Arts and Crafts – Using Memories

Lockdown Arts and Crafts

Like many people, over the years we have accumulated many things.

One thing we have collected is a box full of art and craft materials from various projects in the past, so during a lockdown sort out, we discovered some old air-dried clay, unused, plus a packet of clay crafting materials. Originally it was bought to make Christmas decorations, but being too busy at the time it never got used. It’s sat in a box for about three years, so we were not hopeful it could still be used.

Opening the packet, the clay inside was a little hard, but with perseverance and a little water we gently coaxed it back into life. Missing the sea and the little harbours we embarked on a project of creating little boats, some seaside houses and a lighthouse. Our crafting kit was fairly basic, but all we needed from it was the rolling pin and a cutting tool and using a tiny ruler from a geometry set, we started to create the little sailing fleet.

Working with clay, even old clay is very therapeutic, and as the little boats emerged, our thoughts turned to happier times visiting our favourite seaside villages. Once we had created the boats, we made very simple houses and a lighthouse. At the last minute we remembered to make a tiny hole at the top of each item so we could hang them up!

Leaving to dry on baking paper on an old tray we waited with nervous anticipation in case they cracked. The next day they were still intact and we painted them quickly with white acrylic paint to seal them before any cracks appeared and reinforced the join of the sails to the hull with masking tape.

Another day passed before we completed the painting on both sides and finally we had our little scene.

Clay BoatsAt Christmas we had bought a little white tree which had been too fragile to pack away with the other decorations, but now was bought back to life by us hanging all the little seaside items on its branches. It now sits happily in the corner of the lounge. If you were making the same, a branch could also be used.

Safety note: We wouldn’t recommend using this as a mobile for a baby, or small children, as if it fell the clay would be dangerous.

As we look back on this period of lockdown this will be one of our happier memories, bridging the gap between the freedom of our past and our hopes for the future.

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How to rediscover your creativity.

At times of uncertainty, or stress, it can often feel as if our creativity has deserted us, but it hasn’t gone away, its power is still there waiting for the right moment to emerge again.

Sometimes we need to encourage it, by doing things that we know have worked in the past; going for a walk, even when this is restricted as in the current lockdown. All around us there are sources of  inspiration, as the trees open with their blossom, in the garden, in the sky above. Take time to stop and take photographs in your phone, or with a camera.

You may want to go back to some of the basic disciplines of practising drawing, sketching, painting, writing, reading the work of other writers, looking at the work of other artists, revisiting some of your own early work.

When extra time is available you may wish to start thinking about how could you share your knowledge, instead of coming up with new ideas, think about sharing what you already know. Many creative people are naturally full of ideas; one of the challenges is finding ways of expressing all these ideas. Sharing this knowledge is often the way blogs develop into podcasts, or books.

Absorbing yourself in creating a structure for sharing this knowledge is a very natural way to rediscover your creativity. As you review what you have learned and plan a way of sharing it, you will often discover how much you actually know and new ideas will start to flow, and there are always people who want to learn.

Within this site there are reviews of many books that can help stimulate your creativity as well as interviews with authors about their inspiration.

One of my favourite exercises in Conscious Creativity – Look, Connect, Create is where Philippa Stanton encourages the collection of items of the same colour,

“Collecting colour through observation is another simple way to lead you into the daily practice of actually looking at what’s around you and loosens up your ‘noticing’ skills….. There is always ample opportunity for colour collecting. Whether you’re out on a walk or just doing chores at home, you will be surrounded by colours that most people don’t even notice. Once you start ‘collecting’ them, this can become informative and incredibly satisfying.…Colour collecting is something that a camera phone is really useful for, because when a colour jumps out at you, perhaps when you least expect it you have an instant way to ‘capture’ it.”

Philippa then suggests a Daily Practice of choosing to focus on one colour in a whole variety of contexts both outdoors and indoors.

This is an absolutely fascinating activity, and will heighten your appreciation of just how far-reaching colours can be and also inspire your creativity.

As you can see from the beautiful collections below, the richness of the colours when all the items are gathered together is absolutely amazing!

Images courtesy of Conscious Creativity – Look, Connect, Create by Philippa Stanton, published by Leaping Hare Press.

Learning a new skill can help guide you back to your own source of creativity, so if you are a writer, learning and practising another craft can help free up the words you may be missing.

I enjoy embroidery, but when I need to relax, or release tension, I often return to pieces which require very little thought, simply sewing tiny cross stitches to create land and seascapes. I find the repetition soothing and the colours of the threads as they blend together are inspiring. During this time the tensions slip away freeing me up to think more creatively.

The growth in the use of adult colouring books also achieved a very similar result, people saw them as an opportunity to escape from the stresses of their day to day life.

Inhabiting other characters can also help, fiction writers often describe how the pages sometimes write themselves as their characters progress through the pages of their manuscript.

Doodling, making marks on a page, seeing how patterns emerge, translating your photographs into drawings or paintings can help with creating new ideas.

