Sunday, 3 November 2019

In a quiet place- an exhibition with haiku

For the last 2 weeks I have been involved in an exhibition 'In a quiet place' in Rye with two good friends, Ali Stump and Birgitta Wilson. They are both very talented printmakers.

We share a love of nature, of stillness and quiet, and of words.

So in the quiet times between customers, what better way to spend our time than by writing haiku about the works hanging on the gallery wall.

The format of a haiku is one of three lines, with five, seven and five syllables in that order.

Short and sweet.

A not too challenging way to pass time.

Starting with Conversation Piece 1 ...

Conversation Piece by Caroline Fraser

light on a small stream
dances across the water
speaking silently

and then for some bowls and jugs

upon the table
fine white china jug and bowl
remind me of home

prints by Ali Stump

'all is calm' by Birgitta Wilson

deep in the forest
branches coated thick with snow
lie quietly sleeping

Olive, my typewriter has typed out quite a few of our creations, but then decided to do her own thing....

olivetti type 5x7

She is a bit obsessional.... and enjoys patterns more than poems...

And then there are the sea wall stories.

sea wall stories and other works 

For these I have written a longer poem, which is going to get me started on making my next book.

I will share it when the book is ready, which might be a while. 

 sea wall story 2019

 sea wall story  2019

 It has been the quiet times, sitting in the gallery that have allowed new words to be written, and new ideas to form.

For that, and for the friendship that I share, I am truly grateful.

gallery view 'In a quiet place'

I will leave you with some words shared with me last week;

'The present is a magic time'.

And so it is.....

Monday, 14 October 2019

branching out with bits of wood - in which I try willow weaving

sheep and turnips at West Dean, Chichester

'Twas an autumn day when I headed west to West Dean College near Chichester, for an 'art break'.

Having spent the past three months unable to decide where to go and what to do with a week off (even nearly retired people need time off from whatever they normally do....), I hastily booked a course in small scale willow sculpture.

On a whim, you might say.

The whim that I wrote in my diary was that I fancied making a 'nest for words'.......

- a bookish flight of fancy....

I had forgotten that by the time I departed on my travels, and instead carried with me some random bits from the hedgerow and some stone pebbles that look like birds eggs.

I think I fancied myself as a sculptor.

I arrived late afternoon and just had time for a stroll in the gardens before classes began.

a line made by sheep

It was beautiful in the late autumn sun.

Apples and pears clung to the trees in the walled garden.

english apples

A feast of colourful gourds sat quietly in the greenhouse.

west dean gourds

The house was shrouded in plastic and scaffold. A new roof is happening.

west dean college and scaffolding

The gardens are a delight.

west dean garden

But I was here to work.

Hard work for fingers and thumbs.

learning the basics

Lengths of willow to be bent, twisted and cajoled into baskets, balls, wild animals and anything else that took our fancy.

It was not easy.

I kept reminding myself that I was here to get ideas and learn new skills, not to create a masterpiece.

Our tutor was the incredibly patient and perceptive Mary Butcher MBE.

She gently taught us a number of basic basketry techniques; random weave, scalloming and how to make twine from rush stems.

First we had to make a sphere by random weaving.

Each piece of willow had to be wrapped around a hammer handle in its entirety to make it more flexible.

For the first hour or so my sphere was a total mess, exploding from its orbit at every opportunity.

random weave at the stage where giving up seems a good option...

But with Mary's encouragement to keep going I eventually achieved a stable sphere.

What to do with it? 

I have no idea......  

willow sphere using random weave

Everyone's sphere had different characteristics.

My favourite this tight ball containing twigs and conkers.

autumnal willow container

After that we were encouraged to work on our own project.

Not so easy.

I made a sculpture with willow and grasses. Then ruined it by trimming the willow strands.

Into the bin it went.

Time for a nest. This required an open sphere.

loose ends to unravel. frustration station.

Add caption

The pebbles waited patiently.

Eventually they were rewarded with a soft mossy bed to lie in.

a nest for eggs

Time was running out. Others had made baskets with extraordinary neatness and patience.

in the basketry studio

I dabbled with another sculpture, made some twine, wrapped some rosemary with it

and then tied two twigs together with my newly acquired whipping skills.

I have to say that this gave me more pleasure than all of my other creations.

Keep it simple....

my twigs

I am never going to be a basket weaver,  I but might find a way to wrap stones and twigs just because I can......

and I did enjoy making my own twine.....

some of our creations.

I will leave you with some of Mary's beautiful work.

She really is a very good tutor.

Her positivity and patience allowed each individual to work in their own way. Nothing was deemed too difficult.

I was very lucky to experience a class with her.

'Bark weaving' by Mary Butcher

'willow scribble' by Mary Butcher

'when the boat comes in' by Mary Butcher

And next I am going to make a boat......

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

new ventures at Artspring Gallery - in which I become a shop keeper.

skyscape at dusk

Summer is over.

And what a summer it has been;

  •  a solo show at Rye Art Gallery, endless summer days cycling back and forth to my studio saying 'hello' along the way to the sheep on the marsh.
  • customer of the month at The Fig in Rye ( I have allowed myself this accolade on the basis of the number of good friends who visited the show and shared food and drink with me at the cafe after inspecting my work in Rye Art gallery). 
  • record numbers of visitors to Camber sands over the roasting bank holiday weekend, causing utter and complete mayhem with their vehicles parked illegally from Camber to Jury's Gap, and leaving a sea of litter to be cleaned up.

bank holiday offerings

All of these excitements meant that I have not found time to create any new work, but have tried really hard to look up at the sky rather than down at the litter strewn ground.

So many beautiful clouds seen from the top of the dunes at the end of summer days.

