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?
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