Friday, 30 August 2013

Spores from other realms

Having just read a beautiful piece by Ffyona Campbell about wild mushrooms gathering, I feel inspired to share an extract from a book that I made last year inspired by my experience of listening to the elemental beings as I sew. This extract is about some mystical happenings around the becoming of mushroom family who were part of the gnome and fairy glen that we created for children in our community.

- extract from 'If my heart were a grain of wheat' Sylwyn Guilbaud PhD -

One day I begin making a mushroom gnome, as I am making her I start to feel the quality that she is, when I notice her expression and use pencil to make it visible she seems to look at her arms and reach out, and the words come into my mind “what may I hold?” I do not have an answer. I stand her on my chest of draws and when I happen to glance at her she seems to ask again. 

A few evenings later I am sewing another being to live in the neighbouring mushroom house. She starts to bend forward, my hands reposition her body, I stitch the material so as to hold that shape, “I am wizened, dignified.” She wants a parasol, it is also a mushroom, I fold her hand round its stem, “I am the mother of my shelter.” Then a basket on her arm into which it seems appropriate to place a tiny mushroom, and then to take it out, line the basket with a bit of green silk grass and put the mushroom back again, this aesthetic raises a question in me and she responds “my basket holds and gathers the food that is also that which I nurture, as a child, to plant for the future, soon I will return to the next.”

Next very quickly comes a small one, his hat needs stuffing and old blue jumper scraps come to hand, afterwards I hold him and “my hat is full of dreams…..they are blue as the sky.”

But this little one is not right to fill the first outstretched arms. They seem to call for a mirrored expression, up-reaching. So then I sew again and this time a whole little body makes the mushroom cup, her red coat flaring out, her arms fit her mother’s, but her stem does not come from her feet, rather her hair grows down her back, down down in an ever more fragile spun silk plait, with a wisp. When I place her complete, hands to hands with her mother, she murmurs “mama touch my hair to the ground, there will I grow.”

It seems this family is now complete, but about a week later at a loose end I start to sew, it dawns on me that this may be a mushroom man. As I am sewing I find myself writing in my notebook. The stitching is the pauses between words, the silences that say the words, I am writing of this sewing:
‘As I sew them I realise that I am learning about the elementals,    out of my fingers,    I am always sensing for resonance,    the cloth that folds and becomes in my hands,    that which is patterned into me and in the layer of imagination
round the world is becoming visible,    of course I am aware that the human-echoing forms that I give them is not how they might be apart from me,    yet the are impressions of my relationship,   my human love for other being as it merges with those that are merges,    with the less tangibly known and with plants,   that I am making touchable.’

The mushroom poncho starts to dance, tilting up at the edges with a slight swirl, and that changes the sense of this mushroom being. No longer old, but shy and somehow uncertainly joyful, so I follow the feeling into the face, one eye is a little hidden in his fly away hair, the smile grows.

It is the middle of the night when I finish. I go downstairs and while putting things away, happen to question whether the little gnome’s garden that we have planted in a tray to wait, needs water. As I touch the moss for dampness I see a translucent fine fine mushroom, barely there, growing.

I am overwhelmed, tears come, my heart grows, I look away and look back again, it is too delicate to touch. Should I wake the girls? I wish I had, instead I hope it will stay a few more hours and fetch my camera just in case. The digital screen shows the mushroom as a white silhouette, reified, each flash feels like an aberration, a shrinking, I cap the lens.

The next day the mushroom has folded in on itself, a dark pocket of spores, still beautiful in its curls, I take another picture.

 Downloading these images I am surprised twice. The night photographs are truer than imagined, the mushroom shows itself luminescent, and greens seem to dance around it.

This morning’s picture though, has a hair on the lens, or does it? I go back to look again, the hair spirals out of the moss, next to the mushroom, I would not have noticed it, but through the magnification of the camera lens.

“Mama touch my hair to the ground, there will I grow”

It is my daughter’s hair, she placed the moss when making the gnomes’ garden about a month ago.

I show her the fading mushroom, her hair, the photograph, last night’s mushroom gnome, she smiles “he was telling you it was there.” I am humbled by the clarity of her comprehension, realising that my movement from upstairs to down had fooled me into chronology, linearity, when really it was one response, response, response, response.

“It was a present for you, and for me, cause I so wished for mushrooms to be part of the garden” I apologise for not waking her, I promise to wake them next time, we imagine that will be soon, surely the pores will grow again, there hasn’t been a next time yet.

