Pandemic Ponderings #1

Ponderings at theoldmortuary are just that. Something that comes into mind or sight that can be the kernel of a blog.

Pandemic Ponderings will not be particularly virus related, but they will be shaped by a newly restricted life.

I’ve started them today because I had to make concrete changes to life yesterday because of new restrictions in the UK.

Hand washing and the prevention of spread of infection were for so long part of my previous occupation that societal increases in protective behaviours has made no significant impact on me, it has been second nature for all of my working life and switching to the same gear in private has barely registered

Now I’m responsible, with others, for putting on an Art exhibition. I’m hugely aware of the creative work, costs and administration that has got us to within two weeks of opening. But it is in everyone’s interest that we do not hold an exhibition now or for the foreseeable future. It also seems sensible to mothball the whole Artist Collaborative that has plans for many exhibitions before the end of the year. Mothballing allows us to not have face to face Commitee meetings or working groups, so vital to the running of most organisations.

One clean finger and a camera phone.

Artists and makers tend to be isolationists. Not, perhaps, deliberately but almost certainly circumstantial.

In order to create original work a space is required. Those spaces become a unique location where the artist or maker has the tools and ingredients of their production alongside reference materials and importantly the space to think.

Even in the most delicious communal art spaces ,artists quickly set about erecting boards and barriers to mark their own individual territory.

Shared areas, the loo or kitchen have an almost international grubbiness to them . Marked with indelible signs of the artists that have passed that way. Artists ,Mark-Making on communal areas like a tomcat with territory acquisition and the balls to do it. Just like tomcats artists communal spaces have a distinctive odour.

As an aside I believe the art world has missed a trick. Imagine an exhibition of Butler’s sinks, or local type, brought together from around the world’s greatest artists studios. All displayed in a huge white space. With their original fittings and adjacent work surfaces. Imagine the smells!

Social Media allows artists to maintain their isolationism and yet join with like minded people without the effort of putting on their arty clothes and washing their faces. Social media just needs one clean finger and a camera phone.

Last night we had a real-time gathering of artists from the Tamar Valley to share and expand their knowledge and use of Social Media . Everyone arrived with at least a clean finger and a camera phone. Everyone left with fresh knowledge, a few more followers and probably some new friends.


https://drawntothevalley.co.uk/

Social Media, a lesson learned

©instagram

Yesterday was the end of my week long ‘shift’ running the Instagram account of an Artist Collective in South West England. Drawn to the Valley is a collaborative support network and promotional organisation based in the Tamar Valley, a beautiful and often overlooked part of Devon and Cornwall. The members of the group work in and are inspired by vastly different landscapes and environments. The maritime port of Plymouth forms the distinctive Southern point of the group’s territory. The point where the River Tamar flows into the Hamoaze, Plymouth Sound and then finally flows into the Atlantic . In keeping with the mythic and folkloric emergence of any river the Northern boundary is less definite. Unromantically I would say somewhere in the post code EX 20. Specifically of course the Tamar arises out of the ground at Woolley Moor, Morewenstow.

©instagram

The area has many significant titles relating to Geography, History and Aesthetics.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Throughout human history the area has been exploited for minerals. It has a unique archaeologicaly significant mining heritage stretching from the Bronze Age to the present time.

European Special Area of Conservation.

Site of Special Scientific Interest

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The last category is represented by the Tamar Valley AONB. Drawn to the Valley has a particularly close association with this organisation

The Makers and Artists in this group are as diverse as the landscape in which they work.

Social Media is a valuable tool in keeping this diverse group of artists aware of what they are doing as individuals or groups but also and perhaps more significantly it is the group’s everyday shout out to the world.

Social Media has been a ‘thing’ for 27 years. It attracts bad press,deservedly, because like everything it is fallible.

But in benign hands for arts organisations it is invaluable. Persuading individual members of this can be a hard sell in any artistic community. As a group we run workshops and support groups to encourage our 160 + members to launch themselves safely and confidently into the Social Media Pond.

Which rather circuitously but hugely importantly brings me to the title of this blog.

I’ve been associated with the Tamar Valley for a large portion of my adult life and have only just learnt that River Tamar is the correct term for the river and area I’m talking about. Whilst #tamarriver is a completely different place in Tasmania.

#rivertamar

©instagram

A quick #tamarriver search on Instagram shows I am not the only person to make this error.

©instagram

There is also another lesson to learn, I fail to remember this one too often.

