Practicing courage and being strong....

October 18, 2012

I have been working on this for a few days because in truth there are lots of posts I could write about practising courage and being strong... The funny one: George and I getting on our bicycles for the first time in over 20 years in spite of thinking they would collapse underneath us. The happy/sad one: Encouraging my children to follow their dreams and not letting them see me cry when they left for university. The scary one: My recent re-call to the breast cancer clinic for more mammograms and ultrasound tests, which, happily, were clear, thank you for asking. The really sad one: Dad refusing pain relief throughout his cancer. Mum nursing him at home until he died because that was what he wanted and I can tell you he did not let go without a fight.

I have witnessed many stories of courage and strength, they have all touched me in some way and left their mark but after much deliberation I have decided to go epic, the real one.

I have been taking an online course and one of the first things we had to think about was fear. I have many fears but one of my most enduring ones is fear of offending people. As a child I was brought up to be polite, to put other people and their feelings first and by that I actually mean put myself last and to hide any feelings I may have, negative or otherwise... I have obeyed this rule all through my life. I know exactly why it came about in the first place (Catholic guilt plays a part) and I have never thought it right or fair.  'Anything for a quiet life' became my mantra from a very early age because I'm a people pleaser and confrontation makes me very unhappy.

When I was 12 and my brother Stephen was 15 he started going to the pub and being the shy insecure type found alcohol his refuge, within a couple of years he was well on his way to becoming a full blown alcoholic. This brought a whole new set of rules to the party for Dad, Mum and I as we desperately scrambled to try and cope with his problems and their fallout... Eventually we simply went into hiding as he slid deeper into the grasp of alcoholism and further away from any help we could give him... The shame and horror of his addiction became unbearable as the bright, clever, funny boy we knew and loved changed right before our eyes. We were a nice middle class, well educated family, my father was a respected veterinary surgeon and an artist, my mother worked at the local hospital, they were wonderful parents, we were well behaved children, all of us just living an ordinary life... how could this happen to us? to him??

So between putting other people first, the shame, the guilt, the hiding and generally trying to stay out of the way and not to piss my brother off because it would cause trouble, I didn't really stand a chance. I built barrier after barrier around myself and tried to protect myself by keeping things in as well as out, I stayed quiet, under the radar, terrified of drawing attention to myself. Time passed and at 19 I pulled myself out from the mire, I moved away from home, met and married a man who I loved and who loved me back, we had two fantastic children and a wonderful life. I still had the drama playing out in the background but the old safety mechanisms were working harder than ever, encompassing my husband and children too.

Even now I find it inexplicable the way Stephens story unfolded. It is a sad story, a lifetime of battling addiction but the end came and he died 3 years ago, aged 50 from a ruptured oesophagus, collapsed on his bedroom floor cradled in my mothers arms.... she stayed with him through everything, never let him down, took 7 shades of shit from him but always had a kind word and a smile. She is by far the most courageous person I know.

When dad died in 2001 the bottom fell out of my world. There was a huge hole in my life and I literally felt I was drowning in grief for the longest time. George and the children helped me so much but I needed something else too, something for me. Little by little I began to cast about for a life raft and eventually came to lampworking, making my own beads by melting glass using something that looks like a flame thrower.... This was it, my salvation, this was the thing that would lure me in and hold my attention. I had found my therapy, my passion, my art and I threw myself into it, learning techniques, practising, playing, reading and taking classes, obsessed from the beginning.

Dad - Mont St. Michel - August 2000

I am still passionate about it but I am struggling because the thing about art is, for me, it's all about self expression. If you are not your real self and are constantly watching and censoring everything you say, write, feel and do then your art will struggle to break through the barriers, to be authentic. Sometimes I feel I have tapped into something and my work is true but I want to change that to most times and for it to develop into something more. I want to push further and take more risks with it, I want to have the courage to really dig deep and see what I can  pull out from ravine.

So here I am, 11 years after dads death and 3 years after Stephens trying to come to terms with who I am and how I can find a way to break through the barricades that I built so well, constantly reinforced and hid behind over the course of my lifetime. I would like to shine a light on myself and practise being courageous and strong every day, at least a little bit. Maybe if I am very lucky I can make some cool beads and have some fun along the way too.

I have surprised myself a bit by writing this post, if you are still here you deserve a medal but thank you for reading it all. I had a completely different version ready to go last night but clearly I was still hiding a little bit. I am really nervous about publishing this post because it feels incredibly uncomfortable but this where I start being courageous!

