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29 On my ...

On my iPad in this case, and also on my mind. Although I'm thinking that perhaps this post will be the first in an occasional series that might encompass any or all of what's on my desk, what's on my feet, what's on my shopping-list ... you get the idea.

A personal blog, whatever its purported focus, is essentially a self-portrait, a multi-media 'selfie' if you will. And between self and selfie lies the curation of identity, aka, choosing what, and what not, to share. It's a notion that fascinates me. And more so because we choose, in part, in accordance with our perceptions of how we'll be perceived.

If I knowingly choose to convey anything about myself here it's that identity is not fixed, and that what I look like has little relevance to who I am, what I think, or how I feel. Plus I know that, contrary to received wisdom, the camera often lies, or rather the documenting photographer often does, making a self-portrait arguably less true than a portrait proper. Are photographic self portraits fibs we tell about ourselves, or truths about how we hope we will be seen. Or are they key to self-discovery in this digital age? I shall be looking for answers to those questions as I work my way through Susan Tuttle's iPhoneography self-portraiture course.

Unsurprisingly, as I turn my attention more fully to photography, I'm rethinking my creative identity. Dyer? Definitely, and with a dye post or two drafted. But knitter? Not so much ... doc's orders, it transpires, are not to go near the sticks and string for some time (this post will probably make most sense if you've read the one that precedes it). I spent yesterday swopping things about in my studio ... for the duration the woolly stuff might as well be in the least accessible spots, given how little room I have in there. Which got me to thinking about work spaces as self-portraits. A thought I carried with me when I downloaded a back copy of Pure Green Magazine*.

I really like Pure Green and I'm guessing you would too. The photography is gorgeous, and it includes a scrummy recipe section. But the featured workplaces in Vol. 6 mostly look a tad too tidy to be true. I'm guessing they'd been styled pre shoot, which seems to miss the point somehow. One belongs to Amy Tremper, a worker in leather who tired of her life as a photographer and wanted to engage with something more hands on, the irony of which was not lost on me. And then I read Schirin Oeding's piece, 'Inconvenient Beauty: An exploration of process and what really matters most' ...
I have held the belief that slow work, done with skill and requiring practice, work that involves the whole body, not only the mind, is what really awakens us to our world ... Think of knitting, or spinning ... fibres and threads joined into one, simple things made complex, a process of hands-on transformation. ... How would the world change if we took our time every once in a while, chose to make something by hand, cherished the slow ... honour your hard work, cultivate your skills ... you are what you make.
... and I wept a little - Pollyannaish me, the cheery woman whose blog is littered with posts expressing similar mind-body and maker-ish beliefs - for the many things that poor health takes from us. And then I determined to get at least some of them back, even if knitting remains off limits and photography my principle preoccupation. Self-portrait of a rejuvenated me ... pending.

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Thank you all so so much for your sweet words lately. The Aged P's are still keeping me on my toes and somewhat greedily consuming my time. But otherwise I'm fine, truly ... some tears are cathartic.

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As always, this is not a sponsored post, but the images are links.

* If you're in the EU you can order a print copy from Line+Liv


53 Of tortoises, hares, and future-proofing

Black and white shot of Lilleshall Abbey ruinsBlack and white shot of Lilleshall Abbey ruins

And another week bites the dust. I won't bore you with the whys and wherefores, let's just say that ever since my father's Sainsbury's ram raid parking incident it's all been a bit downhill when it comes to the Aged Ps. This was supposed to be Tuesday's post, and Thursday's post would have featured a spot of knitting ... so far the knitting hasn't happened either.

Failing health isn't a fun topic, and it's one that I generally avoid, but truth be told I'm not exactly in the pink myself. It's just the same ol' same ol' ... blimmin' rheumatoid arthritis, with a side order of fibromyalgia ... I've had it since my thirties. But a decade and more down the line it's beginning to noticeably limit what I can do and the time has come for a spot of future-proofing.

The more eagle eyed among you may have spotted that 'author' and 'artisan' have swopped places in my tag line. A change marking a shift in emphasis that I've been resisting until now. In many ways it's the final step on the road from blogging as knitsofacto to blogging as me. The woolly stuff is still happening but at a pace that a tortoise would find wanting. When writing or image wrangling, on the other hand, I become a veritable hare. Working digitally is just so much more accessible when bits of you have ideas of their own about what's possible without pain. And particularly so if you're able to invest in quality lightweight cameras, and have probably always been, at heart, a photographer first and a wordsmith second.