When operating a social media account on someone elses behalf always log out before waffling on about your own stuff.

Yellow

Daffodils from Rising Sun Nursery, Cornwall

Yellow

Yellow is the most easily perceived colour. It is seen before other colours especially when it is next to black.

Yellow on black or black on yellow is used as a sign of warning in both the human world and nature.

©Cornwall Live
©Amazon
©theoldmortuary

Yellow as a title was inspired by a trip to a nursery today. I want to paint some abstracts using shades of yellow as the only or principal colour, not really a colour I’ve ever had much success with.

These beauties are pretty inspiring, photographed using a normal lamp to uplight them gives quite an abstract look.

Talking to Alan Elias and his daughter Georgina who welcomed my art group to their family run nursery was fascinating and inspiring. Their company has passed through four generations and their tales of horticulture in the Tamar Valley have given me plenty of thoughts to create a painting. It helps that their nursery is called Rising Sun.

Daffodils are quite dominating this Yellow blog. It was a stroke of luck that the only photo of a bee that I had in my archive was doing his bee thing on a purple artichoke head, complimetary colour matching at its serendipitous best.Not so much serendipity more a way life, radiation signs are or were a big part of my life. Cornwall Rugby Union black and gold shirts. Both obvious and a warning.

The colours and conversations of the day inspired the abstract below.

Artist of the month.

No need to blog today. I’ve just lifted these two pages from the Drawn To The Valley Artists Newsletter.

It’s been quite a week of chatting at theoldmortuary all of it with other artists from the group Drawn To The Valley. Artists and bloggers live a singularly isolated working life so nattering around a table is a real treat. I think we’ve done some good planning and my Mrs Marvelous natter formed the Meeting Mrs Marvelous blog.
https://theoldmortuary.design/2020/01/27/meeting-mrs-marvellous/

Tomorrow we are all off to a Daffodil Nursery , more arty nattering, sketching and learning. Tomorrow’s blog might well be yellow.

Meeting Mrs Marvellous

I first met Mrs Marvellous at a Drawing Day, in the Autumn, organised by Drawn To The Valley, an art group based and inspired by the Tamar Valley. The Tamar, running North to South, forms the boundary between Devon and Cornwall. We arranged to meet again but work and life commitments got in the way until today.
https://www.mrsmarvellous.co.uk/

This is not the blog I had expected to write but like all the best conversations at theoldmortuary it swirled and grew organically taking us in many directions, some of them sad but mostly hugely positive.

Mrs Marvellous uses appliqué, embroidery and quilting to create memorial quilts or pillows and dementia friendly aprons or lap quilts.

” I take the material fragments that embody the most priceless of times- the milestones, the adventures, the hurdles conquered- and stitch them into something magical to preserve memories”

Mrs Marvellous likes to meet the families who commission her quilts or aprons, just receiving a bag of anonymous fabrics wouldn’t feed the creative process for her at all . Engaging with families or friends who have lost someone to death or dementia must be tough, there are often tears but also pleasure in sharing stories. I know that when I have been sad and grieving Mrs Marvellous and her magical stitchery would have been just the uplift I would have needed to shed a little light into the gloom. After consultation, the families or friends collect clothes and textiles together for their bespoke item. All washed by the family they are delivered to Mrs Marvellous.

” Every parcel has its own fragrance, in part a vestigia of the person to be commemorated but also the fragrance of their washing products and home”

So much more than stitchery goes into every creation. Mrs Marvellous has had personal experience of both dementia and loss, but beyond that she is involved with Plymouth Dementia Action Alliance. She says Plymouth is a hotspot of dementia innovation and research. She advocates the need for protection of pride, respect and dignity for those living with dementia. Her lap quilts and aprons are designed to keep people warm and engaged, with pockets, textures, familiar fabrics, perhaps samples that are representational of their old life and loves. A brilliant techy addition to the magic of the creations is a tag sewn into its own pocket.

The tag activates recordings of favourite music or voice messages.

Three images of a dementia lap quilt. All completely washable. This is a man’s lap quilt. Apparently keys are hugely significant to men , equivalent to a woman’s handbag. Who knew?

The bottom image explains just a tiny proportion of the memories, textures and love sewn into this quilt.

I guess that’s more or less the blog I thought I’d write .

