Awareness of the passing of time

timeMy small son, who is five, asked for a cuckoo clock for Christmas. At first, I was reluctant. I have never felt comfortable with the loud tick-tock of a clock and I was also uncertain about the sound of a small bird chirping four times every hour. Having researched various cuckoo clocks, finding that some sounded better than others and certain ones even had the facility to turn off the noise between certain hours, I decided it might not be a bad idea. It was not, after all, another piece of plastic tat made in China to be discarded on the bedroom floor or broken before Christmas Day ended. When the little box arrived, I opened it to find a beautiful carved wooden clock… the stuff memories are made of.

Now hanging up, on the living room wall, I find the gentle ticking soothing as the pendulum swings to and fro. The gentle cheep every quarter, night and day, is so sweet and subtle that even hearing it as I drift off to sleep brings a smile. It is also a reminder of the passing of time.

Several things have brought to my awareness how fast the days pass in the week just gone. On Sunday, I was invited to celebrate the 70th Birthday of John Maizels, Editor of Raw Vision, a magazine I have worked for on and off for 20 years now. John… 70? How could it be? I am now nearing the age John was when he first employed me. From the station, I picked up a friend, Wilfrid, who used to work beside me when the office was in what is now John’s living room. I have fond memories of a lively night dancing at a Bollywood club in North London with Wilfrid. How we laughed. He is working full time as a sculptor, with a studio of his own and an exhibition of his art in London and as we stood in the room that was our office, lifting a glass to John, we talked of the passing of time.

The shocking shootings in Paris were a reminder as well… none of us knows how long we have on this earth. I can still vividly recall walking in the graveyard after my father’s funeral, some 18 years back, sun streaming through trees, thinking make each day count.

The 30 Day Challenge, a course I have taken part in and worked on in recent years, brings together 200+ people from all round the world who are working on something that is meaningful to them. One of the keys to success that we recommend when working on such a project is micro blocking – breaking down tasks into small chunks of 15-20 minutes. I have found that the cuckoo clock reminds me, each time it sings, that another 15 minutes has just flown by and each time makes me think: what did I do that was meaningful or made me or someone else feel happy in that last 15 minutes?

Gratitude is a way of acknowledging the good in every day. It is my way of reflecting back on what made me smile or made me feel blessed. It is a simple way of turning sorrow into joy and fear into faith. It does not mean that I dismiss all that is bad, far from it. It means that each day (often just before I sleep), I choose to take notice of all that is good.

I feel that now, perhaps more than ever, we need to look to the good and acknowledge life’s simple pleasures. We must celebrate the love and joy that exists and the opportunities before us to be grateful and to connect. How we experience each day is often down to our approach to it and sometimes the most rewarding option is not the easiest.

This morning I decided that I would set a date to run my Gratitude Daily course again. There are plenty of opportunities to explore your creativity. It will start again in 8 weeks and anyone who signs up this weekend will save £10. Something to look forward to. I would like to create a really positive vibe that leaks out onto the streets, over the internet and beyond. I often chalk my gratitude onto pavements and walls and post my gratitude list on Facebook page (and we also have a secret Facebook community for the duration of the course), so if we are not already Facebook friends, please seek me out and share your gratitude list.

I wish you a safe and happy weekend. I hope you are staying cosy and spending time with those you love. x

Inspiration and time

Last night's drawings on brown paper

Last night, whilst enjoying a 3-hour burst of creativity, something struck me… and I felt instantly grateful for inspiration and the time to create.

For years I battled with the fact that one always came without the other, but last night, fingers stained with oil pastels, pen in hand, it struck me that for some time now, they have arrived in unison and that my creativity has been flowing freely without me even noticing.

Is this luck, or something else? I feel lucky, yes, but I believe this current combination of the two essential ingredients to my creativity comes down to one thing: commitment to my art. I acknowledge that art is one of the most important aspects of my life and my art deserves as prominent a place in my day as it has in my heart.

Is there something you have been putting off doing because you feel you cannot justify it?
Is there something you would love to be doing if you only had the inspiration or the time?
If so, just for one week, try this: commit to it and make time (even if it’s only 10 mins).

Acknowledge your commitment to your art (or dancing or photography or writing, be it music or another passion) in the comments right here, then check back in a week and let me know how you feel.

Making time for art can be justified purely by the pleasure it gives me. In making my art and engaging in my passion, I am happier person, doing what I love and sharing the joy I feel through following my heart.

May you be blessed with the same and long may it last.

Getting creative on the daily commute

My long train journeys from North London to Chichester have become more regular this month as we move closer to the opening of the Outside In Step Up exhibition in the studio at Pallant House Gallery and the launch of the Outside In Step Up trail, both of which conclude the research project I have been running at the gallery for the past three years.

Since starting work on this challenging, yet deeply rewarding project, I have had the pleasure of working with a wonderful group of artists who have delved deep into the collections at Pallant House to discover artists whose works and stories resonate with their own lives and experiences. Through a process of research and development of their own work, a variety of personal responses are almost ready to be shared in the form of workshop packs, written work, poetry, audio descriptions and photography. It has been a big learning curve for me to run a project so very different to anything I have done before, but that offered me the opportunity to use my existing skills and develop new ones whilst supporting others to explore and grow.

I have not yet found the opportunity to do such fulfilling work close to home, so my work at Pallant House Gallery involves a 3 hour commute each way. The journey is less than weekly, but even so, it is a big chunk of the day and I have long been seeking the best way to pass the time. I have tried a number of things: preparation, relaxation, reading, writing, sleeping, talking to strangers, but few felt as satisfying as my journey home yesterday.

Whilst setting up the studio show, I went through lots of photographs of people taking part in workshops and number of original artworks as well. Seeing all of these pictures of people engaged in creative activity and holding the results of these art workshops in my hands, I was desperate to make something on my journey home. I borrowed some lino cutting tools; acquired a piece of soap and spent my journey from Chichester to London Victoria carving a bar of soap into a little sculpture. I am not yet sure if it is finished, but I am certain that this is an activity I will take up again. The pleasure of doing something creative at the end of my working day; the joy of using that often-wasted time to make a work of art made me feel happy and relaxed.

It also made me think of how I used to spend my long commutes from Arnos Grove to Hammersmith some 15 years ago. Some days I would draw; others I would embroider. The journey was an hour, from my home to my place of work and I regularly found a way to inject some creativity into the beginning and end of each working day. Whilst at Uni, I used to draw… big black marker portraits of underground passengers, attempting to create some sort of cartoon-likeness without them noticing that I had one eye on their face, another on my paper. And notice they did from time to time, but nobody minded and I took great pleasure in making art on the move; being creative in what would otherwise have been dead-time. I filled my workspace with them… my fellow passengers. They inspired some of my ceramics and paintings.

So I resolve, once again, to use those windows of time to get creative. I will draw, make, sew, carve, create.

It only takes a moment to give your creativity a BIG boost.

Have you ever used your commute to create? What did you make?

What are the moments in your day that could be spent creating? How will you spend them?

Keep a little sketchbook and pen in your handbag and create a small sketch whilst waiting for friends to arrive at the café.
Half an hour spent embroidering each way on your commute each day = 5 hours in a week alone.

What will you do?

Carved Soap Sculpture

Carved Soap Sculpture