Friday, 30 September 2011

Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair Time

It has come round way too fast this year! Nearly time for the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair. I will be there on stand 16. I'm hoping to bring my new seed pod window hangings. People keep spotting them hanging in my workshop window and I keep promising that I will start selling them soon. I guess that now would be a good time! Just trying to figure out how to offer them...and wrap them up...and display them.

Anyway I hope you will make it to the show. Here are some pictures from last year so you can see what it's all about.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Writing retreat at Heartspring

I wanted to go away somewhere peaceful to finish the book. Earlier in the year I was craving Wales; missing the sound of the mud popping on the estuary and the curlews calling and the gentle rolling hills and the quiet. Rather than visit Laugharne where I used to live, I went round the bay to Llansteffan. Somewhere I had visited from time to time for a quick walk on the beach but not explored.

My friend told me about Heartspring House. A peaceful retreat centre where you can do group retreats or simply go and rent an apartment, which is what I did. See the big, pink house on the side of the hill. That's it.
Arriving at this grand house on the side of a hill took me back exactly 20 years when I went down to Art College in Carmarthen and lived in a large and beautiful house at the top of the hill in Laugharne. I was shown to my room with a large bay window and estuary and castle views, and I had the same sense of adventure and freedom that I felt when I was eighteen and saw my Castle House room for the first time. All alone, with a new stunning place to explore with no responsibilities , no phone signal and no wifi. Just tea drinking, walking, cooking, drawing, yoga, reading, a massage booked (ok couldn't afford such luxury at 18) and friends joining me at the weekend. Well I did have a book to write but I felt remarkably chilled about it given the long week ahead to focus solely on it.
The house has a deep peace about it. A really nurturing place, with inspiring books on the bookshelves, flowers from the garden in every room...
...shelves of herbal teas to choose from, cupboards full of herbs and spices for cooking, a flourishing vegetable garden, a big swing at the top of the garden, a trampoline...
...window seats to dream in and wonderfully welcoming and friendly staff.

Being on a tidal estuary the tide goes out for miles and you can walk and walk on the sands, which change every day. I loved it there. So utterly beautiful. Such peace.There are walks up to the Norman Castle where you can climb right to the top of the tower (about the only place I could find a phone signal) and walks through the woods right round the headland to take in spectacular views that photos cannot even begin to represent.
Even though I was there to work I found a good balance and went out to play every day....

collecting things on the beach (I got into feathers)...

and drawing. Every day I came to the writing in such a relaxed way. I'd sit down to work and hours would fly by. It was wonderful, and quite new for me, to get completely immersed in the flow with no disturbances, except perhaps the need for a cup of tea. This was good. Very very good. I tackled my intro (which I was scared of), tidied up lots of passages and reached my 20,000 word mark on Wednesday. Hooray!

My lovely friend Rachel came to stay for the weekend and Lynn joined us on Saturday. We had the best beans on toast and friend egg on toast ever in the beach cafe and then embraced the changing weather for a walk on the beach...sunny one minute, huge raindrops the next. Look at that sky. Shame that Rachel discovered a hole in her beloved wellies....and look what we found!
The rock people of Llansteffan had landed!

Let me introduce you to their creator. This is Mark and he lives at Heartspring, looking after the house and the guests, running retreats and being lovely. He had been telling me about his love for making art on the beach and showed me photographs of his beautiful sand circles so it was lovely to find him in mid creation on the beach making 'rock people'. Majestic and serene....
...and attracting quite a bit of attention from passers by!
I was very sad to have to leave my peaceful haven. I got up very early on my last day for a last walk on the beach. It was a grey morning when I set out but when I got on the beach I was greeted by an awesome sunrise.

There was a light rain too and the sunrise made a rainbow. The birds were going nuts and I closed my eyes to listen to them for a few minutes trying to bottle up the sound of the dawn chorus to bring it home. When I opened my eyes it was a grey morning again, not a trace of pink to be seen. Blink and you'd miss it!

I will definitely be going again. I might make it an annual thing. I feel very lucky indeed.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

An attitude of gratitude on the sunny south coast

Me and the kids have just had a week away on the south coast. Going away right at the end of the holidays was sort of like saying goodbye to the summer in a celebratory way. We were blessed with proper sunshine which certainly made for an enjoyable time.

I have been very stressed the last few weeks with the deadline of the book approaching and I felt like I couldn't possibly have a holiday with such a lot of work hanging over my head. Robert had been listening to an audio book called the Happiness Advantage, The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology which he lent to me and it made me realise many things, one of which was that I wasn't going to get anything much done with my doom and gloom attitude and I needed to get my head screwed back on properly (my words, I'm not quoting from the book there haha). Having some fun with kids and friends was going to help with that. Amongst lots gems of wisdom and scientific studies, the book encourages developing a practice of finding three daily gratitudes, training the mind to seek out the positives in our everyday lives.

Here are a few of mine....
How lucky I am that my work path has helped me meet so many amazing people. I met my friends Terri and David from Brighton years ago when they exhibited in the Hebden Bridge Sculpture trail and visited my open studio. We had a lovely chat and they invited me to show in their open house the next Spring. For the next few years a trip to Brighton in May has been a highlight of the year and I stayed in their beautiful house each time and made friends with these lovely people.

We have just stayed in their lovely peaceful house. Me and Ffion sat at the kitchen table with the French doors open onto the garden, drinking a lot of tea, Euan made the living room his domain and listened to lots of football. Ffion did some proof reading for me (working in a very relaxed kind of a way I might add). Which brings me onto gratitude number two. I am so lucky to have this girl and thankful that she is always so willing to help me. She is a good book editor (a newly discovered talent to add to the mix), she made a wicked carbonara and she always makes me laugh!

The Japanese Anemones were out in the garden (always grateful for the simple pleasures). The very plant that inspired my lamp design.

And we met Ed. Ffion has been writing singing and recording music with Ed Tullett, a prolific young singer/songwriter for the the last year but has never met him as he lives near Brighton. They met on Youtube of all places, commenting on each others videos and with the wonders of music technology they have been able to make recordings from opposite ends of the country. Fiction on his Vices album is my favourite of them both singing. They spent the day recording and making videos. Here's them singing Bon Iver. Bless them. Very inspiring indeed.

Another friend I am grateful to have made through my work is Wendy. She was my next door stand neighbour at my very first British Craft Trade Fair eight years ago. We were friends at first site and go down to visit her and her partner Chris in Hastings as often as we can. Did you read my post about going down to help them give birth back in June? Well here I am cuddling the lovely little boy. There were lots of cuddles. He's a darling.

My boy was as tiny as him once but look at him now. Lovely handsome chap. He was on top form on our holiday and it was great to have him a round. He nearly didn't come but I am so glad he did as it was lovely (and unusual) for us all to hang out together for so long. He and Chris played Forza on Xbox alot,

and he had a swim every day. Love that boy.
....and we had a cream tea with home made scones on the beach, and fished for mackerel (unsuccessfully) and made pizzas (well Chris did, we just added our toppings), and went to the car boot (it wasn't great) and just had a fantastically fun and relaxing time and I am grateful for these wonderful people who make it all all right......

Cheers! So, now we are back, refreshed and ready to get back to work in a much better headspace. :)

Phew that was a long blog post. All my family has gone to bed. Think I will go follow them. Night night x

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