Monday, 2 March 2015

is there shame in being a storyteller?

I read an empassioned post about feminism and what it means by the fab Laura from Keeping it Eclectic the other day entitled 'The Shame Of The Storyteller'  and it really got me thinking.  Thinking about why some individuals (of all genders) seem to seek to interpret the definition of 'feminist' to exclude those they feel don't deserve the designation.  A power thing do you think?  I'm not certain, but Laura's comments regarding the importance of sharing our stories really resonated with me.  I'm sure many would class me as an online oversharer, and therefore according to the Guardian article Laura referenced I should not consider myself a feminist, because I am drawn to be open about aspects of my life.  Although she repeatedly used selfies as an example of oversharing and I don't do selfies (I have issues!), Suzanne Moore had got me pondering the intention behind my choices.

Way back when my father was found guilty of violent sexual assaults against me I went to both freely distributed newspapers in my locality, waived my anonymity and shared my story.  Part of my motivation was to let other young people out there know that sometimes the abusers don't get away with it - to provide an example of that.  But it wasn't all altruistic, I was aware of that even then.  There was little that could have been printed without identifying me, so his conviction would only have warranted an inch or so of newsprint.  But I wanted people to say "Isn't that Brian, you know, the guy who does the car boot sales?" and "I saw Margaret's husband in the paper".  I wanted her to be embarrassed - not him so much, I figured being in custody for sexual offences against a child was probably pretty tough - but her.  I wanted her friends, her work colleagues, her neighbours and the postman to know.  I wanted her to look into the eyes of the people around her and know what they were thinking about, what they thought of her.  They had spent years branding me as a problem child, a troubled teenager - I wanted people I had grown up with to go "ah, that's why she was a bit weird" and "god, I wondered why she went into care, it makes sense now".  So I signed the release forms giving permission to use my name, I was interviewed by both papers and ended up with his picture on both front pages.  Of course what I hadn't realised was that one of the papers back in Crawley was part of the same group as the Bristol Evening Post, so he (along with me) also graced their front page that weekend.  I wouldn't have done it had the verdict come back differently, I openly admit that.  But I know what I would have felt, had I read a story about a successful prosecution a few years earlier - that although the stats are devastating, sometimes there are convictions.  And that it can never be your fault, no matter what anybody tells you.  And I know it's egotistical, but I hope that someone who read one of those newspaper stories felt better because of it, that it brought them some comfort or maybe a little strength.

According to Ms Moore and her article, however (and I do encourage you to go and have a read), this 'confessional' is a type of "self reinforcing victimhood", and that sharing our stories of struggles with low self esteem, our regrets, our "issues", we are simply "reinvent[ing] the wheels that continue to flatten [us]".

I don't agree.  I believe that sharing our stories - all of them, any of them - provides a means to connect with others.  It gives us context, fills in the colours and details and characters of the works around us.  Recognising something of yourself in the experience of another is hugely unifying, and a realisation that the thoughts you have are not simply your overtired mind going of on a tangent but instead a reaction to what we see and hear and touch and live on a daily basis can be immensely powerful.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

everyday images 23/2


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I'm linking up with Truly Madly Kids Image of the Week - a bit torn between Thursday and Tuesday this week, as I love the light and shadows and lines and textures on Thursday, but also the slow shutter speed on Tuesday catching a hailstone landing in a puddle and making a splash...  Okay, I'm going for Tuesday and the puddle.  I think.

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Truly Madly Kids
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Friday, 27 February 2015

Photography at BFH {improvers part one}

So, term two - we're officially Improvers now instead of Beginners - woo hoo!

It was lovely to see so many of the same group back and raring to go, and we jumped back in where we left off - with portraits.  Because this is the UK and it's February it was raining for most of the session, so we stayed indoors up until the last half hour or so because we're wimps who don't like the rain careful about keeping our cameras out of the rain, in case they turn into gremlins if they get wet.

So, portrait tips :

•  use aperture priority mode - a low number/big aperture so you can blur the background to draw attention to the face

•  consider monotone to preventing distractions of busy or colourful backgrounds

•  keep the camera the 'usual' way round - as in landscape not portrait

•  communicate with your subject - ask them to look at things around the room / nearby

•  think about where in the frame you're leaving empty space, and whether it enhances the overall image


Graham had brought along a bag of tricks - various reflectors and lighting knicknacks.  It was interesting to see how different a portrait you get dependant on whether there's no reflector, or a white one, or a gold or silver one!

Things to keep in mind regarding lighting

•  Try to find a diffused light source - non direct sunlight from through a window for example

•  If your subject is sitting at a table to help them feel more comfortable,  lay white paper on the table if it's a dark colour, as this will reflect much more light upwards minimising unflattering shadows / double chins

•  Play around with angles, and if you have a reflector (and ideally someone to hold it for you) try different shots to see what works best in the conditions you've got

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Indoor shots...

