Tag Archives: Bryngarw Country Park

San Fairy Ann

“green bursts out on every herb; the top of the green oakwood is bushy. summer has come,”

Irish, 10th Century.

When you have a garden, you have no time to call your own.  Flowers, fruit and vegetables are the most demanding of children.  In exchange for their beauty, their perfume, their usefulness and their sustenance they have learnt only two words and they use them incessantly: “me, me, me” and “now, now, now”.

Sticks and Stones
Sticks and Stones

There are many textile artists who choose to be inspired by gardens but I am not one of them.  I am happy however to use my garden in the same way as I start a piece of stitchery off on fabric.  I get an idea which develops and grows almost of its own accord.  Mine is just the hand that happens to hold the needle and thread in textile art and in the garden mine is the hand that happens to wield the trowel and spade.  In both cases, before you know it, the idea starts to look like it had planning behind it.

Green Man
Green Man

Whilst I’ve been preparing for the exhibition on 30th & 31st July at Bryngarw Country Park I’ve also been working on the garden, developing a small area to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.  Although these may seem like wildly divergent subjects, there has been a common thread running through them – the concept of San Fairy Ann.   My late and lovely Aunty Phyl used to dismiss all the awkward happenings which came her way in life with a casual toss of her hand and a good-humoured “Oh, well.  San Fairy Ann.”

The pre San Fairy Ann garden
The pre San Fairy Ann garden

Only recently when I was doing a bit of research on the First World War did I realise that Aunty Phyl had probably inherited the phrase from her Uncle Sid who had been a sapper at the Battle of the Somme.  “San Fairy Ann” is generally accepted to be an Anglicisation of “Ca ne faire rien” which means something like “nothing really matters” .  I can have no concept of how people like great Uncle Sid coped with the reality of the horrors of war and the imminent and random nature of a brutal death but it may be that accepting that life itself is imminent and random so that nothing really matters was the only way to face each day.

Aunty Phyl
Aunty Phyl

In developing the work for the exhibition ‘A Habitation of Dragons’, I’ve been thinking long and hard about dragons.  The last official sighting of a dragon in this country was in 1743 which is not that long ago.  It’s easy to think that the things which happen in our lifetimes are of earth-shattering significance and, on a personal level, they may well be but we are such short-lived creatures.  To a dragon, to whom time is an illusion that holds mankind in its thrall, the traumas of history would ebb and flow in the same way as the moon waxes and wanes, the tides ebb and flow.  One of the hangings I’ve created for the exhibition is of an old, wise dragon called Col whose expression probably reflects the same realisation that “nothing really matters” .

Col the Wise
Col the Wise

I recently read an interesting article about a woman who lost her son when he was just a young man.  She asked the journalist who was writing the obituary to keep her son’s death in perspective because it had taken him just a few minutes to die but before that he had lived for 27 years.  When I was planning the garden to mark the centenary of the Somme, I thought about that a lot.  We look back on the horrors of the First World War, at those gaunt and traumatised faces staring out from grainy black & white films and it’s easy to forget that they, too, had gardens to dig, seeds to plant, weeds to pull.  There would have been a Jack Russell to walk, a cat to stroke, a book to read, a football to kick around the park with a couple of mates.  We have focussed on their end, not their beginning or middle.  Focussing on their end may be right but it should not be exclusive.

One of my San Fairy Ann moments
One of my San Fairy Ann moments

So I called my garden the “San Fairy Ann” garden and I set about building as a celebration of all of their lives and their hope that nothing really matters.  As with so much in my garden, I don’t know the Latin names of plants and quite often, not even the English names of plants.  I know their colours, if I like them, if the bees like them and if they come back year after year or are one summer wonders.

Everyone loves a garden
Everyone loves a garden

I foraged some 100 year old bricks from the reject pile in the old brickworks near our house and I edged my little curling path that winds in and out of the dappled shade so there’s a sense of motion but you don’t actually get anywhere.  One of the roses is called ‘Absent Friends’ and many of the plants have been given to us to plant by our present friends.  There are happy plants and there are poignant plants growing side by side.  There are seashells and windchimes and little solar powered lights and everywhere there’s a sense of things weaving in and out.  To them, there probably seems no order to anything.  To me, when I was planting the garden and laying the paths, there seemed no order to anything but now that summer’s here, it has all come right.

