Sunday, 19 July 2015

Grandparents who eat grapefruit...

Isn't it funny how we come to associate certain smells, colours or sounds with a particular person or moment in our lives? This week I passed by a fruit stall and the display of pink and yellow grapefruits instantly reminded me of my Grandparents. Every morning without fail they would both share a grapefruit for breakfast and I can clearly remember as a young child sitting in my Grandma's bedroom as Grandpa bought her breakfast in bed and watching as they ate their grapefruits out of matching bowls. I can also remember when staying with them being offered a grapefruit of my own for breakfast and finding it far too sour in spite of sprinkling sugar all over it! When my Grandparents came to stay at our house, my sister and I would watch them unload all their bags and every time without fail my Grandpa would have packed some grapefruits - so intent as they were to keep to their morning routine!
Now my Grandma and Grandpa are both in their 90's and live in a care home, so I am not sure if they eat a breakfast that is provided or whether they are able to choose. However seeing and smelling those grapefruits the other day desperately made me want to visit them so I could take some grapefruits and we could all sit and share them together.

   

Sunday, 12 July 2015

'I Will Move Mountains' - An introduction.

When many people see the word 'achievement' they will automatically associate it with some sort of monumental accomplishment - running a marathon, completing a qualification, climbing a mountain. As someone who suffers from low self esteem it has taken me a long time to appreciate and celebrate the smaller everyday achievements that are so easy to overlook or dismiss. Maybe I'm generalizing a bit here but it feels in Western society we are constantly being pushed to succeed - to reach that next goal or target (whatever it may be) and we are so quick to forget or dismiss the hard work and effort we put in to everyday achievements, as well as recognizing how hard they can sometimes be to complete. 


I have struggled with mental health problems for a long time and there have been days where it has been a massive effort to get myself out of bed and get dressed - let alone go to work, socialise or do something remotely productive! A therapist I once worked with once instructed me to make a daily list of my achievements. I scoffed at the idea and thought it was ridiculous - at that time I had no job, wasn't in education,  and very few interests or hobbies that I felt motivated enough to participate in. In my eyes wasn't achieving anything day to day! My therapist asked me if I had cleaned my teeth yesterday, if I had showered and brushed my hair. I replied that I had. I was told that for someone suffering with severe depression these were significant achievements and I should feel proud of myself for those instead of constantly beating myself up for all the things I wasn't doing.

It took me a long time to accept this way of thinking and I appreciate that the things I mentioned may seem so basic and routine for some people that it would seem strange to feel a sense of pride for doing them. However it is so important to remember that for some people these things take a huge amount of effort and that they deserve to be recognised as a positive accomplishment.

Now that I am doing a bit better I have new things on my list of daily achievements - things that I'm sure will still seem ridiculously simple or mundane to others but would have once been impossible for me to consider doing. I feel proud of the things I can now do without too much effort but I never forget how difficult they once were and when I'm having a bad day I think about how far I have come and try and pat myself on the pack for those 'little things' 

So onto the point of this post and some more info of how this relates to my mountain project...

I am interested in hearing about everyday achievements. Big or small it doesn't matter - it can be something like managing to overcome a fear of using public transport, getting back in touch with an old friend, leaving the safety of your home to take a quick walk, making eye contact with or smiling at a stranger, completing your degree, getting a promotion etc etc. I would like to know specific difficulties and feats that for you have been personally challenging and you have worked hard to accomplish. What are the 'mountains' that you have climbed?

My plan is to create a series of drawings and embroideries (possibly in the form of an artists book) that illustrates these achievements alongside more abstract mountain landscape studies.

If you would like to help out and be involved in my project pleased drop me an email (emmak2204@hotmail.com) with your story. All stories will remain anonymous and please note that you do not have to suffer from a mental health condition to participate - I reckon everyone needs to be a little  kinder to themselves and take some time to reflect on their personal achievements!


Thursday, 9 July 2015

Moving Mountains

Today I have been busy writing an application for an Artist residency in Wales I am interested in. As I was thinking about the kind of work I would make for the residency, I was inspired to start a new personal project that I am really excited about. All I will say for now is that it will involve mountains and share a preview of a quick sketch I did this afternoon. 

Expect more information and progress soon!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Inspired by... Pomegranates

Technically pomegranates aren't in season at the moment although most supermarkets sell them all year round. They really are the most beautiful fruit - the seeds look like little jewels! I am thinking of creating a few prints and illustrations inspired by pomegranates so watch this space for updates! In the meantime here are some pinterest finds including a recipe for pomegranate ice cream and a pomegranate cocktail. Enjoy!




