Why creative communities are the best!

Hello from a not entirely convincingly springtime in Bedfordshire. (I’m writing this while it's snowing again - I can only hope spring is having a ‘bit of a laugh’).

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why creative communities are the best!

But it’s good to be able to sit and write, there’s been so much stuff happening recently that I just haven’t got my act together. In fact, if I’m honest I’ve really been in danger of losing the plot a few times lately. Do you go through periods like that? I’m sure most of us do. I think my problem is that every time I manage to achieve a period of calm and stability I assume it’s going to carry on indefinitely, whereas in fact a mild chaos is much more the norm around here and I’d do better to try and roll with that than berate myself for failing to maintain order. Oh well…

Observations from the gallery floor...

Anyway, as many of you will know, since October last year, I’ve been helping out a couple of times a week at a new gallery in Dunstable, called The Workhouse. (I wrote about it here if you missed it previously). It came into being because of the passionate will of my friend Joanne Bowes who realised that there were many talented people making art locally, some professionally, many others dipping their toes into the art world tentatively or creating as a hobby, for whom there were very limited opportunities to exhibit or sell their work.

Joanne created The Workhouse to give those creatives a space to show their work and at the same time to provide a welcoming, friendly and approachable gallery experience for people in Dunstable, a place where everyone is welcome to come in, browse the work, chat with artists or just relax in a creative environment.

You can imagine that this is an enormously brave undertaking (even in a buoyant economy, galleries are notoriously tricky businesses) which is one of the reasons those of us volunteering there are keen to help it flourish and we’re happy to contribute as much as we can.

But over the last few weeks, a couple of things have really struck me as important which I doubt I’d have understood so completely without having spent time in the gallery.

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making art is good for you

 ~ for all of us ~

The first thing that really hit me was how important making art is to so many people, many many more than I’d previously have thought. I’m not necessarily talking about making saleable art or even good art generally, just the actual process of doing something creative for the sake of it.

I’d guess that almost every time I’m in the gallery we get a new visitor who comes in, slowly walks around and eventually as we gently chat to them, tells us that they used to draw/paint/stitch. We’re beginning to get really good at spotting them, they have a certain look.

And our job is to encourage them to take it up again, because for the majority, that's what they really want. Since October a number of our 'lapsed artists' have actually gone on to bring in work that’s been exhibited and sold. But that’s not really the point. The important thing is that people need to feel that it’s ok to make art, to feel that there are other people just like them and to feel part of a creative, supportive community, whatever their skills. 

People stop making art for lots of different reasons and that’s a terrible pity because clearly it brings joy and happiness to the makers. Having a means of creative expression is not just a nice thing to have, for many of us, it’s essential to our balance and wellbeing.

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creatives need the community of other creatives

 

The other, related thing that struck me, was how vital it is for creatives to meet up with other creatives.

And as a lifelong introvert with extremely flakey creative self-confidence, that was quite a realisation. But it’s true, finding your tribe, discovering people who think like you, understand you and know what you’re feeling, is massively liberating.

For years I was just too shy about my stitching to show it to anyone, but once I did, and once I then found an artistic community to be part of, everything changed and I was eventually able to start being me.

For a great many of the people we talk to in the gallery who've stopped making art, it was because they had no one to encourage them. They weren’t taken seriously, or they just didn’t have the support network of people around them who understood them, or didn’t know anyone who could help point them in the right direction to progress.

It takes courage to express yourself and very few of us are strong enough to stand up against the crowd alone without support, without having creative friends on-side to cheer you on.

ways to help...

Taking the first steps to finding other creatives doesn’t have to be as daunting as walking into a gallery might sound. These days there are lots of ways to find people to support and encourage you.

Perhaps the softest way is by searching online for people doing the same or similar creative things. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are full of arty types and a bit of browsing will bring you to people you feel comfortable with. And then of course there are the bloggers… (hello!).

For me, this online community is one of the greatest joys of modern life. To be able to see the work of other artists around the globe is simply marvellous. To be able to have real time conversations with them is something that never ceases to amaze and delight me. I guess that having been born in the pre-internet world this connection will always be truly wonderful in my eyes.

But wonderful though online connection is, having flesh and blood contacts and being part of a ‘real life’ community of arty people is equally valuable - perhaps more so.

Here you do have to be a tiny bit braver and raise your head above the parapet, but there are friendly people out there ready and waiting to welcome you. Whether it’s a knitting and nattering club, an embroiderers’ guild, a painting club, life-drawing group, local artists’ network, one-off workshops, quilting circles or whatever, if you look, you’ll find them. And the joy of finding your own tribe is indescribable.

Your creative community gives you friendship, encouragement, inspiration, advice, technical assistance, reassurance and feedback and the occasional kick up the proverbial. And what’s more, you give the same back to the group.