Bydd croeso i bawb i ddod i ymweld ag ein gardd ni ym Mis Medi.  Ewch at y cadwyn isod am ragor o fanylion.  Byddaf i’n hapus i siarad yn y Gymraeg ar y dydd pe hoffech.

And that has made me realise that maybe great Uncle Sid and his compatriots may have understood the lyrics of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in a deeper way:

“Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really mattered at all”.

Old friends having tea on our lawn
Old friends having tea on our lawn

Incidentally, there was a happy ending for great Uncle Sid.  He returned from the First World War, married his sweetheart, Charlotte, and went on to become a grower of the best and tastiest runner beans in his village.  I think he’d be very happy to see our San Fairy Ann garden.  If you’d like to see it too, you can come to visit when we open our garden for the National Garden Scheme between 12-5pm on Sunday, 4th September 2016.

Dw i’n gallu cofio Wncl Sid yn dda iawn.  Roedd e’n ddyn hyfryd.  Roedd e’n arfer rhannu ei ginio o bysgod a sglods gyda ni.  Roedd e’n arfer ysmygu pibell gydag arolwg o dybaco melys. Mewn storm, roedd e’n arfer cerdded lan i’r mynyddoedd achos bod ofn arno fe.

Great Uncle Sid
Great Uncle Sid

 

 

 

What’s in a name?

When my super intelligent, super talented sister decided to write a blog, her biggest challenge was not how she would find the time to write (newly retired from keeping the NHS afloat, time for personal pursuits is a novelty) or what she would write about (cooking, touring, history, walking, living in the beautiful Welsh Marches etc).  No, it turned out that what caused her embryonic career as a blogger to stutter was finding a title for it.  After trying to match the expectations of her potential readers with her own ideas and aspirations she came up with this which I think works pretty well (as, indeed, do her blogs).

Duro and Helen
Duro and Helen

When I started out as a Textile Artist I wondered whether I should use my own name or come up with something a little less personal.  There were a couple of reasons: firstly, my name is not that uncommon and, coincidentally, there’s another Maria Lalic in the art world although she is higher profile and exhibits in places like the Tate; secondly, as much as I love textile art, I also love primitive craft, writing, teaching workshops, gardening and loads of other things.  I wondered about having an all-encompassing label for these things because I thought that people who liked my artwork might think that there was a multitude of people with the same name doing loads of different things.  I couldn’t come up with the umbrella term in the same way as my sister did so I settled on giving each activity a different name.  Textiles to Treasure showed off my attempts at crafts,

Mumma Doll
Mumma Doll

Rebecca Alston wrote short stories, book reviews and magazine articles and Simple Country Folk reflected my interest in gardening, simple living and self reliance.  When Lorraine from Greenweeds Web Design got involved she was adamant that everything should come under my name because she said – quite rightly – all of the different aspects of my character affected the work I produce as a Textile Artist.

I wasn’t convinced but I said goodbye to all of my alter-egos and carried on as just me.  Nowhere is this more obvious than on my twitter account where I use my 140 characters to micro blog about textile art,

Lleuadra
Lleuadra

my cat Lily,

What now?
What now?

how the garden looks,

After weeding ...
After weeding …

the weekly Porthcawl Park Run

and my treks through the local countryside.

Early morning on River Garw
Early morning on River Garw

 

Weithiau, wrth gwrs, rydw i’n ysgrifennu yn y Gymraeg achos bod diddordeb mawr ‘da fi yn yr iaith Gymraeg ac Hanes a Diwylliant Cymru ac mae llawer o bobl yn defnyddio twitter am yr un peth.   

We pretty much get stuck with the names our parents give us but of course you can wreak revenge when you name your own offspring though that is easy compared to naming pieces of artwork.  When I had my usual pop up exhibition at the year’s Wonderwool I was struggling with what to call this piece but my problem was solved by my pal, the wonderfully talented artist Miranda Bowen , who came up with a great title.