Sunday, 28 June 2015

Using natural dyes

Whilst creating work for my degree piece I began experimenting dying fabrics using natural pigments and products. Years ago I attended a textile workshop where we used rusty objects to dye and stain fabrics which I was surprised to discover produced some beautiful results. Since my latest project focused on the life and work of honeybees, I was keen to use natural dyes to create the fabric used in my textile work since I felt this would work well with the context of my piece. A quick internet search led me to a whole abundance of blogs and tutorials about using natural dyes. From spices such as turmeric to dandelion roots or red cabbage you would be surprised by how many things that you probably already have at home or in your garden that you can use to produce some really effective dyes.

For my honeybee work I was focusing on the symbolism of the colour yellow, so I stuck to using turmeric, onion skins and dried plant extracts from yellow flowers such as weld and madder. If you want to grow plants specifically to use as dyes there is a great website  was able to find a great UK website http://www.wildcolours.co.uk/index.html which sells many different flowers seeds. If you are impatient to get dyeing and see some results, they also sell dyes, flower/plant extracts and mordants. That particular website was a great resource of information for me when it came to getting started with dyeing - they provide some really useful tips and information on which are the best fabrics to use and how to prepare your fabric so that the colours will last. 


Weld - a great flower to use either dried or fresh to create a yellow dye

For a recent commission I was asked to create an embroidery of a sweet pea so decided to use this as an opportunity to experiment with some purple dyes. A quick trip to the supermarket provided me with some red onion skins, beetroot, red cabbage and black beans and after soaking my fabric in vinegar to mordant it, I soon began to get to work with the dyeing! Each dye produced a different colour - all of which were lovely but it was the red cabbage which created the nicest shade of purple. I also used a couple of different fabrics - thin muslin cotton, silk and a thicker cotton/calico which also led to a lot of variation in the tones and shades of each dye. Bear in mind that it is always best to use natural fibres when dyeing to produce good results. Below is a picture of my finished piece. All the fabric used was dyed using red beetroot then layered up an embroidered onto.



I really loved the process of natural dyeing - it may sound silly but it is so satisfying to see such great results so quickly just by using products that are so simple to attain! It is definitely a process I am keen to learn more about and continue to experiment with. The possibilities If what you can do are endless... 
Below I have left some links to some of the blogs and tutorials that helped me get going, as I said there are so many out there each of which describe different techniques and methods. I have also included the website of artist India Flint. A innovative  textile artist who has really taken things to the next level with her methods and use of natural dyes.

Enjoy exploring and experimenting!




Folk Fibers blog -  yellow and red onion skin tutorial










   





Sunday, 21 June 2015

Reconnecting with music

One of my all time favourite things to do is sit in a car or on a train and listen to music. I often feel frustrated that time I spend travelling from one place to another is time I could spend doing something more important... however it is the ideal time to listen to music because you can get completely lost in a song without the obligation or distraction of something else. The perfect time to just let your mind wander and daydream!

Over the last 5 years I have been lucky enough to see a lot of amazing live music through attending festivals and gigs, but actually in a weird way I don't feel like I engage with music in the same way as I used to. I still listen to all the artists and albums that I have always loved but I rarely listen to something new that really moves or inspires me. I think this is down to the fact that I don't like downloading music for free as it does feel like stealing to me but then I just end up spending spare money on other things rather than buying a new album. Yes I know I could stream music - but that requires a decent internet connection which isn't always possible (especially when travelling.)

A few months ago the hard drive on my laptop went and because I hadn't backed anything up since 2012 I lost any new music I had accumulated over the last 3 years. This was (and still is) pretty devastating but at the same time it has given me the opportunity to have a big sort out of whats left of my music collection - figure out what I am missing and discover some new stuff. So that is my challenge for this summer - I have no music festivals booked so perhaps some of the money I would have spent on that ticket can go towards updating my music library. 

I started today after hearing a track from the album 'Idris Elba Presents: mi Mandela.' Normally I'm pretty skeptical of when actors try to transition to music but I was pleasantly surprised by this offering. Idris Elba Presents mi Mandela is a 14-track album on Elba’s own 7wallace imprint, inspired by Nelson Mandela and Elba's own late father. The music incorporates a variety of South African rhythms and styles, including marabi, kwela, mbaqanga and mbube, mixed in with western sounds. Elba wrote the album whilst Long Walk to Freedom. It is by no means a solo project and features collaborations with Shaun Escoffery, Maverick Sabre, Audra Mae and George The Poet. 





I think the reason I love this music so much because it reminds me of a trip I took to South Africa 12 years ago with my family and friends. It was such a beautiful country to visit and I have many happy memories of that holiday. Next time I get caught up in stupid anxieties and worries I intend to put this on my ipod and get back to some good old daydreaming.

Here is a track from the album I particularly like.