A Foray into Mindfullness and Meditation

Ever fancied trying some meditation or learning about mindfullness? Well that’s just what I’ve been doing. You may well ask what this has got to do with colour or form, quite a lot in fact.

path

I will not attempt to describe all the techniques I’ve been learning, far from it, as there are experts who will do just that. I wanted to tell you about three things which really stood out for me which I thought may interest you too, who knows?

1. If you suffer from a lot of ‘chatter’ whirring around in your head when you are attempting to get to sleep, Tara Brach‘s  book, True Refuge, has a brilliant technique to quieten your mind. She asks you to visualise outer space. Most of us will think of a vast and empty place especially compared to our own more solid world. However, she points out “the atoms that make up our own bodies are actually 99.9% empty space and the distance between atoms, and the space within atoms, compared with their mass makes us as spacious internally as the universe we live in” Now visualise the space behind your eyeballs or the space between your ears while thinking about all this space between your atoms. My head which had previously felt ready to explode with a massive ‘to do’ list, suddenly feels quite empty. Voila! Please try it, it really works.

2. Mindfullness and remembering to live in the moment. This isn’t a new concept or even a difficult one and I think most of us are good at this while on holiday but tend to get caught in the rat race as soon as we get home. It’s not difficult to live in the moment while standing in one of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet. These snaps were taken (without any filters or photoshopping) last summer while on holiday in the Plitvicka National Park in Northern Croatia. A stunning natural wonder where I would defy anyone not to live in the moment.

Plitvicka lakes

So, remembering to notice, absorb and appreciate things around me even in a seemingly ordinary normal environment, these pictures were taken looking out of my kitchen window at breakfast time – not one of my best times of day (!) and a time when we are all flying around with tight schedules. However, it was certainly worth pressing ‘pause’ and looking at the sky in Edinburgh last week (again no filters or photoshopping)

Edinburgh sky

3. Visualisation during meditation. My meditation teacher gave our group many different techniques to help ‘let go’ but the most successful method for me, surprise surprise,  involved colour. She told us to imagine our bodies were a transparent glass statue, completely empty inside. She then said ‘scan’ the body with your mind exploring from the head to toes all while visualising it as an empty glass statue. Then she told us to imagine a coloured mist entering our bodies which would gradually fill the empty glass space with colour. The mist would reach and fill all parts from the finger tips to the back of the legs and around the skull. At this point I had a very clear mental picture, and colour (aqua in my case), flooding through my body. After a while we were to imagine the coloured mist sink down through our body as if it were getting heavier and it would flow down our legs (taking with it any negative thoughts) and out the soles of our feet leaving behind our empty glass vessel again. It cleanses your mind. Really.

Ok, so at this point, I might be loosing some of you and you may well be thinking, oh dear, poor niki, she has lost the plot, but fear not! I was a sceptical as anyone else and having been brought up in a purely scientific world which needed proof and results, I didn’t hold high hopes of benefiting from any of this but I was curious and willing (which is all it takes).

So having finished the course and finished Tara Brach’s brilliant book, I admitt I have benefited in several ways. Apart from meeting some highly interesting people on the course, it has unleashed a torrent of new designs – oddly enough, very different from my previous work, so much so, I may well set up a new range with it. The new textiles are not printed yet but I look forward to showing you them soon – they are watercolour and pastel designs which I plan to print onto a fairly heavy 519 gsm linen.

One last thing I really liked from Tara’s book. A group of students were shown a photo, something like this,

gull

and were asked what they saw. Of course they said ‘a bird’ but the spiritualist leader said, ‘sky’ . A  great example of keeping an open mind and looking past the obvious. I liked that a lot.

If you do try any of these techniques, I would love to know how you get on. Training your brain to use slightly different neurological pathways can be pretty interesting.

When Inspiration Deserts You

It’s been a while since I last posted and that’s because something rather strange happened to me. To put it bluntly, my inspiration evaporated, vanished, dried up (partly due to a rather long bout of labyrinthitis) . Oh dear, I know on social media we are all meant to be oozing with creativity and positive energy but for one day only I will break the unspoken ‘bubbly’ rule. However, I am delighted to report, that finally I am back on track and raring to go. Phew, about time!

orange hull, violet below.

orange hull, violet below.

I mentioned previously that I am working on some woven textiles using blended colours and with this in mind  I photographed some of the huge ships docked at Leith, Edinburgh’s commercial quay this morning. I hope you enjoy the colour blends and shapes which were boosted by the glorious sunshine we have here today.

blue stripes, red overall

blue stripes, red overall

orange hull and below
metal stripes

metal stripes

orange hull, blue tape

orange hull, blue tape

sun through containers

sun through containers

I enjoy reading great blogs and comments from jewellers, cooks, artists, poets, writers and dress makers and all your posts come thick and fast. Does inspiration ever evade you? And if so, what do you do?

Hunt, Gather, Design

Design shows are important events in the calendar and the big ones are very often held in London. When attending these shows I am often asked how designers keep current and in touch while living and working four hundred miles north of The Big Smoke. 

Well, walk this way…

We have a collection of secret weapons up here in Scotland. Weapons that fuse together and do the majority of the work for us; our landscape, our light and our space. Without exception, every single design I have produced has stemmed from a walk outdoors. Not necessarily a traverse across rugged moor or a walk on one of our many wild beaches, even the most mundane of walks will produce results. It’s simply a case of looking rather than just seeing. I hunt for shapes, gather what I see and turn them into designs.

Shapes in the city

I shall demonstrate the power of the landscape with the help of the bute fabrics collection. A quick flick through the binder and I come across several fabrics that appear to be a direct abstraction from nature. Intentional or subliminal, the designers are clearly demonstrating a raw and visceral connection to the environment.

