Seasonally inspired things to Make, Learn & Do.


Taking a lesson from Barbara Hepworth.

barbara hepworth

Last week I was in London for a few days family holiday. We rented a small flat in Hampstead through Air BnB - cheaper than a couple of rooms in a Travel Lodge and always much more interesting.

It was the end house in a row of tiny brick terraced buildings - accessed from the road via a long narrow flagged path, with bulbs and shrubs blooming alongside.

barbara hepworth

The house itself was mainly one big room with high ceilings reaching into the rafters, massive floor to ceiling windows which alongside skylights made the space cool and light and airy. I asked Gonzalo, who showed us round, about the history of the house and he mentioned that it had been home and studio to some important artists in its time.

As soon as he left I was on my phone googling the address - and there it was, between 1928 and 1939 Barbara Hepworth had lived there. There were even photos in the Tate archives of her posing in the house, next to the very stairs that I was sitting on.

Barbara Hepworth, grande dame of abstract sculpture had sketched by this window, had walked up these stairs, had sat catching the sun in this garden. I was more than a little star struck.

So I bought a book and started to read a little about her life. In 1928 when she moved there she was 25, she had been married to the sculptor and horse fanatic John Skeaping for 3 years. By 1939, when she left the house 5 days before the outbreak of WWII and fled to Cornwall, she was living with the artist Ben Nicholson and had 4 children - Paul born in 1929 and triplets Rachel, Sarah and Simon in 1934.

barbara hepworth

So in this beautiful but tiny space with its sleeping mezzanine, which had in the 1930s very basic heating, cooking and toilet facilities - 2 artists lived and worked with 4 children playing at their feet. Hepworth carved in a corrugated iron lean to extension which kept the plaster and marble dust out of the house.

They not only lived and worked but took their art to new spaces, were important contributors to avant garde movements, mixed with Mondrian, Arp, Picasso. It seemed a far way away from the conventional idea that "the pram in the hall" ends creativity.

barbara hepworth

So I read more - interested in how Hepworth managed this and found her writing about being a mother while having a life outside motherhood, to be the most straightforward that I have ever read.

"A woman artist is not deprived by cooking and having children, nor by nursing children with measles (even in triplicate) - one is in fact nourished by this rich life" - "I learned early on to regard all the time spent with children as a nourishment - a plus rather than a minus" "we lived a life of work and the children were brought up in it, in the middle of the dust and the dirt and the paint and everything" "being a mother enriches an artist's life"

It wasn't that though that I found most inspiring though, it was her practical approach to her work time and space being eroded by family life, by lack of money and by the privations of war.

That when she was unable to sculpt she took up drawing and gouache, when she could no longer afford bronze she carved in wood. It was the creation, the making, the thinking, the getting things out of her head that was important.

My favourite quote is this - "I found one had to do some work every day, even at midnight, because either you are professional or you're not. . . . provided one always does some work each day, even a single half hour, so that the images grow in your mind"

What she is saying that it doesn't matter how small the creativity is, it doesn't have to be massive 11 feet high sculptures, it can be some pencil sketches at midnight, as long as it is done every day.

It is the doing, doggedly, day after day, that is the important thing.

Barbara Hepworth's writings about motherhood, family and work are basically the same as Elizabeth Gilbert's views on creativity in Big Magic or Seth Godin's ideas about shipping. Keep going, take part in life, don't be a diva, do the work, enjoy.

As I said - inspirational. When I next feel that life is getting in the way of things being done, I shall relax, enjoy whatever it is that life is throwing at me, and squirrel away a small slice of time to be creative every single day.

Tags: life

Comments: 5 (Add)

Liz Scully on April 18 2016 at 18:08

Such a lovely post, Jane. Really interesting to learn more about this aspect of Hepworth (I've only ever known about her art before not much about her life - other than she used to smoke in bed and that finally was what did for her as an old lady)

Also lovely to follow your interest as it sparked. Great share!

Megan on April 18 2016 at 23:56

How serendipitous. I love Barbara Hepworth and this insight is fascinating. Thank you for the great post.

