Sunday, 12 October 2014

My Marrakech Patchwork - Around The World Blog Hop

Dear readers,
The colourful chaos and mad energy of the Imperial city of Marrakech has made a lasting impression on me.  It held me in the grip of its feverish imagination.  A thousand-year-old carnival with a multitude of soothsayers and storytellers, acrobats and orange juice sellers winding their way through the labyrinth of alleyways in the ancient Medina or settling instead for an evening on the great Jemma el Fna Square, the pulsing heart of the city.  Marrakech is part authentic history book and part storybook filled with bright, bold and intricate illustrations.  Marrakech is also overwhelming, disturbing and at times unpleasant.  And perhaps, that is why it appeals to me; it is a never-ending, exhausting paradox which leaves little room for bland thoughts.  I found in the sights, smells and sounds of Marrakech the definition of Baroque - a pearl of irregular shape - and fell for its innumerable irregular charms.  And yet the heart of Marrakech remains, in a sense, on an elemental level: in its light and earth and water and the importance held for its population scratching a living within its hectic walls.
I left Morocco after three long days both thoughtful and inspired.  On my arrival home I was greeted by a kind message from the very talented Debbie, who blogs over at The Crimson Rabbit, inviting me to participate in the Around The World Blog Hop.  I accepted, of course, and was delighted to learn that Debbie was first and foremost a writer who now fills her days with creating and designing; we really do share some common ground!  So, I will endeavour to answer the four questions about my creativity whilst keeping hold of the inspiration of Marrakech.

 1. What am I working on?
This week Autumn struck with a wet bang after a long, sun-drenched September.  As the rain fell I experienced my first creative 'failure'.  After two years of running my tiny business of creating heirloom toys I completed a hare, Mademoiselle Lavender, who did not make my heart sing.  It was terribly unsettling.  With a loss of confidence in my creative ability, how could I continue to work on the growing list of customer orders?  So, I followed a friend's advice and set my mind to creating something completely different - you will see it just below - and fortunately it has helped blow the cobwebs clean away. 
My memories of Marrakech have become fragmented over the past fortnight; shards of brightly coloured glass.  I am a lover of detail - I hope the pictures of Marrakech above convey this - invariably opting for close-up scrutiny.  On my return to France I noticed that early Autumn was very much like a patchwork of bright colours vying with subdued hues.  Late summer flowers, often boisterous and even gaudy, cohabiting with autumnal fruit hanging heavily from trees.  A kaleidescope of turning leaves outdoing the still green ones.  The paths, made muddy, between endless rows of yellowing vines as grape harvest begins.  And the sunrises growing technicoloured with the promise of  early morning rain.  I wanted to hold onto my memories of our holiday and also perhaps to the vestiges of summer and I decided, somehow, to create a  piece of clothing for Angélique using the simplest patchwork.  Most of the Liberty and batik fabrics I snipped and stitched were remnants of tiny clothes made for hares and mice created over the past two years.

It was painstaking work, a small labour of love of sorts.  I have never before used up so many spools of thread and now my respect for accomplished patchworkers has increased tenfold.  In truth I enjoyed this creative process which comes as no surprise as it is all about detail, isn't it?  And now I can visualise a whole series of these; one for each season, for example.  I have the most stunning snowflake fabric for a winter one...
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I am sure that many of those who read my blog have noticed that I work according to themes.  As a child Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker fascinated me with its chocolate, coffee and tea dances.  The idea that music could be composed to create a visual image intrigued and inspired me.  A quick glance at past posts will reveal a strong desire to collect thoughts and images around a certain colour or idea.  I am quite incapable of doing things any other way.  I love the fact, for instance, that knitters on Ravelry must give a name to each of their projects.  I always enjoy dreaming up a theme when I am knitting.  A shawl can become a traditional English pudding, a flower or, perhaps, a fairytale character.  Add the delight of colours and choice of fibres and I am halfway to Heaven.

Each of my heirloom toys is created according to a theme.  One will capture the essence of midwinter, another the nostalgia of a summer garden.  I spend hours mulling over colour combinations and how, with embroidery, I can best capture the image I wish to represent; mistletoe for Christmas and tiny violets for spring.  Sometimes I can spend far too much time dithering over choices.  I recall making a Goldilocks rag doll, inspired by one of my favourite French illustrators, Charlotte Gastaut, and spending hours hesitating between embroidered porridge bowls or tiny bears sitting on red chairs.  In the end I chose neither!  I think that my fascination for detail works its way into my creations.

