Saturday, 12 April 2014

Gently Does It

Dear readers,

Since my previous post I've had to give up any foolish hopes of holding on to early spring.  It's full steam ahead from now on: purple-tinged irises, an abundance of trailing wisteria covering honey-coloured high walls and filling the air with their sweet scent, lily of the valley, lilac, poppies, roses tumbling open against barely unfurled greenery.  All are jostling for attention against a delightful backdrop of carnival-hued tulips with silky petals.  "Look at me, look at us!" they clamour silently.  The primroses are still gracing us with their demure presence.  We must, sadly, bid farewell to the daffodils, narcissi, and wild violets for yet another year.  We are no longer at the awakening of spring but reaching the heady heights of a green countryside punctuated with the brilliance of flowers.  It calls to mind Botticelli's Primavera which depicts Zephyrus hot in pursuit of sparsely clad Chloris, the virginal Greek personification of Spring, and her subsequent transformation into Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, crowned with blossom, her robe embroidered with pinks and roses, her arms filled with flowers.

Fortunately, I can hold on to those early spring flowers thanks to Silke Leffler's charming illustrations in the children's book below.  Her visual personification of plants always delight me.
Spring so far has brought its fair share of challenges.  Will this be the year we finally sell our fisherman's cottage by the sea after six years of legal struggles?  When will we finally be able to purchase our own home here near Tours? We've also been endeavouring to nuture Héloïse during this Baccalauréat year both physically and emotionally.  She is hoping to leave France in September to take up her offer at Durham University which is thrilling, of course.  However, the complexity of the paperwork involved is challenging my desire to remain serene! Although the pros of living between two countries clearly outweigh the cons the journey is rarely straightforward at the outset.

But that is life, as I am sure you will agree, and there are so many treasure around to enjoy.  Our first visit to the gardens of Villandry this year with its complex boxtree parterres playing shadow games on the fine gravel with sunlight and birdsong everywhere.  The persistant call of the cuckoo.  A harp recital held in the Tours Fine Arts Museum one evening listening to Domenico Scarlatti's music surrounded by eighteenth-century paintings with an enthralled Tristan squeezing my arm.  Actually, there have been a number of concerts this season; each different and all wonderful.  It's good to watch a four-year old Angélique as absorbed by the music as her siblings.
There are two cherry trees in our garden: one is covered with thick pink puffiness the colour of my mother's homemade strawberry ice-cream and frilled with yellow nascent leaves.  The other, fully clothed in pure white, provides us with gentle drifts of petals.  "Look, it's snowing!' cry the children in delight.  But even as I write today the latter has shed its beauty, and the pink wonder is dropping flurries of petals too.  It's all too ephemeral but the lunches beneath the cherry-tree branches this week have been committed to family memory.
And together with the cherry trees and spring comes a surge of inspiration.  Tell me, is this happening to you too?  I am determined to hold on to this natural beauty and the colours by slowly and surely weaving them into my creative projects.  However as I painstakingly stitched Fleur de Cerisier, my cherry blossom doll, with a vintage cotton sheet hand-dyed in Easter tea (such a delicious smell), I realised that my dollmaking skills need to be worked on.  I really need to make more refined facial features!  My initial frustration and disappointment with my completed doll were, fortunately, replaced by the desire to improve my abilities with the next one; to create a completely new pattern.  It is a thrilling thing this creative journey which involves paradoxical feelings of 'this is going to be amazing' to 'oh no, it's really bad' and then back full circle to 'it's pretty good, actually'.
When your creative skills fail you, you can always bake a simple cake with crystallised spring flowers (brushed with egg white and gently coated in white sugar) and eat it under the flowering cherry tree.  
Food for the soul!

So tell me, do you lose confidence in your creative abilities sometimes?  If so, how do you deal with it?

Warmest wishes to you all for a beautiful spring in full flower.

I aim to return soon.


ps I am in two minds about selling Fleur de Cerisier.  If you would like to give her a home just leave me a comment or e-mail me.  Thank you so much.


