Monday, May 4, 2015

April Reading

It's been a while since I wrote about what I've been reading - mostly it's been craft books. And I now have another pile of those sitting, waiting to be browsed.


Rachael's Gift by Alexandra Cameron
Rachael is 14 and a 'gifted' artist, but also a gifted liar. When Rachael accuses her art teacher of sexual misconduct, Rachael and her parents, Camille and Wolfe, are drawn into a deepening web of distrust and confusion. Set in Australia and Paris, the story encompasses the secrets and lies of four generations and, for me at least, a surprising ending. Worth a read.

Stonemouth by Ian Banks
Having heard Ian Banks mentioned a number of times at my book club, when I saw one at the local library I had to try it. I found it to be well written, and despite the world of Stewart Gilmour being one I have never had connection to in any way, believable. However, it is a bleak and sordid world, and although it was satisfying in the way a well written book is, it left me with a feeling of grey dreariness.


The Artist Unique: Inspiration and techniques to discover your creative signature by Carmen Torbus
I had this book out of the library several times and found it so inspiring and helpful I finally bought it. It includes the work of seventeen artists whose favourite techniques are explained in detail. There are workshops' to help you, and details of material. I love this book!

Making an Impression: Designing and Creating Artful Stamps by Geninne D Zlatkis

I think I may have to buy this book too - I love it, and this woman's work to the degree that I am following both her blog and her Facebook page. Her stamps are gorgeous and she shows how to make them. My main problem is that I can find only one shop selling over-sized erasers, and even that has only one size. I've been having lots of fun with erasers and lino cutting tools.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Texture, Pattern, Shape

Since starting the Documented Life Project, I have become way more aware of texture, pattern and shapes. They are an intrinsic part of the new techniques and materials I am using on my pages.

This week I went to visit my friend, Chantal, who is living in Tairua for a while. It seems my increased awareness has me noticing texture, pattern and shapes in the 'real' world too.

On the way there I stopped lots of times because my sore leg needed to be stretched often, and so I took lots of pictures.

I went for lots of walks with Chantal too, and as well as shots of the wider glorious scenery, I again focused on texture, pattern and shapes.

What was really a bit scary was that on the drive over I became so high on the beauty I saw, and the joy of living in such an amazing world, that I found my senses of taste and touch kicking in just from visual input. I'm glad I've never taken hallucinatory drugs - I think I might be one of those people who get completely lost.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Looking On The Bright Side Of Life: Healing is Possible

Yesterday winter arrived with wind, heavy rain, and cold.
Today there's a bite in the air, but the sun is shining and the world is sparkling. When I went outside to feed the ducks, dog and chooks, I could hear birds making noise everywhere. The ducks and chooks making their hurry-up-and-feed-us noises, a variety of pleasant songs coming from the trees including from this piwakawaka -
- and a ruckus. Looking out towards the back paddock, I saw seven or eight pukeko having a major scrap just over the fence in the neighbours' place. By the time I got there the mother, father and chicks were flying off to the next paddock, and these two were strutting and crowing proudly.
 The bush was so clean and sharp in the post-rain sunshine.
 We are so lucky to have found this beautiful place to live in.
The pineapple sage is glorious, as always at this time of the year, and I find I can sit and watch the insects on it for hours - not just my honey bees and bumble bees, but all kinds of creatures enjoying one of the last plants with flowers in abundance before winter closes in.
 The bamboo roots we planted this year have taken off and we will need to ensure that the 'moat' around the island is kept clear. It is a clumping variety, but still spreads easily. So pretty and useful though.
 Even the 'weeds' bring a smile.
 And our mountain - so good to see her today.
Of course a bit of morning joy can come at a price........
 It would have been a good idea to turn the feijoa jelly off, rather than up to full, before heading outside in the sun! On the plus side, while I was out there, I did collect another bucket full of feijoas, so I can make another batch of jelly.
But the greatest joy of the day was when, half way through the clean up, I realised that I had not abused myself - not even in my thoughts. There was a time when I would have cried and screamed and yelled the most horrendous words at myself, and plunged into self-hatred and despair for at least the rest of the day, and often for a week or more.

