HOPE

We took a family holiday, just a week in Cornwall. It was fun, and the kids loved messing about on the beach but it didn’t really deliver everything I’d hoped it would. I hoped it would give me some time, some perspective, some time to talk things through, some time to breath the fresh sea air, to heal and become stronger but this thing is tougher than I’d ever imagined. Perhaps I underestimated what those pills were doing for me, because right now, at this moment, I feel wretched beyond belief and drained. So drained.

At these times it’s important to remember that every day the sun rises anew.  You’ve just got to keep on getting up in the morning, keep trying to make things better and one day, they will be. Or that’s what I keep telling myself. It’s not much, but it’s all I really need. Here’s hoping.

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Lionheart issue four: shapes

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Lionheart is possibly my favourite magazine ever (and I’m a real mag-nut, so that’s saying something). It’s got pretty much everything I look for in a mag: clean lines, lovely thick matte paper, a good smell (years of working in book production have turned me into a passionate paper sniffer – don’t judge), beautiful design, incredible illustrations, a community feel, REAL ACTUAL WRITING YOU CAN ACTUALLY READ the list goes on and on.

Issue four is all about shapes, a theme I found really interesting but hard to interpret when I was trying to come up with ideas for my contribution. In the end Hels (the wonderful editor) asked me to interview the fashion designer Helen Bullock, and I’m so glad she did. I love interviewing artists about their work, especially when they share my obsession with colour and pattern. I knew instantly I was going to really, really like her – and I was right.

We met at Cafe Oto in Dalston, which is my favourite place to drink tea and do  interviews. I interviewed Simon Costin from the Museum of British Folklore there a while back and it went really smoothly, although, this time around, I could barely hear a word when I sat down to transcribe it afterwards. There’s a top tip for aspiring journalists – never sit too close to the coffee machine! You’ll regret it later. You can read my interview with Helen, whose work is so so inspiring, on pages 12-15 of the mag.

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Helen decorated the spreads herself, I love the result – makes me want to get my paints out.

There’s so much more to read though, and I mean actually read – there’s real content here, which makes a nice change. I particularly enjoyed Hels’ interview with Oana Befort. Her floral watercolours are so beautiful.

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Hannah Bullivant’s piece on Margate really made me long for a cheeky weekend visit and Daria Hlazatova’s illustration for the architecture article is just… Daria is the BOMB.

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So, what are you waiting for. Head on over to the website and buy the mag here. I promise you won’t regret it.

Breathe more deeply

Aren't they pretty. So many times I've thought about these colours and what they mean.

Aren’t they pretty? So many times I’ve thought about the significance of these colours and what they mean.

For a very long time (years now) I have been taking one shiny little green and yellow capsule before bed every night. A simple act designed to help me not-want-to-throw-stuff-at-other-stuff so much. Depression – though I am not sure I really want to call it that, because that word just doesn’t feel real to me for some reason – has bothered me from time to time ever since I was a kid, but back then it was just called ‘moodiness’.

On a good day I am a perfectly balanced and normal human being. I can laugh and dance and feel joy as keenly as the next person. I have lots of good days. But on a bad day I am disorientated, confused, lost, tearful, sad, irritable, angry.

A handful of times it’s been more or less impossible to function. I’ve stood rooted to a single spot in a busy supermarket completely paralyzed and unable to speak, because I didn’t understand what was going on in my head and felt scared to move in case I was forced to interact with another human being. That day I almost walked out into traffic. That was the worst day. Most bad days don’t get anywhere near that bad because I keep my family close and they give me all the love and support I need to stay on the pavement.

I haven’t had a bad day in ages. The pills have worked. They’ve worked well, but sometimes I have felt a bit… numb. The lower register of emotions hasn’t been as apparent, but neither have the upper ones. I haven’t cried at a wedding, or a birth, or at Eastenders, or cried at all, it seems, for an eternity. Recently my lovely Gramps died and I knew I felt very sad, but it was a bit like straining to listen to someone speaking from inside a soundproof booth. You know someone is saying something, you can see their lips moving, you just can’t quite make out the words. It’s like that dream you have sometimes when you go to run or punch someone but your limbs won’t move and when they do finally stir it’s like you’re dragging them through quicksand. Solid air.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not coming out against Antidepressants – I believe they’re useful and necessary in a lot of cases, but there is a price to be paid for pharmaceutically-imposed tranquility and I was no longer sure I wanted to pay it.

