We are only human after all

Most of the work my husband sculpts forms part of a collection, a group of sculptures under the same title. The latest finished collection is, “Only Human”, born from ideas taken from human phrases. Phrases we use in conversation that has then shaped the form of these vessels. Human beings are fallible, we are not perfect and we can only strive for improving ourselves.  Always  makes me think of the song, “Human” by Rag’n’bone, as the boys did a Viking song based on the rhythm and we had the song going around our head constantly. ” We are only human after all, don’t put your blame on me.” Human beings are no longer a subject of focus on a daily basis and in many ways have become devalued. Alex Rodgers wrote a book with the same name about the current issues and problems young people face in today’s society.

Each sculpture is created as a human figure whilst simultaneously acting like a canvas which if stretched out would give you an abstract colourful painting, showing that emotion has a colourful impact on human energy and action. These pieces are a frozen body movement which has been shaped by the emotion to allow you to understand that each one of them is only a presentation of who you are. The colour e describes the emotion hidden within the piece and is a completion of the actual concept. Our emotions are so powerful, if we look back at the past mankind uses this emotion to direct not just thousands but millions.

All these pieces have been hand carved using various materials and then painted. Many people can have a create talent, they can draw, paint, take a photography or work with clay or wood. It is something again to bring something out from an imagination of an idea or concept and one in which you are telling a story. In an attempt to be more organised the next series of blog posts I will go through each one in turn, but for now you can think of your own  titles for the pieces.

Only Human. Sam Shendi. 2017.


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Why the long face, soul so beautiful?

Soul so beautiful

Oh soul, so light, so beautiful

This world is just too much for you

Your feet are treading softly

On broken glass

The pain seeps from your skin

Your eyes flicker of the sadness within

As you clamber to hold

on to the day

The mind is a wild garden

over grown, lost, forgotten

bird songs echo of

the silent tears you weep

‘Long Face’, Sam Shendi at Graham’s Gallery Johannesburg

The Date

I looked to the stars and promised to stop searching and start focusing on myself. Two days later, May 19th, I remember the date, there was a knock on the front door of my parents house. I walked down the stairs and there he stood. Almost like a prayer answered. He was designing the bathroom and we all sat at the dining room table talking to my parents about bathroom taps. I have a vague recollection of bringing down my art folder and showing him the cards I was working on. Think he had been expecting a 15 year old when my parents had said they had a daughter at home.

It was pouring down with rain so my Dad offered him a lift back to the shop and he asked him why I looked sad. My Dad told him and he said something along the lines of, I’ll look after her. He then went into the showroom (we didn’t own one at the time) and told the owner he had just met his wife. That was fourteen years ago next month.

Today we have been married 11 years. How he knew, I don’t know. He knows things like that. Strong gut instinct, where as I have less of a gut instinct. Yin and Yang we are. Funny how we remember significant dates. Capsules of time. I hear a lot about people having date nights. We don’t do date nights. It’s aways a date. We seem to be in a perpetual flow of living, talking, laughing, walking through this journey of life, art and love.

The style and theme of this new collection started way back then in those early days. He made a medium sized wooden one and hand painted it in our flat. It was so different from all his clay work at that time. I loved it, I always said it was the best. We then had it outside our house for years but of course it couldn’t sustain the weather conditions. Once we had the studio he made 3 large ones from steel. One sold through Mayfair and another through Saatchi online to Panama, we had interest in the third but they chose something else instead. I always jump up and down saying I knew it was special. Now we have a collection of these, a reminder of how things start and grow. Like a date.

The Date (2016) Sam Shendi

Creative Education

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Family Portrait (2016)

I thought that following my perhaps, sorrowful sounding poem, in my last post; I should qualify that I don’t in anyway regret the decision to stop rowing. I had a fleeting thought where I wondered why I didn’t follow through with doing the PGCE course at Cambridge, from where I could have followed through with rowing after my degree more easily than rowing out of London but I wouldn’t be where I am now if that had happened. Fate. My parents are both teachers and coincidently both ‘the sculptor’s’ parents were. I feel there is something about education which is in our blood, but both myself and my two siblings have probably intentionally avoided it. Which is why I probably didn’t go through with the PGCE course!

So my relationship with my boys education is quite impassioned. After going to parents evening the other week it is apparent that both boys are naturally creative. I guess it’s in the genes. As much as I am impressed by both their individual teachers and the creativity that has been covered. I wish for them a more creative led education system. I am not sure this current system will display the bright sparks they are. But does that really matter?