This silly little incident, which once would have seemed a veritable international crisis, shows me that, although there is more healing to do, healing is possible.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Documented Life Project: Week 7

Art Challenge: Cover up the good stuff
Journal Prompt: Going undercover

Again I have been less than inspired, and again I looked to Lorraine Bell's example page to get me going. It didn't turn out anything like hers because, a) she is an artist and I am a puddleducker; and b) things didn't work the way they did for her.

I started out, like her, writing all over the page with a waterproof pen, trying to write about the good stuff in my life. However, my pens were either way too fine, or too thick, and my handwriting is of the non-artistic messy kind. So, following her instructions, I dry brushed white gesso over the page - but somewhat more thickly than she did, so much less of the writing showed through.
Following her example again, I put drops of ink on the page, lightly brushed it, and let it run down the page before blotting with patterned paper towels. Except only the first and last steps worked - my ink or surface or both resulted in a very different look, and one that was considerably messier and less artistic!
I then diverted from her example, as I have neither water soluble crayons, nor the skill to draw with them! I sketched an umbrella shape and then cut out umbrellas from scraps of papers, some of which I had hand decorated in various ways. I pasted them on top of other papers that represent some aspects of my life, hidden and less hidden. I then drew in the handles and tops, and outlined the umbrellas.
It didn't come out the way I planned, and I am not satisfied with the background in particular, but over all it's okay. However, I am learning much about techniques and materials, which is the real point of the whole exercise for me.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Emotional Deprivation: a self-indulgent ramble

I've been going on a web surfing adventure, clicking on links.

It started with one of my favourite bloggers, Hands Free Mama.

I then followed a link to an article by Jonice Webb which looked at studies showing that the most important thing for happiness in life is being loved as a child. However, she says, love is not enough. She then talks about the difference between knowing you are loved and feeling that you are loved.

From there I then linked to a questionnaire which fits me almost perfectly. except for two points:
6. Often just want to be left alone
17. Believe you’re one of those people who could easily live as a hermit
which sort of fit, in that I often feel I want to be alone. However when I am alone I start losing myself. I depend upon others to provide me with a sense of reality. Although I am intellectually certain that it was given from a desire to help me, the constant criticism, and denial of feelings as a child, left me dependent on being told what to feel, what to do, what to be. I need people, even when I want to be alone. Without others, I feel I am nothing.

All this reading brought up things that a counselor told me more than 10 years ago. That I was emotionally deprived as a young child. That I would never be able to recover from it. That I'd never get over my episodic depression. That I'd never be able to properly love anyone. She said that the best I'd ever be able to do was to manage my depression, but that it would come at a cost - that I'd also have to manage my occasional highs out of existence too.

Fortunately my mother had not managed to totally destroy the stubborn streak I must have been born with. She never managed to teach me to totally ignore my own feelings, despite punishment, including being hit with wooden spoons and her hairbrush for being angry or sad, and then sent to my room to calm down or cheer up. I was even, on a few occasions, sent to my room to calm down and stop being so annoyingly happy.

