Creative Education

family portrait
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.

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Boys, Barnsley and beyond.

Friday afternoon I took the boys out of school and headed down to Barnsley, it was busy on the roads but according to my phone we were in good time. The boys had snacks in the back but my youngest wasn’t happy with egg sandwiches as they would make him smell he grumbled. This is the boy who eats enough eggs to warrant me having a chicken farm. My eldest pointed out the sign for Barnsley but ‘no’ I said with trusty faith in my technology, we were coming off at the next junction. So we finally came off the motorway and  into some traffic works and something didn’t feel quite right. So I pulled in at a garage and looked at my phone. Somehow, and I have no idea how this happened I was heading to the wrong postcode. Fortunately still in the Barnsley area but I had over shot and we were much further south than we needed to be. So I had to turnaround and head back 20 min north with only 5 minutes until opening time. My eldest who usually joins in with my panic with sound effects was surprisingly ultra supportive in my panic. Reminding me that it was all ok, that we were all ok and we would still get there. That everything was going to be alright. It was a good little test for me. I knew we didn’t need to get there at 4pm on the dot but I do like to get to places on time and it was frustrating. Trying to keep calm I reminded myself to think that for whatever reason we had been sent on a little extended tour getting frazzled wasn’t going to help. It was getting darker, and busier driving into the one way system of the town centre so my tension did increase a little. We found parking easily enough and found the gallery. Only 15 min late.phew and not overly stressed. So by the time I walked in I really needed a moment to compose myself as I then faced this:
exhibition-enterence

 

film-exhibit

It was amazing to see the projection of the video, the black and white photos of the process, and into a space with all 10 glorious sculptures together, with clean white walls and fantastic lighting to set them off. The boys took pictures and their sketchbook around, our youngest a little more keen than the eldest unusually so. The eldest appearing to showing small signs of transforming into a little teenager.

There were just enough people there for the private view to make it intimate and for us to talk to the people who had made the effort to come along. The Civic has some lovely interactive activities for children if you can make it whilst the show is running. We have already seen a few more press articles and photographs which are stunning, more of which you can see on The Sculptor’s Wife Facebook page. or this one below is good, if you have managed to stay off the world of Facebook.

press

I love the idea of transformation. We all have the ability to change. I think winter is the time to prepare for transformation. This morning the scenery on my way to the shop was stunning. The trees in their bare winter glory stood like silhouettes against a hazy, sleepy, wintry landscape of greys and blues with a bright sun lighting up the valley making it twinkle. The land retreats into a cold crisp coating. We can retreat to contemplate the year past and marinate in stillness on how we deal with things in the moment. So, we can be calmer and focused in those times of stress and panic be it small or big, when you get lost on the road or in life. Using that stillness to have the ability to see beyond the discomfort of the moment and know that ultimately everything is going to be alright.

Take Five, ‘artists who have lit up the genre’. How one got there.

black-and-white-photo-exhibi
The gallery, The Civic, Mother and Child by Sam Shendi

It’s about 14 years since I met ‘the sculptor’ and although when I met him he wasn’t practising very much, he did an occasional clay sculpture but he was painting and drawing all the time, as that is what his space limited him to. Over the years as we increased our space his practice developed along with it. We had a fantastic attic flat for a year where lots of clay maquettes were made. When we bought our first house they survived the move and were all sat on a folding dining room table until one night we heard a crash and the table had collapsed along with probably 50 or so clay sculptures.

Just after I had our first child I was sat in the living room and the midwife came to visit,  3 clay heads lined up on the floor and she pointed to them and said that will have to stop. I never really understood what she meant. I was in the fog of being a new mum. I hope she meant that we would have to stop putting them on the floor and that she didn’t mean to stop the practice.

We did stop putting them on the floor but the studio then was a tiny shed in our yard until about perhaps 4 years ago – I’ve lost count, when we finally got a studio space and this was pivotal in the development of his work.

In January I will have been online with this blog for 6 years and this is my 250th post. And in this time we have come so far. On Saturday in the weekend Yorkshire post, we were so excited to see this:

take-5
Saturday 26th November, Yorkshire Post Magazine

 

To be listed alongside Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore is a dream come true. We are lucky in Yorkshire to have had these two greats among our history, heritage and it is quite almost unbelievable to be seeing ‘the sculptor’s’ name in a top 5 list with them. From my point of view, it is so deserving and so true.

It is great publicity for our other achievement, a solo show opening at The Civic in Barnsley. Yesterday my husband and the team at the gallery set up and it’s all ready for the private view on Friday evening and the show runs until January 28th 2017. The photos he took of the set up look stunning. The exhibition is entitled Mother and Child and it was interesting looking back and my first three blog entries all of mother and child pieces. Mother and Child is an endless subject and timeless. This exhibition at The Civic is very much about storytelling.

mother-and-child-collection

‘The colour blue is prevalent throughout the collection, and is used in a way that it respectfully represents the struggles which go with motherhood; the depression, the sleepless nights, the fear of losing the child, the back pain, the swollen feet, the pain of giving birth and going beyond one’s own comfort, the sacrifice.

It seems ironic that the journey we have taken in developing the sculptor’s success into the art world mirrors my own journey as a mother. When I look at these pieces they are monuments of the last 10 years of motherhood for me. But they are everyone. They will touch and impact on anyone who sees them. They are a reminder of the truth, motherhood is one of the greatest and unrecognised and often under appreciated roles on earth.

