Strange Dreams and Making Stuff

It’s 4am, and I can’t sleep. I had a strange dream, and that led to lots of thinking, which is never conducive to getting back to sleep. I dreamt about hospitals. Being in one, visiting people I knew who were there, and the trickiest part, dreaming that my dad was visiting me there. That part was the most real. I remember my hand on his arm, feeling the warmth of his skin, and the strangeness of the vibration of his fistula (he was on dialysis for many years).

Last week, I was given the eviction date for my baby boy. I’ll be having a c section at 38.5 weeks. It’s a strange thing to know in advance the exact date your baby will be born. Of course I knew there’d be a c section happening, and let’s face it, there’s not really any fun way for a baby to come out! That said, it’s got me thinking a lot about hospitals, my last two c sections, and wondering what it will be like this time.

My first was born via emergency c section, 26 hours after I had been induced. It was surreal and dramatic, full of fear and confusion (perhaps it is always a bit like that the first time?). I remember the slowness of the induction. Waiting for things to “happen”. Wanting to be shut away alone as the contractions increased. It felt quite primal, despite the medical intervention that got me there. I remember my sister and my husband trying to entertain themselves through the long, and rather boring hours (for them, anyway). No iPhones back then! Arguing with my husband about whether he was allowed to video the event – no bloody way, as far as I was concerned. Then suddenly things got very serious very quickly. A whole bunch of people rushing into the room, strange faces telling me what they were about to do to me, being rushed down a corridor to the operating room, the terrified look on my husbands face, and that painful wait to hear my baby cry, and know that he was ok.

I spent the next few days shell shocked, while I tried to process exactly what had just happened. As I lay there in pain post surgery, doped up on morphine, I thought of my dad, and how brave he was to have so many operations, so many times. Despite what people say about mummies who are “too posh to push”, a c section is really bloody painful. I know it isn’t always like this, but I couldn’t walk upright for weeks. Getting out of bed, out of chairs, pretty much everything, hurt for months. I still have a numb section on my stomach from the nerve damage. After that, I was pretty nervous about the prospect of baby number 2.

My second c section was very different. I had a date booked at 39 weeks. At just over 36 weeks, my daughter decided that was too long to wait, and I went into labour. 10 minutes after I got to the hospital, the spinal was in, and I was off to the operating room. 30 minutes later, she was out. It was all so calm and civilised. While I was in recovery, I chatted to the nurses about their holiday plans. Then up to my room for the first proper cuddle. It was surreal, in that it was so fast and calm, but had none of the terror of the first time around! The recovery was painful, but no where near as bad as the first time.

I am expecting (hoping?) this time will be more like the second. It’s still hard not to feel fearful though. Scared of the procedure, scared of something going wrong, scared of the pain and recovery. I won’t be able to take as many painkillers (I can no longer tolerate NSAIDs), and that makes me nervous.

This time around, I also have two older children. I think they will be helpful, and love their little brother. I also suspect they will be a bit cranky and resentful of the amount of time he takes up.

All of the contemplation and waiting of pregnancy is a great motivator for creativity. When pregnant with my son, I painted about 70 watercolours. With my daughter, I took up knitting and did lots of abstract acrylics.

This time around, I’m making endless flowers. Watercolours, pen drawings, collages and embroideries. It’s like there is a surge of ideas, and an urgency to get it all out NOW, while I still have the chance. I kind of like that while my body is performing the ultimate act of creativity, my artistic self is on such a roll.

Here are some of the things I’ve been making…

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Finding Your Creative Spark

Creativity is an interesting thing. A lot of people think you either have it or you don’t, but I don’t really think it works that way. In Living the Creative Life, Rice Freeman-Zachery states “creativity is less about having the ideas and more about working with ideas” (pg. 21). In essence, its having the ability to actually make something of your day dreams.

A lot of people are creative in non “arty” ways. The beautifully stylish, and well put together friend, who clearly has a very finely tuned visual aesthetic. That friend who is a visionary cook, crafting beautiful flavours. The one who comes up with amazing spaces for their children to play in. There are so many ways to be creative in everyday life.

As an artist, theres a perception that I am a never ending source of creativity and ideas. In truth, thats often not the case! Sometimes creativity needs a little push, and some effort to see things differently.

So where do I find my creative spark? Well, there’s the obvious one, the internet. I get a lot of inspiration from Instagram, Pinterest and other blogs. There are so many people, doing such lovely things in the world. So many beautiful ideas to draw upon.

