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Glittering Shards

Glittering Shards: March 2010

Glittering Shards

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Experimenting with art

I want to introduce you to my first sponsor and new friend, Amelia.

One of the things that I love about blogging is meeting new people and making connections that would otherwise not happen. It feels especially lovely to have met Amelia through the blogosphere as she is not only a fellow artist and mum, she also lives up the road from me! We have shared quite a few cups of tea with each other in the last few weeks, swapped blogging tips and generally got excited talking about creativity, life and the universe.

This leads me to another thing I have discovered about blogging - that so many creative bloggers are establishing and running fantastic e-courses. Last autumn I participated in Marisa's "In the Fishbowl" course through which I have met some lovely people (*waves to the other fishies*). One of my new online friends is Louise Gale, who lives in the USA but used to live in South London and knows Amelia. Even more serendipity...having just visited Marisa's blog to get her url, her current post is about her online friend Susannah. I smiled when I saw that because Amelia has talked to me loads about how Susannah has inspired her and they recently had the opportunity to meet in real time. The final twist in this little tale is that Susannah and Marisa have just both done a simultaneous post (29th March) on how they were born 24 hours apart and are both Aquarian's. Well...Amelia's birthday and mine are two days apart (though you have to add a couple of years to yours truly!)

Phew! That is a very long way of telling you all that Amelia is launching her new online "Experimental Art" e-course. I am enrolled and very much looking forward to it. Here's some info from Amelia's site:


This is a 6 week course starting on: MONDAY 19th APRIL 2010, exploring art methods in an experimental way. Cost: £60 ($99 US dollars) with limited places to ensure individual attention.

This on-line course is designed for those who:

*have always fancied doing something artistic but for some reason or another haven't taken the first step
*Those who may already work in one medium but have the desire to launch out into something fresh
*who have an urge to be creative, but worry about going to physical classes for fear of having their abilities judged
*those interested in creative exploration and expression using art techniques
*those that want to meet with like-minded individuals and share an artistic journey from the comfort of their own home

Sounds good huh? Go here to find out more.

Have you found blogging a great place for connections and learning too? I'd love to hear your stories too!


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring rubbing pictures

I bought some cheap plastic organisers from the pound shop the other day but they did not serve my purpose of getting more admin efficiency going as I could not get enough papers in each one. Then I noticed that the butterfly and floral pattern on each cover was actually raised. Rather absentmindedly, I got a crayon out and within seconds, a beautiful picture appeared - so pretty, so easy.

I did several sheets then cut them us as notelets for me to use. The kids then joined the fun and we had a great half hour of activity, making spring pictures and then framing  them as presents and one for our own art gallery wall. We also made more springy notelets for mummy and cut some and glued some to make our own cards.

Good fun. Have a go:

  • Keep your eye out for cheap / free textured bases 

  •  tape a piece of paper to the base you are going to rub, to stop it moving around 
    •  try different crayons. We tried fat and thin ones and some lovely Stockmar crayons made from pure beeswax
    • experiment with using a different number of combination of colours
    •  try moving the paper slightly between each rubbing so you get a shadow effect

    Voila! Beautiful pictures in a jiffy!

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    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Our budding photographer

    The other day I took a little leap of trust and placed my precious camera in the hands of my insistent 4 year old - strap carefully round her neck and firm instructions not to touch the lens. I took a deep breath and turned away (pretending not to supervise), leaving an excited Isabella clicking  away like a veritable David Bailey, complete with photographer body positions (picture this little one, twisting and turning herself to get just the right angle for her pictures).

    I am glad I trusted. It was a delight watching her discovering this new way of seeing and capturing the world. Every minute or so she ran over to me excitedly, saying "look mummy, look!" at the latest picture in the viewfinder. It left me with a big grin on my face and a few extra pictures, slightly blurry (arty, no?) on my computer. Here they are - what do you think?



    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    Enjoying the fruit of our vine!

     Today we drank the wine from last autumn's grape harvest and it was very drinkable indeed. We achieved this interesting feat by joining our local Urban Wine co-operative and pooling our tiny grape harvest with that of members of our neighbourhood. Read all about our grape harvest and the co-operative here and about the Urban Wine Company here.

    As members, we got 6 free bottles with the label of our choosing. Seeing as it was Mr P's birthday last week, I went for Pinky (his childhood nickname) Perot Plonk! It really does taste nice (dry, refreshing...very quaffable).  Our vine is now in its 4th year and its nearly time to get  out there and prune...

     Below is a write up of the launch of our wine, written by a wine expert from  Made me chuckle and highlights just how wonderful and amazing this urban initiative is. Have a little read...

    John Abbott, Deputy Editor,
    Chateau Tooting, Unknown Blend, Inside the M25, London 2009

    Strictly speaking, this was a launch tasting, but the absence of spittoons, tasting sheets and Riedels quickly pointed to the warming reality that this was in fact a celebration, and an endearing one at that.

    'I'm a donater,' one lady told me as she stared at my aerating motion. 'I live on a run-down estate with guns and knives.'

