This Christmas turned out to be a lot more wet than white. We've had strong winds, and the water level has kept on rising for days. At the moment we have water on three sides of the house. The house itself is fairly safe, but mum's flower bed is worse off.
Fa la la la laa, la laa laa laa. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, even though there's not much snow in sight this year, at least not in this part of Finland. I'm visiting my parents in Ostrobothnia, and have enjoyed a walk with Fia the terri(fi)er, followed by a traditional Finnish Christmas sauna. Dinner is in sight, and Faith, Hope and Charity (or Love, as it's called here) is lighting up the darkness. These lighted symbols are very common in these parts at Christmas, and have become almost synonomous with the town of Jakobstad/Pietarsaari.
As you can see below, the Doodlendar is finally completed. Working on a small scale like this worked very well for me, so I will continue in a similar manner for a while. Perhaps that will help me form a habit of drawing regularly. I'm also thinking of making a small stamp a day in January, unless that's too ambitious. But first I'll enjoy a Christmas holiday with lots of rest.
To all my friends and readers:
Thanks for visiting my blog and hope to see you again soon!
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world's whole sap is sunk
These are a few lines from John Donne's A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day, Being the Shortest Day (1627). St. Lucy's Day is on 13 December, but the poem deals with the winter solstice. It was formerly believed that St. Lucy's Day was the shortest day of the year, and as such connected with a lot of magic beliefs. I confess I don't understand half of this poem, but I find it strangely haunting. The line that I chose for the title is one of my favourites. The idea of the winter solstice as the year's midnight makes a lot of sense when you live in a northern country. The sun rose at 9.24 am and set at 3.13 pm, so it was scarce six hours that the sun unmasked himself here in Helsinki. North of Rovaniemi the sun doesn't rise above the horizon, so I'm quite happy I saw a few rays of sunshine during my lunch break.
This past week has been pretty awful. Last Sunday I felt a bit dizzy in the evening, and the next morning when I got up for work I was so dizzy that I had to take support from the walls on my way to the bathroom. I went to see a doctor, who ordered a few days of rest. By Wednesday, however, the dizziness was even worse: the whole world was spinning, I couldn't focus my eyes and I could hardly stand on my own two legs. Back to the doctor I went and was diagnosed with BPPV - benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Next I went to a psysical therapist, who said that the muscles in my neck and jaw are so tense that they press on the balance organs, thus causing the vertigo. By now I'm much better, my world is only rocking gently, as after a couple of days at sea, and I don't experience any motion sickness any longer. I'm going back to the therapist a couple of more times before Christmas. But listen to this: the therapist told me there shouldn't be any knitting, crochet, sewing or embroidery for a while, as I need to rest my neck. Wha-wha-wha-what-WHAT!?!
Well. Ok. Wednesday was such a nightmare that I'm going to take her advice seriously. If I want to be creative, I'll just have to come up with ways to do it without straining my neck. Or I could just decide to catch up on my reading. That's not bad either.
My Mum, bless her, came to the rescue on Thursday, and spent the weekend with me, as support. We ventured out for a little walk on Friday and cut a few sprigs of fir for a tiny Christmas tree.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter!
I haven't let vertigo stop my progress on the Doodlendar though:
We're halfway to Christmas Eve already! For those of you who are unfamiliar with Finnish Christmas traditions, Christmas Eve is the day when Santa brings us Scandinavians our presents. I guess he needs to start here if he's supposed to make it in time for Christmas morning in other parts of the world. Everybody knows of course that Santa lives in Finnish Lapland (in Korvatunturi, with a second home in Rovaniemi, on the Arctic circle), and let no one tell you anything else.
After 12 days, my Doodlendar is starting to look interesting, and I'm enjoying it. I try to vary the patterns and to avoid the ones that I usually doodle, in order to make new discoveries.
On Saturday I went to a Christmas fair in Ekenäs, in the southwest of Finland, an hour by train from Helsinki. It was raining all day, so the spirit of Christmas wasn't very strong. I found this cute dish cloth, designed by Lotta Glave. I fell for it immediately, but it wasn't until today that it dawned on me to take a look in the broom cupboard. I have two dish cloths from before designed by the same artist! Without knowing it myself, I seem to be her biggest fan.
