Monday, 28 October 2013


I am home after my few days in West Dean in West Sussex. It was Japanese week so now I know a little about Shibori, and Sashiko, what beautiful sounding words. The course I was doing was Sumi-e, Japanese ink painting. I don't have alot to show after my 3 days but I have a good grasp of the basic techniques and this art is considered a form of meditation, so perhaps that is why my output was limited, the preparing and doing were as important as the results. We also made our own brush from bamboo as well as carving a seal from soapstone. So now with this new found knowledge all I have to do is practice, practice and then practice some more.
Below are a few images, we were mostly imitating the marks made by our tutor Takumasa 
This red seal above means "Happy", the seal below  I made and was to have the first letter in my name but it ended up nothing like it. Adding ones name in Japanese and the red seal made all the difference to the overall balance of the picture. It gave it authenticity.
 These are "Lovebirds" you would not believe how difficult the short tail feathers were to make, I have still not perfected them.
 The flowers we did from still life, we were treated to a Japanese flower arranging demonstration, they were so beautiful, the simplicity of their aesthetics is so pure and everything has its origins in nature.
Takumasa Ono our tutor knelt on the ground to drew, we were all relieved that we did not have to do that too.
Here you can see some of the equipment we used, I loved how it was all so traditional and little had changed in centuries.
Here you can Takumasa showing Susan how to mount her finished piece, a complicated and wet process but very useful to know. The Japanese paper is so thin one really has to mount it and the whiteness of the mounting board shows through the paper and changes and enhances the painting.

 I have to give you a glimpse at West Dean, once again it did not disappoint. Lovely surroundings, good food and friendly/interesting company. I can see how people keep returning, I met some serial course goers, mostly women, is there something gender based that women want to keep learning regardless of age? We were so fortunate with the weather compared to the storms hitting the U.K. this week. thanks to Pam I also had a nice afternoon exploring the nearby town of Chichester which is adorable, full of interesting history and cute shops.

So now my new goal is to visit Japan, the countryside rather than the big cities, I have started researching already and have got some interesting links from Carol, another West Dean Japanese enthusiasts.
And a final word to my sumi-e class mates, keep painting.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A Letter a Week

I feel so honored to have been included in an exhibition arising out of my participation in A Letter a Week   A Letter a Week - Artistic Travels Through the Alphabet. is currently running at Cooroy Butter Factory, on the Sunshine Coast, Australia. Organised by Fiona Dempster, check her out  at paperponderings and read about the exhibition there. This is the awesomeness of the internet that one can connect with a global community with a shared interest. This project has encouraged me to revisit calligraphy  a subject I so enjoyed in school, but I had not practiced since. I am no where near the standard of the other participants but I have found their encouraging words and support invaluable. Next week as almost an extension to my new found love of ink and paper I am doing a short course in West Dean on Sumi-e Japanese ink painting. I already draw with ink in my paintings so I am hoping this will give me some new skills and insights. I have been to West Dean before, it is a wonderful place to stay and meet new people while also learning something. I also get to spend a few days in London on the way so that is always exciting for me, I love the buzz there. Hopefully I will have some interesting ink drawings to show you when I return. Meanwhile here are a couple of my latest paintings, getting into ink mode..

Below I am trying out gold leaf.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Sadly Missed

 I like to keep things, I'm not a hoarder but I hate to part with stuff that I have a sentimental attachment too. I discussed this with my family recently and I realized that many of these objects that are so dear to me have little meaning for them, so why am I holding onto all this STUFF? There are so many blogs written about getting organised, with pictures of tidy, well ordered homes. These bloggers seem to be "super" people, they can do it all and arrange their books according to the colour wheel! One suggestion I thought was excellent, you photograph the object you are so attached to before bringing it off to the Goodwill shop or skip, and then put it in an album and write the story beside the photo. I like that idea and the family can read about it rather than fall over it in the spare room. Taking that advice I decided "Shy Girl" had to go. Firstly I photographed her.

You can see she is a little chipped but she is older than me. She once stood beside "Shy Boy" but he has long  gone. She and her boy were on the window sill of our sitting room when I was a child, It was the good room used only for occasions. I am the youngest in my family and was considered a "chatter box" which I did not like and I had aspirations to be like "Shy Girl", all quiet and demure. She so connects and transports me to my childhood, now I've taken the photographs and shared the story, I still can't part with her. Just looking at her brings me right back to the sitting room, a fire lit, Mammy with me, which was an occasion in itself as we had a business and she rarely had time to be "inside" rather than "in the shop". She might have been knitting or making a hand hooked rug, which she did during the winter evenings, she could never sit and be idle, maybe we were eating iced caramels, my Mothers favorite or grapes if she was on a diet.
Ah! letting go is so difficult, so many memories of a time that can never be brought back, but at least the memories last a lifetime, and mine are very precious.

My Mother Enda Joyce passed away this August at the great age of 97, she will be sadly missed.
Ar dheis De go raibh a h-anam
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