Singing Over the Bones

“Her cave is filled with the bones of all manner of desert creatures” Clarissa Pinkola Estes

In Clarissa Pinkola Estes modern classic, “Women Who Run With the Wolves”, she tells, among other things,  the story of La Loba, the old woman who spent her days scouring the countryside for the bones of dead, wild animals. She would gather them up and take them back to her cave, where she reassembled the skeletons and sang soulfully over them in order to flesh them out into the creatures they once were.

Earlier in the year, I had a big cleanup of my studio and discovered some wonderful treasures that I haven’t seen in years. When I opened one cardboard box that had long been lost beneath the table, I was surprised to see my collection of bones, gathered over many trips into the bush. I hauled them out and challenged my drawing students to bring them back to life.

A box of bones

Skeletons in my cupboard

So for the past three months the bones have been the focus of our adult drawing classes and with their sculptural forms and subtle shifts of light and shadow, they have proved a valuable theme to explore. My students, many of whom are still learning the basics, have really had to focus and polish their skills. Today I share with you a selection of their study drawings done during the first phase of this project:

I am delighted with this series of soulful drawings and in the next post, will share a few more images from the second phase of the project.

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From the Pin Board

As I wrap up my drawing classes for 2017, I am filled with gratitude for the way I earn my living, for to be able to teach people to draw and have the opportunity to light the creative flame in another persons soul, is a gift that few of us are blessed with. It is certainly one I never take for granted and I feel incredibly honoured that this wonderful group of students, who have now become my good friends, faithfully turn up  each week to share two hours with me. And they’re not all from Grahamstown, as one might expect. One lady drives an hour from the little Karoo town of Bedford and six others brave the 57 km pot-holed road from the coastal town of Port Alfred.

Ladies from the Friday morning class, all hard at work

The beauty of it all is that no matter what craziness life throws at me, the steady rhythm of weekly drawing classes and the regular appearance of these warm, friendly faces, helps to keep me balanced and moving in a forward direction.

Tuesday evening class.

My studio has been described as a ‘Red Tent’ space where women can relax and have fun, and although we gather primarily to draw, these sessions are about so much more than just drawing.  My students come from all walks of life, with one common desire to be creative, which means there is a very rich mix of diverse occupations and some truly amazing life stories, and during the course of conversation, one learns an incredible amount about subjects one might not have encountered in the normal flow of life. So these classes are interesting, but what I love most is the camaraderie and the support that is shown for one another. We have all become friends, there is no competition and everyone sets their own pace.

Ladies in the Thursday afternoon class, focussed and relaxed.

Most of my students arrive at my door for the first time with little or no drawing experience, but after going through the basic course, they are soon up and producing some really lovely work. I am delighted with the drawings that have come out of my studio this year and would like to share some of the fun and a selection of the work.

Click on the images below and enjoy:

Classes will resume in January 2018, so if you are keen to join us, please contact me for details.

As this is my last post for the year, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my students for all their support and wish everyone a safe and peaceful holiday season. I’ll see you in 2018!

 

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Art Journals

Many people have asked me what Art Journaling is and have wondered if it’s a form of scrapbooking? Well, yes and no. It is a way of collecting thoughts, ideas, visions and memories and putting them all together in a book, similar to what is done in scrapbooking, but art journaling is less commercial and is a more intuitive, individual and creative approach to visually documenting ones thoughts in a freestyle form, using images, paint, textures and words that when combined tell a fuller story.

‘Teatime Reflections’ by Sally Scott. This is a nostalgic reflection on days gone by, growing up on our farm in Zimbabwe. It includes a photo of the  ruin of our family home and the fireplace, in front of which, I once learned to sew and knit.

I have been journaling for many years and have explored a wide array of themes and subject matter. Before I start any new artwork, I make notes and sketch, writing my thoughts and ideas into my art journal, which is kept for this specific purpose. Whenever I have a moment of inspiration, I make a note of it in this book for future reference. It helps to remind me of my initial enthusiasm when my Muse takes leave and I am scratching around for ideas.

