who are creative companions?
come join us
'me on her'
she elevates the everyday into an art form
a form fragile exquisite personal etherial intricate timeless
it nourishes, enlivens and romances
she gathers and gives soul to imaginings
imaginings so elegant peculiar unique delicate sensitive
they captivate, delight and puzzle
much like alice in wonderland she has an enchantingly curious world of her own
and i am so truly glad to have 'virtually' stumbled upon it
and more so to have a chance to lure you in
make some tea and tumble in
'on why she became an artist'
quite simply, i can't do anything else without being ill most of my adult life has been spent in education - i went from school to university for an undergraduate degree, had a little time away before going back for a postgraduate degree – but i've had some jobs. i worked in retail for a few years. i was so excited. it was a new department store in the city, and i thought it was going to be a postmodern au bonheurs des dames. except i hadn’t read it. at first, it was all i knew of the book – the independent, glittering, fast-paced marvel of newness and sophistication. i wore smart black clothes, flawless hosiery, and only stopped to touch up my lipstick. at some point reality set in – when i was more shop-girl-remembering-being-an-artist than artist-being-a-shop-girl-to-afford-art-things. i didn’t know that disillusioned page was in the book
my spare time was spent soaking toes in warm salt water, eating, taking off my makeup and repairing my nail enamel. the creativity they ‘encouraged’ was accompanied by rules in a luminous plastic bundle of files thicker than my immaculate hand was wide. i longed to tear birds out of expensive silk handkerchiefs and throw them over the escalators. instead i folded small butterflies from till roll and hid them when my superiors passed. i'd long prided myself on how i valued the small things; the poetry i found in small moments, the art of the overlooked. i still read carco on the train and listened to my cult of poets with guitars and bought discounted bukowski and cohen paperbacks in the bookshop i passed every day. i kept trying. i'd built an art practice based on the everyday and an academic critique in the quotidian and after all, this was the real mundane. this was the drudge that could scuff up poems if i was in a film or a rock song. but the butterflies made of thin, shiny paper looked pathetic in bins of gum wrappers and makeup stained tissues. there was nothing there. it wore me away
how honest can I be? it wasn't just wearing – i could have handled wearing, i think. would like to think so, anyway. it was suffocating me. i was already being treated for depression. i kept whiskey in my locker. i had a breakdown
i don't like this about myself – the intolerance. i'm envious to the point of infuriated thinking that there are people who can do work between set times and have full lives and healthy minds. it just makes me crazy. for a while i lectured - being in the art studio and talking about art was a hell of a lot better than being a shop girl, but i still had the restless need to go into the quiet corners and create. so there was only one thing to do
i've a terrible, hard-earned intransigence. i must decide what i do and with whom and plans or obligations are a cage. sometimes that doesn’t matter – i will grit my teeth and do what my few loved ones need. but when it involves my daily life...i'm desperate for freedom and the impulsive whim of soul. perhaps it’s because i was very responsible, very young. perhaps it’s because losing myself was the ultimate freedom (despite being horrific) and i can't entirely give up the unapologetic, reckless, nomadic thing in me that was allowed and liberated now that i've a healthy way to feel it. perhaps it began because i found life can change on a breath, so was ever keen to escape in any way i could. only, making a life that stops me feeling trapped means i now have no desire to leave it. none at all. i wander instead – in making my own decisions, in trusting my imagination, in creating my days and nights as surely as i create objects of art
there's a more practical side too. those restless years where my body bore my mind left me with an illness. it was almost as though my bones said, your mind is fixed, you're safe now. and finally collapsed. utterly unpredictable, it means i can't be depended upon or subject to the clocks of others. this way i have a purpose. some independence. i have work and value and passion and i can have it at three am or leave it alone for three days. i don't have to wear clothes and my hair can be wild and filthy. i can have freedom when in other ways, it's taken away
'on how creating makes her feel'
creating makes me feel immortal. people near me tease i’m a vampire. i have the trappings of the myth – a pale night dweller with antiquated ways. but i am evading my mortality. art has unanimously been an attempt to last, to exist beyond the life of the maker – from enigmatic, ochre absences of hands on cave walls to mocking glasses left on a bench by a visitor to a modern art show. whatever else it’s attempted – the stuff we get wonderfully tangled in, in books and thoughts and searching – they all have that in common. even work made to disappear; mark quinn’s blood self portrait comes to mind, or néle azevedo‘s sculptures of men who melt in the sunlight. like the hands and glasses, the vampiric instances are both the presence of absence. yes, i’m a vampire. i take my most base sustenance (in my case, soul?) to sustain my life and preserve this for as long as will be