And still days when the sea merged into a hazy sky, the horizon lost from view.

early morning, camber sands

Golden light on the dunes, with Pontins pretty in pink.....

And then there is Artspring Gallery; my new venture, designed to lure me away from proper work and into a new era as a 'retired' person.

Artspring is run by an artist cooperative, and the gallery is in Tonbridge. 

Getting ready to join the group has been another big challenge; works to be selected, greeting cards to be made, and labels to be created.

Making labels has to be the worst task for an artist. But spurred on by the high standards of my fellow artists, I now have classy sticky labels and even more remarkable, an inventory of my work.

I realised that I was losing the ability to list works, editions, sizes, frame types without endless rummaging through bags in my studio. So now I have a list. And it works!

No more difficulties remembering where I am up to in an edition, or how much a piece costs. It's on the list. 

So today is my first day alone in the gallery. Just me and the art.

Port Haven by Sarah de Mattos

My first day as a 'shop keeper.' 

OH ( my other half) is not impressed. I think it is a step down on the social mobility ladder in his view. 

Do I mind? 

Not a jot.

I am running an art gallery, and that suits me just fine.

I am surrounded by colour, and have a fine view of the traffic in Tonbridge High Street. 

I have rare birds to talk to, and lots of coastal and water themed works to remind me of summer.

Rare Birds by Paul Chave

Design 122 by Kate Hasted

Aqua beach bubbles by Hilary Shields

I have my soup and a cheese sandwich.

I have an exercise area for virtual skipping between the table ornaments and the jewellery cabinet.

And I have my laptop. So I can write this blog.

Hopefully I will make it through to 5pm without mishap. 

I just have to make sure I don't end up as the gallery treasurer; I had to count the petty cash four times before I could get it to add up to the figure from close of day yesterday. Which makes me wonder, how do I know which of my four countings is the correct one? A philosophical dilemma.

And what happens if I need to use the facilities out back? Do I lock the front door and put up the 'back in 10 mins' sign? 

OH informs me that I should never put up this sign, but instead say 'back at 14.01' or whatever time is appropriate. He is speaking from the horrific experience of going to purchase a newspaper from the shop a few yards from our house and finding that very sign ( back in 10 mins) on the door. Only they weren't....... ( back in 10) and he was not happy. 

So no sign..... just a very quick dash..... and back in 30 seconds.

And now time for some more skipping. Before I die of an overdose of sedentary (in)-activity.

Luckily there is a sprung floor......

works by me

Monday, 5 August 2019

The Indecisive Moment (indecisive photography in Vancouver)

Last week I was in Vancouver visiting family - always a special time. 

Hiking, paddleboarding, swimming and childminding. I loved it all.

Being in the city is always a challenge photographically. I am conscious that I haven't made any new 'work' recently, after aborted trips to New Zealand and the USA, and am feeling a little pressure to come up with some new ideas.

I think the only idea that I came up with after a week of wandering was that of the 'Indecisive Moment'. Indecisive in that I couldn't really find anything new to say about the city or its beautiful parks and forest. Indecisive in what style of photography to go for. And indecisive over how to process what few images I did make.

Henri Cartier Bresson described the 'decisive moment' thus;

 “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.”

This is the absolute antithesis of how I work in most of my photography. A tree doesn't walk, or a flower run. Dead seaweed, the subject of my recent book 'findings' lies quietly on the sand, unmoving.

I don't usually wait for a special moment; I am not a street photographer, or a sports photographer, lying in wait for that moment when everything before the lens comes together to be captured as something unrepeatable. I am not a fan of seeking out sunsets and sunrises; waiting for moments of glorious light that may or may not arrive. 

I am a walking photographer, capturing what I find along my way.

I did try a few minutes of street photography on the waterfront at Coal Harbour, out of sheer desperation.

I achieved very little as I was shooting from the hip, being discreet, and mostly got photos of hips as a result.

 Later I tried being even more indecisive, by photographing the same scene over and over, waiting for something to happen.

 This was more fun, but the camera got confused and the people walking past were out of focus.

walkers, Stanley park, vancouver

So then I played with grids of multiple photos; each imperceptibly different ffrom the last.

This satisfied my desire to capture multiple indecisive moments, and also my love of the geometric.

But not that interesting really.

multiple moments grid

I tried indecisive birds.

They behaved beautifully unpredictably. I kept my camera still and waited for the ducks to move into the picture.

They did.

But they couldn't decide which way up to pose for the camera.

waiting for a duck



I tried moody black and white images in the forest. Tangled dead trees and people walking along forest paths.

dead tree, beaver lake

walkers, stanley park, vancouver

walkers, stanley park

 At the botanical gardens I enjoyed the rhododendrons and hydrangeas.

I was indecisive about how to capture them. Multiple exposure, regular exposure or black and white. I tried them all.

multiple exposure mess

hydrangea flower

hydrangea flower

I think this last one is my preferred option; regular colour photography. No blurry bits. Just the sunlight filtering through the petals.

I tried night photography from my balcony.

night scene, Vancouver city

Not a great success. I won't show you any more of those.

My favourite image from the trip ( apart from family photos of course) is this one of kitchens.

As I spent a lot of my week cooking it seems entirely appropriate.

I think the moral of this story is 'don't try so hard'.

Wait for the right moments to come along.

And if you are feeling indecisive, then it is probably because you are busy doing other things -  I was being a grandmother and mother for a week- something that gives me even more pleasure than photography.

And this week I am back being a photographer, preparing for my show at Rye Art Gallery.

It features some very decisive moments, as you would expect.

Conversations with Nature at Rye Art gallery

I hope to see you there!