I have caught some beautiful days this summer. Wandering. Walking. Captivated by the clouds and flowers this year. Always looking up for some loftier inspiration. I dart around like the swallows in my pursuit for easier homemaking, exercise, minimising and reducing waste, writing and looking after our business and the boys. Reminded recently about the need to be grateful for the place where we are at, both mentally and physically. I am fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world. Sometimes grounding ourself in the importance of seeing something through, brings us back to earth.
As I sit down, all my heavy pounds
and lick my lips after a tasty dish,
I’ve spent the afternoon cooking,
dipping in and out of hearing the Cox shout,
the oarsman and woman both,
battle the course of the river head,
I feel sorrow for the rower in me dead,
long ago now in a life I once knew,
experienced that no pain, no gain too,
the strength and the will power in me still,
as I battle the determination of two boys that fill,
all my leftover energies now,
I look out at the sunny spring eve,
wonder if I can run up the hill…how?
I’ve eaten well.
My tummy too full.
I race in my mind and in spirit.
knowing, remembering that once, I did it.
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.”
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.
This month has been our ‘retreat’, cyber hibernation and other withdrawals to create time for spiritual concentration. This has not left much room for words. I posted on Monday images only, partly because I so many photographs there was not much more space for letters. Also, my whole being has slowed down and no words were appearing. I was having a blank.
On my morning walk wearing my ridiculously large ‘insect like’ sunglasses to keep out the pollen, the clouds really caught my attention. Somehow the lenses were acting like a contrast heighten button so the voluminous cotton wool like clouds looked even more impressive. I was thinking about cotton wool and how the pads you can get don’t have the same aptness for thinking of a cloud. The poetic line, ‘wander lonely as a cloud’, wandered into my mind, however the sky today was far from the image of a lonely cloud. It was a gathering for a cloud event, like a stack of candy floss before the opening of a fair. It’s magic when you can see the clouds making a shape of something. This made me think of the sculpture and his talent for making shapes out of things. He said recently that he has no imagination but a storage unit of ideas. In interviews he is often asked the question, ‘Where do you get inspiration from?’ Living with him I can verify that there seems to be an endless supply to ideas. I have never known him to have to think of an idea or to have to search or research for inspiration. He never has a blank. Creativity sits in his mind like the clouds over Yorkshire.
Clouds move, sometimes you can see it slowly, sometimes fast but it is a rare thing to have a cloudless sky over our little village on the edge of the valley. In all this cloud contemplation, I noticed to the left it was a smattering of shades of grey where as to my right it was a different scene, pure blue burst appeared in patches hinting at the suggestion of blue skies behind. If you showed someone who had never seen the sky before my view to my left they would be surprised if you said sky is blue. Sky seems even more rarely these days to be blue here in the North of England. We know that beyond the clouds is a vast expanse of ‘blue’ that we can’t see. In each of the ten sculptures for the ‘Mother and Child’ exhibition the sculptor has used blue. Colour is the key to my husband’s sculptures. They don’t merely serve an aesthetic or decorative quality, they are the meaning behind the piece. The colour is crucial to the philosophy as well as adding a lusory quality.
Colour does evoke feelings and emotions. Why does a blue sky make us feel happier than a grey and white one? We often think that are emotions are influenced by external factors when actually it is more often our thoughts that create our feelings. We are often clouded, pardon the pun, in our vision by what we see before us and are unaware of the unseen, the design behind it all. Again thinking of the sky at night, I love it when it is clear and we can see a few of the twinkling stars. But when I look upwards and see just those few stars, I remember when I had the opportunity to camp in the Serengeti, many moons ago and the awe and wonder at the littering of lights above which was a huge realisation as to how much we aren’t always able to see.
As I spend this time in spiritual practise I focus on how all these marvellous signs in nature indicate to me a creator. I am acutely aware that we don’t all share this view. We were, ‘made in tribes so that we may learn from one another’. We just don’t tend to focus on the learning and veer more towards the misunderstanding. There are so many paths up the mountain and everyone takes their own time and twists off the path. For some, their view-point may be a bit like the grey cloudy sky. They may be faced with a sheer rock face with no possible foot holes so the view of the mountain is obscured and to them non-existent. As with viewing the sculptures, behind what lies in front of us there is often a deeper meaning.
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.
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.
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.
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.
November is over and so with it my writing challenge (#nanowrimo) and I’ve needed a bit of time to recover. What with writing and running the shop, and the boys, it was a relief to have the sculptor back from his ten-day trip to Munich. Everything that should have been straight forward whilst he was away was problematic but my mantra for that time was, “no problems only solutions”- one I have learnt from him. Being mindful not to feel ‘Blue.’
The photographer Renate Forster took some amazing images of which I have just selected a few to show. The sculptor gave her a brief of capturing art work and people with layers of focus and they have turned out brilliantly.
I think this is one of my favourite shots, the focus of the lady looking up at the bird and the painting and sculptor in the background out of focus gives this image depth and detail. I love how she is glancing up at bird perched on the foot. The boys and i have been noticing the lack of birds during these heavy down pouring rainy days and when the weather breaks and gives a natural relief the birds flying is a peaceful sign.
Whilst the sculptor was away I was able to call upon my brother to hep me out of tricky situations when wrong toilets arrived. He was able to quickly jump in his car and go and collect. At the weekend he went off, with his car piled with items collected and donated by local people, to Calais to give some help at the ports. ‘Crazy, Interesting’ is all I heard so far with lots more nationalities than I had thought. I don’t want to highlight this to brag but to point out that in this present climate of almost despair and downward spiralling there are little glimmers of hope. There is some relief. As we plough on into December keep mindful of giving. Even a simple smile is a gift that can brighten up someone else’s day.
