Buy Yourself Flowers

This month I decided to impoverish myself by purchasing a Windows Surface Pro 4. My previous laptop was in a sorry state, dating circa 2009, and, in one memorable tipsy escapade, having once been used as a base on which to do some lino cutting.

I'm determined my new pride and joy will suffer no such fate. Aside from needing a new device to use for doing stuff like writing this blog post on, what really drew me to the Surface was the fact that it doubles up as a drawing tablet. I have wild dreams of designing fabric prints, but have started small with some illustrations on current preoccupations (vintage Valentine's cards, self care). While I have a long way to go, I am enjoying how quickly I can produce images and the many different effects which come with the software.

(I will get back to stitching at some point... honest...)

It Could Be Worse

I still have Valentine's on the brain. I have quite the extensive 50s/60s kitsch Valentine's card collection, which originally I'd hoped to cover a bedroom wall in.

Most of my cards came as job lots, but the one I've adapted in this drawing I had to buy as a single card, because, well... look at it. Originally it bore the legend "Need-le Valentine? SEW be mine", but I just wasn't going to let a pun that diabolical stand, so I've paired the imagery with a phrase I've been trying to find adequate imagery for for a while. I'm not entirely sure it works, but I'm going to plough this furrow for a while and make more altered Valentine's images.

Oh, and does the little lady look familiar? I just couldn't resist getting the chance to stab a heart with my needle...

Be Your Own Valentine

I did a cheeky little sketch for Valentine's Day; I also followed my own advice from a couple of weeks ago and bought myself flowers.

I have an extensive collection of vintage Valentine's cards which I think I might draw and subvert, and have been interested in the Language of Flowers for some time... I feel a new project brewing...

Sensitive Plant

It's Valentine's Day, and I am about to have a romantic meal with my mother.

On the off-chance that there's a cutie out there wishing I was wining and dining with them instead, I have outlined my ~dream date~ below. Of course, we would have to wait until April at the very least, but that's ok, I'm fine with being my own Valentine for now (drawing on that theme to follow).

Bad Plant Mama

My colleagues got me a fancy Magma sketchbook for my birthday, and I've been filling its pages with some speed. It's a revelation to me how quick sketching is compared to the labour of love that is embroidery.

I've been feeling a little glum this past week. First and foremost, I hold the weather responsible; it has been grey and drizzly most of the time.

A symptom of depression which I didn't expect and which I didn't experience before I entered the world of work was feeling constantly tired. It is increasingly difficult to get up in the morning; the thought that gets me through the day is the possibility of sleep soon.

There are other side effects; over the last few weeks my bedroom became what I can only describe as a "depression pit". It got to the stage where I knew there were things I needed to use in there somewhere, but where they were was another question, as was summoning the energy to find out. I didn't want to see friends (especially of an evening, when doing so would take me away from the bed base camp), yet felt intensely lonely.

This was by no means a very serious depression, only impinging slightly on my life, but I thought it was best to be mindful and act. I took a duvet day on Thursday, went back to bed for an hour or so, then tackled the detritus of my room, and felt considerably better.

My plants don't seem to be enjoying the dark days either; several are rather droopy. To turn this on its head and avoid depression-exacerbated feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a #plantmama, I did a little drawing in my sketchbook.

I might do a series of related drawings; this one could be a good fit for several zines in the works. For now though, it's back to embroidery.

Self Care Series

My brother got me Posca Pens for my birthday and I got straight to work with them.

The first little sketch I completed was an idea to be embroidered and eventually wind up as a t shirt design. I may still do this, but with Valentine's Day coming up, I began to think of other ways that you can show yourself a little love (I fully intend to buy myself some roses and eat something heart-shaped on Valentine's Day, by the way).

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It's so easy to be a workaholic or put all your time, energy and love into relationships with others. It's so easy to not extend that care to yourself. This series is a little riposte to that. I might make a slightly personal collage/illustrative/stitched zine featuring the series called "Quiet Enjoyment" after a covenant of tenancy which tickled my fancy... I'm collecting unusual phrases and intriguing etymologies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strength and Weakness

Yesterday was my twenty sixth birthday.

Birthdays can be difficult.

Not because I fear growing old, but because I have a tendency to look back. I consider the previous year and see how very little I have achieved, and, because I am a human and we tend to zero in on pain, how unhappy I was for parts of it.

I also had a slightly stressful week, combined with feeling quite burnt out.

However.


Yesterday evening we had a little soiree of sorts in the new studio I am sharing with three artist friends. We invited attendees to stitch "talking pillows", watched "The Pillow Book", and drank sake with cherry juice. We ate Japanese snacks and I wore my faded and threadbare kimono. We chatted and giggled.