  1. What a wonderful post, Stephanie. Harp music never fails to sooth the soul. How blessed your children are that they, too, find solace in the classics. X

  2. Your cherry tree pictures are so very cheery. I do like a cheery cherry! xx

  3. What a delicious read this afternoon for me, chère Stephanie! I love your descriptions of SHADOW GAMES and of course, the personification of the flower world in such an enchanting childrens' book....TAKE ME NOW AND LEAVE ME THERE! Art never disappoints, and as you ask us how we deal with those moments of disappointment? I get up. I walk, I talk to myself. Then the muse comes back. Since I am a very VERBOSE person, I have accepted the fact that when I am running dry, I go to read. Then I talk about it. Then I come back, and the feelings flow. But you know what? I have just recently re-discovered the truth that facing our failures is a good thing and that we must allow ourselves to run free. For example, I just did a poetry exercise out of a book we have used for a poetry class. This exercise says to take 20 random words from any poem. Do not mull over the poetry, just grab the words randomly. Then from those 20 words, create your own poem. I did this the other night, pulling words from Seamus Heaney, Nancy Willard and Wendell Berry. I wrote a poem that surprised me, one that I would have never written on my own. I also felt a freedom that I know needs to be experienced as an artist, and a freedom that I truly admire in other artists' works that speak to me so.

    I think what is around you, the garden, your children, your lovely home, let it take YOU on a free ride to random abandon. See what happens my friend and let me know!

    MILLE BISES, Anita

  4. Dearest Stephanie! I am so honored to see you came by my post again! Oh yes my friend, I am spending my days writing and learning how to better format a magazine article. I could sit here and write all day, and lately, that is what I have been doing. I have been home sick from Wed. to Friday with severe vertigo, and I am only home because it is not wise to drive in this condition! On Monday and Tuesday I did drive in, but started to get nauseous due to this horrible spinning sensation. I went to the doctor and I was prescribed exercises to dislodge debris in the inner ear! Luckily, I can read and write; it is only in trying to focus on longer distances that I run into trouble!

    My decision to post once a month took a lot of thought. My main concern is to NEVER let go of a community of women who mean a great deal to me. Once a month as well will give many of my visitors a chance to take a rest from me! HAHAHHA....But I will always come to visit when a new post is put up.

    So good to have your company on this rainy but spring Saturday afternoon! BE WELL! Anita

  5. The way you describe the beautiful blossom and your pictures, I could EAT it! :) Do I lose confidence in my artistic abilities? Almost every day but I continue anyway! I think the answer for me is to just keep on going because I tend to like my work a lot more after a few weeks of finishing a piece. :)
    Jess xx

  6. Such a light and cheerful post Stephanie! It really feels like spring. What a pretty cake you made and the doll looks very sweet.

    I would have loved to have accompanied you to the gardens at Villandry. I just googeled them and they look very impressive!

    Have a lovely Sunday!

    Madelief x

  7. I'm in the Lake District with my daughter this weekend and here it is very much still early spring. We had a wonderful day today, visiting Ruskin's home, Brantwood, but we got very cold and wet in the grounds and so reading this post was like walking into a sunny garden.

    And yes, I often lose confidence when it comes to my ability to do things, and when that happens I just try to weather the storm. At the moment I am feeling very unsure about my abilities as a blogger.

    1. Yes, Annie, weathering the storm is the best phrase for it, thank you. And, I completely empathise about losing faith in one's blogging abilities - it happens to me on a regular basis - but we all know and love you as you are. Your loss of confidence perhaps arises from the fact you aim for excellence.

      Warmest wishes from a pretty warm Touraine :-)


  8. Oh my what a delicious looking springtime cake!! :)
    I love your description of the flowers...beautiful!
    You are an amazing craftswoman......never doubt that.
    V xxx

  9. Your words paint such a beautiful picture of spring that I could almost feel the warm sun. Such a pretty, delicious looking cake too.