This post is part of a blog circle of wonderful artists writing about the theme of "Practising courage and being strong" The next post in the circle is by the extremely talented mixed media artist Vickie Martin please follow this link to read her post Vickie Martin - Courage (Our blogs are from all around the world so there may be some delay in publishing them, please be patient)

Also in LampworkJewels

Bead Soup 7

January 23, 2013

I am on the horns of a dilemma... The sign ups for the 7th Bead Soup blog are fast approaching and I really, really want to take part again. I absolutely loved the last one, if you remember I was paired with Elaine Robitaille of Too Aquarius who sent me a package of her spectacular polymer clay beads. I loved working out how to use them and I only got slightly stressed about posting my final piece. I also loved visiting the blogs of the other particpants and seeing their bead soup ingredients, reading about their inspiration and process to their final pieces.

Selection of purple flower polymer clay beads
My delicious soup from last year

I am somewhat over subscribed at the moment...
I have several Facebook Groups which I signed up for in a flurry of new year enthusiasm but it's looking less and less likely that I have time for.
I am commited to my once a month blog circle, which doesn't sound much but I really try to take time over writing, reading and commenting on it.
I am already doing the Art Jewelry Earring challenge.
I have an exciting e-course starting in the next week or so
My mothers house is due to exchange and complete over the next 4-6 weeks, which means I have all sorts of packing and organising shenanagins to sort out.
not to mention various teams and forums that I am active in
and mostly not forgetting
I want to make some beads, I really want to make some beads and there just aren't enough hours in the day.

So I think that I need to scale it down a bit and work out what I can sensibly achieve. I am still undecided but it is looking unlikely that I will sign up for Bead Soup 7 however just because I can't doesn't mean you shouldn't. Lori is accepting all applicants this time with 3 different reveal dates so click on over to Bead Soup 7 and check it out. Sign ups are from 25-27th January that is just four days away so mark your diaries.

Oh and don't be surprised if I suddenly show up over there having had a last minute attack of the sod it, I just fancy a bowl of soup.

Purple floral polymer clay necklace
Soup is served

Earring Challenge Weeks 1 & 2

January 20, 2013

I recently signed up for the Art Jewelry Elements blog Earring Challenge to make one pair of earrings every week for a whole year, the earrings have to feature at least one artisan component. Every two weeks there will be a reveal with some of the earrings being featured on the AJE blog. There is also a Pinterest board which is looking fantastic already with challenge participants.

Both my first and second pair feature gorgeous polymer clay beads by Elaine Robitaille of Too Aquarius. Elaine and I were partners in the Bead Soup challenge last year and I have been waiting for an opportunity to use these wonderful beads since last autumn.

Week 2/52

My first pair are Flower Fairy Earrings with Elaine's flower beads, gemstone beads and Swarovski lilac opal crystal beads wire wrapped with Bali silver headpins.

Flower Fairy Earrings

Flower Fairy Earrings

Week 1/52

My second pair with some of Elaine's daisy beads are simply wire wrapped with copper and copper beads. I wanted to make something simple but with lots of movement. I have to tell you it was a real test of my wire working skills as I am not used to working with copper wire or light weight polymer clay beads. Also I didn't have any copper ear wires so I made these myself. I clearly need to practice working with copper as it is much softer than sterling silver. I really enjoyed making these earrings and I'm looking forward to experimenting and practising my skills on my next pair.

Copper Earrings

Copper Earrings
Check out some of the other blog hop participants below there are some wonderful earrings out there.

New Beginnings

January 17, 2013

I love the start of the year, a clean slate bursting with the of possibility of adventure.The start of this year finds me deep in family stuff. My 76 year old mother has sold her house and we are currently packing up the last 48 years of her life and all that goes with it. Layers of the lives of the people who lived there are being trawled through and sorted out. Tons of crap punctuated with bright sparkling jewels of memories, photographs, books, the occasional treasure which has lain forgotten about for decades, it's an emotional roller coaster, heart breaking at times.

I can't imagine how hard it must be to be leaving the scene of your entire life for nearly 50 years. The memories and ghosts of the people you loved most and other, bit part players you were rather less fond of. I do know mum, although sad, is really looking forward to finding somewhere smaller, easier to keep and cosy, her new beginning.

It's not just mum leaving, it's me too. When the removal van pulls away from the house where I lived from the age of 3 I will be leaving behind the house I left for school every morning waving to mum through a gap in the trees, the house where I experienced the highs and lows of being a teenager, the house I first I left for a bedsit in Dulwich at 19, the house where I set off for my wedding at 24, the house where my father and brother both passed away. It is a place packed with so many of my memories I know I will be overwhelmed with sadness.

On the other side of that though I can already see a gleaming new path, liberated from lifelong fears and expectations. It feels as if I really am throwing out the old to bring in the new by exposing things that have laid under dust for years and actually deciding I don't want or need them.

My new beginning is a big one it involves business plans, travel plans, new beads, new jewelry, lots of things I dreamt about for years. Finally, as Howard Jones once sang, I will be able to throw off my mental chains and I am beyond excited as to where it's going to take me!

This post is part of a "New Beginnings" blog circle, if you would like to step this way and follow the link the next blog is by Jean Wagner - New Beginnings