The ramblings of an Ex interior designer

Good morning folks

It’s been a long few months since I posted here.  Mostly my jottings are sporadic and I am always making promises to myself to post regularly, but I don’t.  Partly because I write “morning pages”, something I started after attending workshop at Alternatives many years back, all about the “Artists Way” given by the author of the said book whose name escapes me, and whom I cannot search as I am in the midst of a horrendous storm in the north of Kefalonia.  Usually I can see Ithaca, the home of Ulysses, but today its totally obscured by the rain soaked clouds that have descended.  It is also partly due to my mind being totally preoccupied with moving home, since closing down IDC to pursue this new part of my life with gusto I have been making plans to move away from Tunbridge Wells a place I made home when I married in 1969.  With all this going on The Extraordinairium and my little creatures are sitting happily in my studio and have not ventured any further, although they have grown a little with a couple of additions and the nearer I became to selling them I realised I couldn’t part with them, so selling I am not sure at this juncture.  Although I have always said I would not make to commission, in this instance maybe I shall so that my current family can stay intact.

Moving home, which I may add when I moved to this home, now over 20 years ago, it was to be my last ever move.  At that time my ex husband and I shared an old fisherman’s/beach hut on a deserted beach at Shellness on the weekends, a great place next to RSPB land, no costa, Starbucks or Pret.  Sharing alternate weekends it was a haven away from the pressures of running my own company, with only a one-ring gas picnic stove, no running water and toilet that needed to be emptied, I loved it.  To go to sleep with sound of the sea lapping up on the beach, waking to an ever changing seascape and walks along the shore to see what flotsam and jetsam had been washed up over night, buying a fresh sea bass from fisherman on the beach and pan frying immediately downed with a chunk of bread and lashings of butter, it was heaven.  Sadly my ex sold it over one winter without telling me or giving me the opportunity to purchase it myself for the family, that was a very sad moment not only for his deceit which I should have known, but no longer would I have an outside space to call my own as I specifically chose a flat without a garden as the beach home was to be a family preserve and given to our children.  Ever since then I have hankered to be close the sea.  At last now I have the opportunity, my thoughts have changed a little with the news of the first small town by the sea in wales to be actually decommissioned, meaning in two years time all the utilities will be cut off and the town will not be included in the councils remit, so it will just go into decline, a ghost town.  How can this be? How can you just stop serving a community of people who have paid their taxes over the years, no compensation is being offered, its beyond callous, its brutal.  So decided with the way our planet is heading I would like an elevated view rolling countryside and a distant sea view.

First I followed the call of the wild, visited north Pembrokeshire, Strumble Head to be precise and fell in love with a farmhouse there.  With holiday cottages as part of the sale which initially attracted me, after coming back to earth I realised all the work involved was something I did not want to take on, at 70 I wanted to spend time developing my own creative pursuits. Now people don’t worry about getting older, I have never been happier and the prospect of this new life of no paid work, new home and freedom just fills me with excitement.    Despite constant searching for “the view” I couldn’t find anything similar unless very badly “modernised” or derelict.  Great idea, I would have thought  20 years ago but I don’t want that large undertaking now.  Also my kids thought it was rather a long way away from everything I have known, in the cold light of day I came to the conclusion that in the last decades of my life I want to be near them and not distance myself from them.  For the last 30 years I have been totally absorbed by my love of interiors, and the building pressure of ever larger projects being undertaken, working with huge construction contractors like Wates and Balfour Beatty it just took every ounce of my energy to keep everything on track.  Now I want to be the person that was lost many years ago, the person who had time “to be”, to find enjoyment in the mundane, the simple pleasure of living with the seasons, growing flowers, fruit and vegetable, preserving, cooking and baking and of course “making”.

My search for home with a view took me all along south coast, I have now found that home with a perfect view and my offer was accepted the day before I journeyed here.

Slowing down from the fast pace life of running my own design business, staff issues and so on, standing back now it makes me realise just how shallow the whole lifestyle design thing has become.  I know I played a role in this “Luxury” for the masses syndrome that has consumed everyone since those early TV programmes from the 90’s, I too was sucked into must have latest colour and trend, went to all the trade fairs, Maison Objet in Paris being my all time favourite.  However, increasingly over the past years I found the whole trend based design to be particularly irksome where absolutely everything in the industry is monetized, not only the so called trend and colour forecasters but the people who feel they must have the latest at whatever cost and just discarding perfectly good kitchens, bathrooms, furniture, lighting just because someone somewhere has said this colour or style is not cool anymore.  Just this morning I was listening to a podcast of two rather “prominent” women in the design world putting across the latest sound bytes of design info whilst there insincere laughter at each others tittle tattle left me cold.  Why is it these people are so popular?  Haven’t we minds of our own, can’t we use our intuition to choose a colour/style that feeds our souls and can bring us joy and not be “told” by someone who is going to make money out of us by vloging, blogging and podcasts and so on.  All on the make, all trying to attract big business to sponsor them, give discounts on sales and so on.  I don’t know about you reading this, but I feel like I am full to the brim, just cannot take all this over consumption anymore.  The world is bloated, oversaturated with “stuff”.  We have been force fed too much in the belief it will make our lives better, what a total lie we have been telling ourselves. 

