RPM (Resolutions Per Minute)

Happy New Year! I hope it's been just lovely for you. As I said on social media channels, I had the best Christmas since I was a wee bairn and got a lolly bigger than my head, and it is with some reluctance that I prepare myself for work tomorrow.

One of the things which has been so lovely about having so much time off, with not even any commissions to work on, is the freedom to make for the sake of making. I have finally made a breakthrough with a project which has been languishing for months. I have also been doodling with different source material in my visual diary, the outcomes of which I present to you here, including my New Year's Resolutions (in image number four) which I am adamant I will stick to.






Graft Draught Potion

I am beginning to feel more hopeful about my future. It seems that whenever I'm beginning to feel a lull in my freelance arts work, I get contacted about a fantastic opportunity, and that's without seeking them out myself, which I am beginning to do more of. My "night job" may not be paying the bills yet, but I feel immensely privileged to be able to earn some money doing what I love.

The lull also allowed me some time to work on personal projects, which has been great fun. However industrious the week has been, though, I always round it off with a #secretsofselfpreservation potion. Last week, prompted by fortune cookies handed out at the end of my aunt's 50th birthday celebrations on Sunday, I was reminded of my favourite cookie fortune; "The harder you work, the luckier you will get".

So Week Forty Four's #secretsofselfpreservation potion reads "Spit, polish and elbow grease gets things done." A reminder to work hard, accompanied by a feather from my Halloween costume (I was Tippi Hedren in The Birds) as a reminder to also let my hair down from time to time.




Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.

TinyLetter



TinyLetter is an ingenious website which allows you to share your work and your life, indeed, however much of yourself you want to share, with subscribers. I have started a newsletter-come-loveletter via TinyLetter, and will be writing to you (should you choose to subscribe) at least once a month. Once I have a fair few subscribers I shall send out letter number one; it's all written out already.

So if you fancy receiving love notes, navel gazing and flights of fancy all written and illustrated by a sensitive artist and sipper of mixed drinks living in the birth place of William Morris, writing, stitching and drawing, a madvocate and feminist who loves dancing to Northern Soul, greasy spoons, and amassing a formidable collection of mid century frocks, sign on up!


Complimentary

I am trying to draw/collage in my visual diary more. Partially this involves continuing to design labels for #secretsofselfpreservation, but I have also included sketches from the Daily Life Ltd Expert Advisory Day, below:



Pip and I have taken a shine to a pink-boothed greasy spoon down the market, and I have visited with my dear friend Ruth a couple of times, most recently on Monday. The cherry pie is particularly special.


My friend Rohanne gave me a "complimentary" ticket she'd stashed from working in the box office. I love the simple, bright design, and wanted to surround it with the sorts of compliments I like to give and receive.


We all went to see Belle and Sebastian play in Westminster a couple of weeks ago. It felt like we were the only people dancing in the venue. The fox paw prints are to signify Fox In The Snow, and my general love of foxes. The sketch of the pram is very very old from when I was first taking antidepressants and thought it was hilarious that they were called citalopram. I've always liked its metaphorically and literally sketchy quality.


Last but not least is the label to accompany my I need art like I need God potion. I have recently got myself a fancy sketchbook and sketching pencils, and will be getting back to more "trad art" soon.




Stick At It Potion




This week's #secretsofselfpreservation potion focuses, once again, on perseverance. These last few weeks, and the next, are some of the busiest I have had all year. Naps have become essential.

Next Sunday, I have a table at DIY Cultures, selling embroidered brooches, necklaces, lino print patches, badges, and my zine, Treasures For Your Troubles. I am slightly worried about getting all the stock ready in time, as well as some other commitments. Thus, once again, the potion bottle and ribbon are orange, to signify anxiety.

To accompany the simple mantra "Keep going" are miniature calendars from now until the end of the year. If I can just get through next week as well as possible, I should have some time for r'n'r.

