Tag Archives: creativity

The Storyteller


The Cochiti Pueblo are located in north central New Mexico near the city of Albuquerque. One of the more famous Cochiti artists is Helen Cordero. She was born in 1915 in New Mexico. In the late 1950s, she and her cousin, an accomplished potter, began making pottery as an alternative to leather and beadwork. Cordero was never satisfied with her bowls and pitchers, but then her cousin suggested that she try figures instead. In Cordero’s words, it was “like a flower blooming.” Countless tiny birds and animals and eventually, people came to life. Helen Cordero, of Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, created her first storyteller figure when she was 49 years old.  She modeled it after her grandfather who told stories about their Native American culture. One of the traditional figurine forms was a seated female figure holding a child, known as the Singing Mother. When Cordero tried her hand at this form, she “kept seeing my grandfather [Santiago Quintana]. That one, he was a really good storyteller, and there was always lots of us grandchildren around him.”  When she shaped the first portrait of her paternal grandfather, she used the traditional design but made the figure male and placed more than a realistic number of children on him. She called him Storyteller.  Between five and thirty figures cling to her sculptures.  Following the tradition begun by Helen Cordero, many other artists in Cochiti Pueblo began to create storyteller figures and developed their own styles. Seferina Ortiz created drummers and animals. Other artists created cowboy or acrobatic figures.   The Cochiti Pueblo Indians did not record their stories as we do but passed them orally to their children and grandchildren. Many of the storyteller figures are created with their mouth open and eyes closed as the Native Americans will sing or chant their stories aloud. Native Americans tell stories about creation, how certain plants and animals came to be and stories of legends, history, ceremonies or rituals. Many stories and dances or rituals are ways to honor the earth and nature’s way. Other stories tell about family, love, friendship, hunting, and so on. Some songs are performed to aid the deceased in his journey to the next world. There are reputed to be over 500 songs just for this purpose.  Helen Cordero was the first Native American to create storytellers and has sold many of her sculptures. Helen Cordero’s storytellers have been exhibited in museums in Canada and the United States and have won many awards including the Governor’s award in 1982.

This is a wonderful site that teaches you how to make one for yourself New Mexico Storyteller sculptures

Some years ago whilst in Albuquerque I bought three small storytellers. I gave one to Mum and Dad and it was always on their fireplace. Now I have the three on my desk at work. They remind me every day of how important stories are. The life story we create, the ones we tell our children, grandchildren and friends. The way in which we experience the world is made up of the stories we believe about ourselves and other people.

today I was looking at my little storytellers all over again. I had been talking to someone about Mum and her death. I realised it was like giving birth. The story we tell needs telling, sometimes over and over until somehow we make sense of it and understand it. We tell the story in our families and in our heads. If we are lucky we have people who will share the story with us or just let us tell it how we see it without trying to alter it or make it better or make it theirs. When I read again about the storytellers I heard about the songs that are sung to help the dead person go on their journey and I thought of how I sang to her “The Skye Boat Song” when I sat with her when she had gone. And the songs we sing whether hymns or not that mean something. These rituals are so important.    

I look at the storytellers I have and see how they are all the grandparents, the people who pass on the traditions. Is that me now?





Weekly Photo Challenge – Colorful




This weeks photo challenge is ‘colourful’. This shot is of the Kids Field at Glastonbury festival 2010. Both times I have been the Kids Field is one of my favourite places. It is full of magic, colour and play just as every childhood should be. It’s a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by, enjoy the crafts and play areas and watch shows designed for every age of child. As a 40 and 50 something the times I’ve been, my qualifications for entry are only that my inner child couldn’t resist.

I love this elephant, like all the best surprises we came across it unexpectedly in a walk through some gardens.

These gardens light up a busy road every Spring. The attention to detail and colour is awesome and traffic slows down every year to see them. The gardens and the gardener always seem to me like an act of altruism, they can be seen best by passers-by rather than the house owners. For a few weeks every year they are a source of utter joy.


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words


This is the message of a campaign from the ‘Who Cares Trust’ which works to support and promote the rights of children in care in the UK. The campaign is called ‘Don’t Write Us Off’ and works with young care leavers encouraging them to volunteer in a project which is based on the values of the Olympics 2012.

Today I didn’t think I could do any better than share some of their words and photos and encourage everyone to take a look at their website  here

“I took this picture to represent some of the meetings with social workers. We meet for coffee but in that meeting we have to also get lots done. We often talk about money and I bring receipts for things I have had to buy. It’s a different relationship to a parent.” (Rachel)

You can interpret this photo in different ways. Situations, like people, can be interpreted in different ways. To one person this might look like I’m just reading a cook book in a kitchen when actually I’m reading a very frustrating bill from the housing department of the council, despite the fact I’m only 18 and living with a foster family.” (Rachel)

“Life in care is not always private. My own problems the school know about it. It’s kind of good sometimes because the teachers can help me. Really my own room is my only private place.” (Julian)

