Good Intentions

Or what to do when you can’t do what you planned.

What I planned was to continue with the series of felt pieces, Wherever you go there you are, that started with Caveskin which I installed in the Hollow Chambers exhibition earlier this year.

So I piled up the prefelts …

I reviewed my large-scale-working options …

I started to cut and piece …

And then I went on holiday to Colombia. Yay for sunshine, colour, the best fruit juice in the world, the Pacific, Fernando Botero, wax palms, bicycles in churches ..

But then, not so yay for fracturing my elbow …

Yes, that piece of bone pointing to the bottom right really shouldn’t be there. It belongs to the long bone at the bottom of the x-ray. Anyway, it could have been worse. It was my left arm and I’m right-handed. It was a simple fracture. But …

… you quickly find out how much you rely on having two arms/hands. Having one arm in a cast or dressings clearly limits what you can do for yourself. But even when all those come off and you start looking more normal, you aren’t allowed to lift, push or pull anything more than a piece of paper. You can’t fully extend or bend your arm, so you still can’t dress or eat properly. And oh yes, you can’t cook either as you can’t hold things securely with your left hand so using a sharp knife is dodgy and you can’t lift a saucepan lid, let alone a saucepan.

For several weeks, you can’t lay out fibre, or hold a thread with one hand and cut it with scissors in the other, or hold a piece of paper or a sketchpad steady while you draw with the other hand. In fact you can’t do most of what usually fills your day. So what can you do?

Well, you can go to all those shows you keep meaning to see. You might get a bit more tired than usual so pace yourself. And that pile of books waiting to be read? Now’s the time. Best of all, if you’re part of an artist group, they might be doing things you can participate in, even if you can’t do much. So thanks HB Drawing for organising Snapshot at No Format Gallery, Deptford. I was able to show some drawings and felt pieces and all I really had to do was turn up to the Private View. Even that was exhausting but the conversations with visitors were also a reminder of why you do what you do. So build those networks now, before you need them.

The other thing I found myself thinking was that when I was better, I should stop wasting time. I know, I know … of course I will waste time in future … but meanwhile an injury like this is a reminder to focus. To make sure that the things that matter most get done. So I’ve thrown or given away lots of stuff – fabrics, fibres, papers, … – accumulated over 20 years. I found that I could let go even of stuff that I made but which isn’t part of where I want to go. May it make someone else happy!

Today I worked on a piece of felt for the first time in three months and that’s what makes me happy.

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