About three years ago a friend and fellow gardener told me of a wonderful book she had read called The Morville Hours . Written by Katherine Swift it tells the story of the creation of a garden at the Dower House in Morville, Shropshire. The Morville Hours is not your normal gardening book of Latin plant names (don’t do them), pests (got too many of them) and so on; rather it is an invitation to follow the author on a very personal journey of self-discovery with digressions into planting, history, nature and the priniciples of the Benedictine Rule. I know this because three years after Susan lent me the book, I have reached page 164 (which means there are 184 to go: at this rate I will finish the book in October 2019).
I should now apologise to those who lectured on the Creative Writing Course at the University of Glamorgan, in particular Maria Donovan , Barrie Llewlyn and Rob Middlehurst because my speed and enthusiasm for reading books is no further advanced now than when they despaired of me between 2004-2007. Maria instilled the values of sharp editing and good punctuation into me, Barrie taught me objectivity and quality control while Rob and I shared a fondness for 1940s detective stories and surreal humour. None of them persuaded me to read for the sake of reading.
For a little while I considered whether I should continue my embryonic career in writing but when push came to shove, I found that I could either write or sew – there wasn’t enough in my creative reservoir to do both. The call of the needle and thread proved stronger than the pen or keyboard and the rest is history. Except, that is, for me nurturing a small disappointment that I never did the MPhil in Creative Writing. At the end of this month however, I embark on the MA in Contemporary Crafts at Hereford College of Arts which should satisfy my postgraduate tendencies for a bit.
I was accepted onto the MA course by virtue of embroideries like ‘Carnedd Cynddylan’ and ‘Dark Tonight’, and tempted by the prospect of learning how to blow glass and forge metal that I could use on pieces of Textile Art.
Over the summer my idea for the MA project has developed and spread like one of the plants in Katherine Swift’s garden. At first I intended it all to be inspired by my interest in landscape history. Then I thought about how I could incorporate myth and legend; next came the need to include artefacts and relics; now I realise I have the opportunity to include all the things I learnt through studying Creative Writing with Maria, Barrie and Rob. Whether all my ideas and plans will ripen into fruition is another matter but I am nothing if not optimistic.
Back at the start of the year I set myself some goals (as opposed to New Year’s Resolutions). The first was to do some form of further education so I think that one can be ticked off as achieved (or at least a work in progress until December 2017). Another was to end the year leaner and fitter than I started it. To this end my sister and I have been doing a 500 mile challenge to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. (You can track our progress here .) It started back in March with the Carmarthen Mayor’s Race and
our challenge finishes next weekend at the Swansea Bay 10k. In between, my quota of 250 miles has seen me doing a fabulous run around the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, trekking miles along the wonderful Wales Coastal Path
and completing the iconic Severn Bridge Half Marathon.
Sut ydy’r her o deithio 500 milltir cysylltiedig â Chelf Tecstilau? Oherwydd fy mod i’n cael fy syniadau gorau drwy bod y tu allan. Does dim ots a fydda i’n rhedeg, cerdded neu eistedd a chael picnic! Mae rhaid i fi fod yn yr awyr agored i gael syniadau ac ysbrydoliaeth am waith creadigol.
In much the same way as Katherine Swift and the garden at Morville came together to produce a magical book that was as much about the human condition as it was about gardening, I find that just being outside is a huge inspiration to my Textile Art. I saw the glistening raindrops on moss covered stone walls that edged the lanes I was running through at the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, I felt the sense of isolation and aloneness along parts of the Ceredigion coast and I smelt the swirling muddy waters of the Severn Estuary. These are memories which no camera could capture as an image. The next time you find yourself short of inspiration, try moving through the landscape whether it’s a worked garden like the one at Morville , the wild and rugged hills of Wales or anything you are within reach of!