Part of me wishes that I had the energy, resources and space to home school them. So that learning could be child-creative led. In today’s world I am not sure there is such a need to be solely focused on Maths and English and the level for a 6 year old seems absurd. I am not sure I could answer some of the SAT’s questions on the Key stage one paper. Yet they also do interesting topic work but I am not sure what that teachers them per say.

right brainEducation should not be about ticking boxes or getting grades. It should be about learning, exciting and encouraging learning as a life long process. My six year old’s teacher said that, ‘you can tell he sees drawing as work’. However, if you ask him what he likes at school he will say, “Art” and what he doesn’t like is “working”. Surely all learning needs to be seen as fun for as long as possible. If sitting a six year old down for fractions and finding a verb in a sentence is hard work it leave little for when they are 16 surely.

I also think achievement in school does not necessarily correlate with life achievement or career achievement.  It is difficult to compare my husband’s education, he was schooled in Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia and Fate. His education really started when he was at university in Cairo, which was free but that’s a whole other issue. So I could rant on but instead will  introduce this new collection. The Family Portrait, it is one of a set which is a smaller sized collection which I will try and cover over the next few weeks.

Heads together

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‘The rough collection’ (2016) Sam Shendi

My husband seems to be able to tap into some subliminal subconscious web of communication. There have been several times where he has been working on something which parallels what is happening else where.

These heads were created at the end of last year. Usually working to a smooth, perfected finish these pieces are the opposite. Rough and ready to represent the experiences in life that leave a mark and shape us. Entitled; ‘Mr Green’, ‘Mr Blue’, ‘Mr White’, ‘Mr Red’ and ‘Mr Grey’, colours often symbolising mood, emotion, feelings, expressions. I have put this image with the sculptor in the scene to show the scale of them. As a group, ‘Head’s together’ which yesterday I stumbled across is a campaign, http://www.headstogether.org.uk ,which is spearheaded by Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It is raising the awareness of “unresolved mental problems” and “wants to help people feel much more comfortable with their everyday mental wellbeing and have the practical tools to support their friends and family.”

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Sketch by Sam Shendi
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Mr Blue (2016) Sam Shendi

I thought it would be interesting to show a sketch and sculpture together for a change. I love seeing the lines on paper and then the shift into three dimensions. The bird symbolises the idea of voices or the noise pecking away at the mind.

Mental health has huge stigma, often misunderstood and a reoccurring theme in my husband’s work partly I think because of his increasing awareness of how much it was hidden and not spoken of growing up in rural Egypt. It’s the same here in the UK but with media and celebrities speaking out it is something being uncovered and discussed more and more. It would appear it is a global issue on the rise of being discussed. Again, these pieces show a visual story. A visual interpretation of a subject, theme, idea which we all have connection with an experience of, a shared similarity beyond the differences of culture, class, education, gender.

‘Shelter’, a new piece in the Motherhood collection

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‘Shelter’ by Sam Shendi

This is simply one of the most stunning pieces my husband has made, though I think that every time he finishes one.

In Maslow’s paper , ‘The Theory of Human Motivation” he proposed that healthy human beings have needs which he arranged in a hierarchy. Physiological and safety needs being at the bottom of the pyramid indicating more primitive or basic than others (such as social and ego needs). If we think of those physiological and safety needs for a child as  breathing,  food and water, place to sleep, security of the family, health and place to live we might group that under a heading ‘Shelter’.

Shelter 1

A mother’s first instinct is to bring her child to her chest, cover them and protect them from the world around. A shelter is a building that provides cover. Some mothers in the world are looking after children with no building or structure to protect their offspring. Mothers are the only shelter. The curvature of this piece is as though the mother is moving her body to be a physical shelter.

Shelter 3

Shelter 8

The way the lights and the shadows fall enhance the beauty of this piece but the almost crumpled position of the woman’s body displays her potential discomfort, the sacrifice and the perseverance to keep the babe protected.

Where we are more fortunate to have those essentials of a roof over our heads with warmth and food, we start to shelter our children from the reality of the world around us. How much should we do that? Can children become over protected so much so that they can’t function in society because it is too harsh a reality. These questions are starting to whirl round my mind as my eldest, I am observing, is starting to leave those years of innocent childhood behind him. How do we persevere the innocence and wonder of those formative years without restricting all that the world offers. Should we shelter our children from the inevitability of the environment we live in today?

