Saturday, May 26, 2007

URK - I've been tagged!!!!
By my (not so secret) secret pal 10. (t'other Terri - the voucher you so generously sent me went to subsidising a spinning workshop that will take place June 11th and 12th - I will blog on the events as they happen)
I've also been awarded a 'thinking blog' award by another generous fellow blogger (Marianne - you are so lovely and I didn't mean to ignore you!), an accolade which so took me back, it gasted my flabber, which is what I suspect has led to a blogging freeze (aka blogger's block) for the last two weeks. Well, that and real life. I've been watching Badger's attempt to blog daily over the last couple of weeks though - fascinating! It's not as easy as it looks, this blogging lark.
I'll have to think about both tags. dot dot dot.
I AM on holiday for the next two weeks, so I promise myself, my loyal blogging pals and the entire world that I will get my blog up to speed very shortly. I have lots to report - about plans for a Ktog exhibition for Knitting Week, the running of a half-marathon, a "growing old disgracefully" outing and maybe even the plans for my half century celebrations toward the end of the year. Plus knitterly knews: I have just about finished my ISE4 project (blocking as we speak) and finished one glove and started the other, and (shamefully) I have another beautiful (even though I say so myself) WIP. Watch this space.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Beach
I signed up for this project back in January, with only the vaguest notion of what it was all about. In fact it was a direct offshoot of BARB HUNT's work - she had an installation on display at the Phoenix in Exeter during March and April, called "Vigil". Barb hails from Newfoundland, Canada: a rural environment with a rich tradition of 'domestic textiles'. This connection with textiles was completely accidental - I love that kind of synchronicity!

Barb is currently interested in expressing the relationship between birth, gender, recuperation, death and mourning. Here's a snippet from BBC Devon:
"Barb is worried about the way many rituals are cut short to return to work or other commitments that leaves individuals and communities carrying unreleased grief.
Her home in Newfoundland, an island area of Canada, is near a graveyard and she admits to being fascinated by how the floral tributes left at the graves makes these resting places the most colourful areas in an otherwise rugged landscape.
The strong coastal winds often blow the remains of these flowers out of the graveyard and spread them across the nearby countryside. Whenever Barb sees these she has made a habit of collecting the lost fabric flowers and washing them, sorting them into colours and styles. She's now decided to use her ever growing collection of fabric mourning flowers to create a new body of work.
Large swatches of veil-like fabric have been decorated with these flowers and other natural materials such as beach rocks. According to the artist she hopes it creates "space for moments of reorientation where living and dead intertwine, reflecting on loss, grief, healing and continuance."

So this was our inspiration and starting place. Our two intrepid leaders, Nicci and Chrissy, artists from the Phoenix, led us through the installation: We started in the shaded, veiled womb like room - I thought the white blobs on the material were soft - then realised they were hard beach pebbles when I got closer. The hangings create interesting shadows on the floors and walls. From there we stepped into the light and the 'tree of life'
- women in Exeter, natives from all over the world, had finger knitted (looked like single crochet chains) threads which had been formed into the tree you can see. Barb had knitted squares of pinks shading through to darkest purples to enclose the women, to wrap them in a blanket and protect them. (You can see that sewing the ends in is Barb's favourite task too!).
The last room had the funeral flowers dangling from the ceiling. then we: Liz, Sue, Jane, Suzanne and Rosie and Georgie (the latter on a mother and daughter bonding expedition) and myself, all strolled down to the railway station and took a train to the beach.
This was an exiting part of the process: I love travelling and the anticipation.The process begins with us women getting to know each other - some had come together, others had not. (By the end of the day, I had heard several women's life stories: I was amazed and fascinated by how many of us are survivors! - everyone has a story to tell).

Having arrived at Dawlish Warren, we walked through the dunes to a deserted section between the 'groynes'. It was a beautiful cloudless day. The idea was to make our own installation on the beach - first the collection, then the creating.

Beachcombing, gathering on the beach: takes us back to our hunter/gatherer roots. I found shells, round pebbles, black rocks, and flints, and pebbles with stripes in.