If you want to develop your own writing style, The Writer’s Creative Workbook by Joy Keyword,  is an inspiring place to start.

Joy has created a workbook set out over ten chapters, that can be used as a ten session course. Throughout the book there are many opportunities to stimulate your creativity. In a very supportive style her questions encourage reflection, discovery, and creative ambition as well as an opportunity to recognise the joy that writing can bring both to the writer and the reader.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the chapter when she considers Fiction – Another World. As she describes,

We don’t need a definition to enjoy reading fiction, and we don’t need any excuse to enjoy writing it. Fiction opens up all the imaginary worlds we could wish for.They may be worlds very like our own, or they may be visions of entire fantasy. In the best stories, the reader feels they have been taken by the hand and walked through the world of the story, seeing and hearing it in their mind just as clearly as their own day-to-day life.It can be great fun to create settings – wide landscapes, tiny rooms, oceans, forests – and to place fascinating characters there. Welcome to wonderland ’

Beautifully illustrated by Ruth Allen, and full of suggestions, prompts, and space for you to write, The Writer’s Creative Workbook is a delightful exploration of how to find your voice, and develop your own unique way of writing and above all enjoy it!

The Writer’s Creative Workbook by Joy Kenward, with illustrations by Ruth Allen, published by Leaping Hare Press

Another really valuable resource is keeping a personal notebook, journal, or sketchbook; the reason I started this website was because of my love of notepads. In every role throughout my quite varied careers, I have always used notepads, from tiny ones to keep with me when on my daily commute, larger ones to use in the office, exquisite ones I found in Venice for capturing special thoughts. Normally written in pencil, or using a pen with turquoise ink, they chart a history of all the books I have written, and ideas for others that never quite made it into production. Embryonic ideas for new businesses, sketches for paintings, or embroideries, mind-maps for features, or in my very early career, lesson plans. Archived together they chart my whole creative journey.

The Writer's Creative Workbook: Finding Your Voice, Embracing the Page - Joy Kenward

We all experience times when we lose that creative energy, that spark of inspiration that drives us to create, but eventually one day, often completely unbidden, your creativity will return, no one can predict when it will happen, those magical moments when your senses start to zing and you know you want to connect brush to canvas, or pen to paper when the rush of creativity starts to pour out of you. It often arrives unexpectedly, but the joy of its return makes your heart sing.

‘Hello old friend’ you say as you recognize the feeling of excitement, passion and urgency return. ‘Can I capture it all before you disappear again?’

When you are in ‘flow’ allow yourself time to exhaust the moment, but don’t be afraid to walk away and return later, the brilliance may have dulled, but recognize what you have achieved.

Don’t overwork it, every artist will tell you stories of how they have added additional brushstrokes, or continued with something when they should have stopped.

Like a precious gift using your creativity is also another way to express your gratitude to everyone who is keeping us safe, to family and friends for their love even in separation, and inspiring others with memories of happier times.


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The view from my window

The View from my Window - My Creative Notebook

All my life I have been easily distracted by the view through a window, starting from my years in a sixth form art block gazing at the cathedral in the distance. This distraction eventually became the inspiration for my final fabric printing submission. I love the sense of calm that a beautiful view can bring, it may be the sky, but it can often be the way the window forms a natural picture frame.

Whenever I am fortunate to be living, or staying near the coast with a sea view l often rush from inside the house to photograph endless spectacular sunsets that I have seen from behind the glass. When going out for a meal by the sea, my preference is always to have the table with a view, gazing out over water lifts the soul. Constantly changing, the sea and sky compete for my attention.

Now living more inland, my view is more restricted, our garden is tiny, but even with the most microscopic of gardens, little miracles can occur. It is December and yet there are tomatoes ripening on the window-sill, no greenhouse beauties these, but grown and nurtured by my daughter. Carefully picked from our still flourishing tomato plant purchased for 50p from our local garden centre at the end of the season.

I love colours and textures and for me every part of this view tells a story.

The View from my Window - My Creative NotebookThe blue bottles have been in my collection for many years, each one added over time, and carefully wrapped for each house move. When the children were little they became part of a story of good fairies and naughty fairies that lived inside. Only one has a cork and that kept the naughty fairy safely tucked away! Now I smile at the memory and love the way that the light shines through them.

Behind the bottles an olive tree grows, it came with the house, but it serves as a reminder of the matching one that we have in a pot at the front, it brings comfort and stability and reminds me of beautiful olive groves growing in Tuscany. Beyond the olive tree we have two contrasting trees, the beautiful bay tree, still flourishing and growing despite the chill, and the apple tree, branches now bare but reminding me of the delicious fruit that it gave us during the summer.

Next to the apple tree are the striking colours of the geranium, still in flower and protected by the warmth of the wall behind. Finally in the distance the beautiful reds of the leaves in the tree next door, glowing in the remains of the winter sunshine. This garden may be petite, but I love the ever-changing view, as the sun makes its way across the sky and when we are rewarded with a full moon at night.

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