When the counselor told me those things, I knew she was right about one thing: I was emotionally deprived as a child. From the vantage point of fifteen years on from my mother's death, I was able to explore the reasons for this with the counselor (issues in my mother's own life before I was even born), and these discussions set in motion reflections which continue today. My mother did not give me hugs - even negative physical contact was via the wooden spoon, not her hand. But she did show love, I guess, through all the things she did for me. She loved craft work, sewing, knitting, made all our clothes, and always the new dress was accompanied by a new outfit for one of my dolls. In my teens she gave me a subscription to Seventeen magazine (an American publication) and then copied the clothes, crafting fashionable clothes we could not possibly have afforded otherwise. (This was in the days when there were no cheap imports and making your own was cheaper by far, but rarely made as well as my mother's beautiful work.) She even made amazing fancy dress party outfits for us, often out of crepe paper.
Twenty six years after her death, memories of the good things my mother did for me are returning more frequently, and I am seeing love in those things that I never felt as a child.
That counselor was wrong about my ability to love though. I don't give love easily, except for the instant falling in love that happened with the births of each of my children. But I do love them, and also my husband, grandchildren, and a few friends.
She was right when she said I will never 'get over' depression, but she was wrong about managing it - I have learned to manage it without sacrificing the highs. In fact, I have learned to manage myself so well that I have more highs now, and can, with effort, actually bring them on. (Without drugs - drugs scare me.) High is not a state for everyday living though, so I don't go there all the time.
The management and expression of feelings is still a problem. Learning, as a child, that the only way to manage feelings is to repress them, has left me struggling to learn more helpful ways to manage and express them.
I still fear rejection, struggling to believe in my gut that people really do love / like / want to be friends with me: I expect people to ditch me 'when they find out what a horrid little girl I really am'. It took me thirty years of being with my husband before I stopped waiting for his return from work, heart in mouth, every day, wondering if this would be the day he woke up to what I 'really am' and drive away to a happier life. When people reject my friendship, I have to remind myself that it's not always about me as a person: it may be about them; it may be we have diverged onto different paths; that our connection no longer serves one or other of us. It may be that I turned out to be a bitch - or that she did - it can just be a matter of perspective.
I am incredibly insecure still. I have only ever intentionally asked two people to be 'Facebook friends', so when I discovered recently that I had apparently asked some people without knowing I had (or that someone else did it - my computer and phone are always open), I was instantly overwhelmed by a sense of embarrassment and shame. I 'unfriended' one. I have felt undeserving of friendship. It took me years of knowing people before inviting them to my home or asking them to meet me for coffee. In recent years I have worked really hard on this, but it is just that - outrageously difficult work just to invite someone for coffee.

Most of the time I wear boring clothes, and little make up or jewelry. I was brought up to understand that I shouldn't draw attention to myself. That make up should be subtle and not 'trashy' (anything other than unnoticeable). My mother was horrified when I got my ears pierced when I was 21 - only whores and sailors had pierced ears apparently. God knows what she would have said about my tattoo! Jewelry should be quality and subtle - not fun. Shoes should be sensible and plain so you only need three pairs: sandals for summer, lace-ups for winters, one pair for good, plus slippers and gumboots. Clothes were the one thing my mother didn't restrict greatly, because she loved making pretty things - but they had to be well made.

Somewhere along the way, through the weight gains of pregnancy, the exhaustion of parenting, the put-downs of a society that professes to value motherhood, but which despises those who practice it, and the put-downs of my generation of feminists who professed to value choice for women 'who should be able to do and be anything thing they liked' just as long as it wasn't being a full time mother, somewhere along that way, the little sense of self value that I had retained, shriveled even more.
However, as I said before, I must have been born stubborn. That little voice inside was never quite shushed completely. I 'know' I have friends who love me, and enjoy my company although there are still too many days when I don't 'feel' it.
I know that I don't look as good in harem pants and bright shirts as anyone else younger, slimmer, prettier, so I only wear them at home. And at womad where a good portion of people are wearing slightly crazy clothes. I was people watching at womad and realised that when I dress in boring jeans and black t-shirt, I still don't look as good as anyone else younger, slimmer, prettier - so why not wear what I actually feel right in? Well, I've bought some crazy shoes, which my mother would not have approved of, and I wear them everywhere, not just at home and womad. It's a start.

God knows, I'm not denying that I've fucked up my sons in turn. 

But eventually we all have to take responsibility for ourselves. I've spent my adult life looking to fill the gaps that my childhood emotional deprivation left, by looking outward to others to tell me what to do and what to be, but now, at last, I'm trying discover what it really is to be and 'do' me.