A page from my art journal

I also keep journals when I travel, big fat documents that record the details of my journey.They are filled with photos, drawings and writing and are a fabulous way to honour my journey, record inspiration and remind me of my reactions to things and all the fun I had.

Travel journal

I’m also in the process of making a visual document of our family history, something that can be passed down through the generations, that will give family members an illustrated understanding of where they have come from. It’s a major undertaking, but so worth the time and effort.

A family history journal. Artist: Sally Scott

In my reflective moments, I make pages that illustrate my thoughts about deeper emotional issues, and these often progress into fiber artworks, which are a tactile form of journaling. “Surrender”, “Towards Infinity”, “Bongwefela”, “Zimbabwe Ruins #2” and “Desert Beauty are all examples of this. “Zimbabwe Ruins” (below), is another good example of 3 dimensional journaling…

‘Zimbabwe Ruins’ by Sally Scott. This fibre art apron was made after a trip to Zimbabwe in 2004. It documents the chaotic situation and economic decline that I witnessed in that country.

It can also be fun to use story telling as means of exploring issues relating to human behaviour. I recently completed a page that was inspired by Aesop’s fable of Androcles and the Lion, where a slave who has escaped his master and is hiding out in a forest, comes face to face with a lion. Expecting the lion to attack, the man is surprised when the beast limps towards him, holding out his paw. On closer inspection Androcles discovers a thorn embedded in the lion’s foot, and without hesitation, carefully extracts the thorn. Through this simple action a deep, mutual trust is formed and they continue to help each other survive in the forest. Later they are both recaptured, and with the emperor in attendance, Androcles is thrown into the lion pit. As luck would have it, the hungry lion is none other than the one he had befriended in the forest and, recognizing a friend, the lion rubbed up against him like an affectionate, purring cat. The emperor, on hearing the story, pardoned Androcles and let the lion free into his native forest. The moral of the story is that gratitude is the sign of noble souls or the kindness and caring of one being to another will always be remembered.

A journal page dedicated to the theme of trust and vulnerability, inspired by ‘Androcles and the Lion’.

On my journal page, I illustrated the story, but added another dimension to the meaning. Sometimes it happens that in an effort to protect our vulnerability, we create defensive armour (thorns) that can unwittingly inflict wounds on another’s vulnerability, causing the victim to strike out and inflict a wound of their own. If one can step back in love and compassion and recognize where the pain is coming from, one can remove the thorn, and trust and vulnerability can return. In this story both parties were vulnerable, but it was their recognition of this that allowed them to trust each other, thus doing away with their need to protect themselves and enabling them to form a bond which ultimately was the strength that broke the chains of their captivity. It was their trust of each other that allowed them to be free. So, vulnerability is crucial, for without it we cannot trust and without Trust one cannot have freedom.

As you can see Art Journaling can appear in numerous forms and be a great source of enjoyment and therapy. If you are interested to learn more or to try your hand at it, please contact me, as I will have a new series of workshops available in 2018, in addition to my regular monthly journaling sessions that I hold in my Grahamstown studio. My final session for 2017 will be this Saturday 25th November. Call me if you would like to come.

 

 

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The Value of Tone

I read somewhere recently that in painting, tone is everything. If one gets the tonal values right, the other elements stand a good chance of coming together. It struck me in that moment, that tone is important in many aspects of human communication, be it the tone of our voice when we say something or the tone in our head when we read an email or message. One can say something one thinks is innocent, but if the tone of voice is off, the meaning of those words can change completely.

The challenge for us all in these times of mass communication and digital media, is to make our words come across in the way we intend them. The problem of course, is that even if one’s words are written with care and good intention, if the recipient of an email is in a bad space when reading those toneless words, they will impose their own tone and completely transform the meaning.

