Awhile ago, my little Swedish friend Anna and I went on an adventure to Istanbul. The trip was full of gorgeous scenery, amazing architecture and food that made me change from ‘Mexican is my favourite food’ to ‘give me mezze! Mezze! Mezze!’ But no baclava. I ate so much of the stuff whilst I was in Turkey that my stomach now turns when I catch sight ofthe gooey mess of syrup at my local Turkish restaurant.
Unbeknownst so us (can something be ‘knownst’?), the part of the city Anna and I visited, the Spice Bazaar and the area surrounding the New Mosque, were that very day being used to shoot scenes for Skyfall. Our first clue was when we spied the heavies and their 007 security badges. Initially, we thought it was a very unimaginative security crew, naming themselves after a British institution. When we ventured towards the New Mosque, this is what we saw:
It seems that months and months have passed while I have waited in antici…pation to see where Istanbul featured in the new Bond flick. The throngs of people and the buzz of the streets were brilliantly captured in the movie. The fact that it starts with Istanbul then swoops over the hard cut hills of the highlands of Scotland firmly placed this movie in my top three of the Bond franchise. It didn’t even need to have a plot. The settings did it for me.
Home. Cue the whistles from ‘Home‘ by Edward Sharpe & the Magnectic Zeroes.
Today was my day away from work. On Fridays, I work at home. For most of my last several batches of weeks I have been teaching or rather, learning lessons. Yes. Sure. I stand at the front and show examples of artworks, try to generate discussions, but in the end, I’m stuck in a room of a gaggle of people that are stuck in that hellish limbo of feeling like they’re not children, not adults, both, neither. Oh those teenage years.
As I was not having very much luck with my Stockbridge screens (a problem of ink. No worries. I’ll sort it) I was thinking about what ‘home’ means. Home. One syllable. Said in a sigh when you’ve reached that destination after having walked far too long in the rain. ‘Home,’ said in relief after too many days in an airport in some foreign country because of a mistake. ‘Home,’ said when someone asks you where your studio is located. You know. To keep the overheads down. We’re all trying to keep our heads above water. Am I right?! *high fives the air*
In the last ten years, I have had 9 different addresses, and no, I’m not in the witness protection programme. That can really confuse a person. After so many moves, so frequently, some places used as stop-overs whilst a house sale and buy didn’t exactly join up. Then there was that place you lived on your own after leaving your own square footage of house, the house you helped to buy; the one that you can no longer call home because of a thing called ‘separation’ then ‘divorce’ and a whole lot of time and space between those two words. Did I say ‘you’? I probably meant ‘me’.
So. What is home. Is home the place you have bought for your little self and your possessions? A place to hang your photos and artworks (the ones you’ve accumulated along the path of life) and tea towels and hand towels and the other myriad of towels one must have in order to keep sane and tidy? Is home the place where you feel relaxed and comfortable and can reveal all the many fascinating facets of your personality and no matter what face you show, you know you will always feel welcomed. Is home where you keep your pets? (If ‘yes’ to the last question, then Sarah, you’ve nailed it).
I’m having difficulties feeling at home. It took me nearly 6 months to make the flat I rented feel like home. It took time for me to settle my pictures just how I liked them. Set up my work space so that it functioned seamlessly. Make sure my cushions on the borrowed sofa were in colours that made me feel happy. I took visual advice from another friend by tacking up a long string and hanging postcards and cards that mattered greatly to me, had special meaning, made my smile happen. There was even a polaroid snap of young me age 6 grinning whilst holding my Snoopy fishing poll with a fish attached.
But I’ve moved on. Those things have been taken down. And they are living in a box in a storage locker somewhere in Leith.
I think I can pin down my ‘home’ to a white table sitting under a window somewhere in Edinburgh. It’s my work table. My artmaking universe contained in a plane of white painted wood. I write from here. I think from here. I own practically nothing but this. (Oh, and far too many clothes and shoes, but I’m talking about furniture here.) Josey used to sit at my feet whilst I worked, until I unfortunately had to shove boxes of art materials and fabrics in her space. She was only slightly rejected, looked about, then hopped onto the sofa and seemed much happier there anyway.