And it was lovely.

It was perhaps the most unusual birthday party I've had, and will stay in my memory for quite some time.

Last year I was descending into a horrible depression around the time of my birthday, which wouldn't lift 'til early March.

Mid-late January can be a very bleak time. Post-Christmas, cash and energy is low, waistbands have expanded, it's the coldest it's likely to be all year, and, though the days are getting longer, it's not by very much at all. I think I, like many others, may suffer from a touch of the Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I've made a deal with myself, though; I'm tough. A lot of people might smirk at that, knowing, as I do, that I'm a bit of a doormat, I'm timid, insecure, needy (the catalogue of failings goes on and on...), but I am tough. I've got grit. I wouldn't still be here otherwise. I'm tenacious, and when I want something, I dig my heels in and get to work. I'm the little engine that could, and I laugh in the face of the spectre of mental illness.

Self-mythologising aside, I had a point here; I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't fall into a depression, I wouldn't have what seems to be an almost-annual late February/early March melt down (it always seems to be around the time of my father's birthday, poor man) and need to take time off work to recover.

I struck a bargain with myself that I was allowed to feel sad (I've had some disappointments lately) and I was allowed to express this, but I wasn't allowed to beat myself up about it too much. I still find myself beating myself up on a daily basis; that's just the way my wonky little mind works.

I have, however, been taking the time to congratulate myself too. Keeping an "achievements" journal coupled with daily tasks which I do not berate myself about not ticking off. Coupled with this is more girly forms of self care (read: lots of Lush from my bath bombs dealer best mate), and just chilling out a bit more about my limitations, or at the very least attempting to. Learning to enjoy my own company and not relying on others for my happiness so much, which is an achievement in itself.

When you've lived with mental illness for almost half your life, you get quite adept at taking care of yourself. Let's face it; the health care system won't (I can't help but smirk at the government's self-congratulatory move to pump a little money into mental health care when it has been cut disproportionately to even the NHS at large).

In two weeks I will have the fourth of six half an hour Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions in which I am only allowed to focus on one aspect of my illness, and in which I have been shown and told things I am already familiar with, having spent my entire adult life and most of my teens in contact with therapists. And this is the best a struggling NHS can offer; it's fast track, a (supposedly) six week waiting list as opposed to waiting up to eighteen months for the traditional route to NHS therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is cost effective; it has fast-acting results. It's the best a bullied NHS can offer.

So you can see why those experiencing mental distress need to take matters into their own hands.

Telling myself I'm not allowed to be ill may sound counter-intuitive. I am trying to dupe myself. I am also trying to re-contextualise myself away from an ill person, which is a light which, wrongly or rightly, I have been cast in by mental health professionals, friends, family members, boyfriends, school, university, colleagues and employers, and myself.

It's akin to a practice suggested by therapists to patients who experience voice hearing; only allowing the voices to visit for a short period of time each day. It's also akin to some practices of (whisper the dreaded word) mindfulness, for example allowing experiences, feelings, thoughts and anxieties to wash over you like gentle whale song waves.

It makes me feel in control, and by making this decision, I feel I am able to make other decisions about my life.

I haven't "beaten" mental illness; I don't like the way in which illnesses, from madness to cancer, are characterised as video game bosses which need to be eliminated in order to win the game and ascend to a higher level in which illness does not touch one's life. Illness is a part of every person's life, and a part of life's rich tapestry.

At about nineteen or twenty a mental health professional asked me if I thought I'd be so creative if I wasn't mentally ill (quite a preposterous and infuriating hypothesis, but that's by the by). I said I'd rather be well; I would rather not live through hell and have to rebuild myself piece by piece and in an entirely new pattern.

I don't feel that way any more.

If I'd never been ill, if I'd never been a door away from death, I don't think I would have such an appreciation for, such a hunger for, such a love of life.

I would not be able to empathise with people who have struggled, coming from a comfortably white middle class background of immense privilege; even with people who were a little bit different, who were outsiders.

I am creative; I am not quite right in the head; I am sad; I am anxious. I am also impulsive and mature, messy and a perfectionist, a friend and a daughter and a sister and a worker and, and, and...

We are all many things to many different people, and most of all to ourselves. We are always learning and growing.

I now look on my long and illustrious history as a mental health patient through the lens of a Louise Bourgeois embroidery:
 


Most people have to take hallucinogens to experience some of the intense beauty I have experienced; I got it for free. As for the intense horror of some of the other experiences, once you have lived through them, nothing else can really touch you.