Pinterest is a particular favourite of mine. So many visual resources at your fingertips! I used to collect images in visual diaries. I have at least 10 books floating around in my studio, full of little clippings from various things. Now, more often, I use pinterest. Pictures of birds, flowers, vintage prints, artists I love, beautiful spaces… Its almost endless. I find it can also be a bit of a vortex though. You can easily lose yourself in all of the gorgeousness, and find yourself overwhelmed by the perfection. Too much instagram and pinterest can actually be a bit demotivating. So much pretty! How can I possibly compete? Sometimes its good to step away, seek your inspiration elsewhere.

So where else can you find inspiration?

Children. There’s something so lovely about the way young children like to stop and spot the tiniest things when you go for a walk. A tiny flower hidden somewhere, little bugs, a beautiful plant in someone’s garden. If you stop and listen, children can help you see the world from a different perspective. So much of my colouring book, Hidden Places, was inspired by walks with my daughter around the local neighbourhood.

Stanmore garden

Memories. I will often draw upon my memories of a place, a person, a smell, when I’m looking for ideas.  There are particular flowers that remind me of people, that I find myself drawing over and over (Camelias pop up all the time, whether I want them to or not!)

Book shops. A wander around a beautiful book store will always get my imagination flowing. Kinokuniya is my all time favourite, but I also love Modern Times and Better Read then Dead in Newtown.

Art shops. I could spend ages in an art shop. Just wandering around, looking at all of the materials, imagining the possibilities. Sometimes I have to stop myself from buying random pieces of beautiful paper. There is only so much space in my studio! Ditto for fabric shops.

Playing with my vintage silk collection. The colours are always inspiring. One of the things I love most about Japanese silk, is the unexpected colour combinations.

Reading. So much of what I make is “pretty”. Which is nice, I love pretty things! But often, I feel like I need something deeper then my work just being beautiful. At the moment I am reading Hugh MacKay’s “The Good Life”. It’s got me thinking about things not being too “nice” and about the beauty that can be found in imperfection.

Cookbooks. Obviously, cooking is a big part of my creative life. I spend a lot of time poring over cook books, looking for ideas. I love Jamie Oliver and refer to his books a lot, but more often, I find myself reading my mum’s old books. The Women’s Weekly cookbook from the 1970’s, and mum’s old copy of The Common Sense Cookery Book get a big work out. I find getting an understanding of good basic recipes, helps me to then break them down into allergy friendly versions.

Creative People. My sister is one of the most creative people I know. She can make pretty much anything she sets her mind to! She has a gift for creating beautiful spaces, with a distinct mood, and I often think of her when I’m searching for ideas. Its great to surround yourself with other creative folk (even if its only online!).

There are so many ways to get the ideas flowing. The trick is bringing them to fruition!

So where do you find your creative spark?

Cutting back on technology, and Taking Stock

Sometimes, it’s easy to fall into the “low maintenance parent” pattern. Letting the kids watch too much TV, a little too long on the iPad, all of us sitting there staring at a screen, totally disconnected from one another. I doubt I am alone in this. Modern technology is both a blessing and a curse. Definitely a blessing when you are sitting in a doctors waiting room for an hour and a half with a bored 3 year old. Not so great when you realise all of you seem to have killed your creativity and motivation from the constant entertainment that an iPad can provide.

Lately, I’ve realised we’ve slipped into some bad habits, and I need to lift my game a bit as a parent. Rather then have the kids ask constantly to use the iPad or watch TV, I said at the start of the week that we were taking a break.  I made a conscious effort to ditch the technology, and spend better quality time with my children.

My youngest took it with surprisingly little complaint. She spent the days playing in her room, making a mess, then tidying it up, rearranging all of her special stuff. She helped me clean the house, taking great pride in dusting and packing things away neatly. She helped do the folding (folding things into strange little minuscule packages, but it’s a start!) She even helped me glue a craft project together, without making much mess. It made me wonder why I’ve started thinking it’s easier to let her watch too much TV when I need to get stuff done. Sure, it’s faster to just race around doing everything myself, but when I gave her the chance, she was actually pretty good at it.

My oldest took a little more convincing. Life without minecraft is tough, apparently. But he ended up getting out his lego, and building “real” minecraft instead. He helped me finish off the last of the craft project for the school art show, and then felt so inspired that he got out the scissors and made his own collage. We cooked together, and tidied up together. It was so much easier to get him interested, when the lure of minecraft disappeared!