So I am not surprised to see that the race is on between rival digital tech companies to come up with human like emojis that are aimed at illustrating the tone of the words being sent out on social media. Perhaps this is partly why platforms like WhatsApp have become so much more popular than email. The pictures can say it all, short circuiting the need for us to impose our own bad/sad mood on the words of the sender. How clever we are becoming… for anything that helps promote understanding in this very conflicted world, does it for me.

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Survival – A Lesson from the Veld

I have recently been sorting through my aloe paintings, and one in particular stands out, for its universal message has a personal story attached…

When I was a young girl, we lived on a cattle ranch in Inyanga, which is situated in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, in a magnificent mountain range that borders with Mozambique.

There were seven children in our family and we roamed pretty wild and free, spending our days either helping with the farm or exploring the rivers, kopje’s and bush.

On top of the mountain, looking over our 14,000 acre Nyangui Ranch, 1975.

The hillsides of the farm were littered with mysterious ancient ruins and stone terraces that we loved to scramble over and explore, as we disappeared down tunnels, into unexpected enclosures, picking up shards of pottery, imagining who might have once lived there.

Exploring ancient ruins on our farm. 1975

It was a blissful existence for kids growing up without television and all the mod cons of today. We learned to appreciate Nature on both macro and micro scale and this laid a firm foundation for the creativity that was to follow.

Sisters catching tadpoles in one of the many rivers on the ranch

 

Playing in the stream, siblings Sally, Anthony and Penny, 1967

But then war came to that beautiful area and we were forced to move, leaving our playground behind. We all set off on our respective paths and life taught us some serious lessons.

On a nostalgic return trip to the old farm, many years later, I took my two young sons to visit a ruin that lay embedded in a commanding position at the top of a hill. The countryside was hot and dry, and in the grip of a ten-year drought. The rock hard ground was stripped bare of grass and the termites were eating the trees. A veld fire had recently removed whatever dry grass remained.

Nyangui Ranch in the drought. 1991

As we clambered up over the multiple layers of terraces, sweating and panting in the heat, we finally reached the ruin. Memories of my childhood came flooding back as I surveyed the landscape around and as I sat on a warm granite rock, I felt the earth’s energy seep through my body like a much needed blood transfusion. Oh, it was so good to be home!

In my desire to share my youthful memories, I attempted to ignite some enthusiasm into my sons, who both looked somewhat confused as to what all the excitement was about. I was beginning to wonder myself what the purpose of this visit had been. I mean this was my childhood and these were my memories, so how I was hoping that my boys would get it I really don’t know, when their reality was based in the city and the lush green hills of Natal.

My two young sons visit the ancient ruins for the first time. 1991

Then, as I wandered around with my camera, I came upon two small aloes, side by side, both scorched from the fire, parched from the drought, but doggedly standing their ground. I was riveted by this image of survival, and in that instant, I knew why I had needed to be there.

I took that photo with me into the turmoil of my life and kept it as a clear reminder that no matter how great the heat, the thirst and the flames, when one is well rooted and grounded, one can survive pretty much anything. With a belief in one’s ability to survive, one can emerge stronger from the experience, with spirit and light intact.

‘Nyangui Aloes’ by Sally Scott
Medium: Chalk Pastel

Last year I translated that photograph into a chalk pastel painting and was reminded once again that Nature is the great teacher and Creativity, the therapist. Or is it the other way round?  Whichever way I look at it they seem to work in tandem and I am very grateful for both.

 

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Bags of Fun

With two festivals behind me and a month to recover, I am now feeling sufficiently revitalised to reflect on my July activities. July is always a busy time of the year for those of us involved in the National Arts Festival, but this year, apart from having an exhibition at The Highlander, I also took time out to travel to Port Elizabeth to teach my Bohemian Bag Workshop at the Siyadala- We Create National Quilt Festival, a biennial feast of all things quilt and textile related. It’s been a long time since I last taught at a national quilt festival, but it didn’t take long to get caught up in the excitement of women with a fabric passion (obsession), having fun!

