Thursday 19 April 2012

Baskets, Birds and Bavarian Slippers

It seems to me that there are some days when there are a series of malicious events just waiting for you to get out of bed so that they can ruin your day. It is as though they have arranged it amongst themselves. And then there are some days that are filled with precious little delights that also seem to have formed, what I suppose one might call, a  ‘glee’ club and last Saturday was one of those.

Emmaus had an all day event on and, as I furnish my home and clothe my body with other peoples cast offs, it was too tempting to pass by. I was rewarded not only with a lack of crowds but, with two more dirty, broken and abused Charente baskets and a pair of seemingly unworn Indian woven leather shoes, that fitted, all for 5€.

Walking down the road with my treasures I bumped into Sam, owner of MaBootique a vintage clothes shop, who told me that there was a pair of slippers waiting for me at their house nearby. What a lovely present Miles had found for me. They were extraordinary, clownish,  plaited straw Bavarian slippers that just made you want to smile.

Onto the market where I spotted and chased down a blue coil-plaited strapping tape basket and its owner, neither of which I had seen before. She was in a hurry, or quite possibly I frightened her rushing at her brandishing the camera. But, she did tell me, just before she ran away, that she had bought it in Morocco from a man who usually makes the palm leaf version. I have seen similar ones in Spain but the colours, translucency  and  immaculate technique made this one particularly good, and brought back some special memories of learning the technique from a group of elderly women in Mallorca.

After this excitement the supermarket seemed more tolerable than usual and then became way better than usual when I noticed a sparrow tucking into the mushrooms. After gorging itself on the champignons de Paris and pecking tentatively at the pleurottes it flew up into the artificial orange tree that dangles its moribund plastic foliage over the produce counters. 
Sparrow and its reflection

Does it live in the supermarket all the time, does it know what life is like out of doors, or has it found a way to enter at will when it fancies something other than insects for dinner? Oblivious to the security gates, security tags and security guards with their punk collared security rottweilers, this little bird thieves at will and as it does so nibbles and pecks at the profit margins…. go for it little bird ! 

Wednesday 4 April 2012



At the Museum of Modern Art, Wales in Macynthlleth there is currently an exhibition of sculptors’ drawings until the 5th May. Disegno, as it was called by its curator Stephen West, aims to demonstrate the role that drawing plays in the creation of 3 dimensional work for some artists. I was invited to include some of my drawings from my sketch books and a piece of work.

Drawing is something most of us do if we go to school. It is something that most of us stop doing when teachers, or friends and family, tell us that we aren’t doing it correctly, because it doesn’t look anything like the thing we are trying to draw. Some of us are either stubborn or become addicted to the process, or both, and continue to draw as adults. According to my mother, it was always easy to keep me happy as a child with a scrap of paper and a pencil. The only time I ever remember being even slightly discouraged was when my drawing of a Labrador dog made my father laugh because he said it was a dead ringer for General de Gaulle.

At art school the foundation of everything we did was the sketch book. We were encouraged to carry it everywhere and to use it daily to record anything and everything.
But the fact that the ever present book would occasionally be scrutinised by our tutors, meant that, for me, it became a self conscious activity. It was something that needed to be done in the right way, in their eyes ….whatever that might be, and I was never really sure.

It wasn’t until nearly 10 years after graduating, when I started making baskets as opposed to cane sculptures, that drawing suddenly took on a whole new meaning for me. Basket weaving is slow work, requiring a heavy investment of time, so I began to use drawing to resolve aesthetic and technical problems in order to avoid having to undo hours of work. I have not stopped drawing since.

I use graph paper for emotional and practical reasons. The expensive black bound sketch books we were encouraged to use at college terrified me; I never felt that any marks that I might make in them could improve such perfect white paper. Graph paper makes no such demands and can help with scale. My sketch books have also, with time, become valuable to me as diaries and records of work.

For the first time in 30 years I have put a sketch book on public display, and I am now worried that having done so may inhibit me again, as the tutors scrutiny did then. But just possibly, it may be that I have finally grown up enough to not worry about what other people think about my sketch book. I really hope so.

You can read more about the exhibition here.