Shelter 9

Shelter 10

Practicality and the art of tidying

I have been itching, quite literally, as my eczema has been so bad but an investment in a pair of marigolds seems to be helping with the problem. Suggested by my husband, no problems only solutions. However, that was not my point. I have been desperate to carry on with my sorting and de-cluttering since the boys went back to school on Tuesday. I have been at the shop though, as ever practical, my husband ordered a storage unit for the side of the studio to put in work which is not in exhibition but finished so to create more space in the studio for creating. He has been impatiently wanting this solution for a while.

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storage 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He booked out a whole day to wait for the delivery, only to be told they couldn’t make it as they needed a special machine. They said they could bring it at 6pm so my husband waited until 7.30pm and it still didn’t arrive. 8am the following morning we received a call saying they were outside the studio. We both wonder why we are so excited about storage and tidying at the moment.

Today, the sculptor was up early (3.30am) again London bound as we have excitedly sold ‘Madame Butterfly’. Then he and his right hand man are heading on to deliver the remainder of the calligraphy collection to the Hannah Pescher sculpture gardens.

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Some of the calligraphy collection heading to Hannah Pescher

So I have been in the shop all week unable to carry on my house de-clutter project. However, since my last post which resonated with many people a dear friend pointed me in the direction of the KonMari method. So, I have had time this week to do a little research. The method has been created by a Japanese lady Marie Kondo.

Japan and all things Japanese are in my blood, it feels or has definitely have influenced the shaping of me in someway. When I was 18 I went to a small village to live and work in a Leonard Cheshire home. At that time I had only ever been to France and Holland, so the culture shock was huge but I embraced and enjoyed the deep and spiritual meaning which seeped into every aspect of the lifestyle and way of being.

This sculpture, ‘Madame Butterfly’ is the outline of a woman wearing a Kimono. A geisha girl. The opera is very much about the meeting of east and west and there is such contrast between the attitudes and styles of the western world and the eastern traditions. As in the simplicity I desire for the home, this style of the theme of work by husband is about stripping back the outline to the simplest form.

madame b2

Looking into Marie Kondo’s style and her art of tidying was a great reminder of the Japanese art of being and living. Something I have not been doing and not obviously picked up from my time in Japan as I looked last night at the disaster and disorganisation of my domain. So, eager to implement it, I ‘KonMari’ -ed my wardrobe which is where she suggests to start. With clothing. This seems where I have been going wrong. Starting with all my Japanese memorabilia, letters and souvenir boxes was too hard. I need to learn how to sense whether an item ‘Spark’s Joy’ or not. According to her, by the time I have worked through clothes, books, documents and miscellaneous only then can I tackle those things that have meaning.

In just two hours I folded my huge pile of clothes, origami style and feel instantly inspired. Today wearing a skirt I have never worn before, so much so that the boys were shocked this morning and wondered if I was taking them to school with it on. A skirt which I bought in Egypt when I was staying with my sister-in-law for an extended period of time during maternity leave. So immediately the item has a memory, a story attached to the item of clothing and in this case it spark’s joy. Although, I did have to negotiate the steps up to school a little bit unused to the length of dress.

In today’s busy, constant buying and consumer driven world we all seem to have a deep desire to get back to a more basic way of life. Once we have detached from the past we can focus on the here and now and have no fear of the future- this is the theory. Can we put it into practice?

As the sculptor parts with another sculpture to someone who has purchased it as an item which will hopefully spark joy for them, I wonder what to do with my treasured kimono? Defiantly not something practical to be wearing on the school run.

madame b
Kimono Section of ‘Madame Butterfly’

‘Mother of Many ‘and the Motherhood “challenge”

On Wednesday I did my first ‘wordless’ post which I actually found tricky because there is so much I want to say about this glorious piece, ‘Mother of Many’.

MOTHER OF MANY 8
‘Mother of Many’ By Sam Shendi

Ironically, I also posted three pictures of my boys on Facebook due to a ‘nomination’ for a ‘motherhood challenge.’ My ramblings for this piece were not going to be as follows but I shall save it for another Mother and Child post. However, I felt I needed to get some thoughts down on ‘paper.’

For those not in the bizarre word of social media, ‘ I was nominated to post 3 pictures that make me happy to be a Mother’ and then you had to tag  10 people who you think are great Mothers to post pictures for what was named the ;Motherhood Challenge!’ Now, I deliberated over doing this for two days (amongst everything else) mainly because I really try not to post pictures of the boys on the internet any longer. If I do I try not to get too much of their faces in. It’s a shame really as my whole purpose for joining Facebook way back was so that family abroad could see pictures of their nephews/family here in UK.

