‘For me the process of creating art… is a way of re-connecting with your inner self, it stimulates the imagination, it can bring clarity, which in turn helps to dissolve problems; it strengthens the ability to concentrate and can have a calming and comforting effect.’
I interviewed Catherina Petit–van Hoey, a visual artist, originally trained in textile and fabric work, who now experiments with an unusual combination of mixed-media art, meditation, alchemy and art therapy. The titles Catherina uses for her artworks give an idea of some of her concerns, they include: ‘Threads of Time’, ‘Human Alchemy’, ‘Sweet Life’ and ‘The Enlightenment of a Housewife’.
‘Often I can see the humour and the sadness in the same situation and, as a writer, I have sometimes taken a tale which was told to me as a comic story and recast it as a tragic one or vice versa.’
I talked to Chris Hill, a former crime reporter who now writes literary and comic fiction. I asked Chris about his career as a journalist. “People sometimes think,” he told me, “that because I was news editor of The Citizenin Gloucester during the Fred and Rose West murder case, I write thrillers. Funny enough, I’ve never had any desire to do so.” Chris now works for WellChild, a UK charity which helps seriously ill children. “It’s a job,” he said, “which I find very fulfilling.” Chris was the 2001 winner of the Bridport Short Story Prize, so I began the interview with questions about his literary interests and methods.
‘I felt the solidity of my adult life compared to the transparency of childhood. It was as if I’d glimpsed myself as another person in another time and place.’
Have you ever taken the nostalgia trip to where you used to live? Maybe to your old house, a school, a street or a childhood play space? Even if you haven’t, you’ve probably thought about it. So what’s it like? And what does it tell us, if anything, about ourselves? I imagined it would bring back memories and plug me in more directly to childhood. I also hoped it would tell me more about myself and start me off writing. But the experience wasn’t quite what I’d expected. Continue reading THE PAST IS ANOTHER COUNTRY→
‘This way of working isn’t a reaction, it’s a proactive experiment, an open-ended open-hearted manifestation of a powerful inner impulse’.
I interviewed Trevor Davies about the art and business of growing flowers. Trevor and his wife Bettina run an ecologically-minded floristry business in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. Single-handedly, they cultivate a cut flower garden creating beautiful bouquets for local distribution as an alternative to imported flowers grown with artificial fertilizers and pesticides. They both have long histories of involvement in the performing arts.
‘Any level of guided imaginative activity teaches you just how difficult it is to reach mastery’.
I remember several creative people in my family. My grandpa on my mother’s side was a tenor who, I’ve been told, was invited to train in Italy but had to turn the opportunity down because he was a railway clerk with a family to support. On a trip to London he recorded his voice at HMV, Oxford Street, which had its own studio. Sadly, the 78 rpm disc he produced has gone missing. He conducted the local choir in his NE seaside town in performances of The Messiah, even changing churches to retain creative control. His wife was a skilled accompanist on the piano and also played the organ. They were like fire and water; he was the leader, she gave of herself and supported. Their front room was a busy place with leading members of the choir popping in, and recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies rising from the depths of the ‘Horn Cabinet’ which he and my dad built in the corner. Continue reading THE CREATIVE SPARK – what do people find to do with their talents?→
I’ve noticed, watching TV talent shows, how many helpers are needed for someone to learn an expressive art or a practical skill. So the celebs in Strictly Come Dancing get hours of teaching and encouragement from their professional partners. And the singers in The Voice have families who book and ferry them to gigs, deal with equipment and cheer them on. My wife, children’s author Sue Hampton, had the same: a wonderfully enthusiastic English teacher who developed her love of literature and a dad who took her to plays and art galleries. These supporters set personal examples as well. So Sue learned the value of redrafting from seeing her dad repeatedly rewriting his poems and the admiring celebs often take on the professional dancers’ impressive work ethic.