So last week, at the advice of a doctor, I started phasing out the drugs. Quite suddenly things began to feel more raw, more alive again. I shifted gears. I’ve found myself saying things and posting things on social media that, in retrospect, sound like the ramblings of a frazzled and cranky old cat lady. It’s quite possible that this post is one of those things. This is NOT ideal because I rely on my ability to communicate for my living. But, and this is a big but, I figure I’d rather live as a flawed and slightly damaged human being than as a fabulous and shiny, wipe-clean robot. I need to find a way to embrace this weird and inconvenient element of my identity and learn to work with it rather than drug it into submission. Maybe it’s all about yoga and meditation, perhaps it’s about CBT and crochet (which, by the way, I’ve always found extremely helpful), perhaps I just need to breath more deeply. I’ll let you know how it goes. xx

Words for 2013 #2

Long-distance Clara

My second word for 2013 is INVEST.

I’m not really talking about money here (although that does come into it, a bit), really I am talking about time and energy. I tend not to have enough faith in my ideas and sometimes it keeps me from moving things forward. I’m done with that nonsense. 2013 is the year I will finally begin investing in myself and my work with everything I have, like a 110 per cent (I hate it when people say ‘110 per cent’ but hey ho). I will no longer listen to that annoying, whiny voice inside my head that says ‘ Freya, you LOSER, what are you doing? You know raspberry doesn’t go with scarlet/all computers are in the service of the devil/nobody wants a robot made out of Jammy Dodgers and Blu-Tack.’ No. I am not listening. I am forging ahead with The Dodgertron and YOU can’t stop me Gollum voice, now pass me that yarn/ glue gun/ biscuit/ laptop/ spanner.

I will also invest in fun. If my staying-in-a-hotel-by-myself-for-no-real-reason experience has taught me anything, it is that I don’t indulge my whims enough. From now on, if I really fancy buying myself the complete 30 Rock box set, painting my nails (or anything else for that matter) gold, or getting my hair done like an Andrews Sister, then I totally will. Too often I deprive myself of simple things that make me happy. Here are a small selection:

Stuff that makes me smile:

Crochet, obvs.

Katherine Heigl movies. Yeah, I love her. What of it?

Ditto Maggie Gyllenhaal – you know that film where she plays the rebellious vegan(?) cake baker opposite Will Ferrell and she’s all like ‘Hi TAX MAN…I don’t make cookies for douches y’know TAX MAN’ Love that.

Ditto Emma Thompson come to think of it. Have you seen the knitwear in Nanny McPhee? It’s amazing.

Tattoos and red lipstick – ooh tattoos of red lipstick? That’s one for a Pinterest board.

Vintage furniture (and by ‘vintage’ I mean ‘old’, and by ‘furniture’ I of course mean’ junk’). Gaz tends to like classic oak pieces from shops that have carpet. I prefer mustard-coloured-velvet-clad bedside tables, from shops that barely even have ceilings. Recently he’s been winning, but things gonna change yo.

Sunshine (see pic). I haven’t had a holiday abroad in I don’t know how long – about 5 years. I need some sun, and soon.

Buttons. I know I am not alone in this. Why are buttons so cheering? It’s something to do with childhood, I’m sure. There are not enough buttons in my life, or clip-on earrings. I love them too.

What little things make you happy? What are your (clean please) words for 2013? I’d love to know.

Biba in Brighton

On Saturday morning I went with my mum (and a nasty little hangover, but we won’t go into that) to Brighton to check out Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki at the Brighton Pavilion Museum and Art Gallery. I’ve been obsessed with clothing, particularly vintage clothing since like, forever, so I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance to go and see some of those gorgeous Biba pieces in the flesh. As it happened I managed to win a couple of tickets on Twitter (thanks Brighton Museum people) which was an added bonus. The first thing that struck me was the sheer beauty of the museum itself, and how many amazing objects they have in – what I assume – is their permanent collection. If you haven’t been, you surely must go for the furniture and crockery alone.

