Monday 25 June 2012

A Week by the Sea

I've spent the last week in my favourite corner of the UK; holed up in a 1930's holiday chalet which was nestled in the dunes at Hayle and overlooked the beautiful bay of St Ives.

From the moment we arrived, real life seemingly paused.  The windows of our wooden home looked out over vast expanses of Cornish countryside, or over the dunes and the sea to St Ives.  Worries and niggling thoughts melted away with the first walk on the beach; glassy green waves breaking with a hiss on the ochre shore, seagulls wheeling and calling in the wind whipped blue sky above.  Bare feet on sand, the first kiss of the ocean on your toes, inhaling deep salty breaths of pure clean air, collecting mussel shells and pieces of driftwood.  It felt like coming home.

I'm very much at home by the water, and there are lots of watery signs in my astrology chart which may explain why I yearn for it so much ~ I'm a cusp baby of Pisces and Aries, and have a Scorpio moon.

I love the colours of the coast, they wash the soul and renew the spirit ~ turquoise, aquamarine, jade and blue...

We spent as much time as we could by the sea; walking out to sand islands left by the receding tide...

We had a barbeque on the beach one evening; catching the tantalising smell of sizzling hot dogs on the breeze as we splashed in the sea, racing up to the rocks at the back of the beach to sit and eat them whilst watching the crystal water lap lazily onto the creamy, shell sprinkled sand.

I spent a lazy hour or so wandering around St Ives town, soaking in the atmosphere.  Beyond the bedlam of the well trodden tourist path there is a maze of tiny cobbled back streets, fishermens cottages, tiny galleries and glimpses of the sea...

There are tiny roads with names like Wheal Dream, and bunting flutters festively between the rooftops.  There are terracotta pots bulging with scarlet and raspberry geraniums, little windows displaying colourful art and craft.  And there is the constant energy of the sea, always just around the next corner or down the next lane; you feel it in your bones and there's always the anticipation at catching that wonderful glimpse of it again and again...

Having our little girl with us meant that our days were full of fun and games, running in and out of the sea, seal spotting, picnics on the beach, trips to the zoo and plenty of sandcastle building and eating of ice-creams. Relaxed and happy times indeed!

Going away somewhere beautiful allows you to recharge fully.  I found myself watching a dramatic sunset one evening and contemplating this slower pace of life that had taken hold since our arrival and I determined there and then to try and implement aspects of it when I returned home.  I saw how much time I sometimes spend on stuff that isn't that important; things like the internet, creating extra (and unnecessary) work for myself.  I think we are all capable of filling our lives to the brim, that we all forget to stop sometimes and take stock of what's working for us - or not.

I'm moving into the slow lane, making decisions based on what feels good for me, not what I think I ought to be doing, not what pleases everyone else.

I read a brilliant book last week, I found it on the bookshelf in the chalet and read it each evening. The message in this book touched me so much I've bought my own copy; it's called A year by the Sea by Joan Anderson.  It tells the story of how over the years of her life as a wife and mother she unconsciously replaced her own needs and dreams with those of her nearest and dearest.  With her sons grown and her marriage souring she retreats to a beach cottage on Cape Cod and spends a year rediscovering herself, working out what it is she wants to do with her life and who she wants to be.  It's a really inspiring read and I recommend it heartily.  I love my family dearly and would (and do) do anything for them, but I know that since having a family my life became very much about nurturing others, my needs mostly being at the bottom of a long list and very often not met.

I'm conscious that writing this may raise an eyebrow or two, some of you may think it sounds selfish to make such a brazen statement of things not being enough when it seems from the periphery that I have so much.

And I do have so much, there are many blessings in my life and I'm grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way.  But I like the idea of finding myself again, of slowing my life down enough to be able to figure out what's really meaningful - for me and my family to live a nourishing, fulfilling life that works for us all, where all our needs are met.  I think this is becoming a journey year for me, I've gone through some big changes and have reached a point where I was asking 'is this it, is this all there is?' whilst already knowing the answer:

Of course it isn't.

It's just a phase of growth and change.

So I watched that glowing nectarine sun sink into a velvety lavender sea and felt very peaceful; just acknowledging that I needed to take my own voyage of self discovery was like being handed a magical key to the next step.  The feeling of struggle had gone, and I knew that with time and a little exploration everything would all fall into place.

I'm happily going to gesso a canvas now, there are some new paintings I'd like to let loose and I'll share them with you all soon.

Sending you love, wherever you are in the world.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Colour Love


At last, at last the rainbow circle cushion is FINISHED!  To tell you the truth, I finished it a couple of weeks ago, but I've had a very poorly little girl to look after and didn't get a chance to photograph it until now.

What do you think?