There is a bite in the air, the season is changing. As my eldest son and I drove to swimming lessons the other night we spotted trees turning from their summer green into autumn shades. We saw a miraculous site of birds glistening in the sunset like pieces of glitter floating in one contained space. My son described them like ticks using his hands and saying it’s how Baba makes birds, he was transfixed. The shift from summer to autumn always feels more significant to me then any other season. It’s a reminder that all things fade away. We also had news this weekend of a family member in Egypt passed away. Deeply saddening, life changing news. But, there is always change. A kind of transportation, from one realm to another. Transformation.
“When change visits your life, you can be sure things are turning for the better. It may not look that way in the very moment change arrives, but if you will wait a while and have faith in the process, you will see that this is true.” (Taken from someone-lost the reference)
I have been thinking about this as my link to the transportation of sculptures. We’ve done so many trips to London (I write we but it’s the sculptor, the sculptures). I just sort out the congestion charges and ‘wo’-man the shop. Over the summer ‘we’ ventured into Europe with ‘a man with a van’ for exhibition in Germany. The sculptor flew out to meet them and then back out to pack them up. In a quick turn around ‘we’ then had pieces going to Paris.
I had a whimsical fantasies of going as well. In fact with this trip the sculptor didn’t go. We relied on the driver taking them to the gallery and the unload and unwrap happening without my husband. The exhibition opened last Friday. But really that is much more cost effective than having to fly out to meet the sculptures on the other side. It’s amazing how memories can take us to a place though. Thinking of Paris transports me to a time in my early twenties, still searching for myself. I took myself off with a black and white SLR and not enough warm clothing for a February weekend in Paris. Consequently the cold somehow lured me into a ‘Coiffeurs’ and I came out with my hair red.
Well as I reminisce, the reality of this trip was that the driver had problems finding the gallery so I had to practise my very rusty A-level French with a hotel reception staff which our gallery contact number went through to. I couldn’t ‘unlock the language’ and was a little disheartened, when he asked me if I preferred to speak English and he continued to speak in received pronunciation.
Yesterday the sculptor was down to London and back to take ‘Aphrodite’ to Passion of Freedom. At the end of the week he will be back down again for the opening and picking up other pieces to then go somewhere else. At the moment my husband is almost constantly on the road. I am loosing track as to where pieces are! The difficulty with sculpture is the cost and space of moving them from place to place. Transporting them.
There is something about the space that transforms the sculptures. Having space around them to be able to view from different angles makes all the difference to sculpture. Space, dimensions and time all have connections both in sculpture and thinking. Which links me nicely back to this autumn days which have come around so fast again. This year has past by me again making me reflect that I am still waiting for that moment of transformation. When I am totally in the present and not wishing away time or clock watching, waiting for the next milestone or event. I am definitely better at it than I was. The best of thinking is to reflect on creation ‘How am I’? Taking ourselves into account, especially when we don’t know what the future holds. If poetry, art, sculptures helps to give us those gentle remind us then it’s a useful vehicle. The chrysalises gradually transforms into the butterfly. Transporting us from one way of thinking to the next.
“The intelligent want self-control: children want candy” Rumi.
My husband took the work to Newby Hall ready for installation (Exhibition now open). A member of staff commented that the sculptures looked like sweets. They do look like candy canes. Lick-able, as though each colour would taste different. Eating sweets has been a bit of a topic of discussion recently with our boys having, had lots of parties and sweet handouts at school. So candy has been on my mind…but now it is time to start focusing on more aspirational things as we approach our month of retreat, guarding of our lower beings and those animal instincts!
My husband did an interview for Candid magazine once which brought the word ‘Candid’ into my vocabulary a bit more. It was a great discovery. I not only like the word which sounds like candy. I like the meaning. Truthful, straightforward; frank, because I think most of the time we skirt around honesty in preference for politeness. We ‘English’ like politeness and whilst we value honesty I am not sure we can handle candid comments very well. We want things sugar-coated and sweet. Makes me think of the line “some people can’t handle the truth” which I don’t think many of us can. We don’t want that raw reality preferring the hazy safety of polite untruths and staying within our comfort ones. Rather than thinking of our own faults we like to judge others faults before seeing their virtues. It makes us feel better about ourselves but before we do that we need to call ourselves to account. The capacity for self blame is a heathy soul and it humbles us. The importance of scrutinising ourselves and being brutally honest can often lead to an awakening.
Awakening of a realisation of our own actions, behaviours, habits. In a secular context self-awareness has now become mindfulness which although is good practice has no moral dimensions. As Immanual Kant said: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence.” The moral dimension of self-awareness includes nobleness. In the battery farm of the modern capitalist system which aim is producing eggs regularly, getting along with the other chickens and then ultimately you die and get made into cat food. The process goes on and there is no higher aspiration. So preoccupied with all the other chickens, even mindful chickens, we are left at the level of the zoological. Yet, we were made for something higher than the lower self ‘zoo’. Nobility is what happens when we leave behind the animal desires. The thing that makes us human and not animal. Our higher being, one of virtuosity is nobel.
If we awaken to reality in this world we need to consider what we do, what we have been doing.
Forget the sweets, be honest and look at the day that is to come and hope for an awakening.
(reference T.J Winters, Cambridge University)