Fyona Campbell's writing can be found here:

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

of betwixt and between time

It is incredibly difficult to put a price to a small being inspired by nature's life forces and destined for a child's play. Both nature and play cannot truly exist but outside the control of finance, and forming these fairies, sprites, gnomes, elemental beings is an experience deeply imbedded in the meshed realms of playing and wilderness. Yet in order to enable these beings to fly out and nurture children's playful relationship with their living world I have to bring money into it. This have to is twofold, firstly in order to put in the hours that stitching takes I need to be contributing to our household living, and secondly giving them away sadly seems often to cause suspicion in my intent and in their quality.

So I have asked those I know and looked around at how other magic creators are pricing and come to a vague framework. Yet I know that these prices though fair mean that these little beings will not be accessible for many children's play and this bothers me, a lot.

I have been advised by a dear friend who has been working in this way for a long time, that one solution to this quandary is to offer some wee folk created in a simple less time consuming way, and this does indeed seem very good advise because children are adept at finding the aliveness in the a hint of what might be held in a form. However I haven't worked out how to do this consistently yet because each being that my hands form at the moment seems to want to come until it has finished its detailed becoming and stopping before that point is nearly impossible.

Luckily life seems to give us a clue when we are flexible enough to notice and to find round about paths of thinking. Through some happenings in the last weeks I figured out that there were minutes in which I would not ordinarily be sewing, and that if I made a few stitches here and there, those minutes would eventually give birth to a whole magical being. In their becoming betwixt and between time these mysterious folk could slip beneath the grasp of monitory value and be offered at a more accessible price.

This wee one who cherishes the bees on the lavender, is the first of such betwixt and between time offerings.  I have no idea how often these ones will materialise but I believe that, with carful attention to opportune hidden moments, they will.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

with play filled love for seeds and pips

In the late summer heat I have been delighting in the seeds ripening in our garden, large poppy heads, golden fennel flowers and particularly this year the rattling upside down star bells of the many aquilegia that my daughter tends so magically.
We have also been eating more fruit than usual and playing with the pips, the cherry pips bleach dried in the sun are just jumping to have their little bodies painted.
And then in the middle of the heat my girl got a bad cold, and we had to find healthy alternatives to satisfy the wishes for sweetness. I remembered hunza apricots and we rediscovered the joy of painting their pips.

While she was unwell my little one spent a lot of time laying on my bed, and I spent a lot of time sitting on my floor sharing beautiful conversations with her and sewing, she loves to watch me sew and it seems soothing for her to be part of a creative process when frustrated by her own lack of energy for play and making things.
A small golden brown being began one sleepless evening, and the next day had become a soft fuzzy handful. My daughter watched every step and as I finished the woolly dress and popped the pips into the pockets she reached out her hand and then 'mummy please can I have her as a present at some point soon.' I laughed...the first Pippin belonged here, and I was grateful, as often before, for the continued love of these little beings that my daughters have even as they grow up. Pippin didn't want to wait to belong and every evening before bed my daughter held her and talked silently to her and then one evening through our conversation around the pips in her pockets a little story came about.

It is very very rare that any two little beings which come are similar or that any inspiration wants to take form twice, but surprisingly amazingly, perhaps because of the shear pleasure of their warmth, Pippins still wanted to be stitched, twice more! And each with their own little character they were very happy to know each other. My daughter is thrilled that some other children are also going to have a Pippin to love and might also find the joy of painting pips themselves. My hope is that by making this simple story available and writing about the process, other parents will be encouraged and supported in their own creating for and with their children.

Pippin's story can be found in the blog tabs above, please feel free to print it, to cut out the pages and to make a little book of it.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

becoming within Mint's atmosphere

While we all know that time is not linear, this knowledge is for the main part an abstract idea at odds with our daily life of doing, going, getting. Yet sometimes it is possible to understand this quality not with our thinking but with our senses; through a breeze, a scent, a refound treasure. These are moments where time, place and experience seem to become one, merging into an atmosphere that permeates and lingers indefinitely. Until on another date at another hour we find ourselves stitching through time with a wisp of familiar, bringing lived atmosphere to here and at once creating it a new enveloping layer. This small being was born within such layers atmosphere, and holds moments woven together in his becoming.

When I begin to sew, it is just that, a beginning, a trusting readiness to follow what will come, and amazingly something, someone always comes. Often they have been flitting in and around me for a little while, so I already have a sense of them, but other times I just begin and let my hands listen.

This dearest mint boy became in such a way. After forming his body the feel of him was cool and fresh with a little bit of cheekiness and a certain peaceful wisdom. My hands found the pale green washed silk and we found impressions of leaves in our imagining. With his hair of green and purply wool he became a he, and also brought the feeling of the fuzzyer kinds of leaves, and then of the tiny purple mint flowers.

