baskets in the woods

I have just spent two joyful days making bramble baskets in new leafed woodland near Heathfield, East Sussex, facilitated by Ruby Taylor of Native Hands.

The gentle supportive tone and pace of the weekend was set as we were invited to make the short walk into our camp in the woods, silently and to turn off our mobile phones. Each day we joined in the lighting of a campfire, blowing gently to ignite a small spark held in a dry grass bundle to which twigs, sticks and small split logs were added. It became the centre of  warmth, support and mindful making.

For our material, we gathered and stripped  brambles; a small wall basket with a handle the aim.   Each technical step was taught with care and clarity by Ruby.  We shared food at lunch times and punctuated our days with plentiful tea and flapjacks. Baskets finished, but not yet trimmed as bramble shrinks, we gathered with joyful surprise at our efforts.

As we contemplated our  return to busy-ness, Ruby read The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry to complete a quite beautiful weekend.

“When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” 
Wendell Berry

© susy orton 2019

generous inspiration

Inspiring books have come into my life these past few months; they arrived in various ways but all with generosity and warmth.  I wanted to share them.

The first is by Elizabeth Fisher and Rebecca Fortnum: On Not Knowing: How Artists Think. It’s a chewy book, when slow re-reading and digesting is essential for me. It has chapters like ‘Tactics for Not Knowing’ and ‘Unteachable and Unlearnable’ and ‘Pedagogy of the Not Known’. I am loving it, chewing it and allowing myself to relax a little more into my own puzzles and artistic endeavours.

The second is by Kate Davies: Handywoman.  Paralysed by a stroke at the age of 39, Kate’s world turned upside down. Forced to change direction, she took a radical new creative path. Handywoman is not a book about triumph over adversity, rather it is her account of the ordinary activities and everyday objects that stroke and disability made her see differently. Part memoir, part personal celebration of the power of making, it redefines disability as in itself a form of practical creativity.

© sue orton 2018



Spirit of Damselfly 2017 (a beginning)

A request for a commission  came to me last Autumn from the partner of a gifted poet who had admired my South Downs Tweed. My creative ideas had unconsciously started when she sent me a poem ‘Damselfly’ which I had been pondering.  ….The process of designing started with a conversation and a wondering … and my notes record ideas and snippets …”damselfly, water, sea, rivers” ….”Spring summer, appreciate the lift of energy,”…”strong rich colours teal, lighter blue, olive greens..” … colours that expand into the bright edge of themselves… ” So my exploring, experimentation and mood board began … and as I looked and pondered my yarn palette grew too. A mix of merino wool and bamboo perhaps…?  After a few weeks I decided a point threading would be fun to explore and so using fibonacci numbers to help randomise the warp I painted a warp and went ahead with an experimental cloth to send to my client for her perusal…..

© sue orton 2018

weaving again

The winter was a fallow time for weaving for me.  Now inspired by a long planned trip to Peru, I am back designing again.  Creative confidence is for me a transient thing.. getting it back has been mixture of dogged persistence, encouragement from an experienced weaving buddy and just getting in my studio. I’ve spent last week wandering through Peru shapes pictures, journal entries and poetry; making potato cuts of hats, Inca shapes; browsing patterns and designs to translate into cloth. I have extended my colour palette too from Knoll Yarns.

© sue orton

falling back in love with sound

Hearing_Love-1397951374mI have hearing aids; they are marvellous; but it’s been quite a journey falling in love with sound again.

Not hearing talk on the radio was my first sign that I wasn’t quite catching everything and I ignored it for a couple of years. Further noticing that my right and left ear were different, my GP suggested a scan, which was all clear.  Further procrastination followed, the TV was louder, home communication was increasingly comical or frustrating. I can  hear but not quite as well as before. But I didn’t want to acknowledge it.  However, last October, I had a hearing test; the recommendation, two hearing aids.  Bother. I’m not old enough!!  Memories of shouting at my mum when she refused to wear them sent me into a slough of despond this winter.  So what changed?

I researched hearing aids … the technology now is wonderful.  You can link them to your phone, your music, to podcasts even to Radio 4, wow. I started to notice lots of people wearing them and they looked fine. At home, frustration was rising and I was missing jokes and key bits of conversation.  Then, during a teaching session I realised I couldn’t hear everyone clearly. Enough.

HowtheEarHears_001I found a brilliant local audiologist who explained all about hearing loss and began. Did you know that with sound your brain is a like muscle working hard to process whatever sound it can get. Less sound = more work and it’s exhausting.  Two trial behind my ears aids were programmed for me to try.  It’s a challenging process getting used to them with everything loud and overwhelming at first including my own voice. The tiny buds linking to four microphones in my ears were uncomfortable and itchy at first.  But the bird song, clear conversation, sensational music wow… I was hearing stuff I just didn’t know I was missing.  I had surround sound again.

After 2 weeks I decided that I would get my own. They are brilliant. So I’m over it. I’m over the internalised prejudice, I’ve spat that out.  I feel happier and more relaxed too. It’s just made life fuller, more relaxed and a joy again.

Also, I can now hear birdsongs again.  Have a listen here: Bird songs and calls

© sue orton 2017

January return to Taiji Qigong

I have returned to practising Taiji Quigong this week thanks to the brilliant DVD The Road to Health and Vitality with Chris Jarmey and sold for just £5.00 + pp in aid of The Bubble Foundation. He explains the benefits of the practise and then takes you through the 18 movements (about 25 mins) gently and clearly; I love it.  If you want one,  send a cheque to the foundation + a donation if you wish and they will send you one.

© sue orton

612 design: #2

This time I had a much better warping process; learnings from #1 settling in.  This will be quite a technical post for weavers amongst you.   Two warps this time.  Raddle and sorting crosses a little further away from the ends of the warp; there is still fine tuning to be had here.  I have also used 4 threads for counting and for the raddle cross corresponding the sett [8 ends per cm].  The main change has been to winding on, thanks to my weaving pal Julia.  She suggested putting the raddle cross sticks closest to the back beam and then suspending the raddle just in front of it, brilliant.  The wind on just completed.  Tomorrow threading and sleying then weaving.

© sue orton