Ok, so it's not shibori as such, but I'm sure you'll agree with me that these baby wipes are quite shibori-like. They were created during my playful session with gesso and acrylic paint a few days ago, when I was applying and wiping away paint. They are so pretty, I can't bear to throw them away. I'm sure I'll be able to use them for collage or something else. I just had to share them with you!
I've had four days off from work, two of which I spent with Mum, and the other two were meant to be an art retreat arranged for myself by myself. Well... On Monday I seemed to have alls sorts of things going on except for arty things. In the afternoon, when I finally got my art supplies out, I was struck by the most awful creative block. I just couldn't bring myself to do anything. Performance anxiety rampant. At last I pulled out my cheapest sketchbook (the one with the awful paper) and drew an unplanned and ugly portrait of myself spewing fire. I coloured it with coloured pencils and didn't care whether I stayed within the lines or not.
The ugly self-portrait did the trick. I remembered what I always tend to forget: it's better to draw SOMETHING or ANYTHING than nothing at all. It doesn't matter if it's ugly. It's a start, a warm-up. The good stuff comes later. I put on Paula Phillips' workshop 'Textured & Layered Backgrounds' and started messing around with gesso, Inktense pencils and acrylic paint. At the moment my hands have what has been called a "mixed-media manicure". My nails are both purple and silver. My arm is tired from rubbing off layers of acrylic paint. My pants are in the wash, as I managed to splatter white paint on them. You can probably tell I had a good time.
Here are two of the backgrounds I started on yesterday. There are more layers to come. The technique is basically to add layer after layer of paint, and each time you add a new layer, you remove some of it to reveal the underlying layers. It's very exciting, and a good workout too, as you really have to put some back into it, as Paula says.
Sunday evening again - a weekend passes by so quickly! (Lucky for me, I have two more days off from work. That suits me very well.) This weekend was spent in the company of Mum, who came down for the traditional Women's Christmas Fair in Helsinki. Last year we sold our own artwork there (read about that here and here), but this year we just went as customers. I wasn't really in a shopping mood at first, but then, just before we'd gone through everything, I was charmed by a herd of angels, and bought three pieces from the same ceramic artist, Mette Helve: two angels and a soap dish. I like the way she's used a crocheted doily to pattern the clay. I only bought the soap dish and the big angel with the candle at first, but after a couple of minutes I rushed back and snapped up the little angel too. I just love the mischievous look on her face and the way she leans a little backwards! I couldn't risk anyone else walking away with her.
The Dynamic Angel Duo
Apart from shopping, we spent most of the weekend crafting. Mum has been knitting wrist warmers to sell at a the Women's Christmas Fair in Vaasa on Tuesday 6 December and, when I haven't been busy with my Doodlendar, I've been working on an Alabama Chanin Market Bag (see Alabama Studio Style for directions and inspiration).
One of the leading ideas in Natalie Chanin's books is to recycle old t-shirts for cool projects, instead of throwing them away when they're past their best. This struck a chord with me, and I've been saving my t-shirts for a while. A few weeks ago I made a stencil in the shape of a peony and printed on cotton jersey pieces that I'd cut out of my old t-shirts.
I've also learned to be more frugal with my paints, and I flipped the wet stencil over onto white fabric after each print and got a second print from the same application. I haven't decided what to do with the negative prints, but they would look cool raw-edge appliquéd onto something like a skirt or bag.
Although I'm using just red and burgundy, I'm trying to vary the colour combinations as much as possible. I have 8 blocks in total, and I want each block to be different.
Today is 1 December and, as promised, here's the first square of the Doodlendar filled with pattern. From now on I will upload the Doodlendar only to Flickr, where you can follow my progress by clicking on the thumbnails in the upper left hand corner, or by following the link to my Flickr photostream, which is located under the thumbnails. I have also created a separate set for the Doodlendar, where the pages will appear together in an orderly fashion.
Tomorrow's Friday, my Mum's coming over for the weekend, and I have 4 days off from work to enjoy. Great!