of course, i will die. i read once, when everything was wrong: ‘i will make everything around me beautiful and that will be my life’. i have created that life and i have a voice i fought for without dreaming it could be found. if i can do my most to have created something beautiful by whatever time i sleep – an object, an act of love, a poem, an exchange, something – one day my ghost can have one less reason to want for time
'on her memories of creating'
i chose this and i had no choice. which came first? do we learn to live something or is it built in? is it both? i think of art teachers in school, their lessons and guidance. and of how i loved art despite them. i spent lunch hours in the art rooms because they sat in one, wanting no company, and i sat in another, wanting my own. instead i learned from the photocopied black and white faces watching time from the walls. monet. picasso. van gogh (all men, but that never occurred to me: they were artists, and that bridged gaps of death and time, let alone gender). i take it for granted that creative people have always done what they’ve done, so i'll not bore you with the ‘since i could hold a pencil’ stories. instead i'll tell you tales of memorable occasions
first camera, age 5
we'd moved from mountains to coast and it was the hardest part of my young life. quiet and pale, fonder of reading than playing, making friends was never easy. it was fuji, black, quite big from my tiny hands, and i learned to wind the film from papa. click, thunk, wind wind wind became my soundtrack. and they developed bags of films spent feverishly on fascinating nothings. everything loomed. nothing focused. i adored that camera
sewing, age 6
emergency surgery on the kitchen table, on a bed made from a cracker box wrapped in a napkin. i was second surgeon to grandma. the future of fred bear's leg depended upon us
first formal paints, age 9
my uncle by affection not blood was an artist. (he exhibited at the tate, and once with chagall. but then he got ill and his life fell apart, so he went to japan. he immersed himself in the tao and life, and they endowed him as a roshi.) one day long after he’d come back and started painting again, i was wandering around his gallery's shop. he sold art supplies (and new age things for the tourists). i recall heavy rain and being cold. i was at a glass case where he kept the best supplies, including boxed watercolours; they were so delicious they made me physically hungry, almost like exotic sweets in their neat rectangles. then he was there, handing me an intricate web of coloured threads laced with feathers. he told me he'd made it for me, for my bad dreams, and told me about a mix of things – spirits called baku, people called obijwe, the sixties and things much older. i don't know how he knew about the bad dreams, but he did, and he opened the glass case to take out the prettiest palette of paints - the one with the most jewel-like sweets. it had a tiny
pewter paintbrush that came apart to be both a brush and case. with a pointed look in a weathered face he told me i had art in my soul; something not many had, my built-in dreamcatcher. that until i understood, i should hang the one he made above my bed. it took me many years to understand what he meant, but he was right
possessing art, age 19
i started to collect work from my colleagues and friends in art school. i gathered souvenirs from travels in prints and drawings, watercolours and sculptures. i soon had days around me, but they were tangible objects. i remember a conversation about bees at the potting wheel one evening; it’s now my fruit bowl. i remember one of those rare, truly peaceful moments when life aligns, and everything is just as it’s meant to be; it’s now a crooked model vespa in my bookcase
drawing, age 23
it was a leaf i rescued from the cigarette-strewn floor of the hospital courtyard. my hands shook for new medications and the loss of drink, so i held the pencil tighter and concentrated harder. there was too much happening to say my mind eased. nothing was easier, nothing got lighter, air didn’t rush to my lungs. but i felt. that was enough. i started doing creative things again. i was given day leave to go to an art shop with papa for supplies. there was something in me after that; in retrospect, i think of bukowski. ‘if you're losing your soul and you know it, then you've still got a soul left to lose’
being art, various ages
i was first drawn by my mama’s friend while i was sweeping the driveway. next by my art teacher. (she told me my face was wrong, by every rule.) then when i was older lots of instances came in rapid succession. i have been a muse and a subject. i have known writers and been in stories and poems. i have known sculptors and been clay, metal, and plaster. i have known musicians, to become melodies and lyrics. i have known painters and draughtsmen, all of whom were frustrated not to get me right. i have been a spoken poem and a blank space on a canvas because i wouldn’t undress. i have been a film and photographs. i have never been worthy of the fascination or the intent, but the litany is a document of beauty; it’s a blessing to be in this world driven by feeling and curiosity