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...and outdoors too

(when we finally agreed to brave the rain which had stopped by then)

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Everybody being very arty, trying to get the perfect shot of Rachel (of Rachel in Real Life.  You need a bit of the pillar, the shape of the arch, shadows, light, texture...

Or maybe not.

While I'm starting to see the technical elements that make a 'good' portrait, I much prefer the ones that tell you something about the person, or else provoke a reaction in you as you look at it.  

I love this shot of Rachel because it is very Rachel.  It shares something about her personality, her sense of fun.  From a technical standpoint there are some positives - catch lights in her eyes, blurred but not too blurred backdrop, a range of tones, a bit of texture from the stonework and interest from the graffiti...  and I'm not going to list the areas with room for improvement, so ner.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

fusing glass

Making something out of glass was just not something I had ever considered realistically do-able - I mean, I had assumed that was something you'd need a whole industrial workshop to be able to do, you know?  But making a piece of stained glass was on my bucket list along with making a bowl on a pottery wheel (did this too, but struggled with the texture of the clay - ugh), so back in 2010 I took a twelve week course on stained glass - and I spent ten weeks struggling to cut straight lines and make a small simple panel.  As there were two weeks left I popped into the room next door, where the more experienced people were, borrowed an oil filled cutter, and found my difficulty with straight lines was over.  I had a go at using up my glassy leftovers to make some simple coasters, which went into the absolutely huge kiln.   I collected them the following week and couldn't believe that the wonky looking pieces I'd made with all those sharp edges had been magically transformed into these incredible glossy smooth tactile coasters - I was hooked.  Within six months I had my own kiln and an ever expanding corner of the bedroom was devoted to glass.

Like so many hobbies, the longer you do it, the more gadgets you convince yourself you need.   I have a wish list but the lack of space has been an effective deterrent - having the kiln in the bedroom restricts when I can put it on as the room gets very hot, but as the air becomes very dry it's ideal for drying washing during the daytime!  The new house plan includes either a garage or else some kind of glorified shed set up with light and power and whatever heat protection would be necessary to run a kiln out there, but the house in London needs to sell before we can start officially looking, damn it!

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One of the things that drew me to warm glass work was the shiny tactile nature of fused pieces - so gorgeously smooth and sparkly!  For various reasons it's best to work with one 'type' of glass, that is to say (basically) glass that heats and cools at the same rate.  The two main brands are Spectrum and Bullseye - I choose Bullseye as it has a wider colour range than Spectrum and wider availability of other forms such as frit and stringers.

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Sourcing supplies for warm glass work in the UK isn't always easy - it's not as though you can pop into the nearest Hobbycraft and pick up some 3mm Bullseye tested compatible glass.  One of the main specialist suppliers is Warm Glass, based (conveniently for me!) just past Bristol Airport, so only about a half hour car ride away.  That's where I bought my kiln, and where I now get all my glass - they have tempting offers and a generous loyalty discount scheme, and they know their stuff if you have any queries or need help working something out.

Although being surrounded by sharp glass and a potentially very hot kiln might not seem like a good idea for someone with a seizure disorder, I haven't yet had a problem.  On a day when I'm feeling dizzy or have hit the deck already I steer clear, but to be honest it's the faff involved in having to clear my desk and chair onto the bed (so that I have a surface to work on and chair to sit on) that I find more outputting!  There's a real sense of achievement with opening the kiln and finding something that has worked out better than you dared hope, or having someone admire your necklace and being able to say "oh thank you, I made it myself".  Our friends tend to come to me with commissions for coasters and serving platters and lightcatchers for housewarming gifts and birthday presents and the like, and with a baby due to arrive in our circle in the summer I hope to be able to make something special.  

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It's definitely a different pastime to have, but one that's brought me a great deal of pleasure.  Do you do anything with your time that you'd never have forseen?  Or is there something that you always wanted to do but never got around to, or never had the opportunity to try? 

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Monday, 23 February 2015

organisation's what you need...

I've been - don't laugh - organising my glassy nook.  I am not what you'd call a tidy person* - I'm more of a subscriber to the 'creative minds are rarely tidy' school of thought, but my corner of glass has been steadily growing and I now can't find the things I'm looking for.
(*understatement of the year)

So I bought myself some tough looking storage boxes with separation-y compartment-y trays, and got sorting.  I've found some bits and pieces that I made before the brain cloud, so the things I like are going on Folksy and bits that I don't like, if they can't be salvaged somehow, are going in the bin.  

Yes.  The bin.  Well, the recycling anyway.

That's the plan.

Cross your fingers for me, and send a search party if you still haven't heard from me in a week or so.  Seizures with no warning and lots and lots of glass do not a healthy combination make!

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