My childhood home held on its bookshelves both a copy of Aesop's Fables - over-confident Hare loses focus, tenacious Tortoise wins the race - and a copy of Dunsany's Fifty-One Tales, which includes 'The True History of the Hare and the Tortoise'. The word 'true' has a powerful effect on a kid offered two versions of the same fiction. Dunsany's Hare possesses a highly developed sense of the absurd - a hugely desirable quality I thought - and so deliberately allows the Tortoise to triumph. This version of events is not commonly known, the story reveals, because
... very few of those that witnessed it survived the great forest-fire that happened shortly after. It came up over the weald by night with a great wind. The Hare and the Tortoise and a very few of the beasts saw it far off from a high bare hill that was at the edge of the trees, and they hurriedly called a meeting to decide what messenger they should send to warn the beasts in the forest. They sent the Tortoise.
Clearly the hare didn't understand future-proofing, but then neither did I back then

I knit to order my thoughts and to free my mind ... why would I hurry? One tortoise-like step at a time I can travel far, eventually. But slow and steady doesn't always carry the day ... blogging is a sprint and a gal who blogs must embrace her inner hare. Digital photography lets me do that in a way the 'analogue' crafty stuff just doesn't ... it's a swift(ish) pain-free route to making stuff to share with you and one that's hopefully way more future proof, for me, than my fibre-y* pursuits.

How about you? Tortoise? Hare? Neither? Both?

In my early days as a blogger I was given some great advice ... think of one or two words that encompass your intent and always blog with those words in mind. I chose 'knit' and 'connect', but quickly realised that 'connect' was redundant - blogging is connecting - and replaced it with 'evoke'. 'Knit' remained until the blog's name change when I replaced it with 'portray'. I know from your comments that a few of you have picked up on a shift that you couldn't quite pin down and I'm guessing that's it.

Etymologically a portrait, be it of a person or a thing (knitting included), 'makes present' or 'brings to view' (OED). Photography that does that can change perspectives. So can words. The woolly stuff in and of itself, not so much so. Currently I'm working on a portrait of the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey Church, a project which may well result in an artist's book, an itch I've been wanting to scratch again for a while. I really like Lilleshall, it's marked by time's ravages but it's still standing proud. As an Augustinian monastery it clearly wasn't future proof, but its remains suggest that unexpected fates can be nonetheless potent.

I thought this might interest you. Artists, curators and portrait gallery staff attempt to describe portraiture. It turns out to be a surprisingly difficult question to answer ...

This post is the last in a series that amount, almost, to a manifesto. A tad self indulgently, since returning as me I've been mapping out in my posts where I'm headed with this space.

These particular images of Lilleshall Abbey in Shropshire were processed using the Oggl app from Instamatic.

* Oh to be American and able to take the 'fibery' spelling option!


49 Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Stylized photograph of flowers.

... the process alone makes the juice worth the squeeze ...
Rick Silvestrini

As a knitter I'm far from prolific, and I'm prone to ripping back. Close friends tease me mercilessly whenever another work in progress progresses back to balls of wool. But truth be told, product isn't what motivates me*, process is. Give me needles and yarn and my default mode is play.

Knitty play doesn't result in much that's quantifiable ... it doesn't add to your Ravelry project totals or up your bloggy ta-dahs. But it's fun. And sometimes it will take you way beyond what you'd thought was the limit of your reach.

Photography's play too. I look at stuff. Then I photograph it. Sometimes I lie on the ground to get a worm's eye view. Immersed in the moment I shoot whatever draws my eye. There's a fair bit of 'What if?' involved, particularly in the editing. Tweaking an image in this or that app, rejecting what doesn't work and starting over uninhibited by failure, "art begins precisely there, where we are able to do otherwise", or so said Gadamer**.

Product emerges from among a myriad possibilities. Process is the means by which vision is refined. And play's all about the journey, destination unknown. It's exploration, it's improvisation, it's imagination. It's discovery. In origin the word 'play' is cognate with dancing and with risk. While the world fixates on productivity and outcomes do you embrace process and dare to play?

* Except maybe in midwinter, when I'm cold!

** Hans-Georg Gadamer, 'The Play of Art'. I'm still not happy with this image ... I've shared it mid process ... it's not art yet.

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Thank you for all your sweet comments on my last post, and apologies for the week long radio silence. I snuck in a little holiday. Normal service will now be resumed.

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