If you are in Yorkshire anytime from  3rd to January 28th I would recommend a visit to The Civic. Open Tuesday -Saturday, 10am- 5pm.

Finding butterflies

Overwhelmed, by seemingly everything at the moment is how I am feeling and yet I know I should be grateful that in so many ways my life is relatively straightforward. The summer holidays passed in a flash and whilst I was more mindful to enjoy the moments with the boys, I was still relieved some what to parcel them back to school this week. Although this gives me a little more time, the activities we are involved in and school work resuming seems it’s just one hectic life for another. I need to find my butterfly wings and aim for feeling less defeated.

The time with the boys has distracted and separated me from the world of art a little and I have missed a few scoops which occurred over the holidays with little time to blog. So here is one: We woke on August 3rd in the morning to receive several messages that my husband had coverage of his name and work on the morning breakfast show. His work got really good coverage and the weather reporter mentioned his name twice The reporter seemed to really like the butterflies and the colours of his work. Here is the best clip we got, doesn’t have it all but it was so exciting.

Defeated Butterflies in Doddington Hall, Lincoln. Coverage on BBC breakfast news.

 

Ripe for rowing

ripe
‘Ripe’, (2016) Sam Shendi

This was me 6 years ago ( well not quite) I’m a bit late posting, due to problems with my computer downloading images and being slow getting the words out! However, it’s enabled me to tie two themes together. My youngest sixth birthday was on Saturday and we watched the rowing and the woman’s eight win a silver medal.

In the last twenty years there has been huge developments in woman’s rowing, yesterday was a fantastic result. I sat and watched in remembrance of my days on the water at Durham and seeing Jess Eddie as a school girl rowing out of Durham’s ARC. Thinking of my good friend who made it to the Beijing Olympics and a former fellow high school student who was in the men’s eight. In the heptathalon, Jessica Ennis Hill proofed you can have a baby and come back to true athletic form. I am in awe of that. In the rowing and the athletics and for all the Olympic sports, there have been many comments about the sacrifice: the time away from family, the hours of training,  and that the moment of success which could so easily be snatched in the last second, out of the winning. Not usually decisive, I made that very clear conscious choice as I went down to London in pursuit of the rowing dream that I wasn’t going to be willing to sacrifice any more time for rowing. Four years had been enough for me.

Now as I watch my husband’s dedication, I again sit on the edge of that choice. My husband sacrifices for his art but it’s a different progress than the journey through a sporting one. For the sports person their window of opportunity is short and if added into that as a woman you have a child then the sacrifices are even greater. If you are pursuing any dream there has to be dedication and persistence and a choice of leading a life which is in pursuit of a goal.

There are sculptures of heavily pregnant woman but for me they are too realistic. Each blue circle on this piece represents a day of the pregnancy, the journey of the development. Perhaps too it can represent the sacrifice. Motherhood is the ultimate of that.

 

ripe 2

The poster

Photo shoot today at the studio, so more new images to post and work to write about, once they’ve been uploaded and edited. The ‘Mother and Child’ collection is almost finished and ready for a fantastic exhibition coming up in December.

The journey of motherhood parallels life, it has its ups and downs, highs and lows. My two boys are diverging in their affections of me at present. My youngest is smothering in his kisses and cuddles and albeit, a natural charmer, he is still at the age where he loves me to the moon and back. My eldest has hit the point where when I say “I love you” there is no more, ‘to infinity and beyond’, but a muffled “Okay” in response. It feels to early but I think, as a Cancerian I will need to manage cutting the invisible umbilical cord step by step, although it never feels gentle. The changes are strange, it’s hard to imagine that my youngest will ever start to detach himself from me. Perhaps, he won’t it’s just the nature of their characters or the eldest/youngest child difference. Each stage of mothering has the joys and the challenges. It’s the summer holiday ‘joy’ a the moment. I am deliberately having a positive mindset. Of course, they will never be theses ages again and their infancy is starting to seem like a dream.

I am so excited about this exhibition, still a little while off but time increasingly seems to pass with speed. Not only is this relatively local to us, the space will set off each piece and seeing them all together in a glorious collection will be amazing. Took time to get this poster right but well worth it.

exhibition poster

Sweets verses veggies, outdoor sculpture

body l out
Body Language by Sam Shendi
body lang outside 2
Outside Doddington Hall, Lincoln

body lang outside

These images are ‘sweeeeet’. I love the contrast between the bright colours against the linear burnt brown building and neat grass. The piece really looks like candy cane. The colours remind me of the ice cream farm choices stacked in rows where you want to choose by colour not flavour. For example, my youngest requests, ‘the blue and pink’ one please. “But that is bubblegum flavour, are you really going to like it?” I ask. “No”,vigorously shaking his head and promptly chooses a white and brown one. Not so visually attractive.

So I am more and more conscious of how we crave the sweet stuff and then how we slump after it. I love the idea of healthy eating but find it so difficult to maintain whilst having two boys who are not as keen on the idea. Wonder if using my new spiralizer this summer, which will make colourful veggie noodles, will make them change their minds. My eldest is eager for me to try, I just hope all the fun is not in the turning but in the eating also. So lets take a healthier approach and say these sculptures look like natural growing veggies from the ground….just not sure about the blue!

PS. For those of you who think this is an abstract piece. Take another look. See, a head, a body and legs crossed over sitting on the lawn. Relaxing after a healthy spot of lunch in the garden.

‘Shelter’, a new piece in the Motherhood collection

Shelter 7
‘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.

storage 2

 

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.

hp picture
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’