Twelve Ways of #Craftmas: That Little Cheeky Flare

Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

“Being able to laugh is really important to me,”

Artist illustrator Georgina Elizabeth, a mother of two girls and based in SE London, creates in a way that is true to how she lives her life.

“So I tend to put a little cheeky flare on most things I do and my eldest daughter has a wicked sense of humour and is one of my biggest critics in a positive way”

Originally from Hackney, Georgina Elizabeth has delighted in scribbling and doodling since childhood. She went on to study creative subjects at both college and university.

When she started working as a care manager for people with additional needs and mental health, the extreme demands of the job, which saw her working with both adults and children, led to her using her art as a way to relax and unwind.

Sharing her works on social media she found they attracted the attention of buyers and her creativity became more than just a place to relax.

Drawing from the well of life experiences and the loveseat has for her daughters she has developed a distinctive style of art, which bursts with life and light and evolves with time and passion.

She added: “At the moment  I’ve gone back to using epoxy resin as a finish for my painting and heavily embellishing paintings, which is something I’m having a lot of fun with. I like the different texture and dimensions it give to a painting.”

Family life, as well as driving her forward in her creativity, has provided opportunities for unexpected creative projects.

“Each year my daughters primary school gives them the opportunity to design their own cards and have them printed,” she explained.

“Last year I missed the deadline so ended up letting my youngest daughter use my Wacom tablet to design her own and I sent them off to print so she didn’t miss out,  she loved them as did the kids at school and a few of the parents. This year my daughter actually asked me if I could design the cards myself. It started as a joke.”

Having just created an illustrated book for her partner on their anniversary, she was inspired to take old family photos of both girls and made illustrations of them adding some fun text like ‘Santa’s not real’ or ‘ I’m ok with the naughty list’.

She added: “The kids loved them – so our kitsch personalised Christmas cards were born!”

To purchase Georgina Elizabeth’s work you can find her at her Deptford Foundry studio or in Truman Brewery, Shoreditch, in the New Year.

* Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Georgina Elizabeth recommends:

“I’m absolutely in love with Catherine’s work, she little makes the best Christmas decorations  and little crafty gifts, she specialises in calligraphy signs, and has an office in SE London you can find her on insta @alleycatdesignsuk”

Twelve Ways of #Craftmas: The Weird And Fun Thing

Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

I make jellyfish on the train, I make squid in the car on the way to the shops, I make mermen in cafes.”

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North Lincolnshire-based Jules, of Black Fox By The Sea, makes marine magic with her crochet hook – weaving stunning sea creatures and creating fantastical beasts of myth and legend.

I grew up knitting and crocheting,” she explained. “And made many dreadful misshapen scarves, and things made out of rectangles of knitting when I’d run out of wool or the inclination to keep knitting. I studied sculpture at Sheffield University, and when I returned to knitting and crochet and finally mastered my first pair of gloves I realised it was a media I could sculpt in too.”

A frequent visitor to The Deep conservation aquarium in Hull, Jules found herself inspired by the creatures within to pick up her hook.

She said: “I’ve always loved jellyfish and octopus, so I thought I’d try making some. After that I started making other things – centaurs, mermen, fauns, and the mermen became very popular with friends and people who saw pictures posted of them online. After I started supplying a shop in Whitby called Artemis and the Mermaid, it seemed daft not to have an Etsy.”

Her iconic pieces are her jellyfish – symbolic of a special bond she shares with her child.

My son is 5 and has special needs and limited speech and language,” said Jules. “Jellyfish are something we both love to watch, and of all the things I make they are his favourite. He can name every part of the jellyfish (bell, lobe, arms, tentacles), and knows the name of more varieties than I can count!”

The pair enjoy spending time together watching David Attenborough documentaries on the BBC, which in turn sparks new ideas – “Sometimes, when we’re watching I’ll see a ball of wool and think ‘that would make a great…’!”

Television has also inspired other works – a love of the Terry Pratchett series Good Omens even inspired a range of merman versions of the main characters – as Jules believes: “Sometimes you just gotta do the weird and fun thing” – creating a playful form of fan art.

A loud and proud Gypsy, Jules is a fierce activitst for her community and spends a fair amount of time online promoting GRT and human rights, animal welfare, environmental , LGBT+ and mental health issues. “My mother despairs,” added Jules.

