Shelter In Place

This is a term I see growing in use as we are confined to our homes. I really appreciate it as it helps me to think more positively about the situation. However, I’m also very aware that home isn’t a shelter for everyone, and that not everyone even has a home. Supporting vulnerable children and families in my work brings this into focus – there is a huge spectrum of circumstances everyone is dealing with – but it makes me even more grateful for mine. I am grateful for my neighbours I can actually see when we stand on our doorsteps each Thursday evening to spur our NHS and carers on, for my home and family, for friends and the technology that helps me connect with them and for the countryside I can walk into. I am particularly enjoying the quietness as we live up high and any road noise travels across the fields. It’s a real treat… as is the chocolate Him Indoors and I are desperately trying to ration to weekends – how are you doing on that one?

I have been doing quite a lot of smaller bits of work which is why I haven’t posted, not a lot is finished. Small seems to be the way forward – so many artists all saying they have the time but not the inclination, being creative takes energy and that’s being used in other areas at present. I feel a settling though, so much so that I do think we may re-assess just how busy we want to be in future, some good and lovely things are happening amongst the suffering.

I will share this though, for the last few months my home hasn’t felt like quite the shelter it should be. We had persistent rain all Autumn and Winter and cyclonic storms that brought unprecedented wind and rain. This eventually worked its way into our stone walls and came pouring into the kitchen above the window and in a couple of other places. We filled buckets up! Fast forward and we have had weeks of beautiful sunshine but the garden has literally been a big bog – squelching grass and stagnant water pooling everywhere and damp coming into my studio. Nothing made sense – the fields were dry but when we eventually hacked up the lawn to make gulleys, these were constantly flowing. Eventually I tracked it down to a leak at the cattle trough in the field behind which must have been bubbling for months. The fields were sodden with standing water. Once the water was turned off last weekend, the garden started drying within hours, happily. We are now left with some groundworks to sort out and many of my plants have died. This is disappointing when we all want to enjoy our gardens as much as possible at the moment.

To add insult to injury, I will tell you this tale which relates to the #sew4thesoulhannemade project I’m loving. I took this up because all of the above culminated in me feeling desperately anxious and I needed something for my wellbeing. I turned to my garden for inspiration and I had planted hellebores last year. I just love their muted colours. This year about three leaves remained due to very evasive menacing molluscs looking for something to tide themselves over the end of winter. So disappointing. I decided my first piece would celebrate hellebores through sheer bloody-mindedness and to spite the snails. Made me feel better anyway.

Then, I thought, the bluebells would be coming up so I’d do another piece inspired by them. They are blooming all over the fields and woods now, but are they in my garden? Are they chuff. I had six clumps along my wall, all showing promise, then I noticed two were missing after the gardener had done his strimming. 😡 Fear not, I told myself, you have others and remember all the good things. Two weeks later, I’m stitching the piece below and after his second visit I now have two clumps left and precisely 6 bluebells. 😡😡. He’s actually a wonderful good egg. If I tell you that he brings a pick axe for digging holes you will understand why we need a little help! So I’m now practicing forgiveness and enjoying the ones on my walks…….and looking forward to next Spring. The third of these pieces will be inspired by honeysuckle. I have two which I lovingly repotted recently and they are outside the back door. (I’m just waiting for them to die.)

Another thing I have been doing is a word swap with an art buddy. We take it in turns to offer up a word on a monthly basis and have to respond some way. It doesn’t have to big or finished, but it’s really fascinating to see how utterly different our responses are to each other. Here are two of the first words from my perspective which actually did result in resolution:

‘Palimpsest’

(noun palimpsest; a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing.
something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.)

I decided to pursue the idea of finding my voice which is a theme I’ve been exploring for a while. I played around with a long triangle shape that I’ve been interested in for years. They were collaged in dictionary pages one side and all sorts of papers on the other. Each one bears traces of several layers. There are three, each one representing a stage of life.

The sideways one nearer the ground is childhood, brighter in colour and containing images of children and an old school report about me needing to speak up at school. The darker curved down one is next, a time when I felt my voice was hushed. This one has a report saying I talked too much at school and other papers representing ways of being quietened over the years. The vertical twisted one is twisting up and outwards and only this one has music notation – a representation of starting to feel I could ‘sing’, particularly through art. I also wanted them to include the positives in life – I have so much to be grateful for so they all have gold threads criss-crossing over the triangles .

I was caught up in the small paper trials I played with at first. The simplicity of shapes just caught me. I wasn’t sure that adding colour and texture would be effective – would it all take away or add to the idea of layers of self? On reflection I think they worked.

‘Connect’

This word was chosen immediately before the pandemic and obviously became very pertinent. I chose to consider how we are all connected to something deep within us, something that anchors us together. This piece fell into my head with a name, ‘Fleet’. It will be a series of small boats carrying pebbles, each containing text and different languages.

These will represent different groups or nations and will have a string tying them back to a larger stone hanging down from a shelf. I envisage them going in different directions, a few starting to turn back as if to harbour. I’m enjoying taking my time with this one. There is also a sense of returning to the shelter of familiar materials and methods, as these are built with CMC paste and teabag paper again. Other may have panic-bought loo rolls but not me: last day in the office before lockdown saw me scuttling into town for emergency balloons, PVA and gel medium!

Huddersfield doesn’t always get good press, but one thing that makes it special is that you can walk pretty quickly to somewhere green no matter where you live. Below is a favourite place on a sunny day.

I do wish you shelter in place, but know that for a few readers it will feel like the rain is still pouring in. x

Looking across Stirley Farm

14 thoughts on “Shelter In Place

  1. I read this piece Rachel and it just captured what I too am feeling.

    I adore the colours you are using for your sew4thesoul piece, particularly the bluebells. I live in a small village in Ireland. At the back of our garden there is a big old house. It was renovated last year and they had a digger in to get rid of the old scrap trees. The digger took the bluebells too and I now only have small clumps in the hedgerows. I am cheering them on.

    I too am doing the sew4thsoul project. I found a bobbin from a carpet factory so my piece will be very large and may take years! I miss seeing the sea so I am going with sea colours. Keep safe.

  2. Your hellebore and bluebell pieces are absolutely gorgeous. Such beautiful colours and detail. How very lovely.
    ( BC Canada )

  3. What a lovely blog piece! The work you are doing is just lovely – I love the colours of your sew for the soul, and I also love the shapes of the Triangular pieces and their intention is very thought provoking!

  4. The shapes that have arisen from your word challenge are so effective in their simplicity. I was going to say elegant and my spell checker initially changed that to eloquent and for once I agree. I look forward to watching your fleet grow.

  5. Feel so bad for all your setbacks— especially ones within your garden as we wait each year for the familiar flowers that we enjoy. Right now we’re experiencing a terrific windstorm that’s playing havoc with all of my flowers and new plantings. I Laughed and cried with you. Love your “fleet” such a good idea and enjoyable to look at. Thanks for all your thoughts.

    Gloria (🇨🇦)

  6. I enjoyed seeing your beautiful work here – the wonderful rich colours of the hellebore and bluebell pieces and the textures and shapes of the triangles. The ‘fleet’ has me intrigued to see how it develops because I love sculptural pieces like these, especially when they incorporate text.

  7. Oh that’s sad about your garden. I hope it recovers some glory for summer. I’m doing a couple of S4TS lengths too. It’s a joy to have something that’s non thinky but still an achievement isn’t it.

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