'If you make happiness your goal, then you're not going to get to it… The goal should be an interesting life."

Dorothy Rowe

Sunday 29 May 2011

My Luddite tendencies have been confirmed…

by events over the last few days. Cameras, computers, cars.

On Tuesday i took my camera when we took Babybel to the Verwood Heavy Horse Centre. I thought she’d love it – she did. I thought there would be plenty of photo opportunities – there were. I was snapping away – when I realised the card was missing from my camera. It was still plugged into this lap top. Wouldn't have happened in the days of film. [OK, there are some advantages of digital over film when you are a lousy photographer – and it was my own fault].

Got home afterwards to discover that our newly installed Infinity broadband was all too finite. Tried BT Broadband Desktop Help which helpfully told me that broadband was down [&*%$!#!] and failed dismally to do anything about it. Phoned BT’s helpline, which helpfully told me what to try if I could get on line [&*%$!#!] and if not to try Desktop Help [&*%$!#!] before putting me through to India – where a less helpful gentleman than I have spoken to before told me that it was a line fault but they would kindly repair it free of charge. [&*%$!#! – I should think so – it’s rented and we pay enough for it] but they couldn’t come out to do anything about it till Thursday – which was the day we were supposed to be going away. [&*%$!#!]

Fortunately, the BT man turned up at 8 a.m. on Thursday morning – unplugged the little white box between the hub and the wall, replaced it with another little white box and went away.

So we still managed to get to Liverpool in reasonable time – although our planned stroll along the riverside, to look at this which happened to be in port, was put off due to the weather. [Not at all my idea of a holiday – a holiday with 3000 other people in a floating tower block? I think not.]

A couple of days in Liverpool was much more to my taste – the Walker Art Gallery for a selection of these and this, a stroll round under this in the Catholic Cathedralimage

and our by now traditional visit to these gentlemen.imageIt was cold and windy but the light was wonderful.

We finished our arty few days with a diversion via the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – where the car alarm decided to malfunction. Fortunately, one side effect of transporting other peoples’ dogs is that we know how to disable the movement sensor, which solved the problem temporarily – and  the car is already booked in for some increasingly expensive repairs.


We only had time for a quick visit to YSP – but we’ll be back.

Now I’m just waiting to see what else breaks down…

Monday 23 May 2011

A rose by any other name…


I knew Babybel liked flowers.

I knew she liked smelling flowers.

I knew there would be lots of roses at Mottisfont just now.

Stupidly I didn’t put those three facts together and realise that, when we went,  she would have to sniff every single rose. [I may be exaggerating slightly…]

She also enjoyed feeding the fish.IMG_5580We had a good time too, though we didn’t sniff quite so many roses.

In the intervals between grandparenting, I've finished the Research Project – I won’t be able to work on it next week and it is due in the week after that.

I got a lot more out of it than I thought I would, and it has changed my attitudes to artist’s books – I think I now prefer the ones with the more conventional formats to the more sculptural ones – provided the content isn’t conventional too…

Next week it’s back to the Personally Managed sketchbook, and when college restarts after half term it will be time to get started on those personal cloths – which probably won’t be cloths…

Friday 20 May 2011

Today’s the day…

when we have a lull in Babybel minding.

My plan was to:

  1. put on the washing
  2. make bread
  3. tidy up
  4. write my ‘exhibition proposal’ [i.e. how to I want to display the chest of drawers – I don’t think ‘under a bin bag’ is an option]
  5. hang out the washing
  6. make lunch
  7. bring my evidence of planning and organisation up to date
  8. work on the Research Project [most important]
  9. collapse into a heap and
  10. watch almost anything on TV.

You will notice there is no mention of a draft essay, because despite it not turning out to be quite as finished as I thought it was, it has been tweaked and ‘No further bulletins will be issued’.

I managed 1,2,3 – sort of, 4, 5, 6, and 7. I am sure I will manage 9 & 10 as well.

So what did I miss out? Only the most important. Procrastinate? Me?image

Instead I made 2 pinnies, which were needed urgently.

OK, maybe we only need one. Fairly urgently.

I wanna tell you a story.

Babybel likes to cook.

She cooks with her mummy.

She cooks with her daddy.

She cooks with Mrs Cheddar.

She scrambles eggs with her granddad.

She doesn't cook with me.

I can cook – I just don’t, much, any more. My specialties are bread, soup and salad – Wensleydale does everything else. [Yes, he’s wonderful. No, he’s not available.]

I decided that perhaps it was time Babybel did some cooking with me. OK, it will only be jam tarts with ready rolled pastry – but Auntie Mabel made them on ‘Come Outside’, which is what gave me the idea.

But if she’s going to cook with me tomorrow – she needs a pinny…

I found this pattern, which I particularly like because the child can put it on and take it off herself. Babybel’s new favourite phrase is ‘I can do it myself’ in a very firm tone of voice, so ease of use is important. The pattern was so clear and straightforward that I decided to make two - and I almost found myself making a third in PVC.

It will be road tested tomorrow, so we will see if it meets with Babybel’s approval.