In essence the whole issue of excessive consumerism can no longer be ignored, its not just about the items being “recyclable” as Hugh FT found out when he researched this issue on his recent TV programme and found our recycled goods rotting in Malaysia. It is about waking up and realising that we must look at the quantity of product we are purchasing, do we really need to discard last years velvet sofa for this years latest, yes we can give to charity shop or resell, but its still purchasing new which is something we all need to look at.  The Patriarchal Capitalist model of year on year profit and keeping shareholders happy is totally destroying our planet.  Everything has “money accumulation” written in and I mean almost everything, you cannot cough without someone making a buck of your likes and dislikes, look at how at much money is being made by data harvesting, how in fact this alone has changed the stability of the world I grew up in.  Its all quite sickening when the onus is put on the consumers alone, what about the companies who manufacture the goods, the companies who rape our planet for the raw materials.  People we must stop buying for trends sake and make wise choices for comfort, durability and longevity.

Well that is my ramble over, the island of Ithaca is still hidden, the rain is still coming down in torrents and the power has just gone down.

Until next time

The Extraordinarium

“The Extraordinarium, a place, a home for extraodinary little beings to gather and where extraordinary things happen.

Herbert, he is an extraordinary little being, has seen many centuries come and go and has watched his beloved walled garden and the contents therein slowly decline. What was once a thriving country house, slowly fell into disrepair, the sons were called up to fight and never returned, the same went for all workers on the estate and slowly everything came to a halt. The owners died as much of a broken heart as old age and the house fell into total decline. Herbert of course always found something to eat from the rampant grasses, berries and seeds that grew wild everywhere but he yearned for the day when his beloved walled garden could be bought back to life

it came to him in a dream, he didn’t know it then, but this was to be the beginning of something quite extraordinary ! dream trees .”

I have started to put together the books for my little creatures, the characterful beings that are drawn to “The Extraordinarium”

the sketches below are ideas for the dream tree, a very rare specie. I am intending to make one, probably cut paper, shaped and curved to form three dimensional image just like my flowers and shoes, or a moulded paper clay that I can actually model and place in a perspex case. Early stages yet, but all my creatures are made and the individual stories are coming together. These will all be for sale, where I dont know or when, but soon

Inspired

Just back from Pembrokeshire my third visit this year. Just glorious weather, blue skies, rugged coastlines and foxgloves everywhere. So colourful, pink flowers everywhere and when looking closely in the hedgerows up the lane pretty wild orchids. Even bought a magnificent plate by Pembrokeshire ceramicist Jonathon Cox, large 40cms dia, lustre painted design depicting the local flora. Came home just so full of ideas !!

Mind is working overtime as usual, in my head I am creating so many things that my hand cannot write and sketch them down in my book quick enough. I dont know about you all out there, but my sketch book is full of notes, mindmaps as well as the obvious drawing stuff. I have many and variety of sizes and formats, landscape, square and portrait and I find it somewhat chaotic at times because I forget which one I have been working in and spend ages looking for the “right one”

My extraordinary creatures are coming to life, all their characters are beginning to take shape. Right now I have three more made waiting for their clothing, a goat with the most amazing set of horns, more dramatic than his friend the painter, he holds great presence and power. A delicate little whippet, definitely feminine and a seated hare. Talking of seats I purchased a beautiful little chair, you can see below two little friiends looking comfy.

I have also just taken delivery off a stack of vintage and linen off cuts, all 100% natural linen and very pleased with them indeed as some show obvious wear which I love. Have replenished my wool stocks, all natural colours and English and Welsh breads, even some Herdwick, the breed that Beatrix Potter bought back to life in the Lake District back in the early 1900’s, Its all very exciting as there is so much more that I am carrying out on this project, eventually everything will be for sale . These are one off totally handmade art creatures their clothes hand stitched and most have removable clothing, They are collectables suitable as family heirlooms. These are not toys as they delicate, needle felted wool over an aluminium wire armature, but I see them as story telling characters to inspire and ignite imagination and creativity in all ages.

