The Smaller Things

“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”

― Andy Warhol

We have been away for two glorious weeks. If there is one bit of advice I’d give about taking a holiday, it would be to have a holiday. To cease work – no laptop, no emails, no ‘ring me if you need to’s’… We are very bad at stopping and realising that the world will carry on without us, that we can unplug from our daily energy drain and fill up with something new and wonderful, whatever that may be.

There is also something about having as much of your brain free as possible, which is becoming more essential the older I get! More headspace to notice, to enjoy, to wonder and make connections, to notice the small things . A change isn’t really as good as a break, no matter how we kid ourselves. And time with nature is especially restorative.

The scenery has been spectacular with blue skies and cliff walking a delight to the senses; sky larks, turquoise sea, jagged cliffs and a myriad of small wild flowers. I have never noticed so many within a few paces. It gladdens the soul! But the beaches here are so clean, of rubbish and of things an old beachy bag lady such as myself would count as found treasures. Basically, no smelly seaweed tide lines. I mean, what is a girl to do!?

Well…I have learned that there is always something to notice, something to focus your attention on, and to start with it was all the mussel shells on the rocks. They were a little smaller than the ones usually washed up, growing still. The repeated colours and stripy patterns are something I’d like to work on, to celebrate and abstract. I take a lot of photos but don’t really sketch much. I think I play around with images until a thing is in my head then I’m ready to go and can leave it behind. Turning the paired shells around made me notice the textures, the differences and similarities. I’m feeling a little obsessed with them to be honest! But I think we have to become a wee bit obsessive to create our best work, don’t you?

Incidentally, there is a lot to be said for limitation and how this can be a catalyst for creativity. So don’t worry if you find your attention on one small thing. It’s quite likely it won’t remain small for long!

I enjoyed finding some new ‘mussel marks’ on a recent workshop with Shelley Rhodes, and want to build on these further. I have plans for working with a number of small things, which I’m calling ‘objects of attention’ such as feathers, stones, ferns, cones and such like. I know I work best by focussing in rather than looking out. I’m also excited by using encaustic medium so watch this space, I shall be using it to house some treasures.

Feather marks:

I’m also continuing to work with stones and pebbles, it would be rude not to I think. River Stones continues to be part of ‘Fibre’ at Heart Gallery, Hebden Bridge, and I had a wee go at stone balancing on the beach with Him Indoors – none too shoddy methinks…

But a complete delight was a walk to St Nectan’s Glen, a forest river walk to a waterfall where for years, it has held a particular meaning for many folk. All along the river, and all over the rocks at the waterfall were little cairns people had placed in thoughtful moments, and again, I was as drawn to these small acts as I was to the vast waterfall.

So I’ve spent a few days creating the beginnings of some small stacks of my own:

I will continue working on these, and other small fabric-based ones.

How about these beautiful pebbles? The beach was entirely made up of thrilling little abstracts – collaborative acts of sea, stone and time.

The other lovely thing was all the ferns growing in the hedgerows and I have created a couple of books/scrolls based on prints of these for a workshop.

Until next time…

“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”

–   Henry David Thoreau