Monday, 28 August 2017

Eyes to the Soul of a Welsh Woollen History





This is the 3rd blog about my trip to the National Wool Museum of Wales, last week. I was totally inspired by it in so many ways. I want to show you these wonderful window panes from the old part of the mill, upstairs. They are completely shot through but there is something about them that really touches me. 



If we take that windows are the eyes to the soul of a building, what do these windows tell us about the soul of the mill and those that worked within her in during times gone by?

Interestingly in this window above, someone has replaced a broken pane with clear glass and we see the welsh green grass calling. Perhaps this is why the old mill glass is textured, to stop workers from gazing at grazing sheep? It really made me think about the Industrial Revolution, how it focused on speed and standardisation almost stripping the human joy from it.


To my mind, these fractured panes are pieces of art in their own right. Stressed and broken but still holding together creating a landscape of what has been.



        

And this is the window that lit the room where the bobbin carriers, the cardroomers, the doublers, the draw boys, the fettlers  the heck makers & so many more, will have spent their lives as they set about weaving our history.


Forgotten Corners : National Wool Museum of Wales





When I visit museums, it gives me great joy to see what we expect to see. At the National Wool Museum of Wales, we would expect to see a plethora of fabulous blankets and off course a water wheel.




But what really makes my heart sing in a museum, is a glimpse of how life was; the simple beauty in the seemingly ordinary. The nooks and crannies that have stayed untouched.


There is a romance in the way that the sun dances with yarn on the fading window sills ...



A humanness about the wooden joints so carefully crafted into benches ...



A joy in rows of spun wool ...



A thrill in the knots of old wood ...


against woollen remnants ...


a magic that today's perfection driven culture tidies up or clears away. A reminder, a truth, an authenticity that touches me.



Because it evokes the past ...




inviting me tell part of the story for myself. 



And that's what I loved the most about my visit to the museum, the stories that were intimated in the forgotten corners.




Natural Dye Garden at The National Wool Museum of Wales





When my speech therapist told me about the natural dye garden she had been part of creating at the National Wool Museum of Wales, I couldn't wait to visit. 





Based in Drefach, it took me only 20 minutes to get there in my car. It was such a lovely visit and I felt totally inspired.



So, I thought I would do a series of blogs about my time there, this being the first. 




These pictures are of all the flowers in the Natural Dye Garden that is sited just outside the Museum building itself.





The funny thing is that although some plants look one colour, when prepared for natural dying, they come out a completely different one.




Sometimes it is the leaves that are used and other times it is the flower heads.


I love that these recipes are ancient. Take Woad for instance, the Celts used to use the indigo dye from the leaves to paint onto their faces.



Flowers are so beautiful to look at. They lift the soul. They give us wonderful aromas and their essential oils can help to give us a sense of healing. I am already deeply living the healing aroma of flowers with my essential oils, infusing my wool with them throughout the process of washing to weaving my fleeces but now I feel totally inspired to make my own natural dyes.


Except I would like to experiment using the flowers of my garden, of the woods across the road from my little weaver's cottage. What colours are in the flora and fauna of my village?




Living with a chronic illness is at times traumatic. At first, I drowned in how small my world had become. So, I made the decision that although my world is small, I would dig deeper into it and the joy of this is beyond words. If you had told me that I would be visiting flower beds at the National Wool Museum to become inspired to make natural dyes from the flowers in my village, undoubtedly I would have laughed because although I would have thought that it sounded like a perfectly beautiful thing to do, I wouldn't have had the time.

Make the time, my friends, make the time to ground yourself in the magic of small. It is humans that have placed a value judgement on size, not nature.





Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Essential Healing




One of the most amazing holistic therapies that has made a tremendous difference to my tinnitus is essential oils. I can not do without them. I have a cold air diffuser on all the time. I love them so much that I decided to stock them at Quiet Space Studio so that I can help others with their healing.




It has proved so popular that I am now a Senior Consultant with Neal's Yard Remedies and one of the things that gives me great joy, is blending essential oils with the Create Your Own range to match the individual needs of folk that come to Quiet Space.




Today for instance, a local farmer dropped in to ask me to make up a tincture for him that would help him to release stress and tension. When he arrived I was carding my wool and he asked me what I was making. I told him all about From Flock to Friendship ... and that I had set an intention with the Universe to keep sheep.

'And where will you keep them?' he asked.

'Mmm ... I don't know,' I replied, ' I am just trusting that the Universe will sort something out for me or else I would not have the desire.'

'I have 5 fields that could do with sheep eating the grass ... ' and with that he gave me directions to his fields which are literally at the bottom of the hill to my little weaver's cottage. He's coming back Friday for his Frankincense hand blended ointment. 


Now, there are a few things to consider here. First what is the likelihood of a farmer coming to Quiet Space Studio to ask me for a hand blended ointment and the second being the likelihood of that same farmer offering me a field for the sheep I don't even have yet. Affirmation indeed, that being a shepherd is meant to be.






When everything falls into place




Since setting my intention to keep sheep so that I can love them & chant healing mantra to them in return for them gifting me their fleeces to spin beautiful Circle of Friendship Bracelets, everything has been falling right into place.