I could talk here at length about the enormous influence Barbara Hulanicki has had on the fashion industry, how she revolutionised the high street shopping experience as we know it, how she practically created Twiggy and fast-changing disposable fashion but we all know that what really matters is the clothes. Classic Biba shapes are iconic; romantic and incredibly elegant. Those maxi lengths, empire lines and bell sleeves must have made the wearer feel like they’d just swept out of a John William Waterhouse painting, only with a wide brimmed hat on, of the kind Bianca Jagger might wear to snort cocaine off of Brian Ferry’s naked butt cheeks.

Look at that symphony in  black on the far left.  Amaze.

Look at that symphony in black on the far left. Amaze.

Look at that black dress. The quality of line is just breathtaking. It reminds me a little of the outfit Nicole what’s-her-face wore to the NTAs but with a soupcon more… how shall I put this… class. If  I was an evil sorceress with nymphomaniac tendencies, who lived in a castle surrounded by vast frozen lakes and drove a chariot drawn by rabid wolves with glowing violet-coloured eyes, this would be my signature look. I would also be impossibly thin obvs  (it was clearly designed to fit an actual twig).

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The sleeves on that brown dress in the centre of the shot are amazing. Not in the least bit practical though. How would you do anything? You’d just have to waft about. You wouldn’t have a choice. You certainly would be able to eat soup, that’s for damn sure. Perhaps that is why they were all so skinny – the sheer length of their sleeves simply prohibited nourishment of any kind.

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I can’t leave without showing you a close-up of some of the swirly patterns in the exhibition. If you’re thinking ‘That’s weird, they wouldn’t look remotely out of place in a high street collection today’ you’d be right, they wouldn’t. That’s because people have been ripping off, allowing themselves to be inspired by Barbara Hulanicki’s Biba designs for decades. I just love the art deco inspired sun bursts that appear on practically everything Biba related. I bought a postcard. Yes, another one.

Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki is on at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery until 14 April 2013. Don’t delay going though because you know how these things are, you’ll put it off and put it off and then suddenly you’ll realise it’s too late and you’ve missed yet another great exhibition! GO NOW! Unless it’s night time, in which case GO TOMORROW, or possibly at the weekend, GO.

My Words for 2013: #1


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The other day I was reading the quite excellent Skulls and Ponies blog when I came across this post and it inspired me to come up with my own word for 2013. Actually, I came up with three (see word #1). Unfortunately, they all sound a little bit knobby and power-point-y on their own but perhaps when I explain you’ll get it and then this whole exercise won’t seem as small business lunch-y and weird. Tonight I’ll tell you about my first word of 2013, which is:

Focus

I have what could flatteringly be called a ‘butterfly mind’. You may have noticed. It flits very quickly from one thing to the next, staying only long enough to flirt a bit and get a little bit over friendly before abruptly losing interest and flying off to land on the next thought-flower.  I am the sort of person who goes into the kitchen to make beef Wellington and emerges half an hour later with two steaming plates of green Thai curry. I’ll leave a half-made baby blanket lying around somewhere and go start something completely different on a whim. The upside of this is I am never short of ideas – I have a whole meadow of thought-flowers to land upon.  The downside is that I struggle to finish anything. See. I just switched analogies there half way through a paragraph – I can’t help myself. It’s just how I am, in craft and in life. That’s why crochet is the perfect hobby for me. You’re only ever working one stitch at a time and that means you can change your mind with relative ease. I am a creative commitment phobe and in a world full of distractions I am permanently…well, distracted.

The thing is, recently I’ve realised that I don’t have the energy to nurture all my thought-flowers at once.  If I am ever going to be a prizewinning brain gardener (I know, this is getting weird) I need to pick a few of my favourites and let the others do what they will for a bit. This is all well and good, but what do I concentrate on?  I love all the things I do, writing, blogging, sewing, crocheting, workshop teaching, professional wrestling, but I can’t do them all as well as I want to so I need to pick one or two and FOCUS on developing them. See. FOCUS. FO. CUS. If any of you know how to do this then I would genuinely appreciate your advice. How do you know what to drop and what to keep? What should I let go to seed and what should I plant in my best plots?

