Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Brooklyn Sketchbook Project 2013 -- yes or no?

This is just a very quick post to ask a question. To anyone reading this who made a sketchbook for the Brooklyn Sketchbook Project this year, are you going to do it again for 2013? The new project is already open for business and you can buy your sketchbook.
     I poured my heart into my sketchbook but it has only been 'borrowed' by two people on the tour so far and has only one comment on the website. There are so many thousands of sketchbooks on the tour that the odds of your individual sketchbook being taken out and looked at must be pretty slim. Too slim? I just can't decide whether to spend the huge amount of time it takes to make a sketchbook or whether to save that time for something else. The best way to look at it is as something you do for yourself, so that it doesn't matter whether or not many or even any other eyes fall upon it. However, I think we all know it feels good if other people see what you've done.
     I'd more or less decided not to do a sketchbook this time round, then I saw my little sketchbook in a video the Brooklyn Art Library people had posted on Vimeo and that has almost given me a change of heart -- but it still doesn't mean more than three people have seen the insides.
a glimpse of 'Audrey'
 I would really love to know what anyone else is thinking.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Poundland -- I've seen the light!

All this for £9...
When the Woolworth's on our high street closed, the shop space was empty for a very long time and it felt as though it was dragging the whole town down. Then, at last, the site was split into two smaller shops and both opened. One was a Peacock's, which closed about a week after it opened when the chain got into difficulties. The other was a Poundland, which filled me with despair as it didn't feel like the right sort of shop for the town. I only went in it once, last November, to look for things to put in the kids' advent calendar and it was depressing. I vowed never to set foot there again.
     Then... yesterday I was catching up with all the blogs I follow and saw Sue's fish slice challenge. I find it hard to resist challenges, specially arty ones, but that meant going back to Poundland to purchase said fish slice (the challenge is to transform it -- Sue does amazing things with enamelling and cutting).
     Mentally pinching my nose, I stepped back inside the scorned shop. The first things I saw were some cool Royal Family masks for the Jubilee. I'm no royalist, but I found myself thinking, 'Hmm, those would be a good bit of ephemera to buy and store away for 100 years' time...'. Then I saw a very nice stripy tea towel in the colours I particularly like. Then three packets of ibuprofen for £1. Then I found the metal utensils for Sue's challenge -- a set of 3 for £1. Surely just the metal is worth that? (Oh no, now I'm suddenly having dark thoughts about the cheap labour that makes all these things -- that wasn't part of the planned post...)
     It suddenly seemed as though I was no longer in Poundland but in a specially created Janestore, stocked with items uniquely suited to my tastes. In the weird selection of CDs I found two I liked. In the even more random selection of books was a perfect book for me by an author whose book on the Rolling Stones is next on my bedside pile. Then, finally, I grabbed three huge packets of plastic straws, just because the colours were so beautiful -- in my mind art projects spiralled out like kaleidoscope patterns.
     All this for £9 -- it doesn't seem possible. So although I know it was just the chance coming together of my profound randomness and Poundland's randomness to make a happy moment, I won't sneer at Poundland too readily in future.
     And why don't you join in with the Fish Slice Challenge? It could go viral...

Sunday, 6 May 2012

'Hiccups are indigestible' and other news

You know how retelling your dreams is considered bad taste by many? I hope there isn't a similar unwritten rule about reproducing one's childhood writings. I fear there may be a similar disjunction between the charming appeal of such things to their aging authors and the boredom they induce in others. If so, skip over this post and I apologise for my self-indulgence.
When I was a small child I was very keen on the news, even though it often frightened me (I had nightmares about the Suez Crisis and Aden even though I barely knew what they were). I started to make my own tiny newspapers. The earliest one I've still got must be from when I was around five as the writing is so childish. It's quite disturbing:
'A house got bu[r]nt and three pe[o]ple were bu[r]nt'
'50 Times Vednam [Vietnam] pe[o]ple get killed'
'Foot and Mo[u]th Degres [Disease] cows and pig ten got killed Five of eack [each]'
There was a major outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK in October 1967 when I was five. I grew up in rural North Yorkshire so it was very much a reality there (when there was another outbreak of the disease in 2001 I remember visiting my mum at home and seeing the fires of burning carcases glowing all across the huge view from the top bedroom where I was sleeping).
     The front page of another little paper I've managed to keep, the 'Despach' (our local paper was the Despatch) has these headlines: 'A little child got buglared' and 'Another girl ill'. Inside, 'Towns get hungry because of meat' and 'A boy got killed'. 'Town law off agian'. I can't help feeling my parents weren't doing a terribly good job of protecting me from the harsh realities of life.
     But today I'm going to 'treat' you to The News Finder, which must date from a bit later as the handwriting is much better. It's such a weird snapshot of my anxieties and interests at the age of six or seven.
Shades of Mad Men -- cigarette advertising was ubiquitous in the late Sixties
The front page lead is 'The Greeks let the seamen they captured go' -- I can't find any reference to this online but this must be something I'd heard in the news.
Also on the front page -- swapping the hardhitting impact of a news story in favour of arts coverage -- is a 'book review':
     'False Teeth by Audrey Carr' [Audrey Carr was my mum, but in fact this was a real book which she had been sent in her capacity as a book reviewer for the Northern Echo, the bigger Darlington-based newspaper which also published the Dispatch. I was obsessed with this book (published in October 1968) and I remember I also used it as the basis for one of those awful presentations you have to do at school. A couple of years ago I had to clear my mum's house when she moved into a care home and I found the book again so I've got it safely -- in a box somewhere...]. 'This book is stupid, I think, when it says 'Many had a loose tooth and it hurt' because it is obvious it would hurt. I think this book is very Rude - because I do not like talking about False theeth.' Quite so.
     Finally on the front page, back to the news: 'Wood cutters are Jailed For cutteing The wrong trees down'. Again, can't fault the judgement.
     Page 2 is the full-page ad for Players Cigarette. Page 3, breaking with tabloid convention, is 'Docters Diary: Hiccups'. 'There are lots of cures For hiccups. like holding your breath and counting to twenty or haveing a long long drink. hiccups are indigestible. you may think it Funny but animals have hiccups.' Always informative.
     Page 4 is the Editorial -- on 'Shcools':
Still a live issue, I think you'll agree.
     It's back to the news on p5, the foreign news quite conventionally relegated to the inside pages:
'President de Gaulle Flew to africa on The First of June because the africains are going white. The blue peter hospital trucks are a Great success.' I note the authentic French spelling of 'africains' (I would like to point out that I did go on to do a degree in French, some 10 years later), and also the fact that de Gaulle does seem to have meddled in African politics, in both Algeria and Nigeria, in the course of his presidency, but I don't think he ever concerned himself with this particular issue. Thank goodness I had contributed our milk-bottle tops to those Blue Peter hospital trucks.
 Alas, by page 9, President de Gaulle is not doing so well...
At least he had the satisfaction of victory.
    There are more adverts: 'go to Spain There is lots of lovely places like oporto and portugal, Madrid and many others. it is very plesant.'
     And a craft feature, which could have come straight out of Things to Make and Do:
Finally, a first-person account which would not be out of place in the Guardian Saturday magazine of today:
     'My worst experece was when someone stupid left our bath running and it overflowed and it covered our carpets wich were pink and blue it was luky we had a kerb and it wasn't a upstars bathroom I nearly covered two of dads pots for he was studying to be a potter but he wasn't cross'.
     This is a TRUE story. My dad was doing a ceramics module as part of his BEd degree (he was a mature student) and was making many grim, gritty Sixties-style slab pots which he used to leave in the bathroom to dry out before they were fired. 'Someone stupid' did indeed leave the tap in the bath on a trickle and, who knows how, the bath filled to overflowing and water cascaded all over the floor, causing that week's pots to sag and flop. I'm not sure I ever admitted to being the 'someone stupid' to my mum and dad, but I love how I unwittingly go into the first person halfway through this account. The truth will out. Specially when the News Finder is on the story.

Thank you very much for your indulgence in this post. Have you got any writings from early childhood? I may 'treat' you to 'The Ugly Elf and Beady' soon, a racy story of gnomes and 'buitful. ladies.