The Guardian
The Guardian

At the same event I showed some work that I had made for an exhibition that I’ll be having at Bryngarw Country Park on the 30/31 July 2016.  Exhibitions also need names! I found a snippet of a quote from the Book of Isaiah which referred to a ‘habitation of dragons and a court of owls’ so the name for the exhibition is ‘A Habitation of Dragons’ and all of the pieces of work will be inspired by dragons or dragon-lore.

The Dragon of Cwm Garw Fechan
The Dragon of Cwm Garw Fechan

That’s a lot of titles to come up with and whilst they sound a bit fictional (Heuldra, Lamia, Sreca for example), all of the names have their roots in mythology or the Welsh language.  So whilst I was standing there at Wonderwool, waxing lyrical about the variety of Textile Art I had on display, talking about the things which inspire or interest me and giving information about our NGS open garden day to just about anybody who stopped long enough to listen, a lady came up to me and said “Is this all yours?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“There’s too much,” she said, “and it’s all too different, too confusing.  I can’t cope.”  And she walked away.

I wonder what Lorraine would have to say about that.

A dweud y gwir, does dim ots ‘da fi nawr. Yn yr Eisteddfod Genedlaethol eleni, byddaf i’n gwneud sesiwn crefft ym Maes D yn y bore ac yn siarad am fy ngardd yn y prynhawn Ddydd Gwener.  Dewch a dweud ‘Helo’ pe basech chi yno. 

Light is a place

“Dark is a way and light is a place”              Dylan Thomas

We all have ups and downs in our lives.  If you are lucky (as I seem to be) you have people in your life who counterbalance the downs  by their presence, character or complete weirdness.  All of my counterbalances have one thing in common – something to do with the world of art and craft.

RWAS Winter Fair 2014
RWAS Winter Fair 2014

The run up to Christmas is a busy time for craftspeople.  It’s when the great, buying public are likely to crank open their purses and wallets and actually part with some cash.  That may sound a bit flippant but consider this:  a recent study said that most professional artists and artisans  are content if they are making £5000 a year.  Given they are probably working at least 25 hours a week at their chosen discipline, that means they are actually earning less than £4 an hour.  And lest we forget, out of that money they are buying raw materials, dealing with marketing and insurance costs and spending extra hours on thinking up ideas and experimenting with techniques.  As one of the craftspeople who sits behind tables at Christmas Craft Fairs, let me into some of the comments which are guaranteed to dowse my seasonal spirit:

” I’ve seen them for sale at  *insert the name of a bargain shop here* for *insert some ridiculous price here* ”  . 

My silent answer to this is “No, you haven’t.  You have seen something which has been mass produced in a sweat shop where workers have no rights, no living wage and terrible working conditions.

“I could make that for you!”

My silent answer to this is “No, you couldn’t.  Not unless you got taught to sew when you were 7 by my mother and have lived my life ever since.”

”                                                     “

That is the sound of no comment at all.  It is usually accompanied by a stare.  There is no answer to it, silent or otherwise.

So, if you should go to a craft show – whether at Christmas or at any other time of year – let me assure you that most makers are in it for something other than the money (remember the less-than-£4-an-hour?).  Most of them are there because they love what they are doing and most of them want to share it with other people.  You have the chance to be the ‘up’ which counterbalances their ‘downs’ by stopping to talk, asking them about their craft and perhaps even buying something.  On the other hand, feel free to pass by the ones who are not generous, chatty or enjoying themselves but give them a smile and a cheery “Hello” to show them what they are missing!  You can find out which shows I’ll be at over on my events page.

My second counterbalance is the wonderful Textile Artist Melissa Warren.  It was a joy this morning to spend time (and money) in her lovely craft shop and gallery, Lemon Blues.  Melissa produces wonderful knitting & silk art work, runs a craft club for anyone who wants to drop in, is a role model and mentor for enterprising women anywhere but particularly in the South Wales valleys and is one of the founder members of Made in the Valleys – a collective of artists, artisans and creatives.  Made in the Valleys are about to have their Christmas exhibition at the Giles Gallery in Pontyclun.  You can see some of my work there as well as some of the best of what is being made in the South Wales valleys at the moment.  Again there are details on my events page.

