Tagged: personal

Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is Ok


On the terrace by the lake the rain pours on a Saturday afternoon.  A cold glass of wine, condensation dripping down the outside.  Later when the rain stops we sit by the lake at sunset, mist rising off the water.  ‘It doesn’t have to be this way’.  You say.  But the city pulls us back on her tendrils, pulls us down into the vortex.  Parties that never end, wooden floors, echoes and ghosts.  Night bleeding into dawn already, but you have barely arrived.

Fleeting glances of yourself in the mirror, a reflection you hate so much.  A reflection you don’t recognise, pin prick pupils or a dark pool the covers your entire eyes.  Pale and shaky and cut adrift.  What happened?  What paths brought me here?

A reflection that you try to seduce.  When you look a certain way, when you smile, lower your eyes.  Change your hair.  Change your dress.  Try to find a combination that will make him want to fuck you.  That will make people like you.  That will make the city accept you.  But it’s all lost when you hate what you see.  Shake your head.  Shake your head.  Walk away.

At 4am on a U-bahn platform he tries to explain.  But we’ve heard it.  Before.  And –

Can’t take it now.



Berlin is not perfect, but a different form of not-perfect to the last thing.  Maybe a better form.  Maybe.  Nothing is ever quite perfect as our perceptions and expectations are in constant flux.  Always saving for tomorrow.  Accept the imperfect nature of things as they are.

But the swans and the willows by the canal on this perfect August afternoon.  Happiness is as fleeting as the image of it in your head.

Smoke that blows across the grass.

A goodbye party by candle-light.  Standing on the edge of the circle, skirting the fringes, the darkness at your back.  All the young, and talented, and beautiful, and drunk, and drugged, and lost.  And sad.  Sometimes.  Libations in the moonlight, but you’ve lost your tongue at dawn.

Warm sunlight non-judgemental

Walk alone by the canal

Turn the handle

High ceiling and wooden floor

Silence in the courtyard

Her sleeping back, bare and smooth

Another morning.

Another day.  Another night.



Peace in this empty Berlin altbau on an early autumn evening.  Low lights and houseplants, emails and wine.  Neukölln night progresses around you as the clock on the kitchen wall ticks.  Away.

Crying into coffee and scrambled eggs this morning.  ‘Write it out’, you said.  Draw out the poison.  Time melts when we are together.  Seconds and eternity hard to distinguish between.

Disclaimer:  This is raw from my notebook, so, yeah.


Dressmaking Part I

So for Christmas I got a very lovely red sewing machine and I have been wracking my brains over what my first project on it should be. Aside from some tinkering at school and at home I have never really used a sewing machine so I don’t really have any idea what I’m doing.  However, momentarily determined to tap into my inner 50s housewife, I am going to learn!  For my first project I have chosen a relatively (I hope) simple looking dress from a large collection of old patterns we have at home.  As this is going to be a ‘trial’ project getting to grips with my new sewing machine I didn’t want to spend money on a new pattern as they can be quite expensive and I would be doubly frustrated if (and when) I screw up.

Task number one was to locate some nice and appropriate material, I wanted to use cotton rather than anything elasticated or chiffon-ie in order to keep things simple.  Material is actually quite a lot more expensive than I thought it would be which makes me a little sad.  Depending on what sort of project you are working on then it is possible to buy offcuts and end of role material more cheaply, but this won’t always be suitable.  Making your own clothes is far less cost effective than it was back in the day, and once you’ve bought a pattern and some nice material chances are that you have already spent more than you would have done on a dress – and you still have to put the damn thing together!  In short, making your own clothes is a labour of love and in this case – no doubt – a sharp learning curve.

New sewing machine!

Cutting out the pattern

I’m still in the ‘prep’ stages and haven’t yet started any sewing.  Here are the things that I have done so far:

1. Cut out the pattern.  You might notice that unlike modern patterns this one only comes in one size (which incidentally happens to be too big for me – but not an issue for a practice dress).

2. Press the pattern with a low heat iron so that it will lie flat on the material

3. Pin the pattern to the material according to the layout on the instructions.  It is important the lines with arrows in the middle of the pattern lie exactly parallel with fold in the fabric.  This is so that the pattern looks right/goes in the correct direction when you sew everything together.  I guess this is probably less important when you have plain fabric and you can just lay out your pattern in the most economic way.

Some pieces need to to pinned/cut along a fold in the fabric (top)

4. Cut the fabric, which in this case was done rather badly.  I generally have quite a steady hand but as I’m not used to cutting fabric yet I made a bit of a mess of it.  However, these badly cut edges of course won’t be seen once I begin to sew the pieces together.  I suspect there will be some not necessarily neat sewing to follow though.

Fully cut out pattern.

5. Sew markers on the dots of the darts in contrasting thread, making sure that the cotton goes through both layers of fabric.  You can also use pencil or chalk to mark the dots.