“I took this picture near leaving care centre in Lewisham where there was going to be an event for children in care. I wanted to show the positive about being in care. In my language green means ‘good thing’ and I thought about life in care being like grass, growing faster in some places than others.” (Ellia)
I have worked with young people all my adult life. Kids in care and kids who just need a bit of a hand. I love it. And the strength and resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me, nor the humour and willingness to share a story. So I love these images and the words that go with them. I hope you do too

The Harry Potter Generation



Never mind the Baby Boomers and Generation X, my kids are the Harry Potter Generation and as the story reader who became as delighted and in awe of the books as they were, I guess I am sort of that generation too. We waited in eager anticipation for the new copies of each book. After the first two I ordered at least three copies at a time from amazon on pre-order. As they grew to read the books for themselves we couldn’t wait but had to each have our own copy. Summers were a joy of Harry and Hermione and Ron. Mrs Weasley was my magical role model, how I would love her skill with a wand in the kitchen and for tidying up the house.


Each film we have seen together, a family outing, usually the preview showing or on the first day. My eldest though, refused to come. Having seen the first film he retired in disgust, it could never live up to the books and the wonderful readings by Stephen Fry that he listened to nightly. For years after bedtime stories were past he would listen till he fell asleep.  
On Tuesday I went with sons 3 and 4 to see the final film, The Deathly Hallows Part 2. I almost didn’t want it to come. It certainly feels like an end of an era. As they are now 18 and 16 its rare to find a film we want to see together at the cinema. Of course they want to go with their friends. But this was special, this was Harry Potter, and that made it a family occasion for the true believers. I thought it was pretty good, I liked they way they did the ending and it was fun to see how the characters had grown up too.
But the best bit is that the books are still here. It’s a while since I’ve read them so I can feel an HP session coming up, although I’m disappointed that I can’t yet read them on my kindle.
What is it about HP that caught the imagination of millions? Good and Evil of course, the wonderful fantasy of school stories and every childs dream of living away from home in a magical place. And then of course there is the magic, the humour, the story of love and loyalty, of sacrifice and bravery. It is truly epic in its breadth and storytelling. JK Rowling you are a very special writer and I thank you for the joy you have given me and my family over the last 10 years or so.    

Art for arts sake


Some days you just stumble upon something that lights you up. A few years ago we had a weeks family camping holiday in Norfolk. The sun shone, the skies were blue and even the cold North Sea was warm enough for us to swim in. It felt like an Enid Blyton sort of holiday. The village next to the campsite and the flavour of a 1930’s Poirot mystery. I’m sure Agatha must have been there. It even had an old-fashioned railway station complete with pots of flowers on the platform. One day we caught the stopping train to Norwich for big city delights. But we were glad to come ‘home’ again to the quiet dawdling days by the beach.

One hot day we went past a church with a little poster advertising an Art display. Expecting some watercolours and a few crafts we sauntered up the path. The boys stayed in the car as boys do. The art was incredible. And the setting in the church was beautiful. Inside the ordinary looking stone building were stripped bare whitewashed walls and huge windows. The stripped beams in the roof felt like being in an upside down boat and the place was full of light and air and the scent of the sea. Most of the art was in the church yard, installations and witty signs.

The stars in the ceiling made me happy. I was thinking of them today and of how that stop along the way filled the day with light. Sometimes just taking the time to look reveals hidden beauty.

Writing for life


Dear Blog,

I have no idea what makes people like what I write some days and not so much others. I suppose, like everything, there are multiple reasons but it certainly makes me curious. I find my best writing is usually those days when I have an idea and it ends up being quite ‘stream of consciousness’ stuff. Maybe that vibe comes through. Having “site stats” from WordPress means that I can see how many people visited my blog each day and today was my best day so far. And that was before i posted.

Of course being in the UK means that we are on a different timescale to a lot of bloggers/potential readers out there so sometimes that means people catch up on me the next day.

The things I like writing about most are: the journey with my mum through old age and towards what will come, the process and feelings around getting fit and losing weight and the recovery from depression and illness and the sort of daily ‘in my head’ meanderings that reflect on life and living it. Writing about mum is therapeutic for me, allows me to share some of the joy, sorrow and laughter in this part of our lifetime contract with each other. I hope to write about her always with respect. But the events and experiences we are living may shine a little light somewhere for someone else going through or thinking about dementia and care and these changes. That matters.

I don’t write too much about the other most important people in my life, my 4 nearly all grown up kids and my missus. I reckon everyone deserves their privacy and apart from the occasional reference or moment of pride that I just have to shout about I don’t think any of then would thank me for blogging about them. Or putting their photos up. The dog is a different matter, I reckon he’s fair game. And everyone likes a dog story, right?