‘Home’ has changed so frequently, I am having difficulties defining it right now. Defining my space. Right now it measures 1 metre x 1 metre. I see my work table and sigh because I feel that I have been walking far too long in the rain.
Ghent. Or Gent. Depends where you’re standing and which sign you’re looking at. It’s in Belgium – a fact that I learned hours before embarking on another adventure. For some days I had thought Ghent lived in The Netherlands. Oops. My geography isn’t so good, which isn’t very surprising when you consider from which nation I originated.
And so. The days went splendidly. They mostly circled around jaunts up and down cobbled streets, drinking Bavik, eating Frituurs of many sauces supplied by Josef, sifting through indie clothes stores, and eating Belgium chocolate. Is there really anything else worth doing when one is surrounded by all these pleasant things?
Although Ghent in itself is super fabulous to visit, our journey took us to the Brooderie, where Jimmy’s pop up exhibition was coming to a close. The tale of how this exhibition came about is a wonderful story; one which I’m not going to tell here as I feel it is up to the artist to weave his/her own interesting tales. This is the artist’s display on the fine walls of that splendid establishment:
Our visit happily coincided (without plan and love it when that happens) with the Ghent Film Festival. The strand of many days and nights showing films galore ended with ‘The Sound of Belgium,’ a short trailor of which you can see by clicking on the word: technofabulous.
The story unfolded with a very concise history-of-s0rts of Belgium and its changing names and borders throughout the years before it finally latched onto its current name and dimensions in 18, uhm, 30-something. A European country younger than the states?! I’m astonished. *Note – I barely passed History, so if there are several more countries of this description, please just pass over the previous statement and pretend it never happened.
The video was screened in the Vooruit, which is this gorgeous monster of a building, standing tall on a hill, looking down at the side streets and shops and possibly thinking ‘Yeah, whatevers. I’m so much cooler than you.’ The Vooruit is also within striking range of the Book Tower. Look on and be amazed!
As for our digs, we stayed in a furniture store. This wasn’t just any furniture store – this was a furniture store with a difference. Big, broad wooden floorboards lead into three different levels. The banister must have been hundreds of years old as it felt smooth and warn and was at one point braced for stability with the use of a medal rod. The offerings in-store were of a sought after vintage variety. Popping red upholstery on beautifully made wooden chairs. Massive posters in frames. Lamps for floors and ceilings. It was brilliant. I was taken back to my childhood as I grew up in my parents’ furniture store. My fondest memories involve me drawing inside a refrigerator box. Said boxes are massive when you are ten and have crayons and time on your hands.
There is so much more to say and show. I think it is certainly worth exploring for yourself.
This is your happy little travel guide signing off.
Knowing a good deal when you see one is not necessary a talent of mine. In fact, I’ve grown accustomed to getting screwed over with ever increasing frequency. Too much trust perhaps, or lack of a saavy. I’m working on improving that. Anyway, when something spectacular and brilliant happens, it lights me up for quite sometime and I want to share the joy.
The other day whilst reading the paper, I saw an amazing offer for Guardian readers to purchase for themselves the latest Chris Ware creation. For those of you who don’t know about Chris Ware, have a nosey here. Note: He was born in Nebraska. Booya. Good things do come from Nebraska. (And not just Penny from the Big Bang Theory).
Another note to note: You should purchase for yourselves the box set of delightments that is ‘Building Stories’ because I tell you, it is glorious. Hard bound books, pamphlets, newspapers, small booklets of various shapes and sizes make up this collection of lives in one tenement in some big city in the states. Possibly Chicago as Mr Ware has resided there. I have only worked my way through half of the stories and I can’t help but think that Mr Ware is very aware (okay, I’ll stop now) of the complexities of lives. The backstories of those people peopling the windows and streets of all those many many flats and houses. It’s like he somehow crawled into their minds and lived their stories, captured it in illustration and writing, exposing the threads that connect us and tie us down to our surroundings. And although the illustrations of people are simple, he beautifully captures the slump of the shoulders, the stretching movement of the cat and the heavy gait of someone with the weight of the world hanging onto them.
