Who for what?

In the new year of 2014, I started this blog to document my practice as a visual artist outside my profession as an elementary art teacher. The spur came from a professional development session advocating building a “positive digital footprint.” My colleagues opened up Twitter accounts and a couple started WordPress blogs. I abandoned a personal gardening blog to begin what I vaguely deduced would be my foray into showcasing my skills in photography, drawing and printmaking.

On the brink of 7 years later, I have changed, the world has changed and currently the nature of my paid profession has changed. It has been almost two years of self reflection flecked with a high degree of distraction and melancholy. Focus on the positive has been spare.

Yet, one thing appears to have kept me from falling into complete creative and mental apathy: working with wool in the capacity of spinning.

Creating yarn forces me to work in the abstract. Spinning focusses my mind: pay attention to tension, listen to the sound and watch the movement of the spindle or treadle. See the formation of something new from raw or reused materials. I am realizing the potential of how colour and texture can play together. Play. Something absent from my years of haphazard and dutiful drawing and printmaking work. Something absent from my natural instinct towards anxious thinking.

As I continue in this space, I will make room for this medium. I feel like it may help me more fully answer the question of “Who for what?”

Knitting sample of hand spun yarn, resting on hand card, iPhone 6S.

Beyond

Drop spindle spinning. Canon T3i. B. Wanhill 2019

If 2019 had been different, this image wouldn’t be here. Through sudden changes in life circumstance, two of the objects in this photo were gifted to me: a soulful wool batt from my cousin, a venerable Medalta bowl from my mom. Together these items have been holding my thoughts on a drop spindle as I’ve finally made a commitment to turn the wool into a useful skein.

It is so easy to be distracted by unhelpful patterns of being. Spinning slows me down and gives me time to think about how my life could be different in a more peaceful, thoughtful, creative way. For an hour here and there I feel like life makes sense and I can move beyond those patterns and build upon a new and positive mindset.

Wisdom


Linocut. Detail “Wisdom” B. Wanhill, 2018

This year’s Christmas card is entitled “Wisdom” after the idea that three dried flower heads of Astrantia major could stand in for the three wisemen encircling the guiding star. My Christmas cards tend to be less visually seasonal in theme so as to still be relevant when they arrive after the intended festive date. But there is the back story if you were wondering.

Life has been busy and this blog has really become a bi-annual affair. Instagram has replaced it as the lightning quick alternative to documenting life via iPhoneography. (And so I have chosen to embed Instagram into this space – if the words don’t change much in this column, you can see that I’m alive and well-ish over in the next!)

I enjoyed making this year’s image. It came easily and I wonder if the (somewhat) weekly drawing I’ve been doing for the perpetual journal I started last January has had some influence after all. I will update you on that creative activity in the next post scheduled before January 1st.

This year’s Christmas wish for you is really for me: wisdom to help make sense of the world and how to function within it peacefully.

Postscript: because I now rarely frequent this site, I downgraded my subscription. So the formatting has changed. Also, as I am not a company and don’t plan on selling anything on here in the near future, so I have changed my domain name from bwanhill.com to bwanhill.ca. I’m not sure what impact that has on subscribers or this blog. I guess I will wait and see…  

Linocut. “Wisdom” Christmas card design B. Wanhill, 2018