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Glittering Shards

Glittering Shards: January 2010

Glittering Shards

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Vandalism of Beauty

I met with mosaic artist, Gary Drostle yesterday to talk about helping out on this amazing, 50 foot  mosaic project he is doing for the University of Iowa and as we were chatting I mentioned one of his public mosaics - one that, in my mind, is iconic. I say this because whenever I am talking mosaics to a  friend who has never come across the contemporary mosaic art movement, I show them a picture of Gary's Fishpond mosaic and always, always the reaction is a chin dropping "wow!"

Now it's your it is.

Amazing huh?

Well, yesterday  I was stunned when Gary told me that the local council where the Fishpond was located demolished the mosaic 2 years ago. My chin dropped and my mouth hung open for about a minute as Gary explained that they would not fund a small repair job and then the small repair job became a big repair job and their solution was to get rid of it instead of paying to have it repaired. Honestly, I can think of a whole bunch of us who would have repaired it for free in order to preserve this thing of beauty.

As I reflected on this sad story, the obvious things went through my mind - the lack of value given to artists and their role in society in not just making public art but maintaining it (shucks, I bet the council pays for its vehicle fleet to be serviced rather than letting them run into disrepair and then just chucking them away).

But more than that, it grieves me that this decision conveys such a cavalier attitude to beauty. As an artists, one of my motivations is to beautify.We put our hearts, our selves into this process. How can something so beautiful, so iconic, just be trashed by decision makers? Can you imagine a similar attitude to public art in Venice or Rome? I recently read that archaeological discoveries show that cave men / women had the instinct to beautify their environment and the artifacts of daily life - which confirms my hunch that beauty is an innate need and drive in us humans not an optional extra on the budget of public life.

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Monday, January 25, 2010


I had a moment last week of deep, deep gratitude towards someone for their loving care, their choices that were liberating and conveyed such deep care, value and honour towards me. Boy, how lucky am I? That someone is  sitting on the sofa here with me as I type!

There are those things we take for granted that we forget to be grateful for, but how often do we experience those moments of being sooooo grateful, deeply, viscerally grateful for something that has happened (or not happened)? They are precious events that shape our way of seeing and our relationships, don't you think?


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Creative life, creative hands

This blog straddles two distinct but intertwined aspects of my life - being a creative parent, mother and home maker and being a "Creative" - someone who has chosen a career shift which for me is into the world of mosaic art. On the whole, my posts reflect where my energy is going in a given week - family, children, mosaics and sometimes children and mosaics together!

The last few weeks have been given over to holidays, celebrations, Christmas and birthdays. Isabella's birthday days have been very happy - her "little friends" party was lots of fun and the 7 princesses and one prince went away with their butterfly wings and butterfly placemats! Her "favourite big people" birthday tea was just glorious as this little one glows when all her favourite people are gathered in one place. The highlight was Isabella and Toby doing puppet shows with the new (from the charity shop!) puppet theatre she got for her birthday - a big hit and very, very funny for the grown-ups to watch.

Now that my "big little one" has enjoyed her birthday, my focus has shifted back to the mosaics and it has felt sooo good to get back in the studio (which, despite the weather, is snug and warm).  Last night, my 'outgoing' mosaic class was together and I cannot tell you how impressed I am with the participants -beginners in mosaics who have jumped straight into complex designs and techniques. Wow! I will post pictures of the work next week. I also have 3 new students starting next week - all very exciting!

2010 has kick-started nicely with two new commissions and I am having fun, playing with a mosaic design for a tree that has been in my sketchbook for a long while. I thought I would share here the start of these works so you can see things evolve as the weeks pass.

I am also working on some new, exciting projects, including helping to set up a Community Arts project in Furzedown (the local neighbourhood in the town I live) and running Family Mosaic Workshops - more on these next week!

Its invigorating starting new things and I am glad that these new projects have started before January has finished. What new ideas, projects or initiatives are you starting 2010 with?

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

How quick was that?

It does not seem like a year since I was busy preparing for a certain little girl's birthday celebrations, yet here we are again (for the fourth time!) most joyfully in the throes of birthday plotting - cake making, present wrapping, party planning and working out ways to fill our beautiful girl with glee over the next few days. Her  birthday is on Monday when we are having a family day, doing her favourite things (jumping on a bouncy castle, going to the park, lunch out and then a tea party at home with all her favourite grown-up's.)

But tomorrow we are having a gathering of all the favourite little people - 7 girls and  a special brother. Butterflies and fairy princesses win the day again. We will be making butterfly placemats, Magic Daddy is going to show up with his bag of tricks and the ever popular face paints may get a use too (we will have lots of little butterflies by the end I am sure).

It feels like such a ritual now, staying up late making the birthday cake. I love it. I use Nigella Lawson's Buttermilk Birthday Cake recipe and every year I go OTT with the edible glitter. Its fantastic stuff - shiny, shiny, shiny.

It is such a ponderous time, the eve of the birth of my children. My mind always goes back : "this time four years ago, x was happening" (the whole process with Isabella took oh so long, so the remembering starts two days in advance!). I have never felt so alive as the moments when my children were born - it is precious to remember and I am just so very grateful for the gift of this beautiful girl. Yesterday morning she woke up,  came into our bedroom and said, "Mummy, I dreamt of stars and snowflakes and flowers!". How gorgeous is that? As for me,  I am off to bed to dream of glittery butterflies.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Heavy Heart

As with most of the world my heart is heavy at the thought of the human devastation in Haiti. Since I heard on Tuesday I haven't been able to watch the pictures on the news. I have listened to the radio news instead. I feel rather lily-livered about this but I know that within seconds of seeing the distress in another humans face, especially mothers and children, it will wreck me. I am turning my thoughts to my fellow humans over there several times a day instead, saying a feeble prayer for love and kindness and helping hands and money and equipment and skill and wisdom and hope to flood that spot of the globe. Every time I think about it, I find it so hard that we are here, warm and safe and so many there are not, or are no longer.