  10. I love the start of Spring, and almost feel a little sad as the daffodils finish. I know there is more beautiful colour in the garden and countryside to follow, but there is something special for me when the daffodils first flower. The vibrant yellow in the garden is a happy colour.
    PS - I continually doubt my crafting abilities - but I generally craft for me, and it's usually more about the journey than the finished article. x

  11. What a wonderful spring indeed. Isn't it a gorgeous year ? Our wisteria and roses fill the air around the house with their sweet scents. Primroses are over but our daffodils were late and still shine between tulips and forget-me-not. We planted a cherry tree when we arrived in the house. And for the first year, it blossoms. 14 flowers!
    Fleur de Cerisier is charming (how could'nt she?). And your stiches so delicate.
    Your cake is very inspring. I think I'll try one of the sort for Easter. Have a wonderful sunny week end.
    Much love

  12. As Spring swells around us in progressive bursts of color and warmth, I am celebrating and mourning along with you, Stephanie. The huge wild cherry tree outside my living room window is billowing with wonderful white blossoms. I watched a squirrel, a bluejay, and a robin play on the branches among them this morning, but in just a few days there will be drifts of white blossoms around the base of the trunk of the tree, as the next phase of Spring takes hold and wild cherries begin to grow. Thanks for another lovely post, Stephanie. My creativity is not unlike what I observe in my wild cherry tree. I burst into bloom with creative delight. But in time doubts of my creative worth dull my delight and I slump into drifts of despair until I nurture another creative idea that grows fruitful...and the cycle goes on and on :) I just posted photos from my latest CA visit, seeing beauty amongst family and friends while noting the wearing trials of life that affect us all. Thanks for posting!

  13. She is a beautiful doll. I would be honored to have her. It sounds so lovely in your country. My city life has a different feel. I do doubt myself sometimes at the fiber choices I make for a project. Instinct will usually end up withering in discontentment and then I'll frog.

  14. Dear Stéphanie,
    I admire your dolls for a long time now, and I like your post about cherry tree,
    I Am going to plant one cherry tree in my garden This spring ( when show Will totaly go away here in Canada !!
    And pictures of your post are inspiring for spring!!!

  15. Dear Stephanie,

    You have shared a beautiful spring post - love the cherry blossom and your sweet doll.
    Also the cake looks delicious.

    Happy Sunday

  16. A beautiful post Stephanie - Spring has fully sprung here too and today we have glorious sunshine and blue skies. Your doll is very pretty and there is certainly no need to doubt your creative abilities. But I know that it happens to us all and like you when that happens I turn to baking. Your cake looks like the perfect Spring creation!

  17. we are having a rather late---but very welcomed--spring here; while the daffodils are just about gone,the dogwood blossoms are just peeking, the redbuds are bursting, and the magnolias are sending out heady fragrances! you all still have those gorgeous spring colors….and I'm sure the waning creative efforts have probably already made an about face. Don't we all have 'slumps'? a temporary loss of our 'mojo'? a second guess to our abilities?!! I sure hope I'm not alone….!!!!!

  18. Dear Stephanie, thank you for giving us a delicious taste of springtime's evolving pathway through your area of France. I could truly see the moving picture via your words, and your photographs added embellishments akin to the embroidery you do so well.

    What you reveal about your own creativity and what folks have already commented rings so true to me. I am always thinking of making something, grasping at some quickly moving inspiration, seeing a color that amazes me, or a certain light that shows me a familiar view differently, or a face of a stranger on the subway, or...well, so many triggers every day.

    Sometimes I think that there is too much inspiration here in this city and...via the internet. I've recently found myself embracing my inner hermit tendencies and just enjoying being quiet at home, playing around with ideas, doing some luxurious daydreaming. This eventually seems to hatch a new project. As most of what I do takes a long time to complete, there's always plenty of time to alter that original notion. Sometimes the results are very different (not always an improvement) on that original pencil line, or brush stroke, or loop on a hook or needle. The process fascinates me always.