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Jules of Black Fox By The Sea


To buy Jules’ fantastical works visit her Etsy : https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Blackfoxbytheseaorders by December 19 (UK) or December 11 to the rest of the world. Jules also supplies Artemis and the Mermaid in Whitby (https://www.facebook.com/artemis.mermaid.whitby/) and Airy Fairy in Sheffield (https://www.airyfairy.org/)

* Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Jules recommends: The lovely Pip runs Molipola prints, a fellow self-employed mum trying to balance life and running a small business. She is a passionate supporter of independant artists and her instagram is a delight to see. She shares her successes and her failures, and makes trying to do new and scary things far less scary. You can find here work on Etsy https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/molipola and herself on IG https://www.instagram.com/molipolaprints/

Twelve Ways of #Craftmas: The Colour of Stories

 

Born out of a loathing for the corporate exploitation of Black Friday Sales and Christmas marketing, #Craftmas aims to get word out about the artists, artisans and craftspeople making beautiful gifts. Why buy a mass produced piece of plastic when you can gift an exclusive and interesting piece made by a creator-maker looking to make a living.

Support #Craftmas by using it to Tweet about your favourite makers, by using the hashtag as a Christmas shopping directory or simply by retweeting!

I read an awful lot, and sometimes when I’m picturing a scene I start to think about how different features could be represented in colour.”

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“Juno”

Art began as therapy to Suzanne, of Pop Paints, as she faced battles with the education system to ensure that the special educational needs of her child were met, but flourished into a business. The qualified lecturer had always been crafty from childhood but a need for a distraction revived her creative side.

I had what I called my ‘making things box’,” Suzanne said. “Which was a shoebox that I put scraps of interesting paper, toilet roll tubes and stickers in for creating my masterpieces. My fondest memories are of sitting around the kitchen table with my Nan and Mum to make Christmas cards. We’d all be covered in glitter, and my Nan would teach me how to make papercuts or create 3D effects or lay out the most beautiful lettering.”

The comfort from this memory of making went on to play an important role in her life.

She said: “Life with a child with special needs can be chaotic and when I was trying to work, attend school meetings and keep up with planning and marking, my mental health really suffered. Fluid art was initially a therapeutic tool for me because it allows me to switch off and focus solely on colour and movement; then the more I was creating, the more I was being told I should sell my work. It was a daunting prospect but I’m really glad that I had supportive people around me when I took that step.”  

Suzanne finds inspiration from all around her and sees her experimenting with odd items around the house to create different effects – whether it be toys, packaging or even kitchen utensils. “Sometimes it works,” she said. “But sometimes it creates total disasters.”

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Suzanne, of Pop Paints

Initially starting her creative business on the kitchen table, Suzanne now works in a quiet corner of the house – safe from the disturbances of family life.

Suzanne’s works are magical, dreamlike paintings, often echoing the images of deep space more familiar to astronomers. She said: “I tend to love my brightest, most colourful paintings but I get most positive feedback for my beach scenes and dark space pieces. I find it hard to choose a favourite but I do love a piece called Juno, which is named after the Queen of the gods in Roman mythology and is in my Night Sky series.” 

Suzanne’s pieces are available to buy through her Facebook page, Pop Paints.

* Want more #Craftmas inspirations? Suzanne recommends: Rinske Douna, a Swedish artist whose work inspires and astounds. She can be found at www.rinskedouna.com

Why do I have this? (Reviews of things I already own)

“To put your things in order means to put your past in order too.”

~Marie Kondo

 

I’m heavy. Weighed down. I’m surrounded by things that I don’t know what to do with and deepest consideration is being given to storage solutions.

 

I’ve written before about the melancholia of stuff. But I’ve failed to transfer thought processes into action, again. The struggle seems silly, this is the result of my choices and sheer fortune of having the means to accumulate such an amount of things. The weight of it, however, is crushing me now. I’m looking at it all and I don’t know where to start.

 

I’m not alone though – the need to shake off stuff is now the thing. Clearing out is the new hoarding – ironically with ranges of books and yet more stuff pushed out into the market place to address it. I’ve seen Marie Kondo, she seems lovely and of light, but I’m without the energy to put things in their place all at once. There is so much I don’t understand about the things I hold on to that to sort it all would be too exhausting to do it all together.

 

I need to think about how to approach this – the books, which as a collective I love, are far too abundant and I’m looking at some of the titles with confusion. Why do I have this? A question which runs through my mind on far too many occasions. I have books, it seems, for the mere fact of existence and perhaps without having ever been read or appreciated for their content. I hold onto them, regardless of attachment. How can one be attached to a volume you’ve hardly opened, never mind read.

 

Reviews are needed and they’re coming.

Meditations on Mother

This piece was first published on my original Quiet Radicals blog in 2016.