I started this daily blogging in March, so I am now nearly 4 months in. From being a little girl I have loved words. I loved to read and remember writing stories as soon as I could write. Through primary and high schools I wrote. Teenage poetry, wordy and angst-ridden Im sure. I always imagined I would go on and study English and then maybe have a career in writing or journalism. And then I got sidetracked into Sociology. I loved it. It transformed me and filled me with another sort of passion. And I don’t regret for a moment where it has taken me. But along the way, apart from brief periods of conscious creativity the writing got lost along the way. And I forgot. Writing became about reports and essays. Emails and Facebook. Until now. This year is about recovery. I have a journal that I started last October. I wrote on the inside cover “The Journey Back”. I meant back to health, back to sugar-free living, back to life. And writing has become a part of that. Making a daily committment to be here, to just show up and get those words on paper. To share what I think and who I am. And I love it.

The thinking, the processing, the way the words race and tumble over each other to come out on the screen.Googling, researching and taking photos to fit. The weekly photo challenge adds another dimension of fun and spark of creativity with the visual image. I rediscover why I love playing with colour and seeing the world through a lens can be illuminating.

Showing up every day isn’t easy but I can’t bear to miss a day. I have a dream to write every day for a year. I am honing my muscles here. I want to do more. I want to write. I want to write a book, see those words on paper. Whew! I am sticking my neck out and stating my claim on the Universe. I am going to put in the work. Watch this space.

Love Julia

Mums’ Button Box


Who doesn’t remember one of these from their childhood. Decades of buttons, scraps of clothing from half-remembered dresses. mother of pearl, metal, wood, fabric and wool and plastic. Sets of white shirt buttons and alphabet letters from making a grandchild’s cardigan.  Bucklies and a thimble. The colours, shapes and textures. Little pink ones for a delicate cardigan, great big brown ones from a winter coat. Sparkly ones and black shiny jet. Sweet ones for babies. Brass ones and tiny press-studs and fasteners.Embroidered ones and ugly ones.

Buttons for make do and mend. Buttons saved for a special occasion or treasured from that special outfit.

I remember the tin, the roses and flowers on the top and that bright blue. Getting the button box out was always a treat. Rainy afternoons spent sorting and playing, making families from them. Now I sometimes use them in my work. I can see the seeds of that in this button box, therapy with buttons. here it is written more academically  Click on the link: Buttons in therapy or in this book : Button Therapy

Most of all I liked sorting them. Colours, shape, size, type. Each has its own special character. Each reminds me of something. Each is in there for a reason, everything was saved, anything might ‘come in useful one day’. Signs of the times, a legacy of growing up in War Years and with rationing. Making your own clothes and remaking old clothes into something new and special with a set of fancy buttons or a bit of trim or ribbon. Now they are mine and I will add my collection to them. We will never need to buy a button again!


Hepworth Gallery Wakefield


Sculpture is the creation of a real object which relates to our human body and spirit as well as our visual appreciation of form and colour.

Barbara Hepworth 1962

Wakefield in Yorkshire is the proud owner of a new Gallery dedicated to the work of Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) and Henry Moore (1898-1986). Both were born and grew up in the Wakefield area.

Hepworth’s later years were spent in St Ives in Cornwall, an area that became during and after the 2nd World War an artists haven and the centre for the development of post-war contemporary art.

Hepworth’s sculptures are amazing, the way in which she uses materials and form to represent landscape, ideas and humanity, most often using the feminine form. The shapes are rounded and smooth with a patina on the wood that makes you want to caress and stroke. As in most galleries, photography was not permitted so the images remain in my head.

For images of the Gallery see This and This  and for a biography see Here, I hope you love it as much as I do.

If you got a tattoo what would it be?



For inspiration tonight I turned to The Daily Post and landed on this. Like most people I’ve contemplated getting a tattoo more than once but the long-term always puts me off. I’d like something pretty discreet like a butterfly or an angel, something that symbolises freedom or spirituality perhaps. I can’t see me going for the hard rock chick look or the full body extravaganza, although I do admit to a secret fascination for the artistry shown on day-time tv programmes like LA Ink. The problem with that is finding someone I would trust enough to paint permanent pictures on my body and cause me pain in the process.

A few months ago I was given a bracelet for my birthday, i talked about it here : charms

The charm I found to go on it was the Chinese symbol for health. This year that is hugely significant for me. It reminds me of what my focus is and why I don’t want to go back to feeling and being so unwell. Today it helped me refocus away from some sugar cravings. If I had a tattoo this year, I think that would be it.

Bracelet with health charm

But will it be the same next year, in 10 years time or when I’m 70? I don’t know.

We all know someone who had the name of the love of their life engraved on their arm at 18 only to find that maybe life has several loves. Likewise with favourite bands, football teams or celebrities. Firm young bodies look cute with tattoos but would a wrinkly, saggy me look quite so attractive? I doubt it.

I suppose one of the attractions of a tattoo is the whole permanency of the statement. I had a friend who died quite young several years ago. Before she died she was determined to have as much fun as possible while she still had the energy. One night she persuaded another friend that they would both go and get tattoos as a way to remember each other. They both went into the booths, but only one came out with the tattoo. And she is still living with it. It made us laugh and our friend lives on in that little rose, but then she