Maybe I’ll manage a bit of RP-ing tonight …

Sunday 15 May 2011

Woke up this morning …

and remembered – it’s finished! The draft essay that is. :>)

Of course, as i was dozing in bed, I had a much better idea for the conclusion. :>( But I had already decided that I was going to give myself a day off and do something totally unassociated with any degree work at all. Like make a bag, to hold the charity shop baby clothes I’m accumulating for somebody’s baby brother, when he arrives.

I thought I might find a suitable bit of something in the box of UFOs [as opposed to the bags of UFOs, you understand] which I meant to sort out a year last Easter, before I was struck down with the chest infection from hell.

The box turned out to contain several finished but unquilted quilt tops. OK-ish quilt tops, but nothing that I really want to bother wrestling through a sewing machine to quilt.

So, I offered them for charitable purposes on the British Quilt List, and they will be going to a good home not too far away ASAP.

But nothing suitable for bag making.

So I turned to my box of bright, multicoloured, never going to use it for anything else now I’ve given up patchwork and taken up subtler colours, fabric.

And found about 1.25 metres of something with cows on.

Mmm. who do I know who likes cows? But she doesn’t need a bag, she needs some summer dresses.

Now, a few months ago, I bought a book of patterns for trendy,  translated from the Japanese, children's clothing. Could I find it? What do you think?

Thanks to the magic of Google, I found this instead. Which was probably better because I didn’t have a lot of fabric, and the patterns for trendy,  translated from the Japanese children's clothing would probably have needed more than I had.

It’s a nice, quick little pattern [although I chose to make a casing for the elastic rather than sewing it in] and it is finished and will be on the way to Babybel’s house tomorrow.

And there is probably enough of it left to make pockets in a bag of some more of the multicoloured, never going to use it for anything else now I’ve given up patchwork and taken up subtler colours, fabric. Perhaps her little brother will like cows as well.

Friday 13 May 2011

I'm still here…

just busy -and not only with that essay.

However - good news #1 - after another slight pruning of the topic[less emphasis on whether something is or isn't an artist’s book, even more on how technological changes have affected them], I’ve completed all but the conclusion.

No idea what my conclusion is – but I can probably add a bit of waffle good enough for a draft <g>.

And- good news #2- it is just a shade under 4,500 words. Obviously it will be longer when I’ve written the conclusion – but not that much longer, and I have to give the readers of the handed-in first draft something to critique, don’t I? <g>.

I still have problems with the idea of handing in a draft, though. I used to teach students that the first draft of the essay is where you find out what you think, the second is where you tell the reader. So, this is not a real first draft – because it has to tell the reader about my thinking, or be totally misleading. ‘Yes, I know I didn't say that, but I did think it. I was going to put that in the final draft, honest!’

So it is more like a final draft without the final tidying up. I can see why we are asked to do it – and of course if I'm completely off piste, handing in a draft should get me back to  a safe slope – but it really doesn’t suit my style of skiing working.

The rest of the time has been spent looking after Babybel, having a stomach bug [I’ll spare you the details], having my hair cut, doing domestic stuff, going to college, looking after Babybel – and, this afternoon, going to the new art gallery at Mottisfont.

I’ve always been impressed by the pictures at Mottisfont, which are not quite what you expect in a National Trust property, so I was pleased to hear they’d turned some of the upstairs rooms into a gallery. The exhibition includes several works by Cheshire favourites Ben Nicholson, Graham Sutherland, John Piper and Peter Lanyon, the new-to-me John Wells, and a John Bratby like no other I’ve ever seen – so some high powered stuff.

And of course, the cake in the cafe was good – orange drizzle this time…

Tomorrow to fresh fields and conclusions new – and then hopefully I can get back to something a bit less pressurising…

Sunday 8 May 2011

Write, write, write.

Write, write, write.

Write, write, write.

Write, write, write.


Delete, delete, delete.

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

Write, write, write.

Write, write, write.

But all write and no play makes Cheshire bored and grumpy so we decided to potter down to Pompey for the ‘Little Black Dress’ exhibition.

I had assumed this was the touring version of a similarly titled exhibition in Brighton a few years ago – but I was wrong. It is an all-new Hampshire/Portsmouth version – and very good it is. Dresses from the Victorian era to today, including an early Chanel, a 50s Dior [only off-the-peg, I’m afraid] a dress worn by Marilyn Monroe, a 60s TopShop – and a wide selection of little black corsets, as well as all sorts of other accessories.

By sheer serendipitousness we ended up visiting on the day on which Alison Carter Tai, the curator of the exhibition, was there, so we got information from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

And the coffee and walnut cake in the cafe was good too – couldn’t end without my customary food recommendation, could I?

Tomorrow is a Babybel and gym day and then it’s back to write, write, write. The word count tells me I’m over half way through, but unfortunately I’m only up to the 1920s. However the rethink [to focus more on the effect of developments in printing on what artists can do] has made the work more focused [?] and made it easier to select artists to look at. It will still be too long – but that gives the people assessing the first draft something to do, right?

Friday 6 May 2011

Where did those days go?

