Monday, February 27, 2012

Annie Leibovitz and Emily Dickinson's dress

"...I found myself drawn to the detail in the dress, the alabaster buttons and the trim. If you took a picture of the whole dress, from far away, it was just a simple white dress. But if you came closer, there was a beautiful ornateness to it. For someone who spent most of her time quietly by herself, the details would have been wonderful to contemplate. And to feel. They weren't meant for anyone else." 

(Leibovitz, Annie: Pilgrimage; Jonathan Cape, London 2011, p. 22)

I only got this book today, so there are still hours of reading and viewing pleasure ahead of me, but it starts with shots of Emily Dickinson's house and that of her brother, Austin, and I would have bought it for that part alone. Dickinson was Susan Sontag's favourite poet. Sontag and Leibovitz had planned a Beauty Book that would allow them to travel to places they cared about and for Leibovitz to take pictures when she was moved to do so, rather than with an agenda as when on an assignment. After Sontag's death, she found herself unable to go ahead with the project, but instead produced something similar, with her own list of places, and it turned into Pilgrimage.

Friday, February 24, 2012


 electric (I want to put the chain in a glass, but haven't found one big enough - maybe the flour has to move)

...and natural (crystal in the window) | plus Rumi quote

The house is filled with light. The sun made an appearance twice this week, and in the evenings the fairy lights help to illuminate dark corners, and then there are candles everywhere, despite my fear of burning the house down.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Being, not doing

I combine working part-time in an actual place of work with working from home, for instance on commissions (and unpaid work that I am passionate about but would still call work). I have a lot of free time during the week that I can fill as I please, which is a real luxury, but at the same time it leaves me with a slight feeling of guilt at weekends: I think I should be doing some work, particularly work I may have neglected during the week (currently illustrations). I also think I should work on this blog or my website. Or at least work out. While I love all these activities and hardly consider them work, I realise I would benefit from having at least one day where I don't "have to" do anything, and, crucially, don't feel bad about it. I frequently indulge in lounging the evening away, but there is always this voice in my head telling me to stop being idle. And as a result, I feel frazzled instead of rested (the mind is powerful - my body may think it is resting, but it is easily undone by my thoughts).

I had a weekend of doing very little, and I was able to enjoy it. I also needed it after what felt like a week-long panic attack, the constant feeling of not being able to breathe. The perfect antidote was the sea, as always (as well as lots of food, wine, meeting friends, a lie-in and a swim).

  water's edge

foot- and pawprints


yellow boat

Friday, February 17, 2012

Berry colours

All the knitting and crochet I did over the winter had piled up in a corner of the room, so I spent some time at the weekend sorting, packing and storing it.

Crafting, like baking, presents a "problem" for me: I love the process, but I don't necessarily want the result to stay. With baking I need people to eat the baked goods, as I cannot and would not want to eat them all myself and I don't have a big freezer. With crafts, there are only so many things I want to keep. I don't need 20 pairs of wrist warmers and 15 scarves.

People like cake, so I've never had to throw any away (though some of my healthier versions aren't always appreciated as much!). I also gift crafted things regularly. However, yarn being rather expensive (at least the yarn I go for), I am considering selling some of the pieces I make in order to fund this passion of mine.

The idea has been - for a long time- to sell crafts (and maybe baked goods) in the market. This hasn't happened yet, as I am waiting for my business-partner-to-be, my sister, to move here. I also still haven't applied for a licence. And on recent trips to the market I had second thoughts: Do we really want to spend hours shivering in the cold and wet, with the wind threatening to blow away the stall? I'd rather have a little shop/café/gallery (another dream of ours), but the rent for commercial spaces is way too high.

I haven't taken the plunge into setting up an online shop (researching it at the moment). I do not have a business head at all, and I don't expect to ever make money from it - considering that the wool alone for the cowl in the first picture was over ten euro per 100 grams, it doesn't seem viable. But it might be fun.

In the meantime I am tackling bigger projects - tops, dresses, skirts - and trying to improve my technique.

The cardigan with the flowers was a present from my sister - she is a late-night crafter extraordinaire.

