Drawing in lockdown and beyond

Wildflowers in Shalford

Drawing practice has always been sustaining for me, but in recent months it has often felt like the most grounded, steadying and real thing I’ve been doing.

The reduction of stimulation which happened straight away on the implementation of lockdown restrictions made those things which were left feel very important. My sense of time changed, and what mattered to be done changed. It became easier to spend time scrutinising the structure of a flower, or watch the flight of an insect, and it also felt important in a way it hasn’t before. It has become very clear to me that people have relied on the arts and culture to occupy them and give their lives meaning, and as a teacher of arts it has re-affirmed my commitment to that. The value of culture and art to our society beyond simply the amount of money it brings in as a industry has become much clearer.

I know for some this time has been perceived as a reduction in opportunities. I’m very aware of having been lucky so far, having blessedly stayed well, and those around me have stayed well, and their jobs have been safe. People’s desire for the arts, for learning and for finding meaning has brought me new students, through online teaching. I’m really enjoying having students from Canada, America, Australia and elsewhere in the UK in my classes now. I can think and prepare demonstrations, make video recordings and have found ways to help me share their own images with me and each other for comment.

There’s a real sense in each class of choosing to focus on something with meaning and find ways to keep doing it, keep looking, keep seeing the beauty and keep sharing, no matter what obstacles lie in the way.

One step at a time: Reflecting on experience as I go – and grow.

cropped-nautilus.png

I get great comfort and encouragement from the spiral. So often it seems like I am circling around the same things, confronting the same issues. I remind myself though that this time is not in fact the time before, however similar it may appear.

The nautilus grows its shell one chamber at a time, moving every so often into a slightly larger space than the previous one. It gives itself room to grow, increasing the spiral as it adds a new chamber.

Regularly reflecting on what is happening in my life and what I need to do next is a bit like building a new chamber for my self, or allowing the space I live in to gow and expand a little.  As I realise a blockage and remove it, or change a habit to something more beneficial, I grow a little. There’s always a new thing around the corner, or even a similar thing around the corner, but I can take some time to think. What have I tried, why didn’t it stick last time, is there somthing else I haven’t seen which is affecting me?

The regular meetups I run for Evolve Leadteam, in our local community, give me that steady, regular application of thought to my life. I started running this monthly event, which we carry out on Thinking Environment® principles, to share with others the benefits of a space to thin well for oneself. one step at a time, little by little, I stop doing the things which don’t work. Slowly it changes my life.

Our necxt Magic Meetup in Farncombe, Godalming is on 10th July at Hucklberry’s cafe.

Reserve your free place here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/magic-meetup-10th-july-2018-tickets-46840049850

Learning or experiencing?

Makeplace 505 Beginners Tambour Over the last four years I’ve been learning and then training as a Thinking Environment® facilitator. The cornerstone of the Thinking Environment is the principle that people can think well for themselves, given the right conditions. They involve being in the presence of a listener whose attention and encouragement is wholly yours, and who trusts completely that you are creative, altruistic, intelligent and can think for yourself.

That work, and delivering Thinking Environment and training for the NHS, researchers, undergraduates and local people at a regular community event I run with a colleague, has been slowly informing my teaching of embroidery, something else I fnd very rewarding. I’ve been pondering how could I make my classes more about the student discovering and exploring for themselves, and less about me leading from the front.

I started to introduce rounds, and ask people to share what’s going well, what’s their favourite sort of embroidery, what’s a project they’re proud of. Then, after a student volunteered some very useful feedback about what had been most helpful for her in learning the technique, I started to ask, what have you learned this morning that was most useful? what went well about today? what else would you like to see in the course?

Now I’ve started to ask myself, ‘how can I give them the experience of exploring and learning for themselves? How little information do I need to give, and what questions will stimulate their learning?’

On Sunday I was teaching tambour embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework. We had a really fun, collaborative day with a relaxed atmosphere and everyone sharing their learning, questions, and tips from their own considerable textile experience. It felt easy as the teacher; I wasn’t tired or drained, but energised by the day. The participants reflected that they’d enjoyed the warm, friendly environment, and left with smiles and thanks.

So now I’d like to ask you. What are your best experiences of learning? what works for you? Please leave your comments below.

 

Don’t be scared of your own needs

St Anne and the VirginI sat down with a good friend recently and we had a deep think about the difficulties of asking for help, whether it’s ok to lean on people or not, but how hard it is to engage with the world without the right structure or framework. We asked the question: What is support?  Here’s our list, please feel free to add or discuss.

  • Validation. someone saying: your experience is what it is, and worth something.
  • A sense of being understood
  • Empathy; that recognition of your experience leading to a feeling of shared understanding and acceptance of its difficulties.
  • been given the sense that it’s going to be okay, but when it feels like it isn’t, receiving empathy and comfort, feeling held.
  • Being witnessed. Being seen, you are here and your experience counts.
  • Receiving insights
  • Sharing skills, strategies. resources -a planning system, a book, a TED talk, a piece of poetry, some art or music, some listening.
  • Being listened to with trust and confidence I will get time to think through myself, my listener will not jump in with solutions unless I request it.
  • Receiving compassion. ‘to suffer with’ that sense of someone standing with you in your difficulty, not offering you sympathy from their position of greater ease
  • Trust that I can find my way
  • Willingness to openly discuss boundaries, to consider and negotiate them
  • Care to know what my areas of sensitivity and pain are, acknowledging them but letting me own them and manage them.
  • Being reminded by example to practise self-care and develop awareness of what is needed
  • Reciprocity. I want to be able to give these things, as well as receive them.

it isn’t good to feel you only receive these things, it creates a sense of inequality and feeling less than. it may be possible to offer and receive these things mutually, or maybe one will receive and give to different people. Acheiving a sense of balance about it, and knowing also that what can be given and what one needs  to receive will ebb and flow; sometimes one will be greater than the other. For me, a spell of depressions means I might need more but be less able to ask; I want to be able to start giving again as I recover.