Saturday, 31 August 2013

Sandra Brownlee - tactile journals and the written word

this week i had the great pleasure of being a student in a class led by my friend Sandra Brownlee

she surprised us each with a gift of paper
together with a candle and a box of matches
and an exquisitely bound stone heart

after asking us to talk about the relevance of the notebook to our practice
[i had to admit i begin a notebook with exquisite attention to detail
arranging things as though the pages were a secret chamber in a wunderkammer...
which doesn't last as within a short space of time those pristine pages
resemble nothing so much as a piece of sticky flypaper
hanging in some grungy ktichen]

her first instructions were
"cover your notebook so that you want to hold it"
i did.
i think i'll cover all of my notebooks with padding and cloth 
from now on
it makes them good to hold
having cloth inside the back cover is rather useful for wiping messy fingers.
+  +  +
each morning began with a ritual drawing session
to focus mind and body on the task at hand
Sandra presented us with an abundance of things to read and gaze at
pegged out nicely on a clothesline

we worked with letters and words
and i overcame an inherent mistrust of embroidery hoops
there may be more of them in my future
+  +  +
at the end of today
i farewelled the view
the dog
and the river
and friends from near and far 
but not for too long
i will be back in June next year
to take Michel Garcia's indigo class
and work on a shared exhibition project with a local sculptor


  1. What fun to be a student... I'm always the teacher these days, I think being a student again would be really cool. The drawing ritual looks a lot like an exercise I do with my Myth & Symbol class, I love seeing that!

    1. i take at least two classes each year as a student, not necessarily in fields related to my work. it keeps my teaching fresh, challenges my brain and each time i come away with new ideas that have wandered in as a result of some pearl that has been cast before me:)

      that particular shared drawing exercise was something that Sandra and i devised together, inspired by John Franzen's 'one line one breath' series. the drawing implement was constructed from locally found materials [and here i acknowledge Helen Carnac's influence]

      during this week i'm happy to say i used every waking hour the early mornings i continued working on things begun during my studio residency here earlier in the month and in the evenings i worked on film/voice-over/writing projects.

      when your work IS your life, no matter what form it takes, that is a very wonderful thing...and i am very grateful for it!

    2. oooooh. This has given me so much nourishing food for thought!

  2. I had a retreat with Sandra Brownlee years ago...and I love how she has progressed in her retreats and experiences...what a wonderful experience. I am going to search our my journal ...with my notes and sketches working with her. Thank you for sharing...Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart


    1. given the time interval between then and now
      it would be interesting to work through the exercises again and see how you respond to them...

  3. I enjoyed reading your blog. Have a lovely weekend.

  4. mmmmmmm BOOOOOOOOKs (and matches? o myyyyy you are talking my language ;) )

    1. settle down Ronnie pet, there was no burning of books - tempting as it may have been to create Viking funerals given that lovely river. just think of the uproar that could have caused...

    2. I am.... BELIEVE ME... (I am...) :)

  5. That looks a great workshop! I love handmade books, esp. if they're tactile... mmmm, indeed!!

  6. i'm glad you reported your workshop, sandra sounds like someone to push your thinking and making through to different places. i love that, despite ronnie's passion for fire, that you kept your firesign under control and fed inner fire on that riverscape. doesn't it feel great to be so engaged in work?

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  9. Well, something goes wrong in my comment.. I mean to say that it looks fantastic and that i think it must have been too.
    I also like your reply on Valerianna. I'll keep that in mind :)

  10. your friend seems to be an excellent facilitator, i am very excited about the inspiration clothesline and the drawing ritual... thanks for sharing this..