    'When they came to my door to get the grapes (they had to collect them, I'm on benefits) they were amazed at the abundance of grapes on the vine.'

    'I think they were surprised I turned up tonight, they weren't expecting to see me. But they remembered coming to my house.'

    Chateau Tooting is the result of the Urban Wine Company's project to make a wine from grapes found in the back gardens of London.

    In truth, it's an appellation regulators nightmare. Nobody I spoke to seemed to have a clue what grape varieties had gone into it and judging by the video of the crushing day, it's probably best not to probe.

    But watching the social function of the project in action, and all the would-be vintners comparing stories, was excellent. So too the boxes marked-up to go back to the contributors - 'Chateau Clapham' etc.

    'Come on then, what's your score,' the donator prompted. 'I reckon 4 out of 10 - I don't really like wine.'

    Coppery tinged, and a little shy on aromatics, the wine was as delightfully puckering as the finest Grand Cru vin clairs. It had fruit of sorts, and enough acidity to be sure of still going strong by the time the 2109 vintage is bottled. Malolactic would probably have stripped it of its bright character, but perhaps the future for Chateau Tooting lies in dosage and a second fermentation.

    I reiterate. This was no tasting. Thus, I admit, I drank Chateau Tooting and I enjoyed it.

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    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Listen while you work

     What do you listen to while you work? Music? Silence? Talk Radio?

    Yesterday, I ventured into my studio to carry on the beautiful mosaic work (despite still feeling poorly - all healing vibes gratefully received) and I treated my ears and heart to the sounds from Jason Carter's In and Out of Time Album. Jason is a friend of ours and his music wakes my heart up and draws it to the surface. He skips across, in-between and over genres so I find it hard to categorise him (fusion, world, flamenco, latin...? whatever!). All of it is stunning, beautiful.  If you are near London and want to hear Jason live, he is doing a house concert for us on 2nd May. Very limited places so let me know soon if you want to come!

    There is some cool photography on Jason's web site too, so if you want some treats for your eyes and ears at the same time, have a wander over there...

    Here's a track. Enjoy!

    <a href="">Almost Home by Jason Carter</a>


    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Small moments of ordinary magic

    This is it. 

    I inhale deeply, the air runs into my lungs, expands my soul.

    Its here.

    People, please forgive my melodrama. Spring has arrived! Wooo hoooo! It is one the most precious moments of the year. The ritual that marks this moment is unashamedly normal, ordinary, every day.

    I have hung out my washing outside and it has dried!! 

    Oh, the smell of the clothes when I took them down. This big pile of laundry that needs folding is filled with pockets of spring air. Hurray for laundry folding! Hurray for spring!

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    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    For the Artist at the Start of Day


    This piece of writing is from "Benedictus: a book of blessings", by John O'Donohue (see Amazon widget on the right). John is a most beautiful Irish poet and philisopher who died a couple of years ago at the young age of 49. I often listen to recordings of John's talks while I am making mosaics- they are an inspiration for anyone who is a creative seeker and lover of life. Enjoy.

    For the Artist at the Start of the Day
    May morning be astir with the harvest of night;
    Your mind quickening to the eros of a new question,
    Your eyes seduced by some unintended glimpse
    That cut right through the surface to a source.
    May this be a morning of innocent beginning,
    When the gift within you slips clear
    Of the sticky web of the personal
    With its hurt and its hauntings,

    And fixed fortress corners,
    A Morning when you become a pure vessel
    For what wants to ascend from silence,

    May your imagination know
    The grace of perfect danger,
    To reach beyond imitation,
    And the wheel of repetition,

    Deep into the call of all
    The unfinished and unsolved
    Until the veil of the unknown yields
    And something original begins

    To stir toward your senses
    And grow stronger in your heart
    In order to come to birth

    In a clean line of form,
    That claims from time

    A rhythm not yet heard,
    That calls space to
    A different shape.

    May it be its own force field
    And dwell uniquely
    Between the heart and the light

    To surprise the hungry eye
    By how deftly it fits
    About its secret loss.

    © John O’Donohue. All rights reserved. For more about John's work visit

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    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    The rough and the smooth

    It's bug city round here. Our home must have been put on the bug hotel map cos them little viruses just keep on coming. I have tried not to whinge on here about the amount of bugs we are getting but seeing as, right now, I am in bed instead of in my studio, I think I can justify a little moan? 

    Since January, I kid you not, we have had a bug a week. Just when one is over another strikes. The week before last was nasty colds, last week both kids got Mr Norovirus on his yearly visit (he was early this year - normally he comes on Neil's birthday. I know this because for 3 years in a row, poor Neil has been showered in vomit on his special day). On Friday I got sinusitis again - 2 days of horrible stinging pain. It must now be over I thought? Oh no - last night, stomach cramps - all night. This morning, a little girl waking us up at 5.30am because she has another cold. So here I am, in bed when I want to be in the studio making that cheeky rooster come to life (good mosaic day yesterday and his character is emerging). Here's a peek...
    Parent's out there, please tell me, is this level of bug activity in our family normal? We dose up with vitamins, we eat well, we exercise (ehm...I have a 10K run to do on Sunday and I have not been able to do any training since last weds. Spare a thought as I run and do pop some money into the sponsor pot if you can - read about it here).

