28.1.16

The Colour Collaborative: Warm


You guys! Thank you, thank you, for all your sweet comments and kind emails in response to Carrying Fire. And thank you for sticking with me during these months of intermittent posting. I've lost January to arranging care packages for the Aged Ps that should mean I gain February, March, April, May ... fingers crossed, eh?

And while I've been occupied elsewhere the Colour Collaborative's rolled around again. The colour of warm. Is there such a thing? Definitively, I'm guessing not. But I'm going with winter white, a purely associative choice (either that or I was an arctic hare in a previous incarnation). It's the white of the pillows and duvet I reluctantly forsake at the start of each day. It's the white of the froth on my morning coffee, and of the coffee cup cradled in my hands. And it's the white of the undyed wool I just bought to knit myself a cosy cowl - no pictures yet, the yarn's still in the post.

Naturally white wool always looks warm to me, although in truth some yarns will be warmer than others, regardless of colour. Breed characteristics aside, how a yarn is spun is the key. Woollen spun yarns are carded to smooth the fibres but not combed to align them, in consequence they're loftier and therefore generally warmer, but they also break more easily. Worsted spun yarns are carded and combed, so they're stronger, but with less air trapped between the fibres they're not as insulating. Worsted spinning does preserve the fibre's lustre though, so undyed, worsted spun yarns can appear whiter than woollen spun equivalents. (If you're interested in reading more about the difference Sue Blacker explained it in detail during Wovember back in 2013.)

And now, if you'll excuse me, I think I hear the postman!


Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below ...


CJ at Above the River

Sarah at Mitenska

Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

Jennifer at Thistlebear


What is The Colour Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

9.1.16

Carrying fire


2016. I have no big plans and very few intentions. A year of small joys will suffice.

But that's not to suggest a year without focus ... on my wellbeing primarily, but also on some of the bigger issues that underpin that, like living sustainably (both in terms of the earth's resources and my own), and living creatively.




I just deleted a long paragraph about trends in blogging, a paragraph that included words like 'homogenous' and 'aspirational'. I deleted it because there's clearly no right way to do this, just ways that don't work for me and ways that do. And if I'm out of step with the majority, well that's generally where I prefer to be ... doing the unexpected. Life's stumbling blocks aside, I lost my way here during 2015, largely because I stopped writing the stories I wanted to tell and drifted instead into telling the stories I thought you might want to read.

I am a storyteller. We all are*. In the past I've been paid to write about other people (not here, in print, and I expect to be again), but the story I'm best qualified to tell, in words and in pictures, is my own**. And sharing our stories - far from being self-regarding, as we're too often told - is akin to mapping the wilderness for one another ... here be dragons, here be sirens, here be sanctuary, this way to resilience, this way to optimism, this way to delight. Without stories we are, quite literally, lost.

We navigate by our stories and are steered by them. They counsel us, caution us, can break yet also make us. They hearten us, humble us, heal us. They are in our blood, our bones and our beliefs. They are the fires we light against the dark.

2016. No big plans, few intentions, and one guiding word for the year ahead ... story.



You have to carry the fire.
I don't know how to.
Yes, you do.
Is it real? The fire?
Yes it is.
Where is it? I don't know where it is.
Yes you do. It's inside you. It always was there. I can see it.

Cormac McCarthy, The Road


A family's hearth fire was never allowed to go out. When children left to marry and raise families of their own, they took fire from their parents' hearth with them. It was both heirloom and talisman, nurtured and protected because each generation recognized it for what it was, living memory.

Ron Rash, author (slightly paraphrased)


We’re all made of stories. When they finally put us underground, the stories are what will go on.
Charles de Lint, author




* If you follow the link you might want to fetch a hankie first, to blub into if needed. Good tears, if they come, I promise.

** Even when I write biography the story I tell is less the biographee's story and more my story about him or her.

P.S. If you're thinking, 'Wow', it stopped raining in North Wales for long enough for them to light a bonfire on the beach', you'd be wrong. That's an old archive photo up top, and it's still raining.

31.12.15

The Colour Collaborative: Berry


I really hadn't intended to disappear again. Although, with Christmas looming, I should have realised that I might. It's been a loooong December. I'm exhausted. I'm also back ... with yet another Colour Collaborative offering, admittedly, but this time I have other posts lined up too. And stuck to my studio wall I have a post-it note on which I've scribbled these words of the late Audre Lorde's, 'Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation'. Whenever, as in recent weeks, my myriad responsibilities swamp me, I need reminding of that ... and that blogging is always good for me!




I printed Christmas cards with my old 'posterized' mistletoe image this year, but Viscum album, with it's distinctively white berries, is historically more likely to appear on cards that declare 'Bonne année' and 'Bonne santé' - which loosely translates as 'good health in the year ahead' - or ‘Au gui l’an neuf' - 'Lucky mistletoe for the New Year' - than 'Joyeux Noël'. It seems the kissing thing is considered a British eccentricity almost everywhere other than Britain, elsewhere mistletoe signals luck rather than love.

During WW1 bunches of the stuff frequently featured on postcards sent home from the front. All evergreens are associated with immortality and in European folklore mistletoe stands for life in the midst of death. Norse mythology tells of Baldur, god of light, whose mother Frigg, goddess of love, won promises from all the elements - earth, air, fire and water - and from all that sprang from them, that they would not harm her son. But Frigg forgot about the parasitic* mistletoe, and the evil Loki tricked Baldur's blind brother Hodr into killing Baldur with an arrow he'd made from its wood. Each of the elements tried and failed to revive Baldur before the tears of his grieving mother finally restored her son to life. From that day forward the mistletoe has born spherical white berries, berries formed from Frigg's tears.

'Uchelwydd' in Welsh, here mistletoe has traditionally been carried by those seeking protection from misfortune, fevers, even lightning strike. Welsh farmers apparently once believed that a mistletoe sprig in the dairy kept the milk from turning and that placing a branch of it with the first cow to calve guaranteed good yields. Given the berries' milk-whiteness the logic of this seems inescapable, and it's easy to believe that the more berries there were in any given year the more good luck was expected. (If you're interested in reading more about this Marie Trevelyan's Folk-lore and Folk-stories of Wales, 1909, has plenty to say about mistletoe - see pages 87 and 88 - and about much else, and is available in full as a free PDF.)

Crush a mistletoe berry between your fingers and you will see a bright green seed encased in mucilage - viscum, the sticky bit, that even after the berry has passed through a mistle thrush's gut will stick that seed firmly to any host bough**. The berries, which begin life as green as the leaves, only whiten as they mature. Why white? Because mistletoe seeds need light, without it they have limited longevity ... think of the translucent berry as a miniature greenhouse.

If you've ever tried to grow mistletoe by inserting seeds from sprigs you bought at Christmas into a nick in the branch of a tree, well you've probably not had much success. Far better to start with a fresh berry in February and place your seed *on* the bark, choosing a bough - apple trees and poplars make the best hosts - that's rarely in shadow. If you're lucky you'll have berries to kiss under within the year, or like me you could use them to say ...


Bonne Année. Bonne Santé




* Hemiparasitic in truth as it does achieve some photosynthesis.

** Just to be clear, this happens, probably often, but it certainly isn't essential to the seed's germination as Pliny (and many others since) suggested. Pliny also reported that the Celts considered the mistletoe berry both an antidote to all poisons and an aid to fecundity.


Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below ...


CJ at Above the River

Sarah at Mitenska

Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

Jennifer at Thistlebear


What is The Colour Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.
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