Finally, I will add that the majority of my work is inspired by my love of gardens.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

As a writer - my specialities are garden and performing arts aesthetics - I attempt, through words, to honour the beauty created by others.  This may seem overly simple but beauty is essential to me.  It is also entirely subjective and yet, I firmly believe, we are all capable of communicating through words, music, and any other art form, our own vision of beauty thereby sharing it with others.  So, the desire to create stems from a need to share our sense of aesthetics.  I'm back again with Tchaikovsky and his ability to create images with music.  For example, one of my thesis chapters, later adapted for a Hortus Magazine article, was centred around Louis XIV's potager gardener, Jean de La Quintinie, in Versailles.  Naturally I touched upon his gardening techniques and accomplishments but I revelled mostly in the poetic language he used to describe the array of apples and pears he cultivated behind those high garden walls in Versailles.  Indeed, his thousand page treatise is simply beautiful to read.  De La Quintinie was able to make the king's garden flourish and well as describing in his own words the aesthetic value of a pear.  He was a most gifted man.

My mother used to remind me as a child of the importance of performing a good deed on a daily basis.  Nowadays I measure my days by how much beauty I have shared with others; even if it is just a freshly baked cake or a bunch of wildflowers! 
4. How does my writing/creative process work?
Whilst in Marrakech we first entered the Souk around midnight on Saturday.  On returning there the following day I was dismayed to find myself experiencing a mild anxiety attack.  For those who have not yet visited Marrakech the Souk is an intricate labyrinth of ramshackle alleys with corrugated iron roofs bursting at the seams with handmade goods, people and at times dubious-looking vehicles and, yes, donkeys too.  It is also of course a retelling of One Thousand And One Nights; a colourful and enchanting experience which quite simply sucks you in.  I was afraid I would never find my way out.  I also have the story my mother recounted of a friend who took his bride decades ago to Marrakech for their honeymoon only to lose her in the Souk.  She was never seen again!
My creative mind is a little like that Souk.  I mostly think in a complex, convoluted manner; straight lines baffle me.  And like the Souk my head is constantly brimming with creativity.  Many of my ideas are large-scale and detailed; that's the thesis writer in me.  If I were happy with straight lines I would probably write lists, but, I don't.  I rarely jot my ideas down either which is quite odd for a writer. I do possess a plethora of beautiful notebooks, many of which are filled with scribbled garden history research notes, and I do hope that some day soon I will set down in words my creative thoughts.  I don't write them down because as a mother of three my time is always limited and so I prefer to spend it simply creating. 

Whilst my project ideas remain in my head rather than on paper I approach them with the same meticulous planning I used to organise my lessons during my seventeen years of teaching; the same applies to my blog posts.  However, like the majority of teachers, I know that some of the best lessons are created spontaneously.  I love that element of surprise despite the fact that a graphologist in Paris once told me that I was wary of the unexpected!

We live in a fairly small home which is ideal in the sense that my working inspiration - my books, yarn, threads and fabric - surround me constantly giving me the visual stimulation I require for thinking up new projects.  So, in short, my working process happens in my head whilst the children natter to me and whilst I organise our daily lives.  I think that makes me very similar to a lot of other mothers, don't you?

Finally, I always work on one creative project at the time in a dogged fashion - I'm not good at multitasking - and I always relish long stretches of quiet time during which I work meticulously and also try out new techniques.

Now, I must choose three other ladies who inspire me creatively to join in the Around The World Blog Hop although there is absolutely no pressure ladies, please!

Lori at Lori Times Five
Amélie at Bateaux de papier: a Diary for Elsa
Susan over at Mary Jane's Tearoom

Thank you, as always, for taking the time to visit me here.  I appreciate every single comment and mail I receive so very much.  Thank you also for bearing with me today.  I'm not terribly good at writing about myself but it was a honour to be invited by Debbie.

Marrakech photo credits: Céline Haudebourg, one of our dear travelling companions who designs the most exquisite bridal gowns and, like myself, is a lover of detail.  I leave you with one last picture:
Guess who?


  1. Oh wow Stephanie what an amazing post, lovely to find out what makes you 'tick'.
    Your wonderful words have been accompanied by The most beautiful photographs. Your descriptions are as always delightful especially, and you would expect me to say this, your picture of autumn in France!
    So glad you enjoyed your trip to Marrakech.
    V x

  2. What a wonderfully revealing and consuming post Stephanie - your style of writing is quite hypnotising, your attention to detail is apparent in everything you do! I enjoyed it immensely.