Obviously, I am a fan. Especially of the bee going through some sort of existential dilemma.
Portugal. It’s a destination I have wanted to make happen for quite a number of years. First plans to take steps on that soil were devised back when I was visiting my good friend Seraina in Switzerland over ten years ago. We had schemed. We had plotted. But alas, it wasn’t a trip meant for my Swiss Miss friend and I. Portugal as destination resurfaced a couple of months ago and it was to that blessed sun baked land where Jimmy and I found ourselves having a smashing good time.
The second I felt the dry heat hit my face when I left the aircraft, I thanked all the things that I believed in for making this trip happen. Thank God. Thank you to Jimmy for making it happen by acting on ideas, turning them into plans then adventure. Thank whatever string of events that took me there. Thank a fluctuating work schedule and a overly hectic last few months. I was happy. Although I have an affinity for Edinburgh (you dark, brooding beast of a city with your sturdy architecture and inspiring skylines) it was nice to vacate the darkening premises and seek some heat and sun.
Hello Peniche and Baleal, surf camp central. I had never gone to a surfers destination before.
I am happy to report that I did not die in my attempt to boogie board. Let me lay it down like this: The first time I saw the ocean was on a family trip to California when I was 8. The second time I saw the ocean was when I went to the east coast at the ripe old age of 22. When I moved to the UK ten years ago, the fact that I could see the sea so easily and frequently nearly made my head explode from the possibility. My trip to Portugal was perfect opportunity to not only step out into the ocean, but to try to swim around in it a bit. And perhaps flail about on a board and hope for the best. Attempting to upright myself on a broad spear of death (surfboard) was a bit too much for this midwestern girl, so instead I attempted the body board.
Jimmy developed a 3 step programme to help me to come to grips with the waves that, when viewed from the beach seem beautiful and calming, but when standing in the water watching them approach with force seem anything but peaceful. After a couple of days of swimming through waves and torpedoing through the water, I was ready to wet suit up and get on that board. I was taken down, spun around like I was trapped in a washing machine on super spin cycle, but every time I popped back up. I did have one good day of boogie boarding, happily being washed up on shore after riding moderately impressive waves. Go me. Go surf lingo. Unfortunately, the ‘swell’ was too ‘gnarly’ on my last day. I was battered around a bit then retreated. No shame in it. I’m still learning.
To aid in mobility, we rented for ourselves a groovy little scooter from Wildside Surf rentals. They were ace and you should go there for all your moped and surf gear needs. Oh, how that was a game changer for our time in Peniche. Instead of it just being time in Peniche, it was also time around the rocky coastline of the peninsula where Peniche is nestled, over to Baleal and its sandy causeway, on inland to the medieval town of Obidos, complete with castle, through forest and through village. It. Was. Ace.
Usually when going away on holiday, I try to think what I can take back with me when I return to normal life. I try to tune in more to the new surroundings, try to take in as much as a wee little tourist can, try to take in the weather of it, the colour of it, the flavours and the feel. The buildings were often painted in zinging lemony yellow shades, fresh greens, or decked out in tiling that seemed to be reminiscent of patterns from the 70s. Perhaps tiling your house was THE thing to do in the 70s there? I don’t really know.
I wouldn’t say that the food in Peniche was a culinary delight, however, I am using this space to give a shout out to a favourite seafood cafe, makers of fine seafood toasted sandwiches. Marisqueira-Bar-Grill was a provider of such sandwiches as well as a view of a family of dolphins swimming in the bay one fine day. Ferral (which leads on from Baleal) is home to a fine Italian restaurant Cantina. The MOST delightful discovery, however, was that of the pastelerias. They must be a local delight as well because those babies are everywhere. Baked goods to make you drool and so many choices that you will need weeks to attempt them all. I also befriended the espresso shot, which I may have had too many of and nearly caused myself a permanent twitch from too many caffeine highs.