After worrying in recent weeks about my future as an artist, a very wise person gave me a brilliantly simple piece of advice; just keep going, and don't get discouraged. And that is what I intend to do.

Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.



Labels and Fables

The pages of my visual diary are filling up in earnest now. I've been doing a little diaristic doodling and collaging, and decided to design labels for the #secretsofselfpreservation potions, to give them a bit more unity and make the outside of the bottles more appealing.

I have designed labels for Week 1: Pox Potion, Week 2: ROAR Don't Mewl Potion, Week 3: Cadbury Purple Mantra Potion and Week 4: Emergency Glitter Potion, though I forgot to add the weeks for those last two, so will need to put them in digitally! I may rework the labels digitally too, using my rudimentary Photoshop skills.





It feels good to be working on paper again; I will have to take the plunge, pick up the pencil, and draw, and to hell with how it turns out. I can only get better with practise.

Perseverance Potion

Week Fourteen of #secretsofselfpreservation brought some potentially exciting news, training for my new job, and a long weekend.

I feel like I've got my work life balance right now, and that I might, just might, get the word out a bit more about my art in 2015.

This is why this week's potion is entitled "Perseverance Potion". The ingredients read "Don't give up the night job ("night job" being art, not an untoward activity).

I have accompanied the stitched words with a jumble of beads and sequins, which I have a substantial stash off and use frequently in my work. They make a pleasant noise when you shake the potion bottle, not unlike light rain or the sea.














Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.

Punctum Potion

This week's #secretsofselfpreservation / Apothéké potion links in very nicely with last week's "Selfies Are Self Care" potion.

In the accompanying blog post, I wrote about how selfies are a means of recording and capturing the moment; much as this entire project is. After all, as well as a self care tip each week, I am including a diaristic element of the week in the form of small objects in the potion bottle. So far these have included tea bags, Love Heart sweets, glitter, and plastic animals.

This week it's a miniature camera, because I have been sharing lots of photographs via my Instagram this week, and I have been following my instruction from last week to "Take more selfies".

Life is going surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly) well at the moment. Therefore, I really want to stock up on good memories, both to help me over the next little inevitable hiccup, and also to cherish what I have. Photographs are a handy way of doing so, but I also want to get back to my visual diary and write more regularly in my written diary, too.

I have named the concoction "Punctum Potion". According to literary theorist and philosopher Roland Barthes, the "punctum" is the aspect (often a tiny detail) of a photograph which "pricks" us with personal feeling and associations; it jumps out at us, causing a sense of deja vu or nostalgia, causing us to fall in love with the photograph.

The small objects inside each potion bottle are punctum too; as I take out individual bottles as the project progresses, their contents recall where and what I was doing that week, how I was feeling. Of course, they do not have the accidental quality of punctum I would encounter in an art gallery or magazine, as I have selected each object because it elicits associations for me. However, I think if someone else were to unscrew the lid and tip the contents into their hand, they would discover a punctum, with a whole range of responses and associations as diverse as the people themselves.



Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.

Courage, Dear Heart

I've been filling the pages of my visual diary, yet neglecting to post them here. I've also been collecting a ream of photographs over the past few months, so the pages of the diary are in no way chronological.

They feature Hanecdote stickers and a little letter from the woman behind Ghoul Guides herself, witchy jam making, a narrow boat named after my favourite liqueur, snaps from mine and Pip's visit to God's Own Junkyard, a page dedicated to our anniversary, receipt mementos from Mother's Ruin, the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel afternoon tea and mulled wine sipped whilst waiting to see Owen Pallett play, and finally is brought up to date with sketches and phrases for potions for my project Apotheké. Which brings me to my next blog post...




Apothéké

 Apothéké (n.) - the place where things are laid down

I believe cure at its root means care - D.W. Winnicott

The first of my New Year's Resolutions is to produce one self care potion a week for the entire year. What do I mean by self care? Simply, the ways we take good care of ourselves - mind, body, and soul. By potion, I mean a bottle filled with hand embroidered "ingredients", such as those that have been stitched at a number of workshops I've led.

