Buds and catkins are already forming on the willow trees, the first stirrings of life as nature begins to react to the increasing levels of light. The cold sky reflects off the canal; the light is blue in these northern climes. The days are getting longer and, after a flurry of snow at the weekend, the temperature has warmed again.
January is named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, transitions and endings, and is depicted as having two faces, one looking back at the old year and one looking forward to the new. This time of year naturally lends itself to quiet contemplation and embarking on something new.
On the loom
Still on my loom from before the holiday break is a warp in blues and greys. I find it useful to come back to something already begun after a time away from the studio, as I can pick up from where I left off, not needing to start from scratch. It often helps to have time to let an idea sit and be turned over in my mind, before returning to it with fresh ideas. Two more scarves have since come off this warp, and a short section using a beautiful soft mohair and ecological wool that I plan to use for cushion fabric.
The creative process isn’t always the tidiest or most Instagram-able; my studio space moves through various stages of messiness and chaos, punctuated by a periodic tidy. The materials are often inspiration in themselves, so it helps to have them on view. Then happy accidents can occur where two colours or textures next to each other will suddenly leap out at me as a possible combination for a new piece of work. The studio here is in a state of relative calm.
Drawn to the sea for inspiration
At this time of year I feel drawn to the sea. To feel the winds from colder places icey on my face and smell the salt on the air. The beach is strewn with treasures: cockle shells in soft browns and greys, striated pebbles and rare finds like cuttlefish bone, otherworldly, glowing luminous and pearlescent on the sand, and the dark mysterious ‘mermaid’s purse’, in this instance the egg case of a skate.
The way to the beach passes through dunes, a mixture of grasses and shrubs, toughened and blasted, twisted into contorted forms by the prevailing wind. The flow of the grasses is echoed in the weathered wooden balustrade of the steps leading down to the sand. The Dutch coastline is peppered with the concrete remains of the Atlantic wall. These brutalist concrete structures were built as a coastal defence and fortification against allied invasion during the Second World War, and still remain as a stark reminder against the skyline. Their battered patina has blended them into their environment.
Right now I’m starting out on some new, more conceptual woven work; something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. Work starts on paper, using inks, wax resist and mono print, playing with colours and forms. Simultaneously, I’m turning to nature for inspiration, and also the yarns I have to hand in my studio, searching out the more unusual materials that I’ve come across. And of course referring back to woven samples made last year.
A small seasonal sale
As a fresh start to the new year, I’ve been sorting through older woven sample scarves and old stock. These are now available at reduced prices in my shop. I also have just a couple of my calendars left in store; you can use the code CALENDAR2021 to get 25% discount at check out. Making space for the old, so that I can welcome in the new.
Beginning the year in lockdown has its challenges, but spring is just around the corner and I’m looking to nature and stolen moments at my loom to carry me through until things get better. And for the moment I’m going to enjoy what winter has to offer.
Blue night. Enormous Arctic air. Orion’s belt.Blue night by Sean O’Brien
A geostationary satellite.
The birds all sheltering or flown
Thank you for reading this far. I hope to see you here again for my next blog in February; it would be great to have you join me on my journey through the year.
With warm January wishes,