'on her workspace'
my workspace is our home. usually. sometimes it’s the homestead, sometimes it’s where we go on holiday. i have a set of four drawers with a handle that holds the things i use every day. in the bookcase i've pots of pins (dressmaker, steel, split, drawing), small tins of my favourite paints, an enamel jug of brushes, an ever-pungent brass tin of enamels, my needles in a pepper cellar (the needle felting ones hook efficiently in the lid) and invariably, scraps of sewing and half-made oddities set away from curious paws. in linen bags i keep glue, bells, bits of lace, hooks, screws, hinges, jewellery findings, all of which have found use in creatures. then hung around me are inspirations. places, times, feelings. there’s a print from florence i’ve made an object of on an old canvas stretcher, framed silhouette portraits of my cats, a watercolour from rome, a woodblock print i bought from a frozen-fingered artist on charles bridge. polaroids, scraps of textures and beautiful tones, my books. my sewing basket of fabrics and homemade spools of ribbons, strings and trimmings. i sit on a chaise between a radiator and a stove, next to a very large window and with a pile of cushions and blankets. before i moved in, he gave me a beautiful tray on a standing table so i had somewhere to make things when i stayed. even now that we've a home together and my things are spread everywhere (everywhere), i sit my tray on my knees every day. sometimes i take it to bed. this is my happy place. everything i need and want, i know from this corner.
'on how she lets herself know she is loved by her'
[i don't.] i make myself tea. i try to be kind when i realise i’m thinking mean things; how i'm not what i once was or how i’m wasting my youth. i try not to get angry with my body. that’s not always a success. i try to treat myself with compassion. i’m still learning that. the kindest thing i do for myself is to think. do i need to accept this? or do i need to resist this, and push myself? what do i need right now outside of the bullshit i tell myself is necessary? and then i make myself tea. i don’t often have the right answers to my questions, but trying to stand back from the moment i find myself in to ask them is important
'on three things that are part of her everyday'
things that are truly part of every single day, whatever kind: telephone, kettle, medication. they’re not things i’m inspired to represent. instead: three I’ve used today and use most days
- my journal: i’ve always tried to keep a journal, and always failed. the only ones i managed were for assessments and they never felt entirely natural. i’d usually go back and rip out the first pages for being overworked, stilted, plain embarrassing. i came across this way of journaling a year or so ago. it’s perfect. this one was a timely gift, just as my last finished. it holds everything of my days – to do lists; my reading list; notes; an envelope for recipes; drawings, collages and clippings; photographs; research; quotes and song lyrics; notes he leaves on the door. it’s fluid and easy. i begin over my morning teacups, keep it open and ever scribbled in throughout the day, and at the end tidy up whatever remains. i look back each week. i collect what i most enjoyed at the end of the month. it keeps me thinking of the ways to be content, and the things that take contentment away
- my drawers: of the wooden kind. they hold the things i use every day, organised to tools, fixings, implements and miscellaneous (which is usually clay). i try to sort them each month because things will inevitably have gathered, what with my magpie ways. there are some things that are more than functional. my pliers were my grandma’s. she used them in munitions during the war, and later, working in electricals. i use them most days in my work
- my glasses: they’re old now. they were cheap to begin with, so now the screws are loose, the plastic peels, and there are many scratches on the lenses from pockets and curious claws. i’ve magnifying glasses for particularly fine work, or for when my eyes are bad and i try to defy them by doing something particularly detailed, and a magnifying monocle. but these are the usual, everyday things. i like to think of what they’ve seen. i like to pretend all the places they’ve been and wonders they’ve helped me see still live in their tortoiseshell plastic, somewhere. that when i put them on, i’m looking through all of it and nothing is lost, no longer to be seen
'on how hearing a song she listened to when she was thirteen makes her feel now'
a year to end
the era of sullen self-expression and reckless youth
only in retrospect
a leather and denim zeitgeist i missed the first time around
[how strange -]
i flicker in time like a seeking radio
they said i was like an actress, you’ll know her
[‘with wild eyes that had seen freedom’]
it all had a romance that was more romantic for being a lie
but those days, I thought love was destruction
so it makes sense romance was deception
panic’s rush of blood –
dilation, not wide eyed beauty
bitter smelling, not the fragrant iris
when everything feels like the movies
yeah, you bleed just to know you're alive
it was the making of me
everything i know about creation comes from then
[i counted wrong. this is redundant]
find more of laura's enchanting imaginings and creatures here