I am not sure what I was thinking when I posted them I think I have been spending too much time on Facebook in distracting myself from editing my first draft at an attempt at a novel (now there’s a challenge). But, perhaps I saw it as a celebratory thing rather than a ‘challenge’ and when I chose friends/family for it I didn’t think they were any better at the role than ones I didn’t choose. Anyway, after reading this article in The Guardian I realised I should have been a little stronger in my convictions of not posting. Mainly because of course when you tag someone your post appears in their newsfeed and I find that a little disconcerting.BBC News also have a response and a discussion as people have reacted in very different ways about it. So, I decided then to withdraw my post – I should have just put up the image below. Click on the link to see a lovely animation made by my friend which is called ‘Mother of Many’.

MOTHER OF MANY 2

I am not so sure what I feel about the word ‘challenge’ in this instance I think the wrong word has been used. Challenge means a call to prove or justify something / invite to engage in a contest (contest meaning supremacy). I think it is this focus that has caused ruffled feathers. I have done a few challenges lately, yoga, writing and dairy-free diet which all have some element of the definition in it.

Motherhood, however shouldn’t be a contest and it is in this world of social media and school playground politics where there can be an element of bragging and competition which is unhealthy, unrealistic and quite simply annoying. There are women in the world who face real challenges of where to find the next meal, drink of clean water, shelter, place of security for themselves and for their family. Yes, there are women for whom it is a’ challenge’ to get pregnant (I am not sure I like the word challenge in this sentence at all, but I am making my point). For we all face daily challenges, mothers or not, some that makes us smile some that make us frown.

So, I will end my little dilemma debate and dedicate this image to my beautiful Mother, mother to three and many children she has taught, my husband’s Mother who had five children as in the sculpture, to my grand-mothers and to all friends, family, readers and women of the world; whether with children or without because the ‘mothering’ quality is in us all whether we have children entrusted to us or not. ‘Mothering’ which means to care for people the way that a mother does, can be done by anyone. For there is always a moment when someone needs that close care and attention.

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” ―Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

Challenges: Nanowrimo, Solo exhibition & Surrey sculpture Society talk all in one month!

At the beginning of the year I started a 30 day yoga challenge which I did successfully and have repeated it throughout this year. At the beginning of September I gave myself the challenge of compiling a book of my own poems and pictures of my husband’s sculptures as a gift for my Father who had been suggesting it for a while.

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I was really pleased with the finish of it though it felt quite thin and made me understand the word ‘volume’ a little bit more. I have come to realise that challenge for me needs to have some external pressure.

At University I spent most of my time rowing and would rise to the early morning alarm to train which happened 7 days a week. When I think of the 2k and 5k races we would compete in off the blocks we had adrenaline and excitement to fule the first few strokes and then we would hit a wall, pain in the legs, pain in the chest and we would row through it. Aided and assisted by words like ‘Dig deep’ ‘Pull harder’ which our cox would yell at us, we would dig deep and we would keep going beyond the lactic acid build up. We would pull past other boats competing against them and drive ourselves forward. Perhaps this competition took all competitiveness out of me but since then I haven’t quite given myself the same kind of challenges. My little daily yoga or writing challenges have been small by comparrison.

However on Sunday I started a new challenge which though not physical like rowing seems a huge challenge at the moment amogst everything else which is going on, which I will get to. I have started the Nanowrimo challenge (National novel writing month) where you aim to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I just happened to see an advert in a magazine for it and started to wonder if I was ready. I need this motivation but totally unplanned and unprepared I sat down on Sunday and wrote, thrilled I thought this was going to be easy but this was the adreneline and excitment out of the box. Second day I stalled. Conincidently, after being out of touch for a while my rowing cox, I discovered she is also doing this challenge and through the modern connectivity of technology is coxing me by email words of encouragement. So from a distance we are tapping away at the keyboards, scribbling out the words and so I prepare you for perhaps a more visual blog this month whilst my words get counted elsewhere.

poster solo

The sculptor meanwhile on his own set of challenges, set by himself, in a very different way from my own, is preparing for his first solo exhibition this month in Munich. So we are busy getting lot of sculptures, paintings and words ready for this. So, if that wasn’t enough on our plate, to add something else to the pile of things to do in November and more immediately he is going down to Surrey tomorrow to deliver a talk. It has come around quicker than we expected having been in the diary for months. He is ready but yesterday I joked that I felt he was in denial about it. I always like using the word denial to the Egyptian, as I remember a friend making the pun about de’ Nile. Anyway, enough laughing we we’d better get ready, I am blatantly distracting myself from the novel and any preparation needed for tomorrow.

TALK poster