Thanks to Jimmy’s brother, Alistair, for the heads up on Portugal’s surf capital of Baleal.
So here we are now, back in Scotland. I feel well rested and ready for the next string of challenges and adventures. Come on Edinburgh, let’s see what you’ve got.
Several months ago, I was approached by the loveliest couple in the universe (know collectively as Paulela) to create wedding invitations for their special day. Aw. Bless. Matrimonial bliss awaits you. They first wanted me to create an artwork of their wedding venue and an artwork of their reception venue. Both very gorgeous venues and both nestled close to where the couple of made a home. I was then to have those pieces scanned, copied and made into wedding invitations.
I am happy to announce that said artworks and invites have been made. I think the fabric and print technique have translated well in this medium. Here is my wish to the amazing couple to have many happy long years together, and if I could give any advice it would be this: Make time for eachother, which you already do anyway. And everyone lived happily ever after. Skipping through fields. Cheesy music played in the background and then there were loads of butterflies. A sunset. Cups of tea and a picnic blanket.
“So, what’s your ‘slash’?” asked doe-eyed Ms Hathaway to curly-haired actor, the guy from Pete Versus Life. There was a look of confusion. Mostly from me to my boyfriend who seemed to be enjoying the chick movie I was subjecting him to.
The movie, One Day (loved the book, meh about the movie), was wearing a glorious outfit of Mexican ridiculousness, having been caught in the middle of her shift at work to retrain the newby. He was a comedian/waiter.
That scene proceeded an article about ‘Double Jobbers‘ I read earlier that day. It resonated. Both article and movie clip made me somehow feel better about the situation in which I find myself; a situation that will most likely never change. In most respects, it’s not entirely a bad thing.
For quite some time, I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself to try to engineer my creative career to pay for, well, my life, really. To pay for my rent, my food, my dog and her needs, my clothes, my bus fare, my entertainment and God nearly forbid it, the occasional holiday. That’s a lot to demand of print and textiles and stitching. It almost looks like a ludicrous expectation when written out like this. I think I get a bit hung up on my age (wedged somewhere between 30 and 40) and think that surely by now I shouldn’t be having to heft around three job titles. Artist/shop girl/teacher (although the teaching thing is hardly panning out. I mean, I AM on the Supply Teachers register, but all paperwork seemed to scream out ‘Don’t expect us to find you work. We owe you nothing. Love…the Council’).
With that said, I am completely thankful for all the opportunities that have either presented themselves to me, or have happened because I worked towards them. Tonight is my exhibition opening at Hula. Tomorrow night is the exhibition opening at Urban Outfitters. All pieces for both shows were created in the past four months, whilst I worked at a beautiful indie shop in the Grassmarket, and at the same time, volunteering my time at a High School to prove to God knows who that I was serious about securing an art teaching job.
Although this is by no means and easy existence, it is one that fills me with pleasure because I am doing what I love and working hard to take necessary steps forward. I relish the diversity; I know enough about myself to know that I do not thrive in a cubicle. I meet interesting people and find myself in interesting conversations. Just the other day a face surgeon came into the shop. That was an interesting 20 minute conversation (and no, she wasn’t trying to convince me to heft up my brows or tuck in my chin).
There really isn’t any sort of conclusion here, or revelation, or advice, or final thought. If anything, it is somehow comforting to know I’m not doing anything ‘wrong’ or am not working hard enough or smart enough. This is just how it is. I have so many friends that are in the same boat. We should all have a party on this boat. We should name it and perhaps my woodworking friend Steph could create some interesting sculptural piece to whittle out of the front. I could then maybe get Gill to create interesting typography, spurring us forward. We could have necklaces made, brightly coloured prints put up, enlist a cupcake maker and a massage genius to make us all feel good. This ship is full, brimming full of talent, hard work and ambition. Hm. You know. I think I’m rather proud to be on this vessel.