And so I found myself floating on a atmospheric wisp to a moment within another summer, in our garden with my daughter. She was showing me what she had noticed about how different leaves grow in different ways from their stems, she was showing me and telling me with words full of the detail of a child's awed noticing. She became deeply fascinated by the mint's way, and that led us gently into an exploration of mint's qualities and stories and uses as part of our home education.

This was the beginnings of a game that I made her as part of our mint discovery

As I stitched this little being within that atmosphere of zing and reverence so palpable in a child's way of wanting to show you what they have found in nature, he grew mint leaves on his body and a purple mint moth pocket on his dungarees. Then he added a layer of old time mystery and chivalry as he enveloped all in his velvet mossy cloak. and with his small companion set of on a wonder full walk 

                                 Pausing to drink in the sunshine 

And meeting another wandering wonder........

.............. for a moments shared glory

Thursday, 8 August 2013

wandering wonder

She began a little while ago, a combination between a wish to make another rose covered hat, a curiosity as to whether i was still able to make slightly bigger little beings and an inspiration towards a doll who could hold and inspire time spent noticing the minature detail of nature treasures. 
When I was a little girl, walks along French country lanes, and later in Sussex woodland were full of pauses, of bending down or up on tiptoes or peering through, for better looks at treasures half glimpsed, for sucking nectar from hedgerow flowers, for stroking bark. Often empty snail shells, particular pebbles, acorns, petals, seed heads, twigs, were carefully carried home. My children notice and glean as I did, we take notebooks on our visits to beautiful gardens, more for the safe keeping of fascinating fallen petals than for sketches, and as a mummy I am aware that the preciousness of their sea shells and special stones, is as much in the moment of coming across them as in their perfect detail. 
The coming about of this little being held a dedication to the wonders of wandering, her hat roses and those at the end of her plaits were in her beginning before I started stitching, they were an indication of her nature, when her face came her eyes held both attention and dreaming.
The wild dog roses grew across her body over her hand sewn seams and adorned her wrists and ankles, and when we went into the garden we found shades of fairy bells, purple and lilac as her  skin and soft white as her silk undergarments.
Her shoes soles give messages of love to the ground where she skips.

                                   Her gathering cloak came with a great sense of satisfaction, now she could go wandering in the arms of a child, and have the honour of holding the findlings with love all the way home

 and sometimes her little cloak pocket fairy might jump out to play in the petals  

The gift of a name, becoming the magic fairy lady

a silk veil house hung from the bunting so that my daughter's  fairies
 could join a festival procession 
I have always created spaces and things for my children’s play, this has been an instinctive honouring of the importance of their play. When stitching and painting I too am playing, and the small beings that come about in my hands start to come alive and seem then to hold an open invitation to children to get to know them and so create their characters whilst playing.

As my children have grown, I have found time, alongside our home educating, to create small beings for others. In the playful mood of responding to inspirations I have found myself able to draw on a sense of the person who I am creating for. This open listening that my fingers and heart seem to do, hears not only the wishes of the human players, but also the essences of nature’s beings.

a garden gnome's sunflower seed babies
This autumn we decided to create a gnome and fairy glen in our wendy-house outside, for children round about to come and visit. Even as I suggested the idea to my children I was bemused about why I was doing so; to spend so much time creating something for who knows who? However they took hold wholeheartedly,  and so we began. I stitched and followed the forms of small beings, directed initially by the scenes that my children wanted to include, a gnome’s garden, a bakery, a lake and river, a snowy land; later, gradually, different inspirations also began to have their say. Often we begin without knowing why…

two acorn rascals 

conversations of growing crystals 
Five months later, in our garden, a cocooning began, rust and blue velvet curtains covered ledges of different heights, yew branches softened the floor and curved the overhead space, hung with pale gauze silks, grey lichen branches did their part, mossy logs borrowed from the forest and pots of disorganized parsley and vetch made spaces to hold the gnomes and fairies. A small land with a garden, dim lit lakes, crystal caves, a little school with transperancy windows, pathways, a mushroom house, the old broken French garden teapot café, a living weaving seed pod, grew in the space. Then for a week children and adults came, few by few, to be in that small place visiting the more than 50 visible wee beings and the countless others hidden.

wonder glen school

a summer born boy's fairy
a fairy queen dances over the gold
After this, both the inspirations and the requests kept coming. One was for three boy fairies for a momma who wanted to create her own mobile for her baby boy. However when her eldest saw the three little fairies he said, ‘but momma you should be here too.’ and so in her image and by the grace of magic a fairy queen came to be. As far as I know the mobile has not yet come about, but the fairy family is tenderly loved, and that little boy calls me ‘the magic fairy lady’ which seems to me a wonderful name to be given and to grow into.
three brothers full of magic