Along side all this each character will eventually have handmade art story books to accompany them. The Narrative contains something really special and this item will be available as a paper sculpture

Please watch this space for further anouncements

I

A path well trodden, but how much longer will it be?

Coming here to the North of Kefalonia  it always felt like I was coming home, arriving at the airport, the warm moist air enveloping me as I take the first step from the air conditioned cabin. The familiar face of Makis greeting me and taking my case to the taxi, the breathtaking views as we climb north driving ever higher.   I have been coming twice a year now for 6 years, a long time for me but for others I have met here this is nothing, Some people have been coming to Kefalonia for 16-20 years or more.    The farmhouse always held me, its wild gardens, olive groves, views across the ionian seas to Ithica, the wildlife,  the chickens and goats, this was a sanctuary away from the deadlines and constant pressure that hounded me  when back in the uk.   Now that the pressure is off  I wondered if returning to Kefalonia this time would feel different as I am no longer fleeing the pressure of trying to spin all the plates in the air, run a home, a business, staff, family issues and so on.  Its doubly hard when there is nobody to share this burden with me.  Designing interiors, mixing colours and textures, choosing original artworks, designing my own furniture pieces it gave me the  best feeling in the world and I was in my element, but the procurement  and installation , working along side architects, and building contractors and the male dominated construction industry who wouldnt know good design if it bit on the bum, all this side of designing took away that feeling completely.  Even though I won awards and various accolades it just wasnt enough to keep me fighting the design battles anymore.

So her  I am and  pleased to say that the feelings, even though the first two weeks have been in the coldest ever apparently, haven’t changed a bit,  I still love the island, well the norther part anyway, south more built up and busier.   Guess the one thing that has changed  is the longing to live here.  For one ,I do not like the fierce summer heat, so July and August would be a definite no no for me and two, I have found the uk version of northern Kefalonia, its wildness, rugged cliffs and coves, forest and quiet windy roads where I feel drawn to make my permanent home.   Still visiting Evreti, Kefalonia for 2-3 months each year I can have the best of both worlds, and still continue to travel and explore the uk and of course spend time manifesting creative objects into the world.

Of course with the advancing years, 70 last January, there is that little conumdrum of how much should I be spending?  how long will my money have to last, how long will I be walking in this world?  Something one never considers when younger, there is always decades to enjoy, thing to try out and if mistakes are made, plenty of time to put it right.  Now though decisions seem more important to make as not time left to rectify anything. Do I say to myself another 15 years, divide it up and spend the said sum each year?  Do I buy a house with an income, (holiday rental cottages} and run it as a small business?  Guess I am lucky that my business was successful and have these kind of issues to contend with.  I am not having the live on a uk state pension, the lowest in the whole of Europe!  Actually there was no luck, I gave my all to my company, blood sweat and tears to make it successful!  All I know is that this is whole new chapter in my life, one where for once I have the total freedom to choose, a real adventure awaits and I am very excited to watch each day unfolds and just where this path will take me

A few pics of the past weeks

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The journey continues

It has been awhile since I posted.  My life has been full and packed with inspiring visits, projects, cliff walks and so on.

North Wales and the Lake district beckoned, visiting friends, coming together on really sacred lands and holding ceremony to visiting Beatrix Potter’s first cottage by Lake Windermere.  This cottage, its warmth and love really resonated with me, my desire to move away from my large spaces and tall ceilings to a simple home, intimate, full of my own creations and a space that will feed my soul and where I can end my days here.

This desire was strengthened yet again when I visited Pembrokeshire, everything just opened up and there was the cottage I have been dreaming in came into real life, after viewing it I came away absolutely blown away with its detail, it was as if I had been walking around it in my dreams and the universe had manifested it for me.

North Pembrokhire is wild and rugged, the flora and fauna excellent and  the views tremendous from the coastal path, lovely sleepy little villages, NO costa, NO Starbucks, NO chains, in fact not much at all but what I love about the farmhouse I stay in Northern Kefalonia is right here in Wales,  I dont like hot sun and I dont go t to greece to roast on the sandy beaches,  so in a way it has everyting.  The only difference is NO swimming Pool.  Guess I will come a fan of wild swimming, should keep me fit and healthy.

So we shall see what transpires, taking my daughter to view the property again after easter.