    Is it to do with living in an urban setting? Should I move to the country to escape this assault of the bugs? As the saying goes, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired...
    Whinge over. Let me finish on a creative note - a little idea for an art activity for you!

    Last Autumn I did a unit of an art diploma course to try and get some 'formal' learning on design principles. I wasn't very enamoured with the course - no energy or enthusiam from the teachers, hardly any feedback. Ho hum. But I did have fun doing this study on texture and line. These collages - one using lines and the other curves as the basis for the composition - involved photocopying random objects from round the house with different textures. It was hilarious and made for a great guessing game with the kids (what's this a copy of? No, not a cat, it mummy's fluffy cushion!). Bubble wrap, bath mats, hairbrushes, vacuum cleaner hose, crochet doilies...they all got shoved onto our cheap copier printer, then cut up and glued down used to create the two images of urban and rural landscapes.
    Great project. Give it a go  - for yourself, with the kids - it is surprisingly fun...

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    Monday, March 08, 2010

    A little visitor

    Just popping in quickly to show you a new visitor to the neighbourhood. This little cat (who looks too well fed to be stray me thinks!) has decided she likes noisy, boisterous children. Whenever they are around, she appears and doesn't seem to mind being chased by Toby. The children are just squealing with glee when she is around - it is just too cute to watch.

    For a while now, Isabella and I have been trying to convince Daddy that its time to have cats again (our dear Millie and Amber who we had for 13 years died over a year ago). Kitty (as she has been named) has won him over. I think we may even have upped the bargain from one kitties to this space.

    As I was observing my two little ones with Kitty this morning it struck me how this cat just loves to play and I guess that is why she is so drawn to being around little children. Play is such a powerful thing - even for us as adults. I am so guilty of being in the responsible, serious, grown up world too much of the time. One of the reasons I love mosaic making is that I feel like I am at play when I am making. Playing and creativity are so closely intertwined - that feeling of having fun, getting lost in something, discovering...

    I reckon one of my intentions for this year is to get a good balance between work and play. Ask me in 10 months how I did, won't you...?

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    Wednesday, March 03, 2010

    The world is becoming more beautiful...

    I know I go one about this a lot, but beautifying our surroundings (homes, public places, workplaces) is a big motivation for me in my art. Well, the world just got more beautiful. My lovely mosaic workshop students are doing a fantastic job of becoming mosaic addicts and creating beauty. They are at various levels of completion as all chose to jump straight into mixed media, experimental, go-with-the-flow and slightly more complex end of the mosaic spectrum - and boy have they got it! They really have. I watched all three of them, at different stages, stop thinking too hard and just start flowing with the materials and you can almost tell from looking at their pieces when they "got it".


    Its very exciting for me as a teacher to know that my approach of not just teaching "mosaic tiling by numbers" but teaching the heart of this art has really paid off. The love of the materials.The attention to the flow and the eye. The importance of paying attention to inner instinct that guides your creative hand. The willingness to try wacky combinations or ideas, just because you can. Sure, its taking them slightly longer, but one of the reasons for that is that they have all been ok with unsticking what just didn't feel right. My next mosaic course starts on April 13th. Click here for more info.

    See the difference in Jane's sail when she listened to her instinct, unpicked and re-did.

    I know that in my mosaic career I have really struggled with needing to unpick work that I had laboured over, seeing it as a failure of sorts. At times I have not listened to that instinct and my art has been the less for it. When I did the lovely Sonia King's Advanced Mosaic course last summer, my ears pricked up when she talked about having to unstick big areas of her work. Something clicked in me and I guess I stopped putting myself down as not quite good enough, the subtle premise being "If it's good enough for Sonia, its good enough for me!".  The other thing I stopped sweating over was not being too sure about how I am going to make my mosaic. You know, that bit before you start, when you have a design, some idea about tesserae (tiles) what? Sonia said (I am told there are a limited edition of WWSS? - What Would Sonia Say? - badges in circulation!) "don't begrudge the time you spend playing around with your materials. It was another one of those "click" moments and since then I have enjoyed this stage so much. It's full of discovery, play and excitement of what emerges as you go with the other side of your brain. Thank you to the lovely Sonia who is an awesome mosaic artist and lovely teacher. Find her here.
    Here's me at play with the rooster commission - nothing is stuck, still just experimenting. I have discovered that rather than do his body all in black (as originally intended), a mix of these lovely brown / black undulating tiles (discovered by one of my students!) and the black is so cool. The glass fusions and eye / beak are just glorious aren't they? They are made by the very talented mosaic artist Martin Cheek and he can make them to order to fit your piece. You can even go on one of his courses and learn to do it yourself!

    If you didn't read my last post, do scroll down to learn about how you can give to my sponsored run in aid of Sri Lankan street children. I have just come back from my training run (did it in 1 minute less time!) and my legs are achy achy achy! But, I did see the first leaves budding on a hedgerow which - spring is coming, yipeeeee!

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