doors to different ways of generating sculpture. But the lines are now blurred between art forms. What about the statement, ‘You can’t have art without a creator’? Studios in the sixties changed as the factory and fabricators started to be more involved. The removal of carving out your craft, chipping away at a material to create a figure  was no longer the only means by which to produce form. So there isn’t just one person involved in the process but maybe just one person with the idea.

tube form

 

Other influences were nature and organic form on sculpture. Bio-morphism in art relates to the integration of natural and organic form into a work. These works sometimes look amorphous. Suddenly sculpture doesn’t have to be about form or focus on the human body. It opens up an avenue for a whole new exploration into shape, structure, space, line, dimensions.

I think if you look at a Shendi Sculpture, whether you understand it or not, it can be appreciated, observed and will stand the test of time. This is what I am unsure about with the more conceptual sculptures of today. In years to come will it still be able to exist without an ‘artist’ or ‘curator’ placing the ‘objects’ together in their ‘correct’ positions.

Is it all in the labels? Labels on the walls in the galleries, labels that we give people, labels that we give things. Lawerence Scott who was speaking on Russell Brand’s podcasts, Under the Skin last week touched on this idea of labelling and words. My interpretation of what was said, was that we label things in order to define them. Sometimes that definition packages things into boxes when the whole point is to try to think outside the box. Words sometimes are not quite enough to describe what we mean.

I asked our boys, “what is sculpture?” and the eldest replied, “it’s a man-made form which has meaning”. We have been discussing and questioning, as we constantly see new work, which we wonder whether fits in our 11 year olds definition.

Creativity today seems to come down to ideas and in the sculptural sense you can simply present an idea, which can then be classed as art. Classified as ‘art’, only if you are an established ‘artist’, of course.

'chemo 2007'

I’m not sure whether there is any conclusion to this question, but endless opportunities for discussion and I guess that ultimately is the point of art.

How to understand the mind of a sculptor

collections, Colour, Making

Mademoiselle 1

How do you see this sculpture? What do you see?

An abstract form? An insect, some kind of creature? An Alien? A landscape? Or something from your own imagination?

Whatever you see, you see something, you think about something, you remember something?

Frank Stella famously quoted that, “Sculpture is just a painting cut out and stood some where”. This quote I think could sum up my husband’s work. They are like three dimensional canvases. This piece particularly feels that way.

The other evening at the kitchen table, we had finished our supper and were chatting over a hot cup of tea. The last few days had been hot but the cool evening breeze had lowered and the hot tea felt magic.

It’s those little moments, subtle but memorable. When I asked my husband about this piece and he spoke and I wished I had recorded it.

For him, he has the idea, a shape, a concept in his mind. It is completely carved from every angle. He turns it around in his minds eye. Once complete he sets to work. The form then inspires the colour and like a painted canvas he then wraps it around the sculpture like gift wrapping a present , tight to the edges of the shape.

“Mademoiselle” 2017. Rudimentary Collection. Sam Shendi

This piece is a female form, a young woman experimenting with different hues, finding her true colours. She struts her stuff, thin not yet shaped by life or motherhood. It reminds me of A few days I spent in Paris in my early twenties by myself with my camera, taking back and white photos, not really appreciating the time, the freedom and the vitality I had.

For most of us our minds work in thoughts, ideas, imagination, maybe each one of us thinks different. Perhaps we all are the same. But to go that next step and create something not seen before is unique. That’s why (following on from my last post about SATS and Education) what we learn in school or the test scores don’t relate to our true potential.

Artists don’t need to create a realistic version of something these days. We have cameras and videos for record. To create something inspiring, memorable, colourful yet captures movement, form, beauty is the skill of a true sculptor.

Blossoming from a road trip

Colour, Connections, Making

blossomed 3

‘Blossomed’. 2017. Sam Shendi. Rudimentary Collection

So I missed my newly regular Friday posting last week due to being away on a road trip with the boys. The three of us ventured all the way down to the south coast, taking in Oxford and catching up with old friends, the Roald Dahl museum, the stormy sea, staying with a relative, Stonehenge and Warwick Castle.

