When it snowed here in November, I took a few photos that made me think about Andrew Wyeth, an American artist who painted spare, washed out landscapes. He lived in Brandywine, PA, not far from Philadelphia where I went to university in the mid-1980s. I studied Regional Planning there, with a focus on the importance of ecology and landscape in making decisions about where people should live. For the next decade I worked in the field of environmental management, becoming a specialist in computerised cartography (GIS). Those skills led to me living on a tiny island for two years – Block Island, RI – which has a similarly bleak landscape in the winter, almost no trees, lots of stone walls, surrounded by the ocean. A bit different to Yorkshire where I grew up, but not so different really which was why I loved living there. I’m fascinated by the circles of my own life!!
A lot of people think mapping and weaving are quite different, but they have a surprising amount in common: attention to detail, the importance of colour, lines and shapes, technical abilities…… and above all patience. It’s important to get all the ingredients right so that the end result is the one you expect. Weaving, however, doesn’t always need to be quite so accurate. Over the years I’ve learned to let go of some of the rules and just experiment. Not everything works but I learn a lot and at the end of the day that’s what creativity is all about.
I have always felt that I am at my most creative when I’m surrounded by silence. Not a complete shutting out of noise but being in a place where there is no intrusion other than the sound of the wind or water, bird song or leaves rustling in the trees. It’s the sound of nature, one of the most constant sounds of my life and something that I struggle to live without. Letting my mind rest on a landscape, whether it be covered in bleak mid-winter snow or shimmering on a bright summer day, provides me with that much-needed quiet space. It’s good for contemplating ideas, for letting things seep in slowly. These things take time: I often write my ideas – in words or scribbles, I don’t draw much! – and go back to them much much later. Months can go by before I will use any of those fleeting thoughts. I rarely start a new project immediately but once inspiration strikes there’s no stopping me!