So, if by any chance you're someone who's been suppressing your creativity, I hope you’ll be brave and take a few steps to get back into practice. If you’re feeling all alone in the creative world, please don’t, wave at the people doing things you like the look of and I’m sure they’ll respond. And if they don't, shout louder!

And for those of us already happily ensconced in our own creative community, let's remember to keep a lookout for other people who would like to join in, maybe they're a little shy to ask, but we know there’s plenty of room for everyone and in the end we all benefit.


IN OTHER NEWS

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  • The pictures in this post are details from the piece I'm currently stitching. It's almost finished, just a little more strengthening in the circles and some running stitch texture to the background needed. I was hoping to have it ready for the next exhibition at The Workhouse, but I don’t think I’ll quite make it in time so it will have to wait a while before it goes public.
  • If I manage to stay on track (possibly a big IF, but let’s hope), I’ll be sending out a new edition of ‘Loose Threads’ around Easter time, so if you haven’t previously subscribed and would like to receive a copy, simply fill your details in the box on right or click here.
  • And finally, I’ve been asked if I’d run a short programme of workshop sessions on the theme of Contemplative Stitching. If anyone has any experience of similar workshops or has any thoughts on what you’d want this type of workshop to include, I’d be really grateful for your thoughts/ideas/experience. It’s something I’d like to do, but I’d want to make useful and enjoyable and I'm not sure how to express it - perhaps you can help? Many thanks. Until next time...
     

Happy Stitching

Anny x















 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming up for air...

Hooray! I made it into my hidey-hole at last. I'd begun to think it was going to be the New Year before I found a few minutes to write, and then just as I began to despair, a slice of morning opened up and here I am....

So chaps, what's been happening? I wish I could actually settle into something resembling a routine (do I honestly mean that? I've never been one for routines, it's just that for so long now I seem to have ricocheted from one thing to another, I'm beginning to wonder if a monastic routine wouldn't get more accomplished). Are you a creature of habit? Does it work for you? 

I'm not sure that I could adopt a true routine, I inherited too many of my dad's 'get out and about' genes to be properly settled, but nevertheless there are times when I feel as if I'm walking through treacle and it would be lovely to think that a plan might actually have a cat in hell's chance of coming off as scheduled. Is it the creative spirit that's to blame, or is that just a feeble excuse for not being better organised?

Anyway, in amongst all the other stuff this is what I've been doing...

Stitching...

There's been good progress with the piece I showed you in the previous post - partly because I came down with a head cold at the weekend and stayed in the warm. I was lucky, it was one of those mild affairs that gives you a good excuse not to go out spreading germs to everyone, but allows you to actually get on with a few things at home (in between the occasional medicinal hot-toddy)

Out and Abouting...

Bath

I squeezed in my annual visit to the Bath Christmas Market last week. If you've known me for a while you'll remember that I'm not at my best around Christmas time, it generally brings out a sense of panic, exasperation and utter failure which can make me tricky to live with. Then a couple of years ago, we went on a day out to Bath - my favourite city in the country - at about this time and suddenly things felt a lot better. There's something about walking around in such beautiful surroundings that takes away the stress for me and calms my nerves. Last week was every bit as brilliant and I'm feeling a whole load better already. (I've even put up some fairy lights in the sitting-room - and it's not even a whole week into December - must have done the trick). I know it must make life difficult for the inhabitants of Bath, but I for one am extremely grateful.

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Bath Christmas Market...

coincidentally, my favourite tree in Bath is currently blue and red.

The Workhouse

We've been busy at The Workhouse getting ready for the new exhibition - Christmas at The Workhouse - which is now in full swing. I'm delighted to say it's getting a fantastic reception, with loads of people coming in to buy their Christmas gifts and cards. I'm still finding it such an amazing experience listening to people talk about their reaction to the art and crafts there. It's clearly so important for everyone to have access to quality art in their lives, whether they make it, buy it or simply want to enjoy looking at it. Art is a necessity, not a luxury, I'd really love a few hard nose politicians to come and spend some time with me there, maybe it would make a difference.

Wherever you live, I hope you'll find time to pop into your local galleries this Christmas and soak up some creative goodwill.

In the lane...

The last few weeks have moved us from the last golden days of autumn into the beginning of a very grey (so far) winter. I've finally succumbed to a new hat, one that I can pull down over my ears and I've managed to find some of those fingerless gloves with a mitten bit that you can pull over the top - I'm experimenting with them, as you can imagine the fun, holding the Delinquent Dog in full bark, attempting to use the fingerprint log in on the phone and taking pictures in sub-zero temperature, but so far, so good.