It's time to say to the world, "Fuck off then, if you don't like it." Except the reality is, it's unlikely that anyone will even notice, let alone care!

 * This Be The Verse by Philip Larkin

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Documented Life Project: Week 6

So as the 'good' people head into week 12 of The Documented Life Project, I finally do week 6! My fingers were itching to craft but my brain wasn't thinking well. The challenge was uninspiring for me, making it a huge challenge.

Art Challenge: When Not To Stop
Journal Prompt: "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough!" (Ooh)

I didn't feel 'Ooh' at all!

Finally, after much procrastination, I realized that I just had to start. Using a brayer, I rolled some burnt sienna acrylic paint randomly over the page, and then added some raw sienna and pale gold.
I cut rough circles out of one of my first experimental gelli prints and stuck them on the page. 

Stop. Don't know what else to do. Listen to the radio. Pick up a stylized leaf stencil and pounce some black paint on. Stop. Don't know what else to do. Listen to the radio. Use the sponge to lightly pounce some spots on the page. Don't like that much. Stop. Don't know what else to do. Listen to the radio. Pick up Sharpie and, listening to a really interesting item on the radio, start doodling. Put in some words. More doodling. Whoa! Enough!

Lacking something. Hmmm. Pieces of torn and crumbled gold leaf that I bought about three years ago in a sale. Okay, enough,I'm done.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hope in Endings

I'm feeling a bit sad. We are off to WOMAD this weekend but our usual group of friends who attend is depleted this year. My northern hemisphere friends are posting pictures of first leaves, returning birds, and other signs of the approach of spring. I have been feeling very aware of endings.

This morning I decided to go for a little walk and look at the signs of summer coming to an end, to try to find some beauty in endings. What I found was not just beautiful, but surprising.

 Pumpkins. Food, and seeds for next spring and summer growing - hope for the future.
One last egg. Not really going to come to anything, given we have no rooster, but certainly a symbol of hope.
Feathers. The chooks are moulting and egg laying is becoming rare. But they are losing their old, tatty feathers, and ceasing to lay, in preparation for growing fresh new feathers. They will start laying again some time after the shortest day - one of the first hopeful signs that spring will return.
The fruit is coming to an end but as well as the tasty flesh, fruit contains the seed of future trees.
These peaches are delicious, and came off a tree that grew from a peach stone discarded under a friend's plum tree. The plums were yummy, but we aren't disappointed with the surprise fruit.
The beans are still producing, but at a reduced rate. I find big, fat, tough, overgrown beans hiding among the leaves - seed for next spring. Hope.
These tomatoes were grown from seed from last year's plants grown from cherry tomatoes given by a friend the year before. They are so sweet and flavoursome. We will save seed again. Sweet hope.
 The lemon tree's hopeful promise is fast becoming reality.
 As is that of these sweet fruit on a shrub I bought as 'Chilean guava', but have seen under various other names.
 Among  the die-off of the silver beet and parsley, new silver beet plants have emerged for winter eating.
The pine nut tree is offering false hope with this small cone - but it is still a promise of years to come - maybe next year we will have a few full-sized cones containing nuts.
These trees have almost doubled in size this year, despite the crazy weather, so next year I hope to make twice as many bottles of delicious elder-flower cordial.
Two of the bamboo roots we planted in spring, and which lost their leaves, have rallied and grown. One day I'll have our own big fat bamboo to make structures of varying kinds.
Bob the Dog gives a wonderful and constant example of a life lived in hope.
Spike just lives in hope that Bob won't notice him, so he can leap out and scratch the poor fellow on the nose.
I hope that my friend Violet will come back from America to visit me one day. This year the artichokes she gave me are very late, and are just now about to open their beautiful sunflower buds to smile at me.
And though the remaining wild carrot flowers are small, and most have died, they aren't really dead, but rather, turned to stunning seed heads, so I can already imagine next year's fields of my favourite wild flower.