Archives for posts with tag: craft
Image via PixGood. With thanks.

Image via PixGood. With thanks.

For some, the endpoint comes.
For those, it expresses as a deed.
For some, how to paint a Mason jar.
For those, it is possible to attach a stencil with a seasonal theme:

there could be a star for Christmas
or a pumpkin outline for Halloween.
Overhead hums a carrier on the flightpath.
For some freedom comes as the endpoint.

A painted Mason jar for flower arrangements,
home-baked cookies and forgetting this is not
how you imagined it would be.
For some the endpoint is a gun.

I have been ill for the last week or so, the world is going down on all sides and in the sidebar of advertisements on my Facebook account I’ve been targeted by craft videos.

Painted Mason jars, perfect in their new incarnation for displaying flowers on one’s kitchen table, must be the perfect salve to my ailment and the world’s disquiet.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

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This handmade heart hangs from a nail above my desk. I don’t remember on which day it was given to me, yet it carries more sentimental meaning than any Valentine’s token I’ve ever received. This heart has shadowed many of my poetry journeys. It has travelled with me from Cape Town to San Diego, to South America, to Poland, to the UK the first time around for studies, to the Eastern Cape and has now settled a while here in London. It reminds me, we can give of our creativity in a heartfelt way on any day. 

Onto my raft of plaits
I shall step,
with dreams of Alsation-men.


This short poem dates from the last quarter of 2013 when I did indeed have a dream about a raft of plaits and Alsation-men. Perhaps it was a subconscious mash-up of my plaited rag rug  (A craft project that’s still incomplete!) and the beautiful dogs I see on my almost daily walks in a local wood.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
The books: Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys and Shining in Brightness 

"Auspicious Cranes," a hand scroll on silk attributed to Song emperor Huizong (1082 - 1135, r. 1101 - 1126). Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAuspicious_Cranes.jpg

“Auspicious Cranes,” a hand scroll on silk attributed to Song emperor Huizong (1082 – 1135, r. 1101 – 1126). Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAuspicious_Cranes.jpg

Within the confines of a silken sheet,

the observers attend upon the temple.

Before it returns to ash and dust,

they light a votive offering.

It is

 

in a portrait

the thumbnail of the painter’s right hand

 

the sparse arm-hairs of a samurai

beset by ghosts

 

the frog at the woman’s feet,

gazing, as we do, as she steps out of her bath

 

21/11/13

Yesterday and today I have had the great pleasure of visiting three temporary exhibitions of glorious visual/material culture. I find visual stimuli a great well for my writing and am delighted that today’s poem gives credit to this recent input.

Freshest in my mind are the Shunga scenes, which I saw at the British Museum this evening.  Shunga (‘spring pictures’) are erotic paintings, prints and illustrations paintings and prints from Japan.

The last two descriptions in the poem above are drawn from two works on show. I searched for links to the images, but unfortunately could not find these particular ones in the British Museum’s online collection. Possibly they are loan items, or I am in error as to my search criteria. I’ll add a note later should I come across them.

The image with the artist’s thumbnail is “Portrait of Shen Zhou at Age Eighty” (Unidentified Artist, 1506, The Palace Museum Collection, Beijing). Shen Zhou (1427–1509) was a notable painter during the Ming dynasty in China. (You can view an image of the work here.) It was at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum’s Masterpieces of Chinese Painting, 700 to 1900, that I saw the original of Shen Zhou’s portrait. I was supremely fortunate to also see the original of “Auspicious Cranes” (possibly Emperor Huizong, about 1112, The Liaoning Provincial Museum Collection). A reproduction of this image had inspired my poem Twenty Auspicious Cranes in July.

As for today’s poem, I ask for some artistic leeway from the post-colonial theorists and rigorous Asian Cultural Studies scholars. They will have noted two misdemeanours. The first, that I group the creative production of two distinct traditions in one list. Secondly, I overlay the poem with a veil of ‘spiritual East’.

Now I spy two further inadvertent creative devices that may tempt critique. I have compounded the ‘spiritual East’ with the ‘historical Orient’.  This imagined benevolent kingdom of the past bequeaths, through its exotic treasures, wisdoms about greater universal truths to the present (read: curious Western scholars or readers). Note the tactility elicited in the poem. We read about silk, ash, dust and light. We imagine the referenced water. Thumbnails, arms and feet are mentioned. Alluded to are the hands as they attend, light offerings and paint. We imagine the form of the woman stepping out of her bath. The poem catalogues wonder through an exploration of sensual (sense) experience and the ‘body Orient’. Here, it is worth cautioning that I am conflating East and Orient at will. Ai me. Edward Said and his followers shudder.

Finally, I suspect not all the images are painted on silk either. Yet, this quintessential fabric of the East sets the canvas.

When I look at the handiwork of other artists, artisans and craftsman across time and cultures, I am frequently drawn in by their attentiveness to those small details like the thumbnail, the arm-hairs and the gazing frog. It mattered enough at some point in time for them to add that observational asterisk to the image. This is what, as an artist, I perceive as a votive offering. I indulgently imagine their bequest of wonder is of a similar sentiment to my poetic attentiveness that declares, Now Here is Something to Marvel At…

P.S. The third exhibition was a marvellous homage to pearls at the V&A. It had my imagination at sea with mermaids, but all that for another post.

P.P.S. I didn’t even mention the samurai.

Masterpieces of Chinese Painting, 700 to 1900 is on at the Victoria and Albert Museum until 19 January 2014. Tickets: £13,50 with concessions available. Advance booking is strongly recommended. For more information see the exhibition website.

 

Victoria and Albert Museum details:

Tel.: 020 7942 2000

Address: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL

Opening times:

10:00 – 17:45 daily

10:00 – 22:00 Fridays

Website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/

 

Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art is on at the British Museum until 5 January 2014. Kindly be advised, the exhibition will be closed all day on Saturday 14 December and until 12.00 on Sunday 15 December. Tickets: £7, Members free. Parental guidance advised. For more information see the exhibition website.

British Museum details:

Tel. for ticket booking: 020 7323 8181

Address: Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG

Opening times:

10:00 – 17:30 daily

10:00 – 20.30 Fridays

Website: http://www.britishmuseum.org/

You’re invited to take a peek at my book of selected poems, Shining in Brightness.

I tweet about art, writing and London life as @BeadedQuill. Please follow me.

Wire Heart

Handmade Heart

 

I never got

a heart kitsched out of plump red silk

or fluffy between grinning paws

 

My heart was curved out of wire.

Two little hands threaded rows of beads

terracotta to brown

sienna

sky

verde

vermillion

 

in bedside light my wire-heart hangs

glinting only for me.

 

2002

I have done a great deal of childminding and babysitting in my time. It was a pocket-money making staple during my adolescence. More than ten years ago, I used to look after a little boy. He was incredibly creative and sometimes we would be up at late hours constructing his ‘projects,’ which usually involved hanging things down the stairwell. While he instructed my draping technique, I would be worrying myself about getting him to sleep before his parents came home. One night he and I sat on the floor and devoured a juicy mango, there and then, next to the kitchen cupboards. (We seldom had mangos in my childhood home.)

One evening, when I arrived for my usual duties, he handed over a palm-sized, tissue-paper wrapped gift. I opened it and it was this – a handmade heart shaped out of wire and strung with a rainbow of beads. This heart has lived on bedside tables and hung on my bedposts in three continents and about a dozen countries. It’s one of those objects I would grab if I had to flee from a fire.

I doubt this child, now all grownup, even remembers giving this special gift to me.