At least once a week, I think to myself 'I should go out for a bike ride or a walk in nature and look at beautiful things growing and living'. And then I never get a chance to do it because I'm so busy procrastinating in between work and my other work, making lists and getting frustrated when there are only so many hours in the day. But let's pretend - for one glorious moment - that we are still living in a perpetual teenaged summer holiday of wasting time in green areas and making daisy chains and being carefree, or as carefree as the average teenager happens to be these days.
When I look at Ann Wood's fabric creations, I see something effortless and beautiful. Something that looks like it just happened all by itself, like it was just there and you just happened to notice it quietly doing its thing in the corner of your eye.
There's a number of features of these handmade toadstools I like. Firstly there's the shape - the bulges of the stem, the soft cusp at the top. How she managed to draw the edges down to create a concave dome is beyond me, and a skill I very much want to learn. There's a certain messiness to the sewing that is so appealing, a kind of haphazard kitchen sink approach of making beautiful things. It's the Adore Delano 'make something from something' approach, pulling elements together and making them work through pure force of attraction. The little stitches across the ridges, in a white thread to pull up the soft colour under the cup, and to create that frilled effect you see on them in the wild. Also, you can't ignore the fluffiness of the raw edges on the stems - unpredictable and organic, a quality reinforced by the choice of fabrics and colours. These are rough fabrics with large weaves, they're upcycled or thrifted, they look like they've grown up out of the bottom of wardrobes or charity shops. They have a history to them, they even look like they have their own scent to match. Despite the fact these are fabrics I would routinely ignore when out shopping, I can't get over how delicate and rich they look as toadstools.
If there is a lesson here for me, let it be that I have to start looking beyond the first impression and start thinking to the potential underneath the surface. These objects have transformed themselves through skill and love. There is joy pouring out of every stitch of these strange, misshapen, glorious things.
Moving on from the gorgeously ugly and bizarre array of fungi, we find ourselves in more traditional territory. I've seen fabric roses before, with tightly curled petals in reds and scarlets. Soft pinks and golds in singed silks, floating and delicate. Quilted yellow buds, nestled together. Hell, I've even seen roses made of barbed wire and leather.
Forget those - now it's all about rose hips.
I am in love. There is something so gentle, so simple about this design. It has the smooth edges of the pod, the tangles at the lip, the twisted stem, the fraying leaves, the effortless balance of colours. It's the perfect combination of structured skill and messy creativity. It has care in every stitch, but still a kind of abandon that makes each one so lovely.
When I attempt to nurture the flowering pot plants on my deck, I have the same pleasure watching them bloom as I do looking at these. Maybe it's admiration of the design - one made by deft fingers, the other dictated by the sun and the rain and growing up into it's final product. Maybe that's the thought I want to leave it on for this post, the idea that a perfect design takes time to grow and twist into the right configuration. It's a mixture of the right environment, the right conditions - just enough light, not too much water, a little trim here or there. Being a creative person, wanting to live off of a creative career, is a process of a lot of hard work, a lot of time and just a sprinkle of the right stuff. Sure, there are going to be stormy days that bog everything down, and days when it seems like nothing's ever going to happen, but if it can happen, it will happen, bit by bit.
Sow the seeds, water the roots, let it all grow in it's own time. Wait to see what shape it will take. Don't force it, don't rush it - there's all the time in the world to enjoy the pay off when it finally blooms and the metaphor comes to it's natural conclusion.
Basically, what I'm trying to tell myself when I look at these wonderful designs, is not to get disheartened that I'm 'not there yet' or whatever horrible version of that thought is rolling around my head. I remember listening to some of my friends a few years ahead of me talk about this pressure they felt wanting to be successful and in control of their lives despite only being in their early twenties, and I thought they were mad. Then I graduated and spent a year or two in the real world and now I completely understand that pressure. I was a big fish in a little pond growing up, I thought I was so talented and innovative and creative, and I thought that would continue forever. Then came rent due, and bills, and laundry every day, and all these other little parts of being an adult, and realising you want your every day life to match up to the expectations you had of your future when you were a carefree, grass stained teenager.
I know I'm not the only one, there are hundreds of twenty somethings and up who feel under pressure to be these great and talented people who influence others and have amazing careers following their passions, and to be down right amazing at their chosen skill. It is frustrating. It is heart breaking. It feels like it's choking sometimes, like it's threatening to pull you under and force you to live in mediocrity while you follow accounts of people younger than you living lives so much more glamorous and productive.
So, yeah. Maybe instead of sitting staring at my screen, repeatedly telling myself 'you should be working', it might be a better use of my time to go outside, stretch my legs and fill up my lungs with something other than the stuffy air circling around the library. Instead of feeling inferior and powerless, I should spend my time outside surrounded by plants and seed pods - beautiful things that never needed to worry about what they were going to be, they just grew until they were. It's a beautiful time to do it - I don't think much of the Great British Summer, but the Autumn in England is stunning. It turns everything to red and orange and gold, and the air is still warm but the ground is damp and dark.
I don't think my roses are going to bloom again this year, they struggled this summer. The funny thing is, I mean that both metaphorically and literally. Never mind, there's always next summer. And until then, there's the quiet glory of Ann Wood and her deeply inspiring seed pods.
All images have been reproduced without permission, but with lots of credit to the original artist and owner.