The work on display at the main exhibition was breathtakingly exquisite, revealing hundreds of hours of painstaking work in each of the many creations. Although my textile work tends to break all the rules, I never fail to be impressed by those whose work keeps within the bounds of convention. When I stand in front of a king size bed quilt, frosted over with a million or more tiny, perfectly shaped and spaced stitches, I know that this is something to be impressed by, for it would be completely beyond my capability. If I were to have the pattern in front of me and see the work that lay ahead, I would give up before I even began. This is not to say I am not capable of hard work, it’s just that when I begin one of my large fibre wall hangings, I have no idea of what work lies ahead, which is why I keep on going. Each stitch, colour or seductive piece of cloth, beckons me forward with the potential of what it could become. I have no idea where I am going, but relinquish the need to know and enjoy the process of discovery. By the time the work is finished with me, I have given it hundreds of my hours, along with sweat and blood.

This perhaps is where the two approaches meet, for both types of fibre fanatics have a desire to make something beautiful and a willingness to devote time and hard work to see its completion. It’s how we go about it that makes us different. Generally traditional quilt makers are committed to working by the rules, which is why their work, so exquisite and precise, receives awards for its excellence. In many ways I think it’s more difficult to be rewarded for kicking dust and forging one’s own path. There are many more pitfalls in unchartered territory, so to hit the right balance and produce a work of art when one doesn’t have a rule book, is really quite an achievement. The art quilts on display were an example of this and the award winners deserved the accolades they received.

My workshop was one of those that didn’t have a kit, nor did it abide by any rules, and I was happy that it attracted those who were keen to play and explore new ways to express their personalities. The Bohemian Bag Workshop offers a perfect opportunity for participants to test their creative impulses in a space that is supportive of their efforts. The project is relatively small and manageable, so happily not overwhelming.

The 14 women who attended my class came very well prepared and it wasn’t long before surfaces were strewn with colourful cloth and there was a hum of happy machines. I have selected a few images from the two day workshop to give you a taste of the scene. You will see from the images that I have every reason to be happy with the outcome. It was a fabulous experience to work with this group and the fruits of their labour speak for themselves.

If you are interested in attending my next two-day workshop, to be held in my studio in Grahamstown, the dates for this event are Saturday 9th and 16th September 2017. I’d love to see you there!

Categories: Fibre Art, Workshops | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Open Tabs

I recently visited the optometrist, for what I thought was to be a routine check-up that would enable me to renew my drivers license. After flicking through A’s and D’s and upside down E’s, I was relieved to hear that things weren’t as bad as I expected, and engaged the doctor on the ins and outs of ageing and failing eyesight. I had so many questions that every time he started to speak, another question would pop into my mind. Eventually in desperation, he laughed, put his hands up and said I had too many tabs open and that I needed to put a hold on them so that he could attend to one question at a time. I was amused by his analogy, but appreciated him telling me so directly that this is what I do and as I left his consultation rooms, I felt I had just had an awakening.

Back in my studio a short while later, I stopped for a moment and observed the scene before me. Everywhere I looked were half finished projects, enticing piles of creative energy waiting for my attention. In that moment, I knew that my optometrist was right. I do have multiple tabs open, in the form of numerous projects going on at any one time, and I flit from one to the other like a butterfly gathering nectar. I’m sure a good psychologist would tell me the pitfalls of my process, but this is the way I love to work and the way I stay in the flow, I am never without something to do, and even when I am finishing off a project, the next idea is being born.

So since my visit to the good doctor, I have been examining my situation and been actively closing a few of the tabs that have been slowing down my system. I have finished the beading on a bag begun over a year ago,

A funky example of a bohemian bag

given my aloe a flower

One of a series of small ink drawings

 

and completed that winding road that leads me through the Eastern Cape landscape.