    I'm currently yearning for more time for these investigations. Having the extra hours of daylight is something that cheers me.

    My goodness...I'm rambling now. Let me tiptoe away from typing, while sending you best wishes, and many compliments on the beauty that you create on so many levels.


    1. 'Luxuriouis daydreaming'. How true!

      Thank you Frances for your comment. Reading your words I feel as though I can hear a friend talking gently with me about shared passions.


  19. I feel sometimes that creativity is like springtime - a burst of ideas, like blossoms, full of such promise and beauty. But often my creativity just goes into overload, as do the daffodils, the cherry blossoms...so prolific and so abundant...but oh dear! Often so fleeting as well! So I have started to keep a small notebook with which to jot down ideas and sketches as they come during a creative spring, which will then weather the storm when I find my ideas waning. Not only does the notebook give me my project ideas, it also is a reminder that I have periods of activity and inactivity, which is natural, and I know creative sparks will fly again soon. Your doll is absolutely beautiful! Chrissie x ps my eldest is studying harp, such a magical instrument, isn't it? Even when she's practicing scales, I find it enchanting...

    1. Dear Chrissie,

      Thank you for your insightful thoughts on creativity. You are absolutely right that sometimes inspiration 'goes into overload'. But it's a wonderful sensation, don't you think?

      As I am writing my son is playing a piece of Latin American guitar music. I think he has been inspired by his guitar teacher's concert this morning: classical guitar music with five actors reciting a story about a poor Brasilian boy who becomes a writer! Tristan adores the harp too and we hope that soon he might be able to start learning the harp alongside his guitar.

      I truly appreciated your e-mail the other day. Such a pleasure it was to read.


  20. All I know is that you are amazing, your talent is just amazing. Let the ideas flow.

  21. Chere Stephanie,
    je comprends ce que tu dis, etre partagee entre deux pays, suivre les pas ambitieux des enfants ,vouloir s'acheter une nouvelle maison, et ceci et cela...Prends ton temps, la creativite a besoin d'inspiration et l'inspiration... du souffle, de l'air frais...Le talent, c'est ton atout, laisse le temps faire le reste.
    Merci de ces merveilleuses photos et Joyeuses Paques!

  22. Hi Stephanie,

    Spring is looking sensational in your part of the world!

    Your doll is truly beautiful. She reminds me of the traditional ones we had as children, rare to find these gems these days. I know how you feel when you have something in your mind which doesn't translate in reality (it happens to me ALL the time sadly) but you have nothing to worry about with your creations.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful words and scenery with us, it's always a delight visiting you here. Best wishes to Heloise. Big changes are afoot by the sounds but exciting times too.

    Mel xxx

  23. Dear Stephanie, your talent for making amazes me. Your hares, mice and now dolls are always so gorgeous. This newest doll is so absolutely beautiful in her simplicity. If you do decide to sell her, please let me know. I would love to own one of your creations. I love reading your blog and being transported to your beautiful country. Your creativity and ideas will always come together.


  24. Dearest Stephanie ..... I too feel that spring is on fast forwards and I have the feeling in my heart that I'm not appreciating as much as i should be.
    I hope all things run smoothly with your lovely Héloïse and that your new home plans start to take shape very soon. Two very big things indeed.
    I adore your cherry blossom doll and I know that feeling you describe very well!
    wishing you a beautiful week
    love Jooles x x x

  25. lovely the new cherry blosom cherry doll love youre cake looks so great have a lovely easter
    and a lovely day leon10