Footfall - Creative Embroidery on hand made felt.
Footfall – Creative Embroidery on hand made felt.

My third and last counterbalance to the downs of life are the delightfully named yarnbombing group, Lily’s Posse.  Like most yarnbombing groups, the members of Lily’s Posse like to remain anonymous and interact with the world through an independent ‘Communications Officer’ – in this case, me.

Agents Balaclava and Chullo
Agents Balaclava and Chullo

Agents Balaclava, Burger, Chullo, Captain Beanie, Jaja, Le Bobble, Red Hat and 007 recently yarnbombed Bryngarw Country Park to celebrate autumn and Hallowe’en.

Knitted Giant Green Tick
Knitted Giant Green Tick

If you need an ‘up’ in your life, then forming a yarnbombing group will do the trick.  Finally, there’s one other way to deal with the not so good things that go on in your life and that’s to remember the happier days.  As Dylan Thomas says:

“Yet, though I cry with tumbledown tongue, Count my blessings aloud:”

Thanks for the memories, Myfanwy.

Miss Myfanwy Price
Miss Myfanwy Price

 

 

The Cold Time between Christmas and Easter

The Anglo Saxons called February ‘Sol Monath’; here in Wales it’s known as Y Mis Bach (The little month).  It starts with the Christian festival of Candlemas and the Celtic celebration of Imbolc.  Both have light at their heart – whether a spiritual light or the physical lengthening of the days – and both signal that winter is almost at an end and Spring is on the horizon.  It is, for me as an artist, the time of year when I do most planning; I read poetry and quotations, sketch from life and from imagination and stock up on all the bits and pieces that I need to keep my haberdashery stockpile looking healthy.  More than that, it is the time of year when I cast a glance over what is working for me creatively and what is not.frosty morning

Armed with this new found inner knowledge, I have started to prepare the first of this year’s works of Textile Arts.  My pals down at Bryngarw Country Park wanted an indoor sketch of The Keepers to explain the central theme of ‘Beneath this land a story sleeps’ and how The Keepers have a life within the Park which we may not see or be party to because of our rushed and bustling lives.  I have done a quick sketch which will form the basis of a wallhanging in needlefelt and creative embroidery.

keepers sketch

Hopefully this will be part of a joint exhibition Maggie and I will be having in May (From the Wood 2 [too]).  You can find more details here.  Next on my list is to enter the Open Art Exhibition at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.  I am not doing this because I think that I will be successful but for three other and quite distinct reasons.  Firstly I believe that without people entering competitions  art becomes an elitist and ultimately barren backwater; secondly, the National Eisteddfod is not in existence to show Wales as a densely castled theme park with quaint folk speaking an archaic language.  It is trying to encourage, sustain and flaunt a vibrant culture and linguistic tradition in the face of globalisation.   It can’t do that if only a couple of people enter the competitions.  (Ac os ‘dych chi’n dysgu Cymraeg, mae rhif y gwlith o gystadlaethau yn Maes D sydd yn addas i chi.  Ceir rhagor o fanylion yma

cynddylan 1

Thirdly, just before I get down from my hobby horse and put him in the stable for the night, I am firmly of the opinion that it will help me develop as a Textile Artist.  Like a lot of competitions, the National Eisteddfod require you to present an artistic CV and a supporting document for the piece of art.  This means it’s not just about painting a picture or throwing a pot or (in my case) stitching over some fabric.  It means you have to think about what you are doing and why you are doing it.  It means that art has purpose.  I tell anyone who stands still long enough to listen that good art – in whatever form – should do three things: it should evoke an emotional response, it should provoke thought or opinion and it should be the result of skill or good technique.  I cannot say whether my entry to the Eisteddfod will meet any of those criteria but it won’t stop me trying.  Besides which, the Eisteddfod 2015 is being held in Meifod, the home of my current sources of inspiration Cynddylan and Heledd (Mae’r ‘stafell Cynddylan yn dywyll heno) . 