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I was thoroughly downhearted this week when I realised that the lane had had it's biannual pruning. Of course it did need cutting back, it was getting dangerous in places and it is a road after all, but really, the butchering of the hedges makes me want to cry. It will recover I know, I've seen it happen before and at least now I can really see my oak properly again from behind the whitebeam hedge, but it still hurts to see the sheer brutality of the attack.

 'My' oak, now almost entirely bare of leaves, but looking wonderful to me at least.

'My' oak, now almost entirely bare of leaves, but looking wonderful to me at least.

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But the Delinquent Dog is quite happy at the moment because thanks to these chaps having just arrived back in the field, he's currently getting the longer walk (the one that avoids having to walk through the sheep). I briefly googled quotes about sheep and was disappointed to see that they mostly talk about people being like sheep or wolves in sheep's clothing. Personally I find some of them quite menacing, they stare at you in a certain manner...I suspect they're plotting world domination with the squirrels.

In other news...

  • Not having had a Christmas Party for years, this week I'm going to two! Whoops with vegetarian delight.
  • I found a book about Henry IV in a charity shop and I'm realising how little I knew about him. I'm not seeing Jeremy Irons in my mind's eye (Hollow Crown fans will understand).
  • Another sign that I've succumbed to the Christmas Spirit - a bottle of cheap whisky and Crabbies Ginger Wine have appeared in the kitchen...

And with that I wish you all a happy and productive run up to Christmas. I hope to be back in my hidey-hole again before the festivities begin, but you know me and plans...

Very best wishes...

Happy Stitching!

Anny x

From the beginning...

There's something new bubbling in my stitchery cauldron at the moment and instead of getting all caught up in the initial excitement and forgetting to take any pictures (which is my normal state), I've been moderately organised and snapped some photos to show how it's coming along, so if you're interested in seeing the stitchiness beginning to take shape, read on, here we go...

A Stitchery Spell

Ingredients: Take a large piece of natural cotton scrim - loose weave but reasonably robust - this forms the base layer onto which all the rest will be stitched. A bundle of recycled sari silk ribbon for couching the 'lines'. Pieces of organza in a range of colours to act as the background shading. Angelina Fibres melted into large pieces to add sparkle and mystery. Scraps of printed cotton and silk in coordinating colours to add texture and shape to the design. Reels of cotton in similar colours, silk threads and woollen yarns for adding the details. Pins. And a piece of chalk.

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 I was fascinated to see how closely the colours of the beech leaves match the colours I've chosen or this piece - the work came before the photo.

I was fascinated to see how closely the colours of the beech leaves match the colours I've chosen or this piece - the work came before the photo.

Method: Lay out the scrim on the kitchen table and mark out in chalk the dimensions for the finished piece. (I then stitched around this in a coloured thread so I always know where my 'edges' should be. If you've never worked with loose-weave fabrics you may not have had the pleasure of watching your creation veer off in dramatically diagonal directions, believe me, it adds considerably to the design challenge, my advice is always know your edges...)

then...

Chalk out the basic lines of the design. Couch these lines with the sari silk ribbon, held down with a thread of your choice (red and green silks for me this time). Next cut the organza to fill the spaces between the lines - slipping some Angelina fibres behind where required. Tack all in place. (I used pins because as is often the way, my fabric-glue pen had gone walkabout - naturally it came back just as I finished the pinning).

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Once the organza layers are firmly down, add the fabric scraps - this takes a fair amount of trial and error until the happy accident happens and you discover they've found the right place to be. Stitch them down. And once you reach this stage it's finally time to get creative with the stitching. I suppose I think of all the stages to here as putting in the background but it's the stitching over which really provides the detail and the dimension.

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That's where I'm at now. Gradually beginning the real work of bringing it all together with hundreds and hundreds of stitches. Work might have progressed marginally more quickly if it hadn't been for the arrival of Max Adams' latest book. I can never resist a new book and this one is every bit as fascinating as his others.

 So kind of Max Adams' publishers to provide his new book in a coordinating colour scheme...

So kind of Max Adams' publishers to provide his new book in a coordinating colour scheme...

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In other news...

  • I'm currently working on an issue of Loose Threads to go out before Christmas so as ever if you haven't previously subscribed and would like to receive a copy just fill in the subscription box in the sidebar.
  • I've just read 'Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life' - Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. Have you come across it? Ikigai is roughly translated as a person's individual purpose in life and their reason for getting up in the morning. Finding your ikigai is felt to be the secret to happiness. The book also covers wider aspects of life and attitudes to living, including resilience. I loved it. I'm not sure about the sushi, but everything else resonated so strongly with me. I'd love to know what you thought.
  • I have six photographs on display at The Workhouse in Dunstable until the end of the month. This is such a huge departure for me but the response so far has been really positive. It's given my creative juices quite a boost.

Right then, it's back to the stitching for me, wishing you all well and happy!

 Love Anny x