  26. Oh so nice things!
    you can see my knitting animals on my blog! thanks

  27. Que entrada tan bonita¡¡¡

  28. Liebe Stephanie,
    genau wie Du komme ich mit dem Frühling nicht mehr nach, es geht alles so schnell, kaum ist etwas aufgeblüht, ist es ein paar Tage später schon wieder verblüht - es ist wie im Zeitraffer! Heute habe ich so "nebenbei" bemerkt, dass meine erste Clematis anfängt zu blühen und dachte: Oh, die Blüten gehen ja schon auf! Normalerweise kann ich diesen Zeitpunkt gar nicht erwarten und schaue jeden Tag, wann sich die Blüten endlich öffnen...
    Die gefüllten Blüten der Kirsche sind herrlich, was für eine Üppigkeit! Ich dachte spontan an "Buttercreme". ;-)
    Du hast ein Buch von Silke Leffler, ich liebe ihre Zeichnungen, diese Blumenkinder sind so süß!
    Ich finde Deine Fleur de Cerisier sehr, sehr hübsch (so wie alle Deine Kreationen), ich mag ihr "einfaches" Gesichtchen, es gibt ihr so viel kindlichen Charme! Ja, mit der Kreativität ist das so eine Sache. Am ehesten strömen Ideen und Kreativität zu mir, wenn ich gar nicht groß darüber nachdenke. Auf einmal kommt dann eine Idee. Wichtig ist, sich nicht unter Druck zu setzen, denn das ist Gift für die Kreativität.

    Ich habe Deine letzten Posts aufmerksam verfolgt, schaffe es nur leider nicht immer ein paar Worte zu hinterlassen. Ich bin so froh, dass sich der Knoten in der Brust als harmlos erwiesen hat, kann mir aber sehr gut vorstellen, was Du durchgemacht haben musst. Fühl Dich lieb gedrückt!

    Ganz liebe Grüße und eine schöne Osterwoche, Bärbel

  29. Your writing is poetic and always a pleasure to read Stephanie! How you made that cake is beyond me. The flowers look so pretty and pristine! I wish you good luck with the cottage sale and good luck with the paperwork for Héloïse too. Goodness why do people make school applications so difficult? I think you'll do fine though as always!

  30. Dear Madame Stephanie,

    I think it is wonderful how Tristan loves his music, and it's lovely the way you encourage it so much. Good luck also with all the paperwork for Héloïse. It is exhausting, I know, although I haven't done the French version. Hopefully it all goes smoothly.

    I love Miss Fleur's little bonnet, with the stitching and flowers.

    Slan abhaile,

  31. Dear Stephanie, always a delight to visit here..
    My thoughts are with you regarding all the tiresome paper work involved..Goodness it's difficult enough to do for us, here in this country..We are just at that stage with miss Olivia! LOVE LOVE and LOVE some more Miss Fleur, she is so special with her spring bonnet capturing all that is beautiful in the gardens right now..
    The cherry blossom's take my breath away..They are like candy floss...
    with kindest hugs Maria x

  32. Hello! I found your blog via Frances's "City Views..." I read your post about Rapunzel and suppose that this article by Terri Windling might be interesting for you...:)
    I used it when putting on puppet stage "Rapunzel" a few years ago.
    I wish you a beautiful and colourful spring with pleasant family moments under the cherry tree!:)

  33. Hello ! lovely images ...and very cute dolly... I think when you have a creative block it's best to not worry about it ...just take a break from trying to create and do something different ...like a walk in the country or visit to gallery or exhibitions... then inspiration will strike !!
    Happy Easter ...Gail x

  34. I must end my habit of dropping by here, promising myself I'll return and leave a comment. At least I caught you before a new post came onto the scene.

    Aside from your thoughts about creativity, your family has plenty going on this year. I hope that old matters get settled and that new joys overflow your home, Stephanie.


  35. Congratulations to your dear Héloïse who will have such a wonderful adventure Stephanie!
    Ooh, this is such a lovely post dear friend...how wonderful first is the illustration...I do love it!
    Miss Fleur de Cerisier is an absolute treasure...I think we all can relate to those good days and bad days on our creative journeys and are probably all far too self-critical too...I think it comes with the territory :-) I try to tell myself it's still a means to an end on a bad day and never a step backwards!
    Happy Easter Stephanie to you and your family,
    Susan x

  36. Superb article and great passing blog too! Thank you for all your advice.


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