My Cockles Have Been Warmed Today

30 Jun

Something happened today which got me thinking about the artistic influences I had in my life when I was growing up.  I reckon there were three major figures in my creative education which have led me to this point and for whom I can thank for my monstering career

My dad was, and is a very talented artist.  The pieces I remember most from when I was little were his watercolours – not an easy medium to work with but he is a natural with them.  I especially remember a lovely piece he did of my grandad (his dad) asleep in his chair, and one of the church he married my mum in back in 1972.  Dad often had a project or two on the go and I have very fond memories of him getting his paints out and teaching my brother and I how to use them of a weekend when mum was out shopping.

He put up with my artistic tantrums (I come from red-headed stock!) when creative projects went awry and taught me to draw with a biro instead of a pencil so as I couldn’t rub anything out, something I still stand by today and will pass on to my own kids one day.  I can remember one particularly tearful evening when I just couldn’t get a drawing of a dog right, he had a rummage in his art folder from when he was younger and produced a guitarist with three legs where the first one wasn’t right so he had left it in and tried again – it showed me that things don’t have to be right first-time, or even right at all to be art.

My mum is an equally talented artist and I have her to thank for my love of fabric and thread.  A talented seamstress who taught me a lot of what I know about sewing and put to good use in my monstering.  Mum stayed at home with us until we were both at school and always had a project to keep us occupied and to show Dad when he came home from work.  We were never bored with Mum around.

Fans of the blog may have seen her fabric character dolls (From little acorns), including a recent one she made of me, complete with monster and mismatched socks (Too much excitement for one day).  She made an incredible fabric childrens book which would take your breath away to flick through and taught me to follow a pattern to knock up a dress or two.  Her work always had an element of fun and suprise which I think has stuck with me and maybe that is why I have gone down the path of making plushie monsters with complicated back-stories.  Every now and then a little parcel will pop through my letterbox full of beads, buttons and off-cuts in which she has seen monster potential and wanted me to have.  That kind of encouragement is invaluable.

Influence number three was undoubtably my secondary school art teacher Sue Smith.  When it came to choosing my GCSE’s I knew I had to take art as an option but what medium to choose? One quick chat with Mrs Smith was all I needed to sway me towards Textiles.  Her enthusiasm was genuine and infectious and her love of texture has most definately rubbed off on me big-time.  She took the skills my mum had taught me and developed them beyond anything I ever thought I was capable of. By the end of my GCSE’s I was producing work which I am still very proud of now.  I went on to A-level and under Mrs Smith’s nurturing hand I got myself an A grade and a pretty good portfolio.

I just loved her energy and the joy on her face when she was teaching – to me she was your architypal inspirational teacher who starts you off on a path and who you remember (and secretly thank) for the rest of your life.  We kept in touch by letter for a while but that somehow fizzled out and she has often popped into my head.  Since I started the monsters I have been dying to show her my handy-work.  I’ve googled her, tried to find her on facebook and contacted my old school but to no avail.

By pure coincidence my mum bumped into Mrs Smith today in a supermarket in my hometown.  They recognised each other straight away and had a good chat about my monsters.  I am thrilled to know that even though I didn’t get to speak to her myself, she now knows what an influence she had on me and that the skills she gave me have become a massive part of my life.

Thank you Mrs Smith.

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2 Responses to “My Cockles Have Been Warmed Today”

  1. Mum and Dad July 2, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    What lovely sentiments. Now our cockles are warmed!

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  1. A Few Things to Show You « Mistress of Monsters - August 28, 2011

    […] than that, you may have heard me talk about my Mum and her fabric skills before, I learnt a lot from that lady! Over the summer as she works in a […]

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