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The sun definitely came out for what felt like the first time (and only time this holiday!) on our day at Stonehenge which our eldest relished as he listened to his audio guide for information intently. Like ancient sculptures they stood majestically in open fields reaching up to something beyond and yet rooting down into the earth. I felt my boy blossomed in his eagerness to learn and absorb the history.
This piece, ‘Blossomed’ is also reaching up to something beyond, looking like it has been inspired by UFO’s or that which is extra-terrestrial. But, imagine the process of turning clay into a figure and the stages you would capture in-between the initial lump of clay and the anatomical figure. This is the rudimentary stage. Here below you could see the curve of the back to the right with stomach in red, arms stretched out with clasping cup like hands and legs morphed into pincer like structures .
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A road trip feels like a rudimentary holiday. It is a basic sort of holiday. The positives about going on a road trip is that you see new things, learn and discover not just about the places you visit but about yourself. I really don’t like getting lost! On our first day I was totally reliant on my phone to get us to my friend’s  house in Oxford, usually I just plug-in an address and it tells me where to go. Well, when you are in a new place without a map and for some unknown reason the phone is no longer speaking to you, it gets tricky! Patience gets thin. So on day two I ditched the phone and went old school, purchased an overpriced road map and navigated my way to the Roald Dahl Museum and then everywhere else for the next 4 days. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways after all. Whilst I think I slightly regressed in my behaviour the boys excelled in meeting new people, spending time with an elderly relative and her dog and taking in all that was new. It was great to see them blossoming. I only see that now in hindsight obviously. Slightly sleep deprived and relentless driving with boys bickering in the back with each other was my filter at the time. However, I have returned with a renewed energy of sorts. Starting to return to a regular pattern of sleep and healthy food but a change is definitely as good as a rest!

Whilst we were away the sculptor painted the boys’ room and the living room. So we came back to an upside down house and we got straight into painting, in the attic, recently plastered and all set to become a new space. I am managing the feelings of overwhelm by focusing on the end goal and the fact that this had been on the wish list for a few years. Positive thinking and affirmations and being more structured with my daily planning have definitely helped this all take shape.

Blossomed 2
The shape of this sculpture from this angle (above) looks like a bud, a seed or a pod growing out of something moving and changing and then below the angle shows it blossoming into something reaching and grasping in all directions for every opportunity. Just like the boys, little seedlings growing and changing daily. Blossoming.

(I wish the weather would!)

Blossomed 1

A journey from creation to situation

collections, Making, Public Art

Hammer Head

Hammer Head. Only Human Collection. Sam Shendi 2017

On Saturday in the early hours of the morning, the sculptor set off to take a number of sculptures down to St.Botolph’s building in Aldgate, London. It’s a long journey there and back in one day and it takes it out of him each time. The sculptures will be  on display for 6 months and dominating the reception area of this modern building.

Some people use only their heads to plough on through, working hard, determined to make a difference. They use their heads for work. It’s quite appropriate then that this sits inside the reception for a Law firm.

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preparing the hammer head

It is easy to forget once they are inside an industrial building that these sculptures are all hand carved by my husband, it’s so ‘perfect’ looking, with today’s modern industry where things are moulded and formed by machines. My husband’s  philosophy is that art should be beautiful, he has such skill with his hands and traditional sculpture methods which makes me believe he is one of the classic sculptors in our time and we are working to get him known for that. Behind each piece is a philosophy, a story.

The sculptures themsleves go on such a journey from creation, being in the studio, photo shoots and they look different being placed in the ‘outside world’ rather than being in the studio. These have had such a fantastic response on social media which affirms how these works should be out in the public arena wherever possible.

We are all on that journey. From the start, to where we will end up and how we will tunnel our way along. Laid back with no ambition? Meandering along life’s twists turns? Or like a hammer in a relentless and repetitive rhythm to achieve the end result. It is a journey in the making from creation to situation.

To go and view these pieces you can get in touch with info@ARTful.org.uk.

Shendi sculptures are ‘essentialism’

Making, Old Masters

When writing blurbs or bits and pieces for galleries, agents and articles we often describe my husband’s work as minimal, referencing the sixties minimalistic movement and stripping the human form down to the bare essentials.

In my own recent quest for minimising the home, trying to contain our family in a small northern English terrace house, I discovered Greg McKeown’s book “Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.” Just a few pages in it dawned on me that, the way of the essentialist, is very much the way of the sculptor. ‘The relentless pursuit of less but better. It doesn’t mean occasionally giving a nod to the principle. It means pursuing it in a disciplined way”.

Originating from Aristotle, the term ‘essentialism’ is the idea that everything has an essential nature to it. Plato, too was one of the first essentialists, believing in the concept of ideal forms.

Our youngest has asked a few times, “Why don’t you do arms Baba”. The sculptor answers making the point that they aren’t necessary. I have heard him speak about how Egyptian sculpture lasted longer than Roman sculpture because there were no weak points. An almost ideal form that could remain. Roman sculpture today stands without arms because they have been lost to the elements where as the ancient Egyptians made no gaps between arm and torso. The Egyptians knew what was essential but also had a style that would remain in tact. It is in the taking away that more is added, and in this case time.