 Sleeve detail of said cardigan and airy infinity scarf I knitted

 The throw I made for myself (I realised I never posted pictures of the finished piece - I stopped at four by four squares, so it is a mini throw covering less than a third of the bottom of my bed) and a dress that needed mending. Purple is said to be the colour of the frustrated woman, but I don't care - I have three purple dresses, and I like the colour - it corresponds to the crown chakra (and, for the record, I am not frustrated!).

Merino wool wrist warmers

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Life doesn't last; art doesn't last. It doesn't matter." - Eva Hesse

Eva Hesse (1936-1970) is best known as an innovative sculptor working with unusual (and fragile, perishable) materials such as latex. This book focuses on the importance of her drawings, both as preparation for her sculptural work and as finished pieces in their own right. I love her line and find her work very moving, especially the drawings incorporating circles. I have an obsession with circles (Patrick Scott's work comes to mind - we have some of his tapestries in the University's art collection.)

This book was a gift from a dear friend and artist and is one I keep revisiting.





[De Zegher, Catherine (editor): Eva Hesse Drawing; The Drawing Centre, Yale University Press, 2006]

Saturday, February 11, 2012


"If your everyday life seems to lack material, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to summon up its riches; for there is no lack for him who creates and no poor, trivial place."
(Rilke, Rainer Maria: Letters to a Young Poet, Penguin Classics, London 2011, p.8)

This quote is reassuring as well as challenging, and it immediately made me think of Emily Dickinson's poetry, which is incredibly rich and complex, even though she lived the life of a recluse. I am fascinated by those living simple, secluded lives and their creative output (probably because I am an introvert and a bit of a hermit myself). Of course interaction with others can be stimulating and productive, but I often find that the best ideas come to me in periods of isolation and solitude, and too many people and too much talk just leave me drained and unable to think clearly. So a lot of the thoughts expressed by Rilke in these letters resonate with me.

I find myself more and more in favour of a small life - I can honestly say that I never get bored when I spend quiet time at home. Our inner lives hold abundance, and as long as I can read (which provides plenty of vicarious experience anyway), listen to music and create, I am content. This week has been quite the opposite of solitude - I only returned to my house to sleep - and I am craving some time alone, with my notebooks and a drawing pad.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


This week I did things differently. I am weakened by tonsillitis (so much for not getting sick anymore - the stress of the last few weeks has taken its toll) and still going to work, so I am forced to slow down at home.

Instead of my early-morning starts at the pool, I had longer, slow mornings at home and drove to work later and availed of the park-and-ride facility at the college, so I didn't have to worry about parking. I left my bed unmade two days in a row (unheard of previously), let the sink fill with dirty dishes, and instead of tackling projects I am working on I watched DVDs (I rarely buy DVDs - I prefer renting on iTunes - but I bought Mildred Pierce and think it is something I might watch several times) and had baths with Dead Sea salt by candlelight while listening to music. The new Tori Amos album, a 21st-century song cycle inspired by classical music that deals with a dying relationship, is set in Ireland and draws on mythology and the power of the sea. I hadn't listened to her in a while, as I found some of her more recent albums a bit disappointing compared to her earlier work, but now I am immersed in her music; it has been the perfect soundtrack to the last few days. I also love the Kate Bush album, especially the eponymous track. Both CDs have beautiful book-style packaging.

This week has reminded me that a lot of the pressure I perceive in my life is in my head. Even though it is very busy at work right now, there were so many other things I felt I should be doing, but being sick has made me realise that nothing is that important or urgent. I know I will get back into my usual routine, but I intend to carry the knowledge that I could live with fewer self-imposed aims and deadlines with me into the busy-ness that lies ahead.

| Speaking of slowness, today Matt made the curry laksa from Yotam Ottolenghi's comfort food recipe cards that came with the Guardian a couple of weeks ago - it was one of the best meals of my life, so fresh-tasting (lots of coriander and lemongrass). The ingredient list looks a bit daunting, and you have to continuously stir the spice paste you make at the beginning for 20 minutes, but it is so worth it - and stirring something this fragrant is hardly a chore, more of a scented meditation.