The wonderful thing about having to rebuild yourself piece by piece is that you can be whatever you want to be once you've forgiven yourself, once you've got over your shame. You are human Lego, and you realise that you can take many shapes and sizes over the course of your life, and from situation to situation.

This is not to say that you are a chameleon, a master of reinvention; you are not a Madonna or a David Bowie, fickle or characterless.

You merely do not have to be what was expected of you. You do not have to be what you expected of yourself. You can peel off the labels that were assigned to you; "shy child"; "unstable"; "uptight"; "high strung".

Once you let go of what is expected of you, you are free to live truly, and simply, and honestly.

I think I have very recently gotten over my shame. I am still yet to forgive myself; I know this because I take the blame even for things which have nothing to do with me. But I am getting there. I am beginning to accept my anxiety, my clingyness, my impossibly high standards for everyone and everything, my emotionality, my introspection and over-analysing as parts of me, and perhaps in some small way as strengths as well as weaknesses.

As an artist I have always been fascinated with notions of strength and weakness; the dichotomy of hard and soft. I want to prove that the two are not mutually exclusive, to myself and for my own peace of mind as much as to anyone else.
 


I am planning and hope to soon make a start on my first art quilt. I have some flying geese batik fat quarters, and I want to arrange them in a flying geese formation. The gaps I will fill with squares exploring a different derogatory phrase around softness/weakness; "She wouldn't say boo to a goose"; "Yella bellied"; "Big girl's blouse", with the last square featuring the embroidery below, proving, as in the film Amélie, that shy people would have the last laugh.
 


I'm sure these ideas will keep percolating and developing. I look forward to sharing the results with you as they appear.

A Busy Old Year and a Happy New One

It would be easy to focus on the negative in 2016, so I'm going to focus on the positive instead.

Highlights of the year for me have included (in no particular order):

Being An Associate Artist of Daily Life Ltd

Leading workshops/performing/diagnosing diagnosis at The Walthamstow Garden Party, The William Morris Gallery, and The Wellcome Collection.










Teaching Women To Make Mini Protest Banners


Teaching Myself DIY Screen Printing




Learning To Use A Sewing Machine (And Almost Finishing My First Handmade Dress!)




Finally Getting You Didn't Cry Trophy Pins Made (And Selling A Few!)





Many Art Dates With My Lovelies, Making Some Wonderful New Friends, And Doing The First Drawing I'm Actually Proud Of



Being Welcomed Aboard The Good Ship Object Book And Securing Studio Space Starting January





Dressing My Muse In Hand Embroidered Blouses And Getting Back Into Photography (More To Follow)






Getting To Make Things With Young People All Day For Money




I could go on but I'd best leave it there; there are canapes to roll, cocktails to shake, and my face to paint (just putting this together and looking back at everything I've done this year has made me feel tired; and I left a lot out!)

Suffice to say I hope anyone who finds their way to this post has had a wonderful year; I wish you an even better new one, and if you've been a part of my 2016, thank you for making it so special. 

Away With the Fairies Embroidered Blouse

I present to you the Away With the Fairies embroidered autumnal blouse, featuring split stitch text, padded satin, long and short stitch and bullion knot fly agaric on the back of the collar, and long and short stitch mushrooms on the front, with straight stitch grass. The model is the beautiful Katrina Bautista. Here are the Nikon 35mm shots, as well as a handful of test shots we took on Kat's iPhone. The Fuji Instax and (extremely expired) Polaroid prints are still to come. I am embroidering a blouse for each season; next up is obviously Winter. This blouse will soon be up for sale on my Tictail.

For hand embroidery commissions, contact me at katerolison@googlemail.com

 


















Highlands Away

Last week I recharged my batteries in the Scottish Highlands. This mostly involved drinking, eating (oh so much eating), idyllic walks, not being able to go outside without seeing about three sea eagles, and playing with my new toy; a Fuji Instax Mini 8 camera. The results are below. 

The Mini 8 is marketed mostly as a selfie capturing camera, and I can't wait to use it for portraits/fashion shoots I have planned, as it wasn't great at capturing the landscape. I also took two rolls of 35mm film, one with my Nikon SLR and one with my Lomography Fisheye. It was fun to shoot film again after just using my phone for so long, and I plan to continue doing so.


























Hi

Wallflower


I have read the clickbait phrase "25 is the hardest year of your life" at numerous points over the past year. I can only speak personally, but I would tend to disagree; I got my quarter life crisis out of the way early (at the age of 19).

I think I know who I am and what I want... it's just a question of how to get it.