Kyleigh on April 19 2016 at 09:36

What a wonderful post - and such an inspirational woman! thank you Jane x

Pipany Philp on April 19 2016 at 10:28

Absolutely love this post Jane and her words are totally where I am at. If I don't do something, anything toward my business every day then I start to lose the feel of it. Brilliant. Didn't know she had triplets (as a side note) x

JD on April 20 2016 at 20:41

Lovely ethos, the idea of finding a way to be creative every day and the idea of family enriching an artists life. Great newsletter. Jdx

Snapdragon social

Between the plum trees and the studio is a sloping space that was created when we flattened a patch of land to build. It is a mix of subsoil, rocks and odd seams of rich pasture land. ⠀
As grass began to grow there about 7 years ago,  I sowed a perennial meadow mix, I planted lots of random plants from the cutting beds, I worked without a plan, without knowing what would thrive and what would gently vanish. ⠀
Now there is minimal gardening involvement - I try and keep the nettles from taking over, we dig out brambles - and in the autumn and winter I lure the chickens there to scratch out patches of bare soil for the wildflower seeds. ⠀
It’s a patchy space, caught on the cusp of abandonment - but it is the most beautiful space in the garden, buzzing with insects, rustling with birds. ⠀
Low light, bright petals, setting sun. ⠀
A couple of days ago I got a message from a friend asking what I thought about all the 'picking wild flowers' photos on here and the fact that a country style magazine was promoting it as a
My Gran had hangers like these.  Knitted from odds and ends of wool, hanging softly squashed together in the big dark wardrobe in her bedroom.⁠⠀
My cousin and I would take the fancy silky 1960s dresses from them and transform ourselves into glamorous detectives, spying on passers-by from behind the net curtains, making notes.⁠⠀
Now the hangers are my favourite things to make from wool scraps - each takes 37 grams of wool and you only need to be able to do a plain stitch to make it. ⁠⠀
As well as being chock full of nostalgia for me, they are also the most practical kind of hanger, as the garter stitch keeps even the flimsiest of straps in place so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
This week's business improvement was deciding to make the postcards that go in with orders more useful, getting Kate Stockwell to turn them into activity cards for me. ⁠⠀
This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
Sicilian honey garlic - Nectaroscordum siculum - is one of the plants that grow in rows in the orchard - ghosts of the flower field, buzzing with bees, happy in grass, a strong whiff of onion as I pass. ⠀
This month I’ve been experimenting with solar dyeing- using plants and sunlight and a jar to dye wool on the windowsill. 
I was amazed at what bright shades were possible and at how easy and self contained it turned out to be. 
It was part of the Studio Membership mini “Introduction to plant dyes” course but I’ve also put together a kit in the shop with full instructions and everything you need to get started with solar dyeing wool (there are mini skeins in the kit). The photo is my drying rack on the dye deck - part of the studio where I used to prep flowers when I sold them. 
The wood rack used to be for shoes and wellies.
Inspired by @josephinepbrooks I’m still using this time for some serious decluttering of my business - looking hard at which parts have descended over the years into one of those drawers stuffed full of things.  Which bits are muddled, useless, impossible to open without everything falling out. 
Last week was the turn of the blog - so many out of date things, so many broken links, pretty much impossible to browse. 
Now it’s been sorted out - David and @fuzzyjill at Fuzzy Lime helped me divide it into sections and now it’s all easily accessible from the navigation bar.

So if you are looking for tutorials, nature notes, gardening, recipes or musings on life you can find them without scrolling through hundreds of pages. 
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Another week. Another new morning 
I was chatting to a friend yesterday about what was the best thing about running my own business - and I decided that it was probably being excited about each day and all the things I want to do. ⠀
That I now rarely need to force myself. ⠀

Today it’s finishing off this week’s Studio Members lesson about solar dyeing and putting together these activity postcards which I am getting printed to go out with orders. ⠀
What are you looking forward to doing today?

About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

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