World Wide Blog Hop Interview

I just love listening to creative people talk about their passions. I also love peeking inside other artists' studios and seeing how they work, so when my lovely artist friend Amy Won at Treespace Studio invited me to participate in this world wide blog hop of artist/writer interviews, I said "yes!" immediately. I need to invite three other artists or writers to post next Monday and I'll link to their posts here.

What am I working on?  

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I'm finding my way back to a regular studio practice, after my old day job squeezed away the time I had to spend there. I'm curious though to see whether this path will in fact lead back, or whether I will find myself somewhere new. My most public work has been artist books. That's what I've sold, that's where I've received most recognition, and that's my intended route for further study. It's not where I am right now though.

My more personal work has usually been in art journals and in teaching my hands to make and embellish in any way I can imagine. I want to spend more time on my fine art skills, pushing them on from the foundation year in art and design I studied a few years ago.

That's why I'm taking online courses like Misty Mawn's Full Circle and The Year of the Fairy Tale with Carla Sonheim. I've also been setting myself little challenges and that's what you see me working on, above. I'm sketching with watercolours and a black pen, every day of my summer holiday. I'm practising nonattachment to outcomes, above all. Carla Sonheim taught me the value of setting limits as a creative kickstart, and Danny Gregory's books and blogs taught me the value of drawing every day, a habit I'm resuming after a long gap. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

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I believe that this question haunts a lot of artists, in every field.  The gremlins like to whisper "why do you even bother? It's not like you have anything new to say, it's all been done before (and better, too!)." I found the best armour against that recently, in this quote:

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.  - C.S.Lewis

All I can say about my work is that it is my truth; it is my best attempt to show you how I see the world. I won't claim wild originality, but I know when I'm on to something when it feels somehow, very Kelly. At best, it's the feeling of someone saying "I love the way you see the world" or "you have a unique line." At worst, it's the feeling of being in a class and realising that my work looks nothing like anyone else's, and of course, that can be the best part too!

Why do I write/create what I do? 

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A lot of my work over the years has been as record keeper, story teller and archivist for my life and my family.  I don't have a great memory for when stuff happened, so I keep journals and scrapbooks to help.

Looking closely at the world around me feels like meditation. I know some people feel removed from the moment when they're behind the lens, but for me it feels deeper in, because I must stop and look closely, to notice colours and details I didn't before. Drawing has the same effect, only deeper still. To look carefully, in a space beyond language, at curve and angle and shade and hue feels like nothing else I've experienced yet. 

I want to cause people to look again at things they overlook every day, and find the joy within. My artist book, 'Hearts on the Night Bus'. For those who don't live in London, the night bus is the only way to get home once it gets truly late; tubes and trains close down before 1am and cabs cost a lot here. The night buses often take the long way home and I know people who avoid them; my book looks at the imagined intersection of lives on one of these buses, bringing the drama of human life to the mundane nature of public transport.

How does your writing/creating process work?

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Collection and reflection: a photo of the shadow of leaves, the rusty metal washer, the flower flattened in a book; all these are beginnings. I loved seeing a mock up of Hayao Miyazaki's studio, filled with reference books on everything under the sun, sketches and collected treasures. It reassured me that I'm not actually a TV-ready hoarder, it's just that I think like an artist, collect like an artist. Right?

I usually have a hardback notebook with me. Not exactly a sketchbook, not exactly a journal, it's not pretty to look through. It's job is to capture all the little sparks of ideas during a day: sketches of patterns, quotes, copied lettering, lists, questions and wonderings.

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An artist book might start with a piece of paper or a verse of text. Then I get the flash -the concept for the book, what it will be about - that usually comes in an instant. After that comes the hard work, the whittling away of ideas. I might sketch things out, collect materials, try colour combinations and binding techniques, especially once I've chosen the materials. Every step is a choice and every choice has to be right. The thing with artist books is that object as a whole is something greater than what's within the pages. How it feels in your hand, how it's bound, how the pages open... All of that is either harmonious with the book's idea or deliberately at odds with it.

My journal work is more intuitive. I'll start with a word or phrase, or a piece of collage material, or a few colours of paint. From there it's just a reactive process. Lay down some colours, or background collage. Then I ask the question "What does it want next?" Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Take some time to check out these other artists participating in the Worldwide Blog Hop Interviews:

Daily Photo Montage  who invited

Michael Tunk who invited

Adrian Velazco who invited

Emiko Shimabukuro who invited

Amy Won who invited me

I'm inviting my guests as we speak. 

The Magic Dress

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I'm just having so much fun right now making things I can wear. I've had the urge to get back into dressmaking for a couple of years now. I've mostly expressed this through the buying of sewing books.

Then of course, came the Spring of the Socks. I feel very loved up whenever I'm wearing handknit socks, even those that were, let's say, more learning experiences than skilful creations.  I think that got me over the hump and I bought a simple pattern and some fabric back in May. I was intimidated by trying to start back in at my old skill level and this simple pattern was definitely the way to go.

The picture at the top is a different dress in progress, and the result of an awesome birthday gift! The lovely Z and I headed off to Canning Town last Sunday for a workshop with Chinello Bally, a finalist on The Great British Sewing Bee this year. She taught us how to measure ourselves and cut straight on the fabric - no pattern! - to make a very elegant, vaguely Greco-Roman (there's draping) maxi-dress. I need to get good pics of mine, but then I will share. 

