This summer has been too long, too hot,too humid and too draining. In Australia the current season has been very fierce with weeks of hot and humid days as well as many fierce fires and storms.No doubt many others, like me, are wishing for an Autumn that might bring cooler days and gentle,refreshing rain and fear that climate change has greatly impacted Natures ability to heal and recover.
Pondering about this much desired change of season, reminded me of these little sprites that were made last year ; tiny beings who indicate that each season has its specific character and tasks necessary for nature to create and replenish.
A suggestion came recently about including a swan in a project. This has resulted in a small piece, that has become a swan lake.
Our Australian swans are black, frilly and quite magnificent. They fascinated me often, in the days when I resided down south, as they seemed to glide so effortlessly and majestically over Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. That memory came back when we visited Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary earlier this year.
The new swan lake project seemed rather to bring up images of English swans, in this instance a Trumpeter Swan.
This is a spring themed piece, suitable for a seasonal table or as a teaching aid or story prop. The log is hollow so that it can be used as a home or a hiding spot for tiny creatures or fairy folk. On its branch a tiny brown bird, well camouflaged in the first picture of the scene, and one of those little brown birds that has so many different species. This one sings sweetly and perpetually of the joys of spring.
Although this is a tiny project it is designed as a piece to stimulate curiosity and imagination as well as appreciation of the world around us. It is also very tactile so most of the senses will be stimulated and inspire many tales and adventures to unfold.
The wool felt mat pictured below was created from imagination and memory before we visited this setting last week at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Happening upon this scene has boosted confidence and given confirmation and validity to the representation .
It was also a little spooky seeing a scene that had been created in the imagination and created from years of observation of many different locations so closely resemble a “real” situation.This play mat also features a turtle which was inspired by those seen in the Coomera river last year.
The characters are very small, so are attached by a thread but they still can be freely moved around the river. This small scene also included a platypus.
Handstitched from wool felt this mat was designed to stimulate curiosity and imagination, as well to create an interest and love for nature through play.
D.W Winnicott, a British pediatrician commented that “It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self”. This quote has also been featured by The Strong, a Museum in New York that is devoted to the history, importance and research of play.
Sadly the value and necessity of play is being compromised as focus shifts to an education that looks to standardised learning and testing and restriction of play time and creativity.This policy focuses on preparing children for exams and career paths thus tending to underestimate the importance of allowing children time to play, dream and imagine so that they can understand better themselves and the world that they inhabit.
To add weight to the value and necessity for play, on January 26th this year, Amy McNeilage, in The Sydney Morning Herald National, reported on the disadvantage of children beginning school at too early and age. She noted that “A Cambridge University expert in the cognitive development of young children, David Whitebread, said ”overwhelming evidence suggests that five is just too young to start formal learning.
The empirical evidence is that children who have a longer period of play-based early childhood education, that goes on to age six or seven, finish up with a whole range of clear advantages in the long term,” he said. ”Academically they do better and they experience more emotional wellbeing”.
January has seemed to flip past and it seemed that not a lot had been achieved. Time to stop and consider that what seemed to be a lot of “Nana” napping due to the heat and time out, had actually achieved some results. Things did get created, even finished and better still some new ideas took shape.
For instance this donsey of gnomes, miniature ones, and a tiny felt mouse found their way into form during January. As did the frogs and tadpole and the tiny Waldorf babies of previous posts . It was also a month where art became the focus and experimenting with different media as in the programme Paint – but those efforts I’ve yet to be able to share as they are in the wrong format and I am still trying to work that out.
There was also a little episode of making felt food.
At first to patterns that needed to be tried when a kind friend ordered a Japanese craft book for me. That was such an inspiration and motivation as it made me really look at food, observe closely, understand , experiment and motivate me to create my own interpretations. As a consequence this mushroom slice and Rainbow Chard leaf resulted and there are several sketches for other items .
It was a pleasant surprise to take a step back and survey the results and realise that things have been progressing, slowly but steadily.
I guess if one were to draw on old wisdom it was a situation akin to the hare and the tortoise. My feeling pressured to be the hare and expect faster results led me to overlook that by being the tortoise and taking one sure step at a time results were forthcoming and goals had been reached. It also led me to ponder over the ancient fable and the wisdom offered.
The Hare and The Tortoise.
Modern thinking seems to have allocated a wiley and cunning nature to the tortoise who sometimes hitches a lift with the unsuspecting hare, who is depicted as being as brash, ego centred and overconfident. The suggestion is that by being devious and honing in on the opponents weakness you can win. This seemed so misunderstood as the whole point is to show that by setting a goal through perseverance and determination it can be achieved.