This time, as I will be stitching one potion a week, I've decided to include the essence of the week as well as elements of self care, so that the potion is both a place where the week is "laid down" or stored, and a bank of self care tips - a bank of cure/care. Indeed, the final syllable of "Apotheké" is pronounced just like "care".

 Apotheké will be an old medicine cabinet with a potent potion for each week of the year, exploring the essence of that week and elements of self care; a recipe for keeping well. It will be a diary, a testament, a confession, and a wellness tool. The potions are hand stitched, a meditative action which has its own therapeutic qualities. The Apotheké will hopefully be a travelling medicine cabinet which facilitates conversations about positive mental and holistic health, and gets people stitching. Hopefully it will engage a wide range of people, including people struggling with mental health problems, perhaps in embroidery workshops which meld craft and conversations about wellbeing.

You can get involved right now, and you needn't even pick up a needle and thread if you don't want to. You can tweet, tumble or Instagram using the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, and write about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take good care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper, I'm not fussy!) potion; I'd love to see some pictures of your potions popping up in the #secretsofselfpreservation tag.

Here is mine for the first week of 2015. This week, I've been battling chicken pox, at times impatiently; I seem to forget that illnesses of all kinds take it out of you, and that it's important to recuperate. I just want to stitch around the clock and see friends, just as I would if I were well.

So my stitch-written record of this week reads "Physical illnesses take time, too; don't fight sleep". I'm not too troubled by how perfect (or indeed not) the stitching is, as this is a personal project and is as much for my own wellbeing as artistic endeavour, if not more so. So if you want to join me, don't worry about making your stitches perfect! The message is the important thing, and it's difficult enough to embroider on ribbon or a scrap of fabric which is small enough to fit in a tiny bottle without worrying too much about how it looks. I have a stock of spice jars, lab bottles, and cocktail beakers to use in this project over the duration of the year - any small bottle with a lid of some sort will do.

For the diaristic element, I have holepunched some silvery card I used to back Pip's hand embroidered birthday present, and cut up a dotty piece of wrapping paper from another of his presents; when I uncork the bottle, I will be reminded that this week I watched Pip open his presents from the safety of Skype due to the aforementioned chicken pox, and the dozens of spots will remind me of just how itchy that chicken pox was!

Each potion needs a name; in a tribute to the protagonist of the film Waitress, who creates otherworldly pies with inventive titles inspired by her life, I have named this one Week 1: Pox Potion, scribbled on a gingham medical cross. Now I have a whole week to dream up another potion...

 

 

















Fortune cookie wisdom and winsome tear stains

I am so behind with my visual diary. There is a backlog of photographs in an envelope waiting to be incorporated into the next few pages. Gradually I am doing a little (little being the operative word) more freehand pen drawing, but I think joining an art class will help me loosen up and draw bigger and more consciously.

As the diary develops, it's really becoming a record of how I was feeling at the time. I visited the A to Z of the Human Condition exhibition at the Wellcome Collection a couple of months ago. Ever interactive, the Wellcome Collection invited us to take a fortune cookie, but not open it until we had left the exhibition. Well, on the train home I discovered that mine advised "The harder you work, the luckier you will get".


This rings true, but now that it seems we are in the depths of winter I'm finding it somewhat difficult to locate my drive. At this time of year I often just want to burrow down and hibernate. I wonder if I should give a SAD lamp a go?

In spite of this I've just started a very interesting commission which will keep me pretty busy for the next couple of months. That's all I'm prepared to reveal about it for now!

When and if I earn a bit more cash, I shall also be having Treasures For Your Troubles (my first curated zine) printed. I have plans for a second, which the contents of this page from my visual diary are an overture towards. And before you ask, yes, it is based on a true story.




Scrappy and resolute

Although I was recently "commissioned" to stitch up a small paragraph for Year Two's display in the school at which I am TAing, I have found it hard to get on with Milk Thistle whilst I'm engaged in this short burst of full time work.
 