Cynddylan sketch

Ysbrydoliaeth is the word in Welsh for ‘inspiration’ and it’s a feminine noun so if you look at the quotation at the top of the page, it might make more sense when I tell you that the whole verse of this Irish song is

She’s my pulse, she’s my secret, she’s the scented flower of the apple, she’s summer in the cold time between Christmas and Easter.

Happy Stitching!

 

All’s well that ends well

“Good order is the foundation of all things”

Edmund Burke

“No, it’s not”

Maria Lalic

Every year I make the same resolution – to be more organised.  Every year I think if only I had the perfect diary, Filofax, calendar, whiteboard, blackboard, something – ANYTHING – then I would succeed in my resolution.

Haws dweud na gwneud
Haws dweud na gwneud

This January, for the first time, I am trying to see if sticky notes will help where everything else has failed.  I am not optimistic because already they have disarranged themselves out of the nice orderly lines I put them in on the board and have started clustering haphazardly together.  I notice particularly that they have adopted a list to starboard ie they are now diagonal instead of straight.  This is not unusual in my house.  I use a spirit level to put up shelves etc, but there isn’t a horizontal surface anywhere.  I think this is due less to incompetence and more to the creative bit in my brain not liking straight lines.

I love organic shapes

The Keeper of the Meadow at Bryngarw Country Park
The Keeper of the Meadow at Bryngarw Country Park

and natural textures

Tree fungus
Tree fungus

These are things which excite me as an artist and make me want to get the paints, fabric and thread out.   So here’s the question: do I pay more or less attention to the creative bit of my brain?  There are people who have found incredible and creative ways to interpret straight lines.  I looked at the very beautiful work of Textile Artist Yvonne Brown recently.  You can see her art here.  It is amazing how fairly formal patterns can be given such a depth of texture.   Last week I came across the Stonehenge designs of  Linda Ludovico and it is remarkable to see a different take on the simple ‘straight’ line.

I wish I could say I feel inadequate when I see the work of these two but I don’t because comparing Textile Artists is like comparing apples and oranges.  It is a joy to work with a medium where there are no boundaries and no rules.  None of us do things right and none of us do things wrong.  We just do.  So maybe my resolution for the year shouldn’t be to more organised but to be more accepting.   Now excuse me while I go and rearrange my sticky notes …

PS  This is what Mother Nature does to straight lines.

The sea wall at Porthcawl
The sea wall at Porthcawl

 

Places, please!

“Mae mwy nag un ffordd i gael Wil i’w wely.”

So you’ve finished your piece of creative work .  Now what do you do with it?  Put it in the back of the cupboard or on a shelf to gather dust?  No, if you’ve created a piece of art – in whatever medium – you will want to put it on public display.  It might be that you stick to the fridge door with a magnet or have it professionally framed and hung on a wall in the house.  There again, you might want to show your work  to a wider audience so you need to find a place to exhibit it.  Think outside the box like the creator of Llandoddies did.

Llandoddies
Llandoddies

Continue reading Places, please!

Calling to the Child

“I am the gleam on a dragonfly’s wing; I am the pollen the honeybees bring; I am the tamed and I am the wild; I am adventure that calls to the child.”

Daniel Lock

Bryngarw Country Park
Bryngarw Country Park

As late spring moves towards summer, gardens come alive with colour, texture and movement.  This is the time when Textile Art really comes into its own because more than many other creative or artistic disciplines, working with fabrics and thread allow you to play with colour, texture and movement. Continue reading Calling to the Child

Get inspired!

Wrth fy Modd - In my element
Wrth fy Modd – In my element

“Here All is One”

 

Rydw i wrth fy modd cerdded neu redeg dros y wlad. Bob dydd, byddaf i’n ceisio treulio rhyw amser y tu allan, i werthfawrogi’r byd naturiol. Rydw i’n cael llawer o ysbrydiolaeth gan y byd naturiol fella mae wedi bod yn wych i dderbyn cymorth o Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru. Hefyd, mae’n wych i few mor agos i le hyfryd fel Parc Gwledig Bryngarw. Continue reading Get inspired!