Essay writing, that’s where.

After College on Wednesday it dawned on me that the draft is due in in the middle of June – and we’ll be away for part of the time till then.

So I decided I needed to get started.

It is gradually morphing from a history of European artist’s books [in 4,500 words? Was I mad?] to an outline of the relationship between developments in printing and in artist’s books. Which means that I've learned quite a lot about printing. And I’m fed up with typing ‘artist’s books’. Too many b***y apostrophes.

I’ve just about got up to WW1 and I’m about half way through the word limit, which means there will have to be quite a lot of pruning. I keep telling myself that it is ‘only a draft’, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. All I need to do is get a respectable amount done and hand it in – and they can tell me what to prune!

Wednesday was one of those occasions when you think you’ve understood – and then you get home and think ‘Whaaaa?’ I have grasped that personal cloths don’t have to be cloths [could be litter [yuck]]. They don’t have to have stitch in them. Photographing litter is definite good, but adding stitch to my printed out photos probably isn’t. Making book format samples is for the PMS not the PC, but exploring different things to print on is PC not PMS. Confused? Me too.

As one of my wise colleagues said:

  1. Do nothing now, other things are much more pressing!
  2. Do whatever you fancy, the justification will usually become obvious (hopefully just in time to write something appropriate in the supporting evidence)
  3. Once we get stuck in, the creative juices will flow - won't they?


So that’s what I’m doing – except I have been taking more photos…





while someone was doing more interesting things in the play park – until she couldn’t stand it any more and had to get in on the act.



‘What you doin’ granny?’

Well, dear, I was photographing that paper cup but now I seem to have a nice picture of your favourite silver sandals…

Tuesday 3 May 2011

A bookish Tuesday trip.


My favourite craft centre, Walford Mill, has been running an exhibition of artists’ books – and it suddenly dawned on me that it finishes at the weekend.

So we took advantage of another lovely day, and drove down to Walford via our ‘avoiding the A31 in summer’ route across the New Forest. Longer, slower [unless there is a traffic jam on the A31, which is why we avoid it in summer] – but you get views like this when you stop for lunch. Not to mention the ponies.

For non-Brits - if you are saying to yourself ‘That doesn’t look much like a forest’ – the New Forest is neither new nor a forest. More information here if you want it.

But I digress. After a pleasant picnic we went on to Walford, where I bought an armful of books in their second hand book sale, and got inspired by the exhibition. At first, I was disappointed that they were all accordion books, but realised this is probably because they display well – and it was a learning experience to see how many variations of the form there were.

Both Wensleydale and I felt the show compared very well with the embroideries at Ramster, although these artists too, were mostly non-professionals. Perhaps it is the limitations of the structure, perhaps that it is a fairly specialised genre which attracts only loonies like me, but unlike Ramster I could have happily brought many of them home – if I could have afforded them…

It was also reassuring to see several examples using manipulated photographs of everyday things – street furniture or aluminium pie cases for example. I learned quite a lot about how to handle scale and positioning, and when - and when not – to add stitch. Altogether a useful and worthwhile trip – and the cafe lived up to expectations as usual.

Monday 2 May 2011

Going round in circles…

well, polygons.

As promised in my last blog, I’ve been playing around with Sumopaint.image

I started with the image top left, and Sumopaint’s kaleidoscope filter, which has to be my favourite filter.

Then I made a few more from some of my other litter pictures. My original idea was to make flower shapes, but I got a bit carried away.

I’ve posted some on Ideas of Inspiration. The most boring originals seem to make the most interesting kaleidoscopes.


Last night, when struck again with insomnia, I imported some of them into GIMP and played with them a bit more.

Like this. 

It’s turning out to be as bad as my passion flower fixation, but this time I have slightly more idea what I’m doing.


Today, only three days after committing myself to the essay, I did get started on it.

First, I procrastinated for an hour or so, downloading and trying out different mind mapping programs. I’ve been using Vue for a while, chiefly because it lets me change the layout of the mindmap, unlike the one I was using before. But I find it restrictive in other ways: I wanted something which could give me an essay layout plan, rather than a conimageventional mind map.

At the moment I’m trying MindApp, which allows me to make what I discover are called Warnier Orr diagrams. Essay title on the left, list of paragraph topics in sequence next to it, ideas for contents of each paragraph next – all I’ve got to do now is write it.

But the program keeps crashing. The search for the perfect free mindmapping software continues.

The only other interesting [?] thing I’ve done is try to get ready for college on Wednesday. We will be introduced to the next module, ‘Personal Cloths’. [‘Module 12, this is Cheshire – Cheshire, meet Module 12’.]

We have to bring the materials we need to work on our personal cloths. Which is a bit difficult when we don’t yet know what they involve. I have been told that they don’t have to be cloths – so I have packed up a basic book-making kit, a selection of litter images printed on paper and fabric, some sewing stuff and some threads.

And I bet I won’t have what I need…

Could e-mail and ask, but I’m sure the answer will be that they don’t know what I need because they don’t know what I’m going to do. Any more than I do.

I believe this is called ‘Catch-22’.