A recent work of a road less travelled

I have made the leaves for a sample bag that I will be using when I teach in Port Elizabeth next week

A sample bag for my Bohemian Bag workshop, which will be taught at the National Quilt Festival 2017 on 3rd and 4th July

and rustled up some flowers

Preparation for The Bohemian Bag Workshop, being taught in PE on 3rd and 4th July

I have taken the last of my paintings in for framing…

Country Road. Chalk Pastel. Sally Scott

Another Road, Another View. Chalk pastel. Sally Scott

…and I have also designed a poster for my Festival exhibition.

I will be showing a few of my recent works in a group exhibition at the National Arts Festival 2017. The exhibition opens 29th June and closes 9th July.

 

So that ticks a few things off the list and now that this blog post is written, another tab is about to be closed, but not before I invite you all to visit our exhibition at The Highlander between the 29th June and 9th July 2017.

 

Stay tuned for feedback on both the exhibition and the bag workshop. I suspect that by then a few more tabs will have opened.

 

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New Outlets

I am happy to announce that a selection of my artworks are now available for sale through the Imbizo Gallery in Hoedspruit and Ballito.

imbizo-gallery-logo2small

It seems appropriate that my work should be shown in these areas, as  much of my inspiration was gathered from here when I lived in both Mpumalanga and Kwazulu Natal after immigrating to South Africa from Zimbabwe in 1980.

So, if any of you are traveling that way, maybe to visit Kruger National Park, pop in to the gallery at the Kamogelo Centre in Hoedspruit, where you will see a range of my fibre artworks and ink drawings.

yellow-billed-hornbill-1-psweb

Yellow-Billed Hornbill #1

If you happen to be in Kwazulu Natal, you will see some of my fibre birds at the Imbizo Gallery in the Lifestyle Centre, Ballito.

'The Sentinel' by Sally Scott. 30cm x 30cm

‘The Sentinel’ by Sally Scott. 30cm x 30cm

For further information on my work, please visit my website.

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Artists in the Making

“In the beginning is the attitude. Everything else will follow”. Shaun McNiff

We’ve had a good year in the Sally Scott Studio and I feel very proud to be able to share a selection of work that has emerged from our weekly drawing classes. Most of the students started out as complete beginners, but over the months of regular attendance, they have made amazing progress as their skills and confidence have grown. Click on the images below and enjoy…

If anyone is interested in joining us for next year’s classes, please contact me. No previous experience is necessary, and yes, I welcome those who “can only draw a stick man”. It won’t be long before you are producing work like that in the gallery above.

An evening class

An evening class

A morning class

A morning class

Happy Christmas everyone!

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The Great Escape

Getting up on a Monday morning is always quite a challenge, but getting through a week of demanding deadlines, multiple chores, responsibilities, lists and crises, whilst dealing with an increasingly hostile climate of political and economic uncertainty, is enough to leave one feeling completely exhausted. It’s hardly surprising that so many people are stressed, confused, lost and wondering where their sanity has gone. Lets face it, the world is pretty chaotic right now, so it’s very difficult to be normal in a society where the word ‘normal’ is under attack.

So, what can I do about it? Well, for starters I can offer you a place to escape, even just for a few quiet hours, to give you a chance to recover, reflect, play and laugh a little…or a lot! My mission in this life is to spread some positivity, to help one gain some perspective by entering the realm of the creative. And creative is what I saw in the workshop I held in my Grahamstown studio a few weeks ago. I also saw relief, love, laughter, generosity and kindness. I saw women doing what comes naturally when taken out of their stressful environments. They were absorbed, happy and relaxed. They were connecting to a part of themselves that has been calling out for attention…their spirit and their soul.

If you click on the images below, you will get a glimpse into the experience…

So, if you feel you could do with one of these great escapes, I have another two-day workshop starting this coming Saturday 12th and 19th November and there is just one space left! If this is something you would like to do next year, please contact me to put your name on the mailing list. In my next post, I hope to bring you some images of the bags that were created in the 2016 workshops.

bohemian-bag-advert-siyadala-3

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