Pitted sand and ‘Iona’, fine worsted marl

The fabric of our landscape is literally weaving itself into the very heart of designs emerging from Scotland.

Protruding rock veins and ‘Kilmory’ cloth

Natural materials but a man made wall – look how its structure emerges as an architectural weave.

Stone wall and ‘Braemar’ cloth

Busy docks have long been one of my richest sources of inspiration. I can’t help but notice a similarity of colour and form in my dockland montage with that of bute’s special yarn effect cloth, ‘Skye’. A clean, contemporary cloth that I am keen to specify.

Docklands montage and ‘Skye’ cloth

Blue panels of Hebridean water are reproduced in the interior of this room – the positioning of the ‘Turnberry’ throw on the sandy coloured  felt wool chair looks pleasing because it is a direct translation of a natural landscape. In other words, it  gains an instant authenticity.

Panels of blue sea and Bute’s ‘Turnberry’ throw

Look at the dark Lewisian Gneiss sharply contrasting with the adjacent white sand – a powerful combination. The organic form of the white DSR Eames Chair  is heightened by the dark grey back drop. Our design instincts are influenced by the natural world yet again.

A colour combination in nature emerges in an interior

A detail from an artist’s oil painting and a set of colours and shapes I see at the harbour.

Colours from a harbour and detail from an unrelated oil painting.

So no matter where we live, I am certain we are all deeply affected by the space around us. I am quite sure a primal force exists within us that connects us to the land and appears consciously and unconsciously time after time in the products we are designing.  Nature is the touchstone for truthful design and is one of the many good reasons designers continue to live and work  successfully in Scotland.

And it’s not just the landscape that inspires us, don’t forget about the local flora and fauna. After curing this locally caught salmon in beetroot and vodka, I was spell bound by the colour palette that lay on my kitchen work top.

But I will leave you with a montage of textures and patterns I collected from a recent walk. Textures I plan to work on to produce some new work – not a difficult task when surround by this…

natural textures and patterns

There Are Some Things You Just Can’t Improve

I always look forward to reading the What’s Going On at Conran blog and a recent post made me think about design very carefully. They quoted Sir Terence Conran’s affection for ‘plain, simple and useful’ designs.

Being able to really look at something in its stripped down form is one of the most useful things to do before embarking on any kind of project and you will probably find that there are some things which cannot be improved upon. No embellishment, no tweaks required, full stop. This post is a bit different from my usual ramblings as its about some of my favourite things – perfect exactly the way they are.

Perhaps its the colour, perhaps its their simplistic form but stumbling across a rambling mass of forget-me-nots never fails to stop me in my tracks.

Despite living in a city like Edinburgh crammed full of art galleries, museumssculpture parks and stunning architecture , I still need to get into ‘the wilds’ now and again. Last weekend I was in Perthshire and amazingly you can reach the foot of Ben Vracky by car from Edinburgh in 90 minutes.

This is the start of the walk – complete with gurgling burn running next to the path. Can this be improved? I don’t think so.

Half way up the mountain you look down and see the extraordinary colours of the landscape. I’m not quite sure why the vegetation changes so abruptly here, perhaps its the change in altitude, perhaps its the edge of controlled burning, but for a colour boffin, its pure joy.

Higher again and you can see see the weather moving in – in this case snow is coming.

Reaching the summit of any mountain metaphorical or physical is a feeling that is impossible to better, but standing on the summit of Ben Vracky surrounded by swirling snow (in May) has to be one of life’s greatest feelings (provided you are properly kitted out of course).

From mountain top to river bed and the pass of Killiecrankie. Standing on the steep rocks at Soldiers Leap you can watch the river Garry crash through the pass and fracture into a million droplets.

and a packed lunch sitting on the river bed surrounded by rocks that would not look out of place in the most fashionable city art gallery.

Beautiful, simple things which are out there, to look at, for free. You can’t beat that.

Now, on a different note, some very kind fellow bloggers have awarded me some lovely blog awards. I’m afraid, I didn’t really know what to do with them at first so its taken me a while to even acknowledge them for which I must apologise. I am only mentioning this in order to thank the people who have given me them – I’m not wanting to show-off about them!

The first one ‘Hope Unites Globally HUG Award’ came from the very kind This Mans Journey blog. Then the amazingly talented food writer, Kellie from Food to Glow has awarded me the ‘Versatile Blogger Award’ . You must try some of Kellie’s recipes, apart from all being super healthy, they are all bursting with flavours and are absolutely mouth watering (as is her photography). Patricia from deCamville Design has awarded me a ‘Beautiful Blogger Award’ so a big thank you fellow bloggers for your generous awards.

Shapes from an Industrial Landscape

Someone asked me a pretty valid question yesterday, “why is it that you often write about the colours you find on beaches, hills and forests on your blog, yet your textiles are highly chromatic and inspired from an industrial landscape?”

Actually, the answer is pretty simple. Shapes emerge from industrial structures  which are bold and graphic – shapes which look comfortable in highly saturated hues.

It’s difficult to walk past such obvious patterns, especially during the Winter months when our low sun creates such long and obvious shadows.

The tangle of pipes and tubes look precious not ugly in late afternoon sun,

and the facades of warehouses look like a complex weave,

Living in a city, I see shapes like these every day but I also know that we all must escape the constant city shapes and immerse ourselves in the organic patterns and broken hues of the natural world, equally inspiring but sometimes less obvious for translating into textiles but an environment I am having fun with for my next range.

What landscapes inspire you?