I realised midway through the week, that I’ve fallen into that trap of being the mum who does everything. I’m not sure how it happened exactly. They used to follow me around the house “helping”. It was actually nice to have them engaged, interested and wanting to help again.  It’s funny how something like an iPad, which can make life easier and more fun, can actually make things harder. It’s so enticing and engaging, that it’s hard for anything else to compete. So we will keep up this new habit, of limiting technology.

Here’s some of the nice things we did this week:

Making: I went into my sons classroom, and ran a craft activity. The children traced around their hands, and then decorated them. I cut the hands out, and then my children helped me glue then into the shape of angels wings.

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Eating: My son helped me make schnitzel, and we made yummy schnitzel burgers with it.

Planning: my daughter helped me plan her 4th birthday. She asked me to make it a “surprise”. So on Saturday, she went out to the park with her dad, while my son and I madly decorated and got her cake ready. Her friends came over and all yelled “surprise” as she walked in.

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Creating: my son and I cut up some paintings and made a collage together. He helped me come up with ideas for his sister’s birthday card while we were making.

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Listening: to annoying orange song parodies. Not my choice! But my kids love dancing to them.

Reading: lots of library books, plus Harry Potter every night with the kids before bed.

Sewing: still working on a embroidery of my son

Drawing: I’ve been working my way through the 100 day project on Instagram, drawing and making birds.

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Make a cosy Pom Pom scarf!

A few years ago, (yes, years!) I bought a few metres of a medium weight wool fabric with the plan to make a scarf or shawl. I’ve finally got around to it! This scarf is wide enough to be worn as a shawl, or can be wrapped as a scarf if you need to be extra cosy.

To make the scarf, you will need:

A large piece of light or medium weight wool fabric. Mine was 160cm x 60cm, but you may want to adjust it to suit you (I am quite tall).
8 ply Wool remnants in bright colours
A wool needle
A few pins

Fold one edge of the fabric over twice, to make a 1cm hem. Pin about a 20cm section into place. Start to hem the fabric using blanket stitch. Continue the whole way around, pinning each section as you go. (I find if I pin the whole lot of a large piece, I end up getting stuck with pins!) Swap wool colours as desired.

Awesome blanket stitch tutorial if you need one

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Next, make 4 pom poms. Mine were about 5cm in diameter. Stitch firmly onto corners, using about 4 stitches. (If you need a tutorial on how to make pom poms, here is a really simple one by Pip, from Meet Me at Mikes).

Finally, rug up in your cute new scarf!

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How to make a cute tassel

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I’ve been making new bird mobiles for the last couple of weeks. When I first started making these about 6 years ago, they were fairly basic birds, without a lot of embellishment. Over time, they’ve become more elaborate. This time I’m aiming for really beautiful, ornamental birds, with lots of flowers and leaves, kind of like a hanging garden.

In amongst the birds, I love to add decorative extras, like hanging flowers, beads and tassels. I’ll have some tutorials about how to make the flower garlands coming up, but for today I thought I’d start with a tassel.

These are super easy to make, and make a cute little decorative element around the house. I love making them for the antique keys or handles I have on my cupboards. In bulk, they also make great garlands.

For small tassels, embroidery thread works well. These examples are about 4cm long. For larger tassels, you could use yarn.

Take a small rectangle of cardboard, lay a piece of thread (about 30cm) across the top, and then start wrapping the thread around the cardboard
Take a small rectangle of cardboard, lay a piece of thread (about 30cm) across the top, and then start wrapping the thread around the cardboard. The length of the cardboard, will dictate the length of the tassel.

 

Keep wrapping the thread around, until you get the desired thickness. The thicker it is, the fatter the tassel will be.
Keep wrapping the thread around, until you get the desired thickness. The thicker it is, the fatter the tassel will be.

 

When you've finished wrapping the thread, pull the string you laid at the top as tight as you can, and tie a firm knot.
When you’ve finished wrapping the thread, pull the string you laid at the top as tight as you can, and tie a firm knot. Trim the other end, and remove the cardboard

 

Neatly trimmed!
Neatly trimmed!
To complete the tassel, take another piece of thread, and wrap it around several times, then tie in a firm knot. Thread the ends through to the centre of the tassel to hide them, and the trim to match the rest of the tassel.
To complete the tassel, take another piece of thread, and wrap it around several times, then tie in a firm knot. Thread the ends through to the centre of the tassel to hide them, and the trim to match the rest of the tassel.

 

All finished! You can choose to decorate the tassel, by threading beads onto the tassel string of you wish.
All finished! You can choose to decorate the tassel, by threading beads onto the tassel string of you wish.
I added glass beads and little silk flowers to this one
I added glass beads and little silk flowers to this one