Dart markers

Dart markers

And that’s where I’m up to so far.  I’m a little bit nervous to start the sewing as I really have no idea what I’m doing.  If anything goes seriously wrong then I do have plenty of spare material but I’m hoping for the best, I’m not greatly troubled by mistakes at this stage.


Earlier this year one of my friends took a night school course on bookbinding.  I was really impressed with what she’d created so I thought that I’d give it a go myself.  Bookbinding can get very complicated depending on how ambitious you are, and for that reason I’m going to suggest that actually taking a class might be a good idea as it can be tricky attempting to follow instructions off the internet (it’s also good to get inspiration from others/learn from their mistakes!).  Nevertheless, here’s my first attempt:

DSCN3683 DSCN3688 DSCN3693 DSCN3684

It’s all very rough because this was a trial and I didn’t concern myself too much with the very fine details, but on the whole I’m very pleased with how it turned out.  The sewing was quite shoddy from me (I usually sew very neatly) because I didn’t mark up the pages as I should have done.  I was also irritated that the spray glue I’d bought marked the end papers, I’m quite exacting about the craft supplies I buy but went for the cheaper product this time and definitely regretted it.  Making the book was quite satisfying though, and it gives me an excuse to indulge in my penchant for pretty paper.

What sort of materials do you need for bookbinding?

A wider desk would probably be a good place to start

1. Glue! Spray glue that won’t mark your paper, superglue, a glue stick etc.

2. Ribbon, so that you can tie your covers together

3. Charms or beads for the end of the ribbon.  This is quite a nice little (unnecessary) touch, I also add these charms to the end of the ribbons in notebooks

4. Scissors/craft knife/ needle and thread

5. Stamps/photographs/ephemera to stick onto your pages.  I bought a large bag of old stamps from all over the world at an  antiques fair this year for £1.  They’ve been an excellent addition to notebooks and other artwork, my favourite stamps are the ones from countries that don’t exist anymore like Rhodesia and the DDR.  You can buy mixed bags of old stamps online if you can’t find them in the real world.

6. Stiff cardboard for your covers

7. Good quality plain paper.  I’m not sure what your preferences might be with that, but I’d veer towards something off white rather than plain white as it can look a bit harsh.

8.Nice paper:

My collection of really nice paper; the reason Paperchase is still in business

If you’re feeling fancy then it is possible to buy offcuts of leather for your covers, but this is still a bit too ambitious for me.

Just another note on paper – I used some quite thin, almost tissue like paper for some of the inside pages and this was a mistake.  The paper was very lovely, but just to delicate for this sort of thing – I was worried it would tear while I was sewing it, and then I’m worried it will tear when I flip through the book.  Rookie mistake.  I’m sure there are a lot of other materials you could you use, as always you’re only limited by your imagination, but this is a good start if you’re only starting out and playing around like me.

An Ode to Harry Clarke

A detail from my copy of 'The Garden of Paradise'

A detail from my copy of ‘The Garden of Paradise’

Harry Clarke was a Dublin born illustrator and stained glass artist. During his short life (1889-1931) he produced illustrations for Edgar Allen Poe’s stories and Goethe’s Faust amongst other things. An example of the intricacy and detail of the work of the Arts and Crafts movement, his work also bears similarities to contemporary illustrators Aubrey Beardsley and Kay Nielson. The maddeningly intricate patterns, which I’ve spent many an hour copying, also remind me a lot of Gustav Klimt.

My first encounter with Harry Clarke was standing in front of one of his famous stained glass windows at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. At that point I was a little first year History of Art student, and even though I was impressed I had other things on my first year mind – I forgot about Harry Clarke. Several years later the National Gallery of Ireland hosted an exhibition of Harry Clarke’s illustrations for Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘Fairy Tales’, and this time, I was hooked. I’m not sure exactly what it was that first made me pick up my paintbrush and decide to have a go at copying a Harry Clarke, but it’s certainly been an interesting ride and undoubtedly a sharp learning curve.

Confessions of a Clarke-o-phile

Confessions of a Clarke-o-phile

I don’t know what your opinions are on copying things, but while studying art at college we were always encouraged to copy paintings and drawings as part of the creative process. The thinking on this probably lies somewhere along the lines that you should learn the rules before you can break them. It’s astonishing how much you can learn about an artist’s technique by trying to recreate one of their drawings, and more than anything else it’s just a good technical exercise. From that point onwards we were supposed to try to create our own work in the style of that artist, do this enough times and with enough artists and you might eventually be able to find your own groove. I suppose there are a lucky few people out there who already know their own style, the rest of us have to find it through trial and error.

Therapy for really c

Therapy for really crazy people

I digress; I like copying Harry Clarke illustrations because it’s therapeutic. When trying to create your own original piece of work your mind is constantly whirring and questioning every line and every colour choice, but with copies my mind can wander. In short, this is just what I’m doing to clear out my head; my real creative juices are getting poured into other things. Recently I’ve been thinking about maybe doing my own set of illustrations for something in the style of Harry Clarke. This would require quite a lot of planning as of course I’d like to get it right, I’m sure it would be a good challenge though – maybe a project for the new year.