Not only does my husband sculpt in an essentialist way I feel he lives his life to that aim. He lives by design (pardon the pun)  perhaps it goes hand in hand, he is so ruthless in his pursuit of sculpting and because he is not yet a full-time artist his time has to be used to purposefully. He has a, “disciplined, systematic approach for determining where his highest point of contribution lies, and then his execution of these things appear to be almost effortless”. That effortlessness makes it easy to think that it is un-challenging or un-demanding and consequently, I become forgetful of how hard he works.

In this journey from realism to the minimal my husband’s work takes away all that is not essential to the story he is telling. “An Essentialist thinks almost everything is non-essential”. For the pieces are like three-dimensional stories in a very contemporary, minimal form. Play is an important part of our development because it doesn’t just help us to explore what is essential. It is essential in and of itself. My husband’s work is playful in the use of colour but also the shapes and themes which are provoked.

‘The essential life is living a life that really matters, a life lived without regret. If you have correctly identified what really matters, if you invest your tie and energy in it then it is difficult to regret the choice you make. You become proud of the life you have chosen to live.”

In short, I think Sam Shendi is up there as one living an essential life and consequently his master pieces mould into an art movement of Essentialism. Then of course I should say, it is essential that they are seen, that the work is viewed and appreciated by the many. This is what the sculptor is working so hard to achieve.

Example of minimising with meaning

collections, Colour, Conceptual, Connections, Making

After posting my last blog entry I realised I had left out a really important image of a piece which sums up the  ‘Less is more idea’. So to follow on from Friday’s post:

thinker

‘Thinker’ (2007)

When asked to choose a favourite piece the sculptor often  settles for this piece; inspired by two of his favourite artists Rodin and Mondrian. After making this piece he realised he was influenced by both artists and the architecture of the 60’s. “The concept of minimalist architecture is to strip everything down to its essential quality and achieve simplicity. The idea is not completely without ornamentation, but that all parts, details, and joinery are considered as reduced to a stage where no one can remove anything further to improve the design.”

I think these words echo truth concerning this sculpture and many of the others, “no one can remove anything further to improve the design.”

This piece is entitled ‘The Thinker’, harps back to the old masters but brings a unique contemporary style for today. It combines the fascination of the piece, ‘The Thinker’ by Rodin and the abstractions of Mondrian.

Ad Reinhart remarked, “The more stuff in it, the busier the work of art, the worse it is. More is less. Less is more. The eye is a menace to clear sight. The laying bare of oneself is obscene. Art begins with the getting rid of nature.
The use of colour is with purpose, the bright yellow represents the spark of an idea, a light bulb moment enhancing the idea of ‘The Thinker’. So whilst this piece strips back all the details of the human body, it still provokes thought, meaning and symbolism.

Pace and the art of being in the moment

Making

I wasn’t so surprised to see it’s been 24 days since I last posted a blog. Time feels it is running faster and faster. My sister-in-law once told me “life is like a room, in one door, out the other.” The days at the moment seem to pass with increasing speed.

The speed at which something happens.s I seem to fail miserably at keeping up with any one challenge I am pleased that this blog is ticking a long. So I must keep it up. Along with all the other challenges I set myself.

The sculptor works daily and many of his Facebook comments remark about his process, his relentlessness, his speed and if or not he ever rests. I think he has a keen awareness that the physicality of his work may be that one day he will not be as able to work with the same energy.

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‘Defeated’ in progress

Working on the Mother and Child collection in the studio

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When I think about why I haven’t been writing, it’s because I have been reading and walking. All of which require a certain pace and both I do far to fast. On a family Sunday walk this weekend my husband told me slow down. I didn’t need to be walking so fast. I skim read because I want to get to the end of the story. I am highly aware at the moment that I am  rushing the children constantly with barking orders.

The mindful art of being in the moment is also the ability to slow down, to be present truly and focus on what you are doing in that moment.

On the other hand, my writing project has halted at the first hurdle of editing and ordering chapters. I dart around from one project to the other not yet finding a steady pace to it all. Despite the sculptor’s speed and seemingly unrelenting pace, he always has the ability to be in the moment. I think this is what gives him the ability to harness the imagination an creativity into the creation. I have just finished reading (too quickly) one of the most beautiful reads. A book which made me realise I need to slow down the moments, really understand what my, earlier in the year, daily yoga challenge was teaching about taking in a deep breath and changing pace.