Sue had also found some rocks with stripes, so I put mine with hers and got engrossed in lining up the stripes. I liked getting lost in the detail. It also reminded me of the threads dangling down from Barb Hunt's veil like creations.

Having brought back our collections, we then discussed what we wanted to create, what we wanted to concentrate on bringing together. Stripes got it: The connection to Barb's work in the dangling threads, the link with networking, knitting together of links and pulling together. Nicci had a rock with a hole in it - and suggested the structure should mirror this: a womb like hole, a representation of the feminine with threads wrapping around it. But someone (either Suzanne or Jane) suggested we build our creation around the remains of a fire on the beach - there was a group of blackened stones and twigs next to us. It reminded her of the hearth, the heart of the matter; the burnt remains also resonated with death, ashes to ashes. (How appropriate for a project stemming from the phoenix!),

The remains of the fire would be the heart of our piece and we would collect any pebbles with stripes in, no limitation of colours, we would just start collecting and create our work organically. Let it grow!

I was amazed at how amicable the process of decision making and subsequent creating was. The project was as organic and freeflowing as the result. There were conversations about death and grieving and agreement that we had indeed lost our ability to mourn in this country Hallowe'en and all saints day have been buried in commercialism. Christianity sanitised pagan rituals.

This all struck home with me: I put work commitments first when my Dad became ill at the end of his life, and he died the same day I'd arranged to go to him. When we die it is family and friends who will remember us - and not because of the work we do, or the fact that we have a big house or car.

I love the way the lines connect and the subtle colours of the pebbles change. Nicci thought it 'weaved' and
was very gentle with no borders...

What did it remind me of? An amoeba? Nebulae throwing off stars, suns, planets, eggs. We pooled ideas - some thought a web - others, lines of thought. I loved getting involved with the detail, following a line and going where it took me. I think this is the right brain getting into gear, nonverbal: I don't think there was any hint of us getting too serious and pompous and (diappearing up our own bottoms) losing sight of the fun. Honest.

A family stopped and stared. "What is it?" asked the little boy. HA! GOOD question. It was all in the detail and also in the process. Andy Goldsworthy eat your heart out!
Barb Hunt is best known as the artist who knitted the pink ANTIPERSONNEL landmines. Reminds me of the Red sweaters project.

The egg like shape on its own was pebbles that had been rescued from the sea by Georgie (I think)

I wonder what's left of it? Nothing I expect.

Monday, May 07, 2007

LUSTLEIGH MAYDAY, Saturday May 5th.

This is an Annual Event in my village.
Jess was crowned May Queen - The queen is selected from those girls who have danced the most years and then the names go in a hat. Awww, I've known her since she was a baby - and now she's a young woman. Her name will be carved, alongside all the others, on the rock in the Orchard (the one the throne is perched on).

I missed the ceremony - I was facepainting all afternoon. Forgot my camera so I'm glad my neighbour sent me this link of a video of the day. Thanks Mrpopvideo2 whoever you are. My favourite shot is at around 01min40secs - Jess turning and smiling for the camera completely unselfconsciously.

Of course, the entire ceremony is pagan and all about fertility rites: the boys carry sticks and the girls dress in white. My son danced once - managed to do the entire thing with his hands in his pockets! I love the way the vicar is drafted in to bless the ceremony to make it 'all right', ie to sanitise the affair.

Dave Wills is the Town Crier leading the procession - he leads the brass band and all the girls and boys around the village - and the procession stops at Bishopstone, Brookfield and Wreyland Manor to sing Spring Songs to greet the May Queen. Back at the village centre the vicar 'blesses' the Queen and all, and then she is led (in her flowery bower) to the Orchard where she takes her seat on the Mayday rock throne and is crowned. Then the dance around the Maypole begins.

There are bottle stalls and coconut shies and facepainting (courtesy of yours truly) and beat the rat and lucky dips and icecream and cream teas in the village hall. WE had fantastic weather and an excellent turnout.