Inspiration

and the bead goes on

January 26, 2023

My children are embarrassed when I wear a balaclava, so I’m quite sure that they’d cross to the other side of the street if I rocked up at school pick-up in this one. Handcrafted by London-based textile designer, Kamila the balaclavas are a gorgeous explosion of colourful beadwork and pattern. Some look like coral, others like lichen, and this one here reminds me of the snow and ice formations we saw in yesterday’s storm. As for the one below, it’s fireworks over London Bridge.

fish

January 23, 2023

Since my late teens, I’ve lived with an anxiety disorder that –– let’s use house guests as a metaphor –– spans from the in for a night, sleeping on the couch, you’ll barely know I’m here kind to the homeless high school friend that comes for a week and stays for two years variety. After a while, you start to discern which one you’re making the bed up for. I’ve done a fine job of minimizing my anxiety disorder to the outside world –– that was how I learned to deal with it –– to the point that very few people know that I have one. All those years of minimizing it has cost me vital years of an alternate solution; accepting it. There is a day, as the wisest of owls, Anaïs Nin said, when the risk to remain tight in a bud is more painful than the risk to blossom, and when that day comes, we have no choice but to be honest. Honesty is scary, and surprisingly freeing. It helps to try it out on people whom you trust, who’ve been honest with you, too. One honest conversations begets another. And so begins a chain reaction to something so liberating you wonder why it took you so long to blossom. The house guests still come, they likely always will. My hope is that they don’t stay quite as long. Guests, like fish, start to smell after three days.

diagonal

January 18, 2023

If you’ve ever competed in a sack race, you’ll know that they’re really quite fun. It’s almost impossible not to take a tumble which adds to the fun. When I was about ten, I competed in a downhill sack race on a grassy hill in Hyde Park. I was chuffed to come in third until my homeroom teacher, Mrs. Small told me that I’d hopped down the hill on a diagonal. “You doubled your distance, Athena. And your time. Otherwise, you would have come in first.” I remember feeling embarrassed, mostly because I had no idea I’d even done that. I thought I’d come straight down the hill to my brilliant bronze. To this day, I think about that hill when I realize that I’ve added unnecessary steps in a situation, when indecision, pig-headedness and more than a soupcon of caution are getting in the way of a solution. Some people just take longer than others, I guess. Still, bronze is pretty great.

hyacinth

January 16, 2023

No matter the season, I can always count on my local corner shop for fresh cut blooms. When buckets of Hyacinths arrive I know that spring’s in sight. So you can imagine my confusion today when I spotted them alongside the last of the amaryllis. Not that I’m complaining, I love hyacinths. It’s just that seeing them gave me some kind of false hope, like tiny, frilly beacons of something that’s not only out of sight, but over the hill, down the lane, and through the forest away. Of course, I bought an armful. The smell is too lovely to resist. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little fantasy. (This drawing is by Picasso, by the way. Just another example of his extraordinary range.)

stone, pebble, rock

January 12, 2023

As a fellow lifelong stone collector, I am drawn to Avery Gregory’s beautiful assemblages of found stones. In her “stone studies” she curates them by size, colour and shape drawing one’s eye both to individual stones, and the collection as a whole. There is so much beautiful detail in the stones she selects; lines, holes, speckles and swirls. Gregory, who lives in Western United States, sources stones from all over the country. “I pick up the same stones in different iterations over and over and over again. The natural world is inherently entropic and that is deeply comforting to me: that the planet unconsciously creates these little polished bits of itself with no care as to how they look or where they end up or any knowledge that they exist. Enviable detachment.”

school dinners

January 12, 2023

Given how many school lunches I consumed it’s funny that all I remember were the fish fingers. For pudding there was semolina, or a jam and coconut sponge cake. You’d think that something you do everyday for fifteen years would yield more memories than a fish stick and tepid custard. I suppose our brains only have room for so many memories, and when it’s something as constant as lunch, we likely distill the experience down to a handful of images, feelings and flavours. Once I was in high school, lunch was either a Twix and five cigarettes or milky tea and buttered toast from the local greasy spoon. I just signed my kids up to the hot lunch program at school in the hopes that their memories are more refined than mine. Although something tells me that no matter how good the food is, all they’ll remember are the sloppy mortadella sandwiches and browning apples they brought from home.

clay and lace

January 11, 2023

I’m a little teapot, short, lumpy and stout. Have you ever seen a lovelier vessel from which to pour tea? The entire collection from Barro by Lucrecia is so charming. Her surface decoration, inspired by lace, is delicate while the wabi sabi forms are brimming with personality. I’d happily drink my ginger tea from this sweet little cup. And bring me my jammy toast on this perfect little plate.

sketch

January 3, 2023

A few months ago, I submitted an application for a residency at The Gardiner Museum. My application included pages of sketches for future pieces many of which are much larger and more elaborate than anything I’ve made to date. The prospect of a large studio with built in equipment within a working ceramics gallery unleashed possibilities in me that my current set-up doesn’t allow for. When I wasn’t selected for the residency –– it was a long-shot –– I was equal parts disappointed and relieved. But there was great value in having applied, not least because it invited me to imagine what I might be capable of if I were to stretch myself. It was something to think about; released from my limitations –– many of which are perceived –– what would I be making? The sketches I submitted were emblematic of an obstacle free mind. The only way we move forward is by moving forward. And what the application process showed me is that there is a large leap between where I am and where I would like to get to. And that I won’t make that leap at my kitchen table.

bare all

December 15, 2022

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show,” wrote painter, Andrew Wyeth. Timed perfectly with this most wintery day, I came across Roy Wright’s charcoal drawings of bare trees today, reminding me how beautiful a tree can be in winter. There’s so much exquisite detail to his drawings. Have a look if you have a moment today, preferably while sipping tea under a wool blanket.

listen

December 15, 2022

It’s a deliberate choice not to listen to anything as I walk. No Adele, no Ki and Dee, not my Mum. Nothing. No one. Instead, I listen to my thoughts like a descant over honking horns and tweeting birds. Yesterday, I heard Arabic, as beautiful as any Adele song, and today opera, performed on foot by a guy on Harbord. Would I have noticed either had my ears been devoted to the sound of Tom Rosenthal’s happy melancholy? When I was a runner, I always listened to music. Tina Turner. Celine Dion. Cher. Name a power ballad, and I had it on my playlist. These days, I’m moving much slower, and my music reflects my pace. But sometimes, like now, silence is golden. Because it’s in silence that my mind gets to duet with the city.

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