The magic? The class had all ages and sizes and shapes of womanhood you can imagine, and every single one looked gorgeous in this frock. That's what we need more of, fashion that flatters us and makes us happy, not standard sizes that fit no one perfectly and make so many women feel less than good enough. No thank you.

 

Nourished, body & soul

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It's hard to know how much to limit the subject matter of a blog. Blog guru who list "ten top tips" for blog success usually recommend sticking to your niche; I feel that doesn't apply to the blogging community I love. We don't do this for money or fame (it's nice if that follows, and very well-deserved in the cases I know), but from passion and a quest for kindreds.

Most often, my blog silences are a result of that tension, between what I'm doing with my days and whether  I think that is appropriate content for here. That only got worse once I added my name to the website and attached it to my artist books. The answer for me, at least at the moment, is in what I wrote in the bio when I first started blogging, back in July 2005, is that I want to record my creative journey.

More and more, who I am as an artist is hard to separate from who I am, period. This is one of those posts. The meal in the picture above perfectly sums up a lot of how I want to live: it's colourful, inspiring, close to nature and the epitome of abundance. I feel like the last to join the party on this one, but in case I'm not, this is what people call a Buddha bowl. I think there are other names, like big bowl, but a search for that just gave me stuff about a restaurant. 

I don't eat meat, and I need to have protein in every meal. It's easy to get trapped in the same old options. And preparing interesting salads can feel like a chore, and eating UNinteresting salds can feel like a chore! This felt like a feast. It was bulghur wheat, baby spinach leaves, red pepper, spring onion, mushrooms, sweet potatoes roasted with garlic and hummus, all topped with avocado dressing (the recipe site is broken just now, I'll try to link later).

Have you tried Buddha bowls? Or do you call it something else? Got any good recipes? 

Back in the studio again

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The perfect is the enemy of the good.
-Voltaire

A wise friend told me this at work years ago. She and I both had a tendency to spend too much time on projects, trying to get them just the way we wanted them, instead of focusing on what was actually needed. Some things are worth giving your all, burning the midnight oil and pushing yourself harder. Other things, most things, really, just need to be done well enough, fit for purpose and, most importantly, done. 

I often find myself waiting for the perfect block of time to do something. I can put off starting until I have every little detail worked out. I find it tough to do a little bit here and there, when I can. Am I alone in this? I think not.

Monday was a big date on my calendar. Two classes were starting, Misty Mawn's Full Circle and Carla Sonheim's Year of the Fairy Tale.  I wanted to be ready, and hit the ground running. This is all part of taking my artwork more seriously (but not too seriously, I promise). So, the studio...

I love small space living. Even my dream houses qualify as small spaces, but our London apartment is a definite fit. It takes some work though, and I am a long way from mastering it. And so we have the studio/bedroom/junkroom. My feelings about it are complicated, and I won't go into that today. Monday's success was that I cleaned up enough to be able to work in there, without waiting for the magical day when it is perfect, what ever that means.

And I was able to start my mandala for Misty's class, that you see above. It needs more work, but I was able to draw and paint until the natural light went, and it felt so damn good.

A walk around the block

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For years, I walked in the mornings. In Dublin, I walked nearly 3-5km each morning to the nursery where I did teaching practice, first in Dun Laoghaire and later in Blackrock. When I first moved to London, I walked to work for over fifteen years. My first nursery was a 45 minute walk, so later when I started teaching in a primary school, the 25 minute walk seemed a breeze in comparison.

I still have clear memories of that first walk. I used the time to wake up and to have a good think. I clearly remember walking alongside a high wall on one road, thinking about my boyfriend! I've never been a morning person, but having to start the day by walking certainly helped.

My husband and I believe strongly in supporting public transport, so most outings are by bus, tube or train; even for trips within the country we tend to travel by train. On of my greatest pleasures of travel is stomping around a new city or even exploring London; it reminds me how lucky I am to get to travel and live abroad. It makes the map in the guide book truly real to me.

This was all cut down dramatically in the past few years by two factors. Firstly, a close friend gave me her dear old banger, my trusty silver Fiat Panda. Combine that with free parking at work and that daily walk was sacrificed to having half an hour more in bed. Secondly, I injured my feet, repeatedly and in different ways (okay, yes, the dropped magnum of champagne was the most entertaining, I'll give you that).

Now that I no longer work full-time, I've been missing that walk. I have a tendency to over think things, so I spent a lot of the autumn battling, over-planning and beating myself up. This month, I have been calmer about it, and on several mornings now, just got up and went out. It fits in nicely with my preferred morning of waking slowly, with tea and the radio. It's easier when K is working from home (he lets me back in and makes me a cup of tea). 

A morning walk is a pleasure. It grounds me in my body. It grounds me in nature, in the weather and seasons. It grounds me in the world of people, which is no small thing when you are an introvert who works from home. It gives me time to think and, with or without my camera, a chance to look around, catching little details and the colour of the sky. And when I get back, somehow I'm always raring to go and I get more done that day than I would have otherwise.

I'd love to hear about your favourite walk, whether it is one you will always remember or one that you take every day.