    Angélique's patchwork tunic is delightful. There are so many direct and indirect references to patchworking as a metaphor for a woman's life in literature, which makes it feel a little like a cliché to think of it that way, but it IS a metaphor that works and one that I think you'd enjoy investigating as you work with your needle and thread.

    The overwhelming impression I had on reading this is that you are an extremely successful wrangler of time! You are clearly very busy with day to day tasks, but it's also clear that you are able to make time and space in your own head to think deeply about things and thoroughly connect - something that many of us really struggle to do. I so often take that straight line you talk about because I feel rushed and pressured, when my nature is one that would much rather meander. I think I can learn a lot from you :)


  3. Ah Stephanie, this was a really lovely read. Your patchwork top is perfect. And I completely agree with you on the multitasking thing - I think as busy mothers we take what snippets of time we can but those long stretches of time are wonderful when we can get them aren't they. Glad you had a great holiday...Mel x

  4. Dearest Stephanie, I guess that is YOU, my dear!!!!

    It is refreshing to read your work again. Somehow I missed the detail (if you shared it the last time) that you would be away in Morocco!

    How you wove in the patterns of this vibrant city with your own patchwork is brilliant. This is what writers do...we find ways to intensify the experience, to double or triple it for ourselves and the reader. You felt that your designs were at a standstill? GOOD. That is what should happen to us. When we are stuck, when we have hit that wall, that is when the excitement begins. I am reminded of the American poet Wendell Berry's poem, "The Real Work." Google it, read it, and rejoice.

    Your work has exploded into colors that connect unimaginable patterns. That is what happens to us when we step out of the comfort zone. I think there is an internal as well as an EXTERNAL force that nudges us on to burst out. Though I LOVE your hares and you love them too, there may be new horizons to explore to add to your repertoire. Brilliant response my friend, to that feeling of not being satisfied.
    Wishing you a restful return, more creativity, and PEACE! Anita

  5. Jamais visite ce pays-la, j'etais une fois arrivee a Gibraltar et l'idee etait venue de passer a Maroc mais rien de plus. Les aromes, les couleurs crient a mes yeux et l'endroit prend vie a travers tes photos.J'ai attentivement lu ton recit meme si l'anglais ne me facilite pas comme le francais. Je comprends et je saisis tes pensees, je les partage et en plus, je devine qui figure a la derniere photo... La petite robe est un bijou, aucun doute. Ce voyage sera certainement grave dans ta memoire chere Stephanie et je suis contente que tu en reviennes pleinement epanouie.
    (je m'excuse de l'absence des accents mais avec mon laptop, je n'y arrive pas)

  6. Dear Stephanie - what a magical picture you paint describing the smells and colours of Marrakech - what a wonderful wordsmith you are. You transported me back to that vibrant city which is so different from Europe and yet surprisingly so close.

  7. Dear Stephanie, I enjoyed this post so very much. The way you interweave your thoughts and experience of Marrakech with the specific questions about your creative process is utterly spellbinding. Tantalising prose and images have transported me to that souk. I've always wanted to go to Marrakech - even more so now!

    Your patchwork top for Angelique is beautiful! I hope this means you will continue to post here my dear, blogland will be the poorer without your presence.

    Wishing you a happy and fruitful autumn.


  8. Dear Stephanie,
    I am so touched to see my name and blog here. In such a good compagny. I really hope to be able to answer and pass it on (which means I should find both time and courage, because I'm a very poor writer).
    Angelique's dress is a marvel of delicacy, and vibrant with colours. Stunning! It matches so well your moroccan mood.I like the way you interweave images of your patchwork and moroccan tiles, following your words.
    (and I'm also quite sure that Mademoiselle Lavande was very sweet and charming:))
    Have a wonderful week dear Stephanie.

  9. It was great to get to read more about you, your work and what you do! xx

  10. I dream of visiting Marrakech one day, so thank you for sharing your photos. Your scrappy patchwork is pretty too.

  11. Marian Ennis here. Amongst all the loveliness of this post (and there is indeed much of that to very enjoyably pour over) really like the notion of "measuring my days by how much beauty I have shared with others; even if it is just a freshly baked cake or a bunch of wild flowers!" Can't add to that!! Can only endeavour to do the same!! xxx

  12. love that your small home surrounds you with your supplies and continuously inspires you :) I love surrounding myself with my wools :)

  13. Your art is beautiful and unique like the way you think! I enjoyed reading the creative process of your mind! Your patchwork is so pretty and there is such a joyous vibe to it! It's very interesting that you can analyze your work flow like this because I am unable to do so. Having the ability to view oneself with insight is rather amazing. Thank you for sharing pictures of the souk!