That's not to say I'm not enjoying the job! It is both more challenging and more rewarding than I was anticipating. Kids are also an endless source of amusement.
 
Alongside working I am beginning to put some plans in place for creative projects (some of which are even paid! I know!)
 
I feel as if I am at a turning point in my creative practice, and in many ways, in my life. I suppose everything is in transition right now, but I am rather enjoying going with the flow.
 
I think once Milk Thistle is completed and (hopefully) exhibited alongside my two other embroidered books, I will be exploring other avenues. I particularly want to return to working collaboratively and creating participatory experiences, and - gasp - to using other mediums in addition to embroidery.
 
I suppose my recent diaristic scribbles and collages are a reflection of this; I've decided that I'm going to spend some of my ill-gotten funds from TAing on art classes, and get back to drawing, partially because it's a skill that scares me a little. I've come to believe that I'm not very good at it, mostly because I've been out of practice. So I'm going to dive back in.
 
This desire/fear is reflected in the double page spread below; some of my drawings from the workshop run by Jake Spicer of Draw Brighton and Bobby Baker with Daily Life Limited are featured, as is the phrase What would you do if you weren't afraid? which I found whilst flicking through a free magazine on the train. A question we would all do well to answer and act on from time to time, I think.
 
These are accompanied by surplus photobooth snapshots (which I had to take for my new job), which complement a silly self portrait I did at the Experts by Experience workshop.
 


Foxes also feature heavily on the two pages below; but of course, they are one of my very favourite creatures, up there with mallards and the majestic narwhal.

Lots of potions, too... hopefully soon I shall be making some more...

Also on the page below is a synopsis of the glorious Our Lady of Nettles by Sylvia Linsteadt, a favourite and visionary writer. Scattered around the two pages are remnants of  the envelope in which the story wended its way to me.

 
I'm off now to check on some cookies I'm baking for the Eid party at school tomorrow; until next time,
 
Kate Elisabeth x
 

Visual Diary

The last couple of weeks I've been trying to put plans in place and get my life together a little bit. So Milk Thistle has suffered somewhat, but I'm happy to report that I'm back on the stitching and page seven (of 8) is underway.

Inspired by my online contemporaries and the ever-present desire to write, I began keeping a diary last month. Alongside my lilac written diary, I've started collating a visual diary (or art journal) too. It's a lovely way of recording special moments and it will hopefully be wonderful to look back over the course of the year and realise that, actually, it was pretty good.


This first page depicts mine and Pip's visit to Brighton to stay with friends... with added mallards. On our trip to the seaside we ate far too much rich food, played crazy golf and despaired over the price of vintage.


Soon after, I stayed with my parents and grandparents in the Highlands, visited Tobermory (the site of fictional Balamory), and stocked up on fancy chocolates for Pip. This trip was characterised by, once again, eating far too much rich food.


When I returned, we visited Lucy Sparrow's rather fantastic Corner Shop, which I blogged about here.

The next day, I had a wander around Epping Forest with my Mum, marvelling at how verdant and heady everything smelled.


The next day, inspired by this walk, Kat and I took a bunch of photographs in Walthamstow Forest, which you can see here.

At the end of the week, Pip and I went to two special screenings, the first being Stuart Murdoch's bittersweet twee musical God Help The Girl, the costumes and songs of which I enjoyed immensely, although the extent of the earnest, melancholy male gaze in it was almost painful to watch. Still, mostly good fun.

The second film was outstanding. I'm slightly biased, as Brief Encounter is my favourite flick ever, but this screening was very special; the film was presented in concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and the soundtrack of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 (with which the film is so inextricably bound up) was painstakingly removed and then played live and seamlessly at the appropriate moments. It was so technically astute, in fact, that I often forgot the orchestra were there at all.

I've got some visual diary-ing to catch up on; I find it quite therapeutic and nostalgic; in this world of instant media it's refreshing to go a bit analogue. Do you art journal?