Here are a few image of what I have been getting up to and the last one, homage to my lovely mum, 27 years ago she passed on to the next life. Happy Mother’s Day

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obsession or creativity

IMG_1564IMG_1555IMG_1556well I am at creature no.6 and and the need to keep creating the little forms seems to have no end.  Is this and obsession or it is just plain creative surge, both I guess.  When I have an idea that comes up in my head I just have to go with it, its like its not me manifesting these things but a force that is beyond my control, so I really have no choice but to keep “making” as the ideas flow and my sketchbook of ideas expands daily.  I know by past projects this will pass and try as I might to further develop and idea and stick with it appears not to happen for me in this way.  I so want to be able to progress a concept, try all avenues and really explore the possibilities and develop the forms into something that is really unique to my process.  Each time something downloads into my thoughts I think this is the one, this is my work, I can own and this and develop it fully, sadly though its hasn’t yet, perhaps this time maybe different.

My new creature is a really soft body little lamb  needlefelted onto a pipe cleaner armature.   Head is needlefelted too.  Everything handmade and hand stitched using found and vintage fabrics, laces and so on.  Such a sweet little face and demeanour, this is a real doll, can be cuddled and redressed if need be, unlike the others which have metal armatures.  She stands at about 10 1/2 inches

another creature comes to life, no.5

This is a strange journey for me because I am totally drawn in creating these adorable figures, just finished one and straight on to the next and have so many drawings and ideas for future creatures.  However, as I am creating them I am constantly asking myself, why am I doing this? what is the reason behind making what is essentially a doll.  They enchant me, each has a personality and a soul that didn’t exist before I started making them, but as the eyes are created something pulls me in and really touches me emotionally.    Is each one displaying a facet of me?  Painting, sketching and creating on paper  and with paper has always been my passion, so to find myself manifesting in this way is a complete surprise and in some way makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable, in fact some days it is so strong that I am telling myself to go back to painting, but I just cannot pull myself away.  This particular creative path right now will have a gift in it somewhere for sure, I must be doing this for a reason, so for now I shall just sit back and watch it all unfold and see where this journey takes me.

This particular doll is cloth, its arms and legs are jointed and his head is needle felted  from Welsh hill’s sheep wool.  The clothes are all hand stitched and hand knitted with vintage and found fabrics and hand dyed wool yarn.  It was a joy to make,  seeing it come to life in my hands was quite magical as it was if my little   Persian cats Lilly and Ferdy had been reincarnated.  Ferdy was a chinchilla and Lily Sealpoint,   Long gone now though, I miss them.

 

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now with ears!!

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A lot has happened since my last post

the last months since November have been packed full with all manner of things,  visit to Wales.  Fabulous lunch at The Greenhouse.   London museums and gallery visits, the Oceania exhibition at the Royal Academy being one of the most inspirational I have seen in a long while.  Firle church and an evening of music, words, dance and ceremony with Carolyn Hilllyer to see in the solstiice, and on the solstice a wonderful evening organised by a good friend Ali, journeying to sounds of a Mongolian throat singer and gong bath.   Then of course Christmas and the handmade presents I usually do, this year it was books, hand made and hand bound.  A new skill learnt which I love the precision of the bindings themselves.  Sourdough breadmaking course at the Bicycle Bakery, which I made many tasty loaves   Then it was needle felting families of dreaming mice, each one had a prayer for manifesting peace and serenity in all areas of life and then a fabulous sleepy dreaming bunny, this has now grown into a rabbit figure which has conjured up clothes, characters and a book.  A fabulous christmas lunch of Haunch of Venison cooked to perfection by my daughter and an illuminated walk at Bedgebury which was quite spectacular All the while though there has been my daily practice, patterns and watercolour and collage.

Oh and of course it was my 70th birthday last Friday.  I had a fabulous couple of days, so many lovely cards, flowers and messages.  A gift from daughter and her partner, one for  for each decade, so seven beautiful gifts including a poem that bought tears to my eyes.  I also spent a lovely evening and breakfast walk along the seafront at Hastings after a night at The Laindons which I thoroughly recommend.

What it is like being 70?  the best feeling in the world, freedom to do and be who you like, fabulous.

Here are a few glimpses of the past weeks

Hopefully a more consistent approach from now on

I am now on a new journey, a journey where I can devote my time to a creative daily practice of my own.

My days of designing interiors are now over, cannot believe I ran my own successful company for so long.  My only sadness it that my mother died just weeks before it all began, she never saw me put my creative skills to good use,  I know she would have been so very happy for me.   There are many challenges in starting a business and the first few years were extremely tough, many times I was close to giving up but thankfully that strong will of  mine saw me through. My mums words “where there is a will there is way” constantly rang through my head.  I also also lived through the dawning of the digital age, apple mac was my first computer in the early 90’s with my first mobile phone and over the years the working practice of a designer became totally computer driven.  Out went the drawing boards  and the source library an in came drawing packages, illustrator, Cad and so on.  Together with a great team we have designed, procured and installed projects the length and breadth of the country.