Although Haiti is so far away from England, I am carrying around a sense of almost primal connection from the simple reality that our feet are on the same earth, the same revolving rock in the sky. And I feel gutted that yet again, as with the Tsunami, the earth has somehow betrayed us, betrayed them, by not being solid and unchanging.

For what good it does, I am sure that I am one of millions whose hearts and thoughts are connecting daily to our unknown brothers and sisters.

In case you haven't yet, the link to the Disasters Emergency Committee that co-ordinates donations across UK aid organisations is here .


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Looking forward to some tee hee hee's

My beloved and I try out different ways of doing Christmas presents to each other and about 5 years ago we bought a years worth of experiences for each other to fit categories we'd chosen: "funny", "creative", "inspiring" etc... I wrote about it in one of my early blog posts here.

Well, its true that good things come to those who wait. One of Neil's promises was to take me to see Glaswegian funny man, Billy Connolly. I'm not sure what happened but with one thing and another (aka a child or two) we never quite made it for my promised evening of belly laughs. Then, aha! The seats are suddenly booked and we will be occupying them (second row, no less) tomorrow evening at the Hammersmith Apollo. Wee hee! If you have never heard of Billy Connolly, he is tall, 67 years old, with a broad Scottish accent, a mass of curly hair, a raw sense of what is right, just and human and a mouth full of funny (and at times rather rude) words. I particularly admire him for writing openly in his biography about being a survivor of child abuse. To quote "Your duty is to leave the world less beige than you found it".


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Lots of happenings

The weather is happening to us. It always does, I know, but when its this dramatic, you realise that the weather just happens to us. Any plans you may have had to work outdoors, travel here and there etc... are just stopped because we have been happened to. Apologies to you lovely folk in places of the world that get real big snow for several months a year, but for us here to have our whole country covered in snow for over a week is, well...quite a happening. 

It has made me think again about this balance between what you can and can't control. By and large the weather is out of our control (though I spent a lot of my childhood in a grape growing region of Italy where hailstones was the dread of land owners for its ability to decimate the grape crop. To combat this, small yellow cannons dotted the vineyards, disrupting the post-lunch siesta with their intermittent 'boom' of chemicals being fired into the clouds to prevent hailstones forming. Did it work or was it man's attempt to feel in control when he wasn't?).

It's the same when I am making a mosaic. I am currently planning a few commissions and am at the sketching stage. But I know that I cannot plan how it will turn out - that the materials and the process somehow take over and shape the work rather than my attempts to map it out and control it. As I mature in my mosaic making I am more aware of the design choices I have as I make (grouted or ungrouted? andamento? focal points? material choices? positive and negative space? balance? repetition?...) and this has helped me tremendously in trusting the process and going with the flow rather than trying to control too much from the start.

Control...ehm?! Then there is the question of little ones - raising them and remaining in control of the daily 'happenings' as the parent. Not being afraid to set boundaries even if it leads to major strops, whilst also being attentive to their uniqueness, needs, wants and what their sometimes vexing behaviour is signalling. Boy oh boy, what a challenge. I guess, with two under the age of 4, we are in the prime of that 'glorious' developmental stage (the first 'teenagehood') where the boundaries are being pushed, set and reset. I have to confess that over Christmas I got quite burnt out with it all and saw myself turning into a grumpy mummy at times - not too cool.

Things have settled again and we have attempted to gain some positive control over toddler happenings by using a start chart. The idea is that each child has a rocket with their photo in it, and we acknowledge and praise good behaviour (such as using a normal voice, not a whine or shout; doing what mummy and daddy ask; being gentle and kind...) by moving them up a star. When they reach the moon they get a little treat. When they reach the planet they get a big treat. The rocket idea was adapted from the Supernanny website. I cut out and laminated each rocket and put a magnet on the back (the chart is on a magnetic board from IKEA). I like it because it is simple and links behaviour to a consequence. I am still not 100% convinced by how it will work...the jury is out.

In the meantime, we finally made it out into the snow as a family and the camera came too of course!

Loving the snowball fights, the snow men building (don't laugh but we only got about two inches so Isabella's snowman is a miniature!) and coming home to hot chocolate and pop corn. Also loving how, because we are limited to how far we can go out due to the very icy roads and pavements, we are in and out of our neighbours houses more often than usual for a change of scenery and distraction for the whole load of toddlers who live in our street. Whoever said London was a place with no community has not visited our neighbourhood!.

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Monday, January 04, 2010


It's back! My mosaic coffee table (incidentally the first mosaic I ever made, about 9 years ago) has been returned to its place in the living room after a 3 year absence. The table was made with leftover tiles, to a geometric Islamic design and the legs are plant hangers turned upside down and painted gold!

It was taken down when a certain little one started toddling, on account of the potential for bumping into the corners with delicate little head and wobbling little body of an excited little human who had just discovered she could use those legs to take herself places. We take it so for granted now - the toddling turned into walking and then running - oh and we have added skipping and hopping recently. Then closely followed by her little brother who was born only a couple of months after she took her first steps (oh boy!).

I guess the risk of a bump or two is still there but they both seem to have a good degree of control over their little bodies now, so we restored the table to its rightful place and pondered that another milestone in this parenting journey has been crossed. You know, that feeling when you realise a phase of their lovely lives is now in the past and will soon be just a memory. Milestones such as taking down the stairgates, or moving into a big bed, or saying bye bye to the dummy, or (joy of joys), no more nappies (we still have that one to cross with our littlest). Or when you realise that you don't hang out in certain baby shops or sections of the chemist any more. Know that feeling?

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