At school we were always told that “slow and steady wins the race”, whereas now there seems to be a drive for faster, instant results without taking into consideration the effects and consequences of a power driven, “more and more ” approach. Everything seems to need to be statistic driven; higher scores , pretty pie charts, statistics of statistics, goals, outcomes, interactions gets reduced to numbers and graphs. Do they really mean anything other than aiming for profits and manipulating these figures to justify a consumer driven economic policy, where more and greed are good and a simpler and slower pace that concentrates on quality of outcomes, using what is on hand and supplying needs rather than wants are seen as hindrances.
The most recent interpretation of the classic is to offer the Compound Effect. In this explanation the two opponents join forces, become a team and get even greater, faster, more efficient results.
Specialising and co-operating, takes the story to a different level, more positive yet still aimed to get higher production. It sees fast as the core to success and efficiency. As a tool for society cooperation seems an excellent outcome, especially if we are to address to problems facing the planet and come up with effective solutions, but rather solutions to encourage peace and sustainability than growth for growth’s sake. Applied it seems to lead to cutbacks and inefficiencies, loss of services and a rationale that boosts share prices.
However, this approach seems to me to miss the point of the fable entirely. The ancient wisdom is not about mass production or team effort but rather to point out that determination and focus can produce amazing results that would seem to most onlookers to be unachievable as well as the more humble personal outcomes that often slipped past unnoticed and unacknowledged. It also points out that by going full steam ahead and not using our energy wisely we can burn out .
So now I have come full circle and back to stitching in peace, slowly savouring each stitch with joy knowing that my creations are not to be a statistic but made with love, and a need to create and share. I savour the slower in and out, the sound of the thread slipping through the fabric, the feel of the cloth, the gentle rhythm and the connection it has through time hoping that what I create will be imbued with all these and the joy shared with the recipient.
Ror a moment sharing the soggy conclusion to the month, as the aftermath of cyclone Oswald wreaks devastation in many places along the East Coast of Australia. Queensland and N.S.W have suffered terribly yet this disaster has brought to the surface a true spirit of co-operation, great resilience and will to overcome.
Going under as water levels rise , a scene in the next road down from ours.
The year has begun down in the south with a heatwave of catastrophic proportions.
Hot and sticky, overwhelmed and saddened by the losses that have incurred to people, livestock and environment as well as being on constant alert for fire here, is not all that conducive to creativity. It seemed for a bit that that that also was all burnt out. Nothing new was being created and worse still ideas seemed to be stagnant.
However taking stock and actually making a picture of the craft room table revealed that things did seem to be muddling along. There were indeed a couple of new items and things that had been put aside, those ubiquitous U.F.Os, were getting finished. In fact looking at the photo made me aware that there had been some progress as well as some inspiration and creativity. That was so heartening.
Then one of those aha! moments occurred from a serendipity or universal poke when presented with a quote from a remarkable woman, Maya Angelou, who said that “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have”.
Self doubt, and this I should know, destroys creativity and is a trap that is all too easy to fall into.
For Christmas my daughter gifted me some pieces of wool felt. One piece is a rich, grassy green, just perfect to make a little frog. A little frog that has a tale to tell of how important he is in the whole scheme of things.
Frogs are important to the ecology and rapidly disappearing from the landscape, through agricultural practices, especially the use of pesticides, population growth and inbalance in the whole connection of life forms in nature as urban sprawl infiltrates and unbalances eco systems.
The character that grew from the felt was not quite like the sketches that have been made over time, as the idea has been simmering for a bit, but seemed to dictate the process. However, as he took form, it was apparent that he needed a mouth, and not the embroidered mouth that was in the original design but a mouth that opens and closes; a talking mouth as he has a story to tell. Again it was there waiting all the time, those little ovoid scraps lying on the table were a perfect fit .
Now he needs a setting, perhaps a pond , or a lily pad, or a log. Any ideas?
At the same time two little heads were in a box and waiting for bodies. These have become very typical, tiny, Waldorf babies; little comfort or pocket dolls. They were an absolute joy to make. Something about a baby instils new hope. These did that.
A frog to create awareness and love for nature and babies to remind of renewal and hope. This has turned out to be a powerful lesson , pointing out that from the ashes of tomorrow there will be a new day glowing with promise and opportunity, full of inspiration and creativity.