I’ve been thinking for a long time about the best way to share what I’ve been working on, as blogging no longer feels like the right fit for me. I’ve decided to give video a go, and I enjoyed making this so I hope you enjoy it too :)
JANUARY IN BLACK AND WHITE
I can hardly believe the first month of 2016 is nearly over, but it has been a lovely one, if rather wet down here in Devon. After some consideration, I feel as though there has been a clear theme…
Over the course of the past month, I’ve observed that monochrome is really my favourite way to illustrate. I’ve been experimenting with picking a knitting project to complement what’s on my drawing board, and it has been a lot of fun. Above are my Fledgling mittens, designed by fellow Pom Pom Quarterly contributor Anna Maltz, which I knitted while working on my Penguins of the World poster (which is nearly finished, but not quite). Matching crafting and drawing themes is something I plan to continue.
January concluded with a visit from my friend Katriona Chapman, and the excuse to go to some beautiful local spots one can easily take for granted. I was especially inspired by our visit to the beach, perfectly timed with my re-reading of Ursula Le Guin’s masterpiece A Wizard of Earthsea (if you have not yet read this book, why on earth not?). I’ve decided the magic of the seashore will become the theme for my coming months’ drawing and knitting, including the new issue of The Green Bean. The perfect excuse to visit the sea more often…
In thinking about what to prioritise creatively for the year ahead, I’ve been particularly inspired by Kate of A Playful Day . Her project for 2016, The Maker’s Year, first caught my attention on instagram. Her goals include time to reflect on all aspects of daily making, and what I connected with especially was her phrase, “in a way the nourishes, not weighs down.”
This really strikes a chord with what I’ve really been grappling with personally for the last year or so. I chose my particular direction in life because I delight in making things, and yet so often I feel pressures and burdens that make it anything but fun. Most often, those pressures and burdens are self-induced.
One example of this is the idea I’ve held that I need to ‘be professional’, since my book Lighter Than My Shadow was published. You have no idea how much this nonsense has held me back. Another aspect of Kate’s Maker’s Year, which you can read about on her blog, is that it’s “not about driving further divisions between the words making, crafting or art but instead allowing a simple act of creativity the room to grow without hangup or uncertainty.” For me, that means not about sidelining certain aspects of my creativity because I’m worried they don’t fit. I’m seeking a sustainable way forward that feels more whole and honest, for my work’s sake and especially for my mental health.
What does this mean in practical terms? Well let’s take knitting. I have knitted since I was about seven years old, but I really took to it about two years ago. In the aftermath of Lighter Than My Shadow’s publication, I relocated from Bristol, left my therapist of eight years and was not in a good place mental health wise. Knitting became a powerful resource in those months, and has remained so, but something else has also happened: I have become obsessed. I knit every day, I think about it almost constantly. When I visit a new city, it’s to the yarn shop I gravitate first, before the comic shop. I can no longer deny what an important part of my creative life this craft is becoming. Until now, I’ve held back on blogging about it because I’ve worried that it doesn’t ‘fit’ with my identity as an illustrator. But is that creative identity even appropriate any more?
The more I think about the Maker’s Year, the more I relish the opportunity to acknowledge and respect these other aspects of creativity. Last year I learned to sew garments, a craft I’m really excited to explore more. I made toys, something that I featured often in early issues of The Green Bean but have not revisited since. I also learned how to tat lace, and how to weave. And what about the daily, small acts of creativity that are so easily taken for granted? The food I prepare, the decoration and care of our home? Why shouldn’t my blog also honour these things?
So thanks, Kate, for the wonderful idea and inspiration. I’m excited to explore what 2016 #themakersyear brings, and to learn from what it brings for others too.
I don’t remember being taught to sew, as I remember being taught to knit so vividly. This is strange, because my Grandma was always more of a seamstress than a knitter (though she only knits these days, because she’s lost much of her sight and can do it by touch). I don’t remember anyone sitting down showing me the ropes on a sewing machine, but clearly I wasn’t born knowing how. I can only think I must have learned by osmosis. Or I have a memory like a sieve.
Anyway, the thing about feeling like I’ve always known how to sew is that I can get a tad ambitious in choosing a projects. OK, OK, this isn’t a habit limited only to my sewing (500-page graphic novel, anyone?). But I’ve certainly done it this time.
I’ve never made a dress before. The closest I’ve come to making clothes is a very forgiving pair of loose-fit pyjamas. So I’ll pick a simple A-line skirt, or shift dress for my first project then? No no no no no. Of course not. I’ll pick a two-piece medieval costume gown with a zip, corseted bodice, fancy button loops and everything. Obviously.
Thankfully we live in the age of YouTube, and my sewing knowledge is being helped along infinitely by Professor Pincushion, who has a two-part tutorial on how to make this exact pattern, Simplicity 1773.
And I am having so much fun.