On my fifth Mother’s day as a mother I’m now in the mid-point of both being and having. It is a happy and fortunate position to be in as I know of there being many women in the world who are both mothers and daughters but with neither child nor mother to mark the day with. My thoughts are with anyone in this circumstance and I hope that if this is you that you celebrate as always being a parent – some things can never be removed – and you are a celebration to be had just as you. I grieve with you and praise you.

 

Maman – by Louise Bourgeois – outside the Guggenheim Bilbao

This year looking for a mother’s day card has been somewhat difficult – the cards in the shops laud the apotheosis of motherhood – “The one who is the very heart of home and family”, “your tender care”, “always there to give a hug” and “the wonderful ways you’ve made life special for the family”. This hasn’t really been my experience of my mother so it seemed false to present these as the ideal mother’s day card.

As I grew up my mother was not as other mothers were back then. Most of the mum’s in my junior school were mothers who worked jobs for pin money and kept house to a pristine level. Their children were the ones with the best clothes, the perfect home-cooked meals and time to have friends over.

Our house was a back to front house in the sense that it was my step-father (who is the only father I have ever known and am grateful for) who had to learn how to cook as my mother, around giving birth to two daughters after me, rose up from being “just” a teenage mother and took on college studies, followed by university studies and Law School, juggling jobs and attempting to ignore health conditions which would render her exhausted and often laid up in bed in the times reserved for family. My mother’s input into my life as a child largely consisted of educational sessions where I would revel in my mother’s attention as she chose to use the time to encourage me into reading, writing and knowledge. I would sit by her with an illustrated book of British history and savour the rare time together. This time became rarer and rarer.

Holiday times would largely be spent with my grandmother, which was an education of its own, as she would encourage imagination with creative activities – making dolls houses out of fruit boxes and dolls out of pegs – alongside long walks in the surrounding bleak countryside, with its scrub land and backdrops of mining landscapes. My grandmother had an uneasy relationship with my mother, her eldest daughter, but her relationship with us was so very close. Even in the trying times – such as when she issued me with my own harmonica and then angrily withdrew it hours later due to the annoying tones I managed to scratch out of it – we would find joy together (most memorably in the times spent around the turntable when Grandma would dig out her favourite 45s and LPs and we would attempt to co-ordinate, as a tangled troupe, the choreography for Little Eva’s Locomotion. I treasure these times because, just three days before my 14th birthday, I lost my beloved Grandma to cancer.

Throughout my teenage years it felt like my mother was largely absent – she would be working until late most weekdays then on weekends she would give her best effort to participate – ambitiously tackling walking routes with us which were far beyond her levels of energy. Summer holidays would mean travelling to the homes of family and friends who lived in interesting places and the family trying our best to enjoy life on a limited budget. This would result in unusual options – such as the warmly remembered trip to the York Crematorium open day – where I learned in truly seasonal summer fashion that bones don’t necessarily disintegrate in the cremation chamber and that the cremains have to be processed through a washing machine-like apparatus to produce the gritty ashes you receive in the brown plastic pot urns.

I digress… When I was around 16 years old my mother left home – she went to live in another town to follow a job during the week – again returning exhausted some weekends, whilst others we would come to visit her. After I left school I began the process of tearing myself out of the family – a necessary process we all have to go through to establish ourselves and I don’t remember being more distant from her than at this time when I was absorbed in myself and my own life with slight returns to the family fold at Christmas time – where I would be met with questions over my life choices, nitpicking over my plans for future advancement and sighs of disappointment when I didn’t push myself far enough.

In this account of the mother-daughter relationship – that seen through my eyes – I neglected to even deign to understand what my mother was going through experiencing and much less wishing for herself or even us. It was only really in becoming a mother that I was really able to start seeing my mother’s life through her eyes.

Now I’ve always hated this idea that somehow parenthood fundamentally elevates you. It’s a journey through doors that not everyone needs to open, which brings the same feelings, highs and lows, as any other creative process. If any other creation involved such concentrated work into each single piece I think the attachment would be equal.  I think however that every lived experience brings you closer to others that have been through the same journey as you and it is in this that I was able to understand my mother.

We both move outside the conventional paradigm of what it is to be a mother. For people of our back ground and our means there has been a very defined path for motherhood in both generations. For my mother the pinnacle of motherhood was probably best embodied by the Lynda Bellingham Bisto adverts. For my generation there has become the weird morphing of what it means to be a woman – we remain equals to our male peers until the point at which we procreate – then all bets are off and it’s the return to the icon of the domestic ideal of perfect house, perfect meals and perfect part time worker, deferring careers until our children are a little older.

