Between Me and Art – Part Two

Grammar school – and two art classrooms. I took up O Level Art later than my other ones. My work was a mix of still life and surreal. I liked this combination. I liked pastels, charcoal, acrylic and poster paint and ink.

My art teachers liked my work. One art teacher gave me materials. He knew we were hard up. I still have the end bits of those pastels and paints. The class was dominated by girls, some boys. The girls were mostly middle class – producing album cover art for bands they liked, mostly prog rock.

I was indie/punk. The others didn’t get my work. The teachers did. I worked from my feelings.

My mother taught me to knit. Everything and anything you could wear – jumpers, cardies, socks, footsies, gloves, hats. We did a lot of it. I wore a lot of hand-knits. I got in to mohair – it worked well with the punk image. I am also allergic to lanolin!

This phase saw a lot of making and a step in to sewing – clothes and soft furnishings. Again I was taught by those around me.

School finished and I decided I wanted to get a job. And off I went to the tax office sandwiched between Salts Mill and Jerome’s Mill. Both mills redundant by then. A working life in textiles wasn’t going to be our future.


Image    Salts Diner


40 years of memories

I’ve just spent an hour or so sorting out my jewellery  – two wooden boxes, a basket and two ceramic pots filled with a mixture of  ‘designer’, ‘good’ and ‘hippy’ adornment. In between were buttons, a couple of lighters, tags from clothes and various hair-clips.

I don’t think any woman would deny that a life’s history exists in her collection of jewellery or that she hangs on to a single ear-ring hoping that the other half will reappear one day from between the floorboards. What looks good when she is young, becomes a pastiche of taste from a given era, but is something that must not be thrown away.

Then there is adornment given to a woman when she is a teenager, by parents and other members of the family. In a large treasure chest, I have St Christopher, crosses, gold chains (I’m not fond of gold), hearts  – I wear one a cousin from Bosnia gave me, all the time. There are rings with chunky pearls and opals, and diamonds set in elaborate designs -all things aunties give to girls out of love and kindness. I’ve kept all of them.

Wedding rings – there is a small collection of them too. My father’s is heavy and bold and my mother’s a 22ct piece which I had merged with Nana’s by a prestigious designer in Inverness. They are now in with the predominantly silver rings collection.

I have a favourite jewellers in Saltaire, Shipley and one in Kirkwall, Orkney -both pamper to my taste, and I would be encouraged by  my mother to treat myself every time I went to visit her.  She liked my Orkney rings too. Balkan folk are very fond of jewellery.

In the early days of Artsplay, Julie ran visual arts workshops, and I would take part along with children and carers/teachers. We were decorating small pots in Wendy’s kitchen one evening with found objects. I had a tin of lonesome ear-rings and took them along. I still have the two pots I made and quite like that my past sits by my side every day. We had conversations about creating and making for ourselves, ensuring that women and children aren’t used to create work which we buy without thinking whose small hands put the beads and necklaces together. But I will save that conversation for another blog.

Indie era

There is a piece, a bracelet that I adore, which I found in one of Dubrovnik’s old town boutiques (they are wonderful wee shops), in 1988. It’s made from silver with red and black cherries in enamel, encased in small circular plates. It has a weak clasp, and it’s miraculous that I still have it as it comes undone constantly. Luckily there is a chain that stops it from falling to the ground. I can feel the slip on my hand, when it unfastens itself in a bid to escape. It carries many memories of love, acceptance, warmth and passion, despite all the anger of war, the bracelet reminds me that I love the adriatic and its people -they are all my people.

And this is my cherry bracelet – the ying and yang of darkness and fire. The heart and soul of makers are the same wherever you go.

Ying and Yang