That's not to say things haven't been, and aren't, difficult - they are. But I'm willing to do the work and I know that things will get better. Life has been busy and hard and so I haven't posted on here since July (wow), but I have been making and doing and I want to share all of it with the world more.

And so, here is a piece harking back to my eternal occupation with language around flowers and negative connotations.

To find my wallflower, I literally typed "plant that looks sad" into Google. It came up with this rather pathetic looking hydrangea. I translated it into a pen and ink sketch and then this embroidery/pencil hoop art.

If you would be interested in purchasing the piece, it is £50 posted to the UK, and is backed with black felt, and can be hung on the wall straight away. Drop me a line at katerolison@googlemail.com if you'd like a wallflower for your wall.

Next will come a fungi-themed hoop in a similar style.

After my lengthy absence (and only NINE blog posts this year compared to 78 last year, crikey) I really would love to write more often, but I don't want to put any pressure on myself, either. Attention spans, including my own, have become so much shorter in the short space of a few years, and it's so much easier to Instagram everything than be considered and exploratory and think things through. I think it might be helpful and fulfilling to begin doing so again, though.

Plans for blog posts in my inimitable old 1000 words+ style include a post considering poet and lunatic John Clare and his incarceration and escape from the asylum that is incidentally now my mother's place of work (though no longer an asylum!), and round ups of a few work shops I've run of late.

Watch this space; good things are coming. I write that as much for me as for you.


About

Poesie Grenadine is the blog of writer and embroidery artist Kate Elisabeth Rolison. Kate is a poet, and she stitches her poems together (in deference to Kurt Schwitters).

Kate graduated from Dartington College of Arts/University College Falmouth in 2012 with a First Class Honours degree in Writing (Contemporary Practices), a course which involved spending considerable lengths of time inside a tree, amongst other things. In her second year of university, she began experimenting with embroidery as a means of mending, and she's been hooked ever since.
When she can tear herself away from her embroidery hoop, Kate can be found scribbling endless ideas in her notebooks, dancing to Northern soul, and fulfilling her dream of amassing a formidable collection of houseplants and mid century frocks.

In 2014 she received her Certificate in Technical Hand Embroidery from the Royal School of Needlework, and is using the techniques she learned there to push her work further.

Her practice is, and always will be, underpinned by the written word; by well-spun yarns and beautiful etymologies, by dreadful puns and linguistic philosophy.
Kate leads workshops and interactive arts interventions and performances, gives talks, and accepts commissions.
If you would like to commission or work with Kate, just drop her a line at katerolison@googlemail.com.
You can read Kate's personal blog at poesiegrenadine.tumblr.com, follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/poesiegrenadine or Instagram at http://instagram.com/poesiegrenadine, and "like" Poesie Grenadine on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PoesieGrenadine. Her online shop is at https://tictail.com/s/poesiegrenadine.


Romantic Blouses


I haven't posted for a while. Life has been busy, and I've been going with the flow a lot more. I've still been making work and been involved in arts projects, but in this age of Instagram I find it easier tp share my goings-on over there - I'm @poesiegrenadine if you fancy a follow. I imagine I will be posting here little and (slightly more) often going forward; I'm really enjoying the visual at the moment and working on lots of different things.

My current big personal project has already been a work of many months; a series of Romantic-with-a-capital-R-inspired embroidered blouses. They are inspired by the Cottingley fairies, botanical illustration, English forests and woodlands, and, as you might have guessed, the Romantic poets. I'd wanted to make them for a long time and wanted to have them finished by the summer, but I am only halfway through the second! I think this may become a project that is ready for next summer. I'm eager to get started on some smaller embroideries once blouse #2 is out of the way.

Below are the blouses so far. I am available for commissions: please email me at katerolison@googlemail.com














Drawing

My new year's resolution for 2015 was to get over my fear of drawing. Despite going to art school, as of January 2015 I had seldom drawn since my A Levels save to sketch an outline on to fabric to be embroidered over.

Life drawings from my A Level days

The resolution got off to a slow start, with just the few sketches below completed in a very amateurish way, even with my Mum booking us both on to a four week life drawing class recently.









Below are the sketches completed solo and in collaboration with others on the four week "Mark Your Mark" life drawing class, which I heartily recommend to artists of all abilities.







These sketches are designs for screen prints, which I will share here soon.





Myself and artists Katrina Bautista and Cheri Smith have started something of an artist's salon to exchange ideas, collaborate, and draw together. The most recent session resulted in the drawing below, the first drawing I am truly proud of since my A Level days. I sometimes find being with such talented artists intimidating, but these two inspire me, and I'm really excited to share the zine we are working on together.