My mother was already unconventional by virtue of being a teenage mum. But she has never aimed to be a meals-on-the-table mum or to keep a perfect house, which was fortunate as cooking was not her forte. She held onto her ambitions, pursued them and came to the top of her career which launched her, as one colleague put it, “into the ranks of the great and the good”.

This did not stop her from catching the early morning train, hours after arriving back into the country after trips abroad for work, to arrive in time to meet my daughter seconds after her birth, after I had texted to say I had gone into labour.

After a year of maternity leave, having been reassured at work that: “You’ll feel different after the baby is here”, I retained my need to progress, my feelings of ambition and my desires for my own success, which to me sat neatly by my child’s success and as an embryonic template as to what I would want for my own child. And that template, although I had not thought about it to that point, was very much built around my mother’s own road map to success. My mother’s legacy was that education and effort were the key to success and, perhaps, the key to successfully raising strong women was by providing your child with the basics – the desire to learn and a role model blazing the trail – not pandering to their needs. She has taught me that to be a woman is to strike out on my own path, to work hard and to be focused.  She would not accept second best for herself, much less for me. I will not now accept second best for myself, much less my daughter.

So, to truly reflect my relationship with my mother the card would have to read:

To my Mother on mother’s day – thank you for being strong, for not bending to convention. I’m grateful for you being intelligent, fierce and uncompromising. I see your love in your integrity, your support, which has been ever present through all life’s struggles, and in your expectation that I will do more and be more. I’m proud of you and love you x

On Mother’s Day: An Apology

I just wanted to say I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I smiled and stayed silent when you said I make it look easy. I’m sorry I lied and said: “You just get on with it don’t you.” I couldn’t say how I’d sacrificed desperately needed sleep to pump breastmilk, dashed around vacuuming for your arrival and ran to the shop for cake, just to not look like a slug of a mother.

I’m sorry I made it look like I bounced back without a care, I put on my heels and make up to try to seem as much as I did before. I couldn’t tell you I had to do it to determine where they ended and I began, again. I wasn’t sure, but definition seemed to start with reverting to the material that marked me out before, as if unchanged.

I couldn’t find it in myself to tell you how hard it all was, from the pain and trauma of giving birth, the demoralising process of establishing feeding, the completeness of how you must give yourself over, in entirety, to the support of another human being.

I couldn’t tell you about the times the crying seems to go on for so long that, for sheer safety’s sake, you need to just put the baby gently in bed, walk out of the room, close the door and allow yourself to dissolve into tears on the floor. I couldn’t tell you there was no turning back.

I couldn’t because, good god, there are so many who will. They’ll tell you about the hours spent in labour, their horrific delivery, their sleepless nights, their soul destroying nightmare experiences.

I couldn’t, because I couldn’t steal your hopeful anticipation from yourself. I couldn’t because uou deserved the time of feeling that it would be beautiful, that it would be natural, that it would be bliss.

So I am sorry. So, so sorry.

So what should I tell you?

I should tell you it will get better. I should tell you all those moments you hoped for will come, as blissful as you ever dreamed, as long as you become so, so much kinder to yourself. I should tell you I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I’ve forgiven myself.

I must tell you that you should too, let the wonder and exhaustion and time overwhelm you, before it passes by.

Raising hope from Astonishing Kindness

 

The bleakness of the world goes on, as it ever has, and still we are here. Waiting.

 

We can wait for change, hunkered down with supplies, padded against the actions of the outside, but it brings us no further forward. We are not creatures who wait for things to happen, we are part of the world, part of its machinery of moving parts, ever progressing, even if it be to inevitable doom.

 

Kindness is change

Kindness, astonishing or not, is an agent of change. It attaches to people, brings them closer together. It makes bonds between people, in time and to place. It makes neighbours from strangers, associates into friends. Words of gentleness speak across the barriers of language, of culture, of faith and speak to something more fundamental. The need for safety, for understanding, for community.

 

It gives us hope that people might be better, that they can choose to be so. More is possible than simply making sure we are safe, we can make others safe too.

 Sewing and sowing

I hope now, as I watch my children grow and feel the fluttering of new life within my belly, that each stitch of kindness I sew into the fabric of the world, becomes part of a colourful tapestry that I share in with millions.

 

Ready as I am for the worst, I will continue to put effort out into the world. I want to raise hope like a crop, harvesting sheaves of it to share and to re-plant.

 

Grow with me.