I am having a lovely time at Quiet Space Studio Carding the wool, Drop Spinning and making bracelets. I keep asking myself, can life really be this simple and the answer is ... YES.


Then my Speech Therapist called me up to check how I was doing. She is so lovely. I was really struggling with speech for quite some time and I realise, now that I have a hearing aid, that my hearing loss had a great deal to do with why I kept losing my voice. Doubtless I have been raising my voice since I couldn't hear it in my head.

Anyway, I told her all about the Tinnitus Mentor Pack I am making with a focus on Holistic Arts and how I have become passionate about sheep.

I explained to her how I have decided to keep 3 Llanwenog sheep so that I can love them and chant to them and know that my bracelets have come from a place of total love.


Llanwenog sheep originate in Llanllwni which is just down the road from Quiet Space Studio. They are placid easy going sheep, just perfect for me and my bracelets.



Well, I could not believe it when my Speech Therapist replied that she actually keeps a flock of Llanwenog sheep. What are the chances of that? And what's more, she very kindly invited me to come over to meet her flock.

Even more exciting, she provides fleece for the spinning group at National Wool Museum of Wales, where they have planted a natural dye garden. 



My Speech Therapist has very kindly said that I can buy one of her Llanwenog fleeces so it looks like my bath will be filled with wool again soon. 

Seriously though, what on earth were the chances of my speech therapist ringing to check on me and as part of the call, I end up arranging to visit a flock of Llanwenog Sheep, a natural dye garden at the National Woollen Museum and owning a fleece. 

It is my feeling that there is a plan for us all & if we stop trying to work out what it is, it simply comes.








From Flock to Friendship

 


It feels both very beautiful and deeply poignant to put all of my love into making Friendship Bracelets. What started as a tactile therapy for my tinnitus, has become a deep rooted healing of self within the cultural context of where I live in West Wales. I have fallen in love with wool.


My wonderful Circle of Friends have been helping me to re-build my life by sharing their woolly skills and knowledge .

Bev, my neighbour and friend, gifted me a fleece from her flock which, to Jeff's horror, I then washed in the bath. I trimmed it all up myself in our shed, infusing the wool with a wild concoction of essential oils.

My friend Caroline visited me at Quiet Space Studio and taught me to drop spin, followed by my dear friend Susan, who taught me to twin ply on a spinning wheel.

The deeper I have become lost in the process of putting love into my little bracelets, the more my soul has become found.


And then a woman called into Quiet Space Studio to chat to me about spinning and she told me how she kept her own flock so that she knew where her wool was coming from. How utterly wonderful. It was as if Mother Earth herself had sent this angel with a message. 

'Jeff ... ' I said tentatively that evening, 'I have a burning desire.'

'Oh no, now what,' he teased.

'I have a burning desire to keep sheep.'

And so the seed is planted. I have set an intention that I will have 3 sheep. I have no idea how to take care of them nor where I will keep them. I do not need to know. All I need to do is trust that the Universe has a plan and these desires have come from me letting go of knowing why.





Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Pwerdi Powerhouse Summer Open Exhibition

                                           
                                                                          Exhibition Curator & Organiser Suzanne Hughes Owen

The Pwerdi / Powerhouse Open Summer Exhibition is now OPEN! And what a fabulous collection it is, curated by my friend Suzanne Hughes Owen and her lovely husband John who have worked tirelessly to bring together 50 artists  and over 100 pieces of work into one space. And what a beautiful space it is.

This is a piece of Suzanne's Work

That's why I am so humbled to be part of it. When Suzanne asked me if I would like to include my Circle of Friendship Bracelets in the exhibition well, I said no at first, because I felt that my work wasn't really good enough to be in an exhibition. But she smiled and put her arm around me and I thought, Oh go on then, why not.


And it gave me a tremendous lift to see my work in amongst everyone else's. 


What really draws me to artists is their story ... this painting is by Alan Bonmey who has passed away. His wife, in her 90's, has placed her husband's work in the Open Exhibition. 


Isn't that just lovely. Even though he is no longer with us, we are still celebrating him as an artist. 

Every open exhibition I have been to is filled with stories of young, up and coming artists ... and that is fantastic for them, but Alan's story moves me. 

How many Open Exhibitions in the heart of the community, pay tribute to the work of those who have died, alongside those who still live. It truly is an open exhibition. 

There is a magic at Pwerdi / Powerhouse. You can stand out on the little balcony and be part of the river.


Or have a cuppa whilst perusing your favourite pieces of art.

Here's mine ... I was completely taken with the work of Sally Rogers ..



There is just something about her work that made me keep going back to look again and again.


Aren't her figures captivating ... and this hare is just sublime ..


And off course, I was drawn to these beautifully woven baskets by Justine Burgess ...


I love how Chris Chalk has captured the light into his piece 'Want to be my friend?'



Then there is this wonderful paper mache figure by Juanita Humphries ... 



And this striking painting by Nathalie Chapman ...


I could go on and on ... but I think the best thing is for you to try and get down to the exhibition yourselves ... For sure, you'll have a lovely welcome and a inspiring time.