Will I miss it all?  Right in this moment in time, I would say no definitely not, interior design sounds great but it comes with massive pressure, constant deadlines and right now I am so happy to leave it al behind.  Will I miss it in the future, who knows, possibly, but I know that my own creative skills have taken a back seat for so long thats its time now for this to be the main part of my day.

just a few of the ways I have been expressing myself of late.

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feeling free

 

Another large project (day job)  has at last come to fruition and with that comes the release of feeling I can breathe again, no pressure……..  and even closer to  my goal of giving it all up for good.

today in my studio I tried out mono printing for the first time.    What a great way to work, I love it and cannot wait to get back down there again today.  Experimenting with inks, acrylics, alcohol, cutting stencils and the excitement of pulling the print, revealing such unexpected results.  I am ,looking out for some good printmaking weekend courses, if anyone knows of any please let me know.

I am also working on a large piece, acrylic underpainting and now layering in oils.  Intertwined shapes, at first large and as each subsequent layer they are becoming smaller and more defined, colours changing all the time.  Sometimes clashing  and full of vigour, sometimes much quieter and more sombre.  Almost like a weather gauge of emotions.   A journey I am enjoying

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Moel Hirradug

This painting of Moel Hirradug has had several lives, three different attempts, one all green, one multicoloured and this one I think I like the best.  Still feel the need to try again though, next time might be acrylics and pastel.  This one is oil and it shows the iron age fort that sits atop.  I have it on my friend’s authority that the view from the top is amazing, sadly I didnt even attempt it.  Far too hot.  The painting also depicts the parched earth, no rain now for 54 days.IMG_9614

Layers and patterns

I started a painting last week, creating a layer each day, no particular idea in mind just something to reflect my day.  Its interesting to see how the layers created started of fairly dark. cool colours and as each day went by the layers became brighter and warmer.   I felt today the painting complete, feeling red I started something else

Red ink, paint brush, calligraphy pen, scalpel, steel rule and matt medium.  Making various stripes of different thickness and angles I then cut into strips and repasted back in my sketch book.  Wished I had waterproof ink as they mat medium smudged the ted lines, but hey ho, I like the way it turned out.  Can see more experiments on the horizonLove the patterns that emerged

 

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A fruitful day

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Or should I say a vegetable day?  my desire to keep painting seems strong at the moment.  Am I enjoying it, Yes, absolutely.   Am I pleased with the results, absolutely not !!  this is the perfectionist in me, its such a hard task master to have this running all the time.  Never ever feels good enough.  For years, nearly 30 years I have been an interior designer and its only been in last 2-3 years that I can say I am interior designer and not feel a fraud.  My creativity has taken many forms over the years, from drawing and watercolour sketches, to making things with my hands, cutting paper, clay work, collage, oil pastels, dry pastels, oil paint sticks but when it comes to painting, there is a lot of doubt that comes up.  Not Good Enough, is the foremost one and most times it hampers the start, so recently with the urge to pick up my paintbrushes, oil paint and so on and  keep painting is rather new to me.  Its normally paint one or two, dont like them and put paints away for a few months.

Painting is a great teacher, it brings up so much for me that I can now sit and watch and see exactly what is happening as it unfolds.  self doubt, conversations on size, whether to make it abstract or representational.  Then there is the conversation about the cost of oil paint these days, absolutely ridiculous prices and like everything else now we have these small artisan workshops making specialist paints that are even more costly.  One thing that has changed my painting though is Rosemary’s handmade brushes.  I had never heard of an Egbert brush before, but these together with large long flats are helping me obtain the brushstrokes that I desire.  To know they are handmade in Yorkshire make using them feel even better !

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Faces and Cold Wax

IMG_9515Not working at the day job today so had time to relax, breakfast on the Pantiles then back for painting and trying out a new medium, new to me anyway.  Gamblin’s cold wax, its a mix of pure refined Beeswax and Gamsol, odourless mineral spirits.  Wonderful stuff and it makes the oil paint a thick butter consistency.  Thought I would try painting the South American woman’s face I tried a couple of week or so back and this time I am much happier.  It  has colour, the paints rich texture makes wonderful marks, using long flats and egbert brushes I managed to make  really nice painterly strokes,  even painting alla prima I could still, with a light touch flick a different colour over the first layer and create wonderful colour mixes and movement to the strokes.  Blending the colour to create a blurred outline is something I am always trying, this medium it just happened without really trying.  I used Rosemary Ivory brushes, long flats in sizes 6,10 and 12