Thursday, December 17, 2009


It's raining again.  Thundering, too.  Delicious after the hot dry wind of yesterday.  The green of new leaves against a white cloud filled sky looks fresh and clean. Just what I need in my mind as I ponder what I will make next.  This morning I've been making fisherman's pants, testing out a pattern. I have so many ideas about what I want to make next that I cant decide where to start.  Need to get some clarity of inspiration from that fresh view outside my window.

Talking about inspiration - how about this idea for a "shot in the arm" - 25 coloured pencils arriving every thirty days for 20 months, building up to a collection of 500.  Each named colour conjours image and imagination.  Here's a sprinkling: Spiffy; Kilimanjarao; Norwegian Sky; Horatio; playroom; blackberry ice.  The pencils are an initiative of the Social Designer website who curate and create goods "for the greater good", the sale of which sees funds donated to a variety of charitable causes.  The rationale behind receiving the pencils in lots of 25 rather than all at once is that
 It's human to have favorites. To be drawn to certain colors, to have others surprise you. We believe the greatest beauty of 500 Pencils is that you don't receive all of them at once, but over the course of 20 months. It gives you new focus as an artist, working with color families and feeling the precious nature of each pencil. We send 25 pencils a month, crafted to order. As you build to 500, the pencils become your story and experience. It's about enjoying an unhurried creative process, and the artist - that over time - you become. 
To subscribe to 500 Pencils or just find out more go here 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

When meaning has meaning

"Have a great Christmas", she said, turning, moving away from me, already on to the next task.  Just empty words, I thought.  She says them to everybody. Maybe so. But then I think, no, she actually means them. Her words are genuine.  It's her actions that belie her.  Made me think about how often my words don't match my actions.  How often does the way I say something suggest that I don't really mean it?

Recently I saw the Japanese film "Departures".  I was moved by the gestures, the ritual around even the simplest of exchanges - hello, thank you, good bye. I found myself moving my body in the cinema, as if to bow in response to the characters, feeling as though they were acknowledging me in their expressive movements.  I know ritual, just like words, can be meaningless:
Shape without form, shade without colour, paralysed force, gesture without motion   -- (T S Eliot - The Hollow Men)
Ritual can also be powerfully expressive;  reinforcing meaning, honouring of the other.       Seeing "Departures" made me want to slow down and appreciate the moment - what I am doing, who I am with, where I am.  Treating death, and the dead, with reverence seemed to make the characters relish life all the more.  To use all their senses in the most ordinary of actions.  We saw this particularly in the eating of food, the meaningful conversations,  the remembering, and the passion for pleasure, often portrayed through the listening or making of music.  The act of showing reverence to each other, dead or alive,  made there seem like there is something sacred present in even the most base elements of living.  This reverence seems to call forth a deeper dimension. As though if we act like there is something sacred then there is.  In the film it didn't matter what people believed around death, the practices of preparing the dead for cremation or burial seemed to be the same and helped move the bereaved into a transformative psychological space, which is the purpose of ritual. And it was here they could make some sense of what was happening to them.  Find some expression for the unspeakable, unnameable.  The death of someone we love we know changes our life.  It is a big thing.

What about the small things? What difference might it make if I make sure my actions match my words?  For one thing, it enables me to care. To show care and awareness of the other. To demonstrate care for my own life through acting deliberately and intentionally.  It also enables me to have a sense of there being something beyond me.  A sense of  sacred. An awareness of the mysterious way in which ritual is a container where sometimes something unexplainable happens and I am touched, moved, changed in some, perhaps small and often transient way through something as simple as a look, a handshake, a word.  But even when I am not changed there is something about the way in which living as though this moment matters ensures that it does.  And so does the other with whom I am sharing the moment.  And that is a message I would want to convey. It's not just our words but we ourselves have meaning.  Meaning is made when we act as if we matter.