Monthly Archives: January 2021

Water, Stone and Wood

Water and Stone

Recently, I got a glimpse of the sea, it’s been a while and I miss it so. Just to take a moment to stare at the water and be under the endless sky. That sense of space and clarity.

The water was so calm, barely a ripple and after days below freezing, 6 degrees felt almost mild.

Just being by the water gives me such a sense of calm. I can feel myself quieten and that’s when my creative thoughts have time to bubble up to the surface.

Waterfall, Jesmond Dene

Mostly, as the lockdown continues, I walk in local parks. Jesmond Dene is a long steep sided valley formed originally by glaciers and erosion, then sculpted and styled by Lord Armstrong in the 19th century to become a landscaped park. He gave the park to the city of Newcastle in 1884. The waterfall pictured above is one of Lord Armstrong’s more dramatic alterations to the natural flow of the Ouseburn. The Ouseburn flows from near Ponteland into the Tyne and one day soon I am going to walk the whole of it from the source to the point where it joins the Tyne. For now, I can walk for several miles, in and around the Dene. This green space is often busy, as it is right in the city, but walk a mile or so upstream and it becomes quieter and a little bit wilder.

I think it takes me about 4000 steps to shake my head clear of thoughts and stresses, then I become more aware of the landscape, the trees, the bird song.

The Calligraphy Tree

This is one of my favourite trees, an old yew, close to one of the many footbridges that cross the river. I love the way that it circles and twists around, as if it is corkscrewing out of the ground. And here, slicked with rain, it shines and glistens darkly against the vibrant evergreen leaves. I am going to do some drawings with ink and large brushes to explore that tone and form.

Timber and Rock

The wood and rocks hint at past industry in the Dene; before it became a pleasure park there were farms, mills and quarries. The shapes and textures will make good studies. I think I will expand my Journey Mapping series to include work based on these small but precious journeys through this local environment. Even these short explorations, though, have brought me to places that I haven’t discovered before and offer joyous glimpses of herons, owls and like a rare jewel, the kingfisher. There are otters and even deer here too, though I think I may have to walk further and at the quietest times to find them.

Calmed, refreshed and energised, I head back to my work space ready to push these images out onto paper and cloth.

Journey Mapping

There are now three permanent home workers in this household, the girls are doing lessons from home and I’m still stitching away as long as the light permits. Sometimes my very civil partner joins us – when he’s not on the rota to teach keyworker kids in his school. It’s busy, its different, but we’re making a new routine. It’s nice to have company at lunchtime! Although our post lunch walk included me piggybacking those with unsuitable footwear over the muddy bits – not easy with teenagers!!

I’m continuing with my Journey Mapping series of small pieces, it’s nice to see them selling well in my Folksy shop. I’m moving towards more water inspired pieces now. The current one is called Rip Tide. These photographs show it’s development, as I add in each layer of fabric and stitch. The part of Arran that I know best looks over to the small island of Pladda, between these two points the tide can be quite treacherous, hiding reefs under the waves that can catch sailors unawares. It does make the sea look very dynamic and that’s what I was trying to show in this piece.

It seems easier to stitch sideways with my machine rather than forward and back to create these stitch lines, good job my machine is a tough and sturdy one!

Journey Mapping – Rip Tide Donna Cheshire 2021

It’s time to do some more drawing sampling now, ready to start on the next series of these pieces. Then I will start to stitch some larger work, hopefully sometime soon we will be able to get out to galleries and exhibit work again and I intend to have a big series of these pieces ready to go.

Onwards

A slow start to 2021, cold dark mornings occasionally enlivened with a magic dusting of frost, or snow. There are applications that I need to write and projects that I need to plan but there is also a need to organise family life as we start another term of home schooling and zoom meetings. We all need a space to work and a space to live. All the aphorisms of a new year seem muted as we need to keep safe and try to get on with our lives.

New work is progressing as I explore landscape in more abstract forms, starting with small pieces that will help me create larger compositions. I aim to produce a large number of these small pieces, learning all the time about how to pair hand stitch with machine, and which stitch format works best for bold or delicate marks. They are like puzzles that I solve, moving pieces of fabric around and adding layers of thread until the balance feels right. The satisfaction of achieving this balance helps to override the constant anxiety running through life at this moment. It is good to focus my thoughts on the places that inspire me, remembering what it is like to be out on the hills or at the edge of the sea.

When the light gets too poor to stitch I have a new mound of inspiring books to mine for ideas and understanding. Reading ‘The Salt Path’ by Raynor Winn has made me want to pull on my walking boots and head for the hills. Not possible at the moment but I can travel through my stitches. ‘Birds Britannica’ and ‘Flora Britannica’ are full of stories and folklore that encourage more ideas for context and ‘The Lost Spells’ is just a beautiful book to get lost in. When its grey and dark outside cozying up with a book and a large mug of tea is delicious, especially when there is Parkin to munch on too.

So for now, I shall pull on my boots to explore local green spaces; I’ve seen the first snowdrops or snow piercers pushing through the leaf mould and frost, soon there will be crocuses and ammonites too. A brisk walk, a mug of scalding hot tea and then on to the work bench, sketchbooks to fill and an exhibition to plan. Bring it on 2021, bring it on.