It's the zingy-est, brightest, most eye popping cushion in the house!  I found the pattern to be really fast to work up and easy to follow (you can find it in that ever fabulous book ~ Cute & Easy Crochet by Nicki Trench) and the wool was generally delightful to work with (despite the fact it split a little here and there).  The wool was Amy Butler Organic Cotton DK and I'd absolutely use it again simply because the colours available are so gloriously happy ones!

So with a crochet project complete and a little girl at home ill,  I decided to have a look through my stash of WIP's to give me something to do whilst she slept and lay on the sofa recovering (I hasten to add, she is much better now - thank goodness!).  I discovered my Granny Stripe blanket hidden away under a chair (things get sequestered all over the place in this house) and I suddenly had an urge to be doing rhythmical stripes again. Stripes, be they granny, straight or ripple have a very soothing effect on me; I find it most therapeutic to curl up on the sofa with a bag of rainbow coloured yarn and lose myself if the repetitive motion of going backwards and forwards.

Anyway, it's coming along pretty nicely!  I've decided to be very random with this blanket which is destined for my daughter and am choosing colours as I go.  I wonder what you think of it so far?

I wasn't too sure about the darker shades at first, but I think they're growing on me.  If you like this pattern and would like to give it a go, you can find it over on Attic 24's blog here.

What projects are you currently on with?  Share them with me here!

Sending love


Tuesday 12 June 2012

A New Direction?


I've been giving a lot of thought to what I want to do with my time these days.  For over three years I was secretly planning on illustrating children's books and in between being a Mama I tried to create lots of child themed artwork for my agent's portfolio.  It was always in the back of my mind that this was a Big Thing I was aiming towards and that it could happen at any minute and totally transform my life.

Alas, as those of you who read a recent post of mine will know, my agent and I have gone our separate ways; the financial climate has made it a tricksy time for getting book deals, and with less books being published and more artists clamouring for the same few jobs it was always going to be competitive.  My agent is a lovely woman who tried her absolute best and Im really grateful for the opportunity she gave to me when she took me on.

I'd be telling and enormous lie if I said that I wasn't upset when I first heard.  I felt deep disappointment and the dream I'd focused on for so long dissolved before my eyes.  It wasn't long either before those inner critics bubbled up to the surface with their negative thoughts ~ was it my work that wasn't good enough?  Was it my style?  Had I not produced enough work?  Am I just not good enough??  Of course, this was a knee jerk reaction to a Big Change.  I soon calmed down and was able to focus more clearly on the positive aspects:

I knew that the publishers who had seen my work loved it (a HUGE boost to morale) and I'd been 'discussed' on a couple of occasions for working on books.  For different reasons, and not for lack of trying (on both sides) the elusive book contract just never materialised.  Maybe I could have produced more work, maybe I could have studied the market in more depth - I could have done a whole heap of things, but I know I did my best at the time and gave it my best shot.  That, in itself, was good enough for me.

The other morning I was doing something rather ordinary (drinking coffee and watching the squirrel mucking about on the shed roof) when I was hit with a thought:

I'd invested a whole load of energy into something that I thought I really wanted to happen.  The very fact that illustrating children's books was a real possibility became a huge thing in my life.  Suddenly, that opportunity wasn't there any longer - there would be nobody taking my work to show prospective clients, nobody batting on my behalf anymore.

And right then I realised I felt space.  A big wide space which had been taken up with yearning and hoping and aching.  Right then there was space to think about What Happens Next? And I began to wonder which direction I wanted to take my life in.

In theory, I could do anything I wanted to.

When something like this happens to us, it's easy to immediately blame ourselves, feel angry or negative about the situation and let it eat away at us - but sometimes, the truth is we've got to travel our path and these lessons are sent to take us to the next level.

I'm a firm believer that where one door closes, another door opens.

A week later, a gallery contacted me and asked if I'd be able to exhibit some coastal themed work at their up and coming exhibition in July called 'By the Seaside'.  I'm now preparing my paintings, having them framed and ready to deliver up to Leeds in a couple of weeks.

Having this new space in my life to play with has allowed me to look at what I really want to do - do I really want to illustrate children's books?  Maybe one day yes.  Right now?  I'm sitting with the thought that appeared as I sat quietly in the garden the other day listening to the river gurgling over the stones.


It's as simple as that.  So that's what I'm doing.  That's what I love to do best.

Have you ever had a disappointing situation that has turned your life into something for the better?  Please share your stories in the comments, it's always lovely to hear from you.

PS ~ Just before I go, I want to let you know that my Blog has made an appearance in a fabulous one off publication called Simply Crochet!  It's on sale from Thursday 14th June in all good newsagents *excited face*

Look - here I am (at the bottom, in the middle) - lovely write up too!

See you next time x
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