You just never know when you meet someone new how a conversation will flow. This one travelled like the Severn Bore. It surged in places, gently rolled in others and quietly crept where appropriate. Appropriate really as Mrs Marvellous grew up.in Clevedon, and played in the grounds of Clevedon Court.

©MrsMarvellous

We found people we knew in common, many that we didn’t. Talked at length about Drawn To The Valley, the art group we both belong to. Podcasts, Social media, Saltash all took a turn in our nattering. Finally. Finally! We ended with my Ice Breaking Questions. Clearly no Ice to break with Mrs M.

Mrs Marvellous favourite place in the Tamar Valley.

Mount Edgecumbe by the Folly overlooking Plymouth. Especially when fog hangs near the water, snaking up the river.

Mrs Marvellous best place to take friends.

The footpath walk along the river at Newbridge near Callington.

( I have to add a note of caution. Otters have been seen here. Good. My dogs love to roll in Otter poop. Bad)

Mrs Marvellous Sunny Day Outing

Devils Point Plymouth with a packed lunch.

( Another warning, don’t try this at night.)

Mrs Marvellous Rainy Day Outing.

Not one to share.

Her bedroom overlooking the Tamar through massive windows. Great accoustics with rain clattering on Velux windows and properly cosy apparently.

Mrs Marvellous best cafe.

Away from the Tamar for this one.

Inkies Cafe at Golitha Falls.
https://m.facebook.com/inkiessmokehousebbq/

Fogblog

These lacy images were created by a tree skeleton in the fog, Fog in the Tamar Valley is clean and bright, it turns the world monotone. The light has no bounce, my favourite muddy squiggle lacks its usual twinkle and inviting silkiness.

Driving higher just makes things worse, the world is a bright white blanket of denser fog. Later in the day the bridges of Saltash are taking people to an unseeable destination.

Beyond these bridges lies the rest of the world or “Up the line”or ” Up Country” as it is known locally.
One more skeleton tree image, for now. This strange environment is perfect for them. I’m uncertain what else it is perfect for.

Mandalaesque Skeleton Tree ©theoldmortuary

Cotehele Garland

dav_vivid

The Tamar Valley can be a grey and dank place between November and January. Outings tend to need the right sort of clothes and a brew. A trip, at this time of year, to the medieval Manor House, Cotehele, provides numerous muddy walks along rivers or in the countryside and plenty of chances for a brew. It also alleviates the dankness with a fabulous flashback to the fecundity of Summer.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cotehele

The tradition of the garland goes back to the 1950’s. It celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2016. Because it appears in November and carries on beyond the new year. Many first time visitors are surprised by its colour scheme. It doesn’t shout Christmas with rich jewel colours  or bold glossy green foliage, instead it is a joyous celebration of summer colours. Everything in the garland is grown, dried and stored on the estate.

 

dav_vivid

My eye is always caught by the bright pink abstract wiggles of Limonium suworowii or Pink pokers. Tethered, as they undoubtedly are, in the garland, they look like horticultural escape artists waiting to break free.
The garland is the responsibility of the head gardener. Each garland takes 12 days to assemble but it has taken a full gardening year to grow the plants from seed and then harvest them to be hung and dried ready for the November assembly. Depending on the quality of the summer weather, between 23,000 and 35,000 flowers are produced. Volunteers spend 70 hours a week caring for, then cutting and stripping the flowers ready to be dried. Picking starts in April, once ready, they are bunched and hung to dry until November.

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Each garland differs slightly depending on the growing success, or not, of the various flowers that traditionally form the garland. Some years a theme is adopted that has a particular significance, for example, last year was the centenerary of the end of World War 1.
The green base of the garland is the product from fifty Pittosporum or Cheesewood trees, an evergreen shrub with small, shiny, leathery leaves. Ninety feet of rope forms the beginning of the swag, bunches of Pittosporum are then tied to the rope until it is covered.
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Photo credit . The National Trust. Cotehele

The swag is then ready to become a garland.
Scaffolding is erected indoors and the swag is hung in the Great Hall, gardeners clamber up to create the lofty design, the beauty of a years harvest of flowers and hard work are pushed into the greenery one colour at a time to ensure an even distribution.

sdr_vivid The Garland attracts 32,000 visitors to the estate. For some it is an annual visit, to rekindle the memories of past visits, for others, it is a unique experience, never to be repeated but wonderful never the less. The volunteer guides at Cotehele are a huge asset. This pondering was all gleaned from talking to a volunteer for less than ten minutes, I don’t think she missed a single thing.