5 Ways to Maximize Your Creativity

'I dunno what to draw' Pablo howled like a wounded dog 'I am in a glass case of emotion.' Pablo could be well intense sometimes.

‘I dunno what to  Goddamn draw!!!’ Pablo howled like a wounded dog ‘I am in a glass case of emotion!!!’ Pablo could be well intense sometimes.

I’m taking a little break from making at the moment. It’s nothing serious. I am just having a breather before starting my next big project. To tell you the truth I tend to feel a bit twitchy when I’m not engaged in some form of craft or another, but I know that my creative levels peak and trough. I’m in a bit of a trough just now, and it got me thinking about how I go about maintaining, and maximizing my creativity. So, I’ve compiled this little list of tips. Here goes:

1. Be generous with your ideas.

You know those kids at school who deliberately shielded their artwork from everyone else in the room just in case one of their classmates became so intoxicated by their raw talent  that they couldn’t help but rip them off? I’m willing to bet that not one of those kids ever went on to create or invent anything particularly good.  Never treat your latest flash of inspiration as if it’s the last train home on Christmas Eve. Treat ideas like they’re ten-a-penny and soon they will be, unless of course you’ve come up with a design for like, a supersonic death ray that runs off paper shreddings – then maybe you might want to keep it on the down-low.

2. Limit the amount of time you spend looking at other people’s stuff.

There is nothing wrong with Ravelry, or Pinterest or Instructables or any other website where you might legitimately find examples of lots of other people’s work. In fact, I love all of them and I look at them often. All I’m saying is that you can easily spend so much time looking at other people’s work that you forget where your style begins and everything else finishes. When I get to feeling that my stuff is all rubbish, you know that ‘I’m going to build a great big bonfire and set light to everything in my stash box’ feeling, it’s usually because I’ve spent far too much time flicking from pin board to pin board comparing myself to everyone else.  Don’t do it. The less you look at what everyone else is doing the more likely you are to make something completely unique and special. Go for a walk on the beach, go to the library and find a book on birds of the British Isles – look at lots of other types of art, but NOT stuff within your own discipline.

3. Always keep a notebook – take one everywhere.

I don’t know about you but my ideas come to me in the weirdest of places, usually very late at night. I always have a notebook to hand where I can jot things down. It’s not a pretty notebook  – I’m usually scribbling in the dark – but it does the job. And I can always revisit old notebooks when I need inspiration.

This is a page from one of my sketchbooks. I was drinking tea out of a bowl in a posh French bakery.

This is a page from one of my sketchbooks. I was drinking tea out of a bowl in a posh French bakery.

4. Don’t spend a lot on materials.

I have learned from bitter experience that if I go out and buy a load of posh yarn for a specific project, I will never end up using it . It gives me the fear, frankly.  This is why the vast majority of my projects use nothing but the cheapest garish double knit yarn. A, because I really like the challenge of making something pretty from very basic stuff and B, because when I haven’t spent a lot on my materials I am less worried about making mistakes and that means I try things I wouldn’t otherwise have a go at. I hate the idea of spending  fifty odd quid on top-notch stuff, but maybe you feel differently. I’d love to know if you agree or not.

5.  Spend time hanging out with other creative people, especially productive ones.

It doesn’t matter whether they’re textile types, musicians, photographers, painters or printmakers; creative people from all walks of life speak the same language. They understand what drives you and can offer advice and inspiration and, if they are being positive and productive it WILL rub off on you. Don’t ask me why, it just will. My creative friends are special to me. I talk to them about my work, especially when I feel something isn’t going as it should – that’s when they really come into their own. If you don’t have any creative mates, find some. That’s what evening classes are for (that, and copping off with middle-aged divorcees called Marc)

So there you have it, my 5 top tips. I could have gone on and on tbh. Do you fervently disagree with any of them? Do you have any of your own to add? I’d love to get your take on this!