  14. So interesting to read about you.
    I want to go to Marrakech ...

  15. Your trip sounded amazing, so many sights to see. And I think you did a brilliant job writing about yourself. I loved learning more about you and your creative process.

  16. Welcome back Stephanie, and many thanks for this splendid burst of many colors! It was such a pleasure to see your Marrakech photographs and the patchwork that your trip inspired.

    One of my friends is just about to have a trip to Morroco, and other friends lived there for quite a few years. I think that some day I will also have my own taste of the visual splendor and experience Marrakech's sensory magic.

    Your answers to those creativity questions were so well expressed. Having been a regular visitor hereabouts for some years now, I have gradually gained a sense of what you describe in this post. Isn't it rather marvelous that each of us contains an evolving combination of experiences and interrests that continue to feed our creativity?

    What a uniquely talented and generous person you are, Stephanie.

    As always, best wishes to you and yours. xo

  17. What a wonderful post to read. I love the little top you've made for your little girl -- it's just beautiful and perfect. And you must have an amazing memory to keep all your project ideas in your head -- they're all so beautiful!

  18. I thought this was a great read and you expressed yourself very well. I also enjoyed seeing your photos of Marrakech, it's a place I'd like to visit someday. Thanks for sharing.

  19. i simply CANNOT believe you would ever doubt your abilities, but I guess i understand that all creatives can get into a slump. Some days I just never want to pick up a camera again! But......don't stop creating! You're too gifted! Oh and this patchwork shirt??? GENIUS. I would wear a grownup version of that!

    Oh you are so lucky to have had this travel experience! I've always wanted to go! Did you have amazing food? Those rugs!!!!! Oh how I long to go and buy a rug!!!

  20. Dear Stephanie such an amazing post, your writing is wonderful, you should write a book of your travels and adventures. Thank you for sharing. :)
    The images of Marrakech are so colourful and exotic, love the courtyard with the green tiles, the cloths, the spices, the tiles, the rugs, kilims, such an exciting place to visit and I love the photo of you in traditional dress.
    Your patchwork is lovely and the top for your little daughter is very sweet.
    love and hugs
    xoxoxo ♡

  21. A fascinating post Stephanie and such a joy to read. You always manage to bring happiness, colour and creativity whenever I read your posts.

  22. A superb post Stephanie, I enjoyed reading this very much. Angelique's patchwork top is a beautiful burst of colour. Have a lovely creative week.
    Jane xx

  23. Dear Stephanie,

    You have shared a wonderful post and love your beautiful writing and finding out more about you.
    Marrakech looks like a fabulous place, all the colour and interesting places to see, thanks for showing us. Love the sweet patchwork top you made Angelique.
    I am guessing the beautiful photo is of you.
    Hope you are having a lovely week

  24. The pattern you've come up with is very pretty, that dress <3

    I really like it, even in India there's a lot of craving for it.

    Someday, I'd show you this new sitting place that I've recently bought, which is of the same pattern, is made of cut outs of different patterns, it's got a very different personality of itself.


  25. Just found your blog through Lori times five and I love it ... Will be for sure coming back to visit you again. I'm now one of your followers .

  26. This was so interesting Stephanie. It is fascinating as a "big picture" person to read about one who is inspired by detail, especially as I have long felt that in many ways we are profoundly on the same wavelength. I am very intrigued by how and what you create. I have never been to Marrakech and am similarly intrigued. My daughter went and loved it, my son went and didn't like it all and that is real puzzle as in many ways they share very similar sensibilities. I clearly need to go and see for myself! Thank you for taking the time to write this. It was fascinating.

  27. Una felice domenica per te...ciao.

  28. I am so very late to read and comment, but thank you for this insight into your creative world. Personally I say bravo for spontaneity and I often start to write a blog post without knowing where it will take me, but where that works on the page I too would be wary of applying that approach to a souk!

  29. Beautiful blog you have in here. :)

  30. What a trip that transported you to another world. Reading about your thought processes and inspirations was like navigating through a museum of life and history.

  31. Great article and right to the point. I don’t know if this is in fact the best place to ask but do you people have any ideea where to employ some professional writers? Thank you


  32. Mille merci pour tout.
    Tu es incroyable, mille bisous pour toi.

    voyance gratuitement par mail


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