I am blessed with two wonderful friends, women of a certain age, who ride along with me (that sounds as if I lead, I don’t, it’s a very mutual affair) in an wild adventure of exploring anything that takes our fancy. This year our theme is developing our disreputable reputations and may involve cocktails! We meet up every three weeks, or so, to follow some great adventure.
Last year our theme was all things crafty and such was the power of the experiences that the thread continues this year. I discovered that creativity of any sort greased the wheels of my writing. The other two, well they had fun and discovered their own rewards.
I began the year with a personal retreat in a tiny cottage in the depths of North/Mid Wales. I took my meditation stuff, my knitting (exciting, I know), my frame drum and some acrylic paints. Knitting is quite meditational, especially if you’re not at the stage where you have to stick your tongue out and speak the name with each stitch; “knit one…*tongue out*…purl one…*tongue out even further*”.
In the peace and quiet of a snow-bound weekend, I painted my drum, following the patterns I could see in the skin, a layer at a time, using my fingertips. I went with the flow of it, no other purpose in mind than to decorate my drum in a way that seemed to fit. Nine months later (how apropos) the drum appeared in a serialized story of mine—The Cedar Drum.
At that time, we joined a group titled “In Stitches”. We thought we would learn lots of new fabric and needlecraft skills. We did, (tie dyeing, printing photographs on fabric, hand printing fabrics), but the key focus was on using existing craft skills to produce pieces of art—both individual and group—with the theme of Peripheral Vision; being on the edge of society. Another serialized story—Soul Wounds, in progress—considers this theme, in part.
I learned from this process, the satisfaction to be had from crafting something which works, even if it’s not perfect. I used my very rusty sewing skills to create a padded, lined and decorated bag for my drum. I played, I experimented, with something that I remember as a chore at school. S’funny how perceptions change if you give them a chance.
The most fun and the most frustrating activity was a one day course—which turned into two and a half days—on making a felt bag. We magically transformed batts of dyed, raw wool into useable bags. Hot water, cold water, soap, lots and lots of friction (sore knuckles) and a quick, sneaky session in the washing machine. The end-result looks a bit like the Earth from space. I’ve still to find just the right handle for it.
Moving on to harder substances, I made a walking stick from a piece of hazel provided by one of the aforementioned friends: trimming, sanding, oiling and painting it to create the finished product. It has helped me on many an uneven spot. And with a lot of help from my friend’s husband (thanks, John) and one of my sons (a master sander, it turns out), we made a shave-horse; a very useful gadget for crafting wood. It’s looking a little the worse for wear here, having spent all winter in the garage, and is need of a more solid seat plank, ready for making rustic furniture when the weather turns warmer.
I also created a mask as part of one of my shamanic weekends. My fellow journeyers in shape-shifting told me it was a particularly eerie sight.
My experience is that creative activities send me into a trance-like state, giving time and space to day-dream and that this feeds through to my writing. And, without a conscious decision, some of my activities and objects have found their way into my stories, hopefully giving that edge of authenticity. I believe that the more we flex our creative muscles the more creative we become, in all areas of our lives.
My friends and I have our eye on a quilting course for the near future and rag rug making. We’ve stocked up on fabrics and other doodads from a wonderful place where a supermarket trolley stuffed full of recycled waste materials—fabrics, paper, cardboard, canvases, hessian—costs £15; stuff that was destined for landfill. Chickens too; hen house to be treated and built in preparation, and wonderful eggy recipes to be explored – another blog post perhaps.
I don’t know what specific impact this year’s activities will have on my writing but, as I mentioned, the theme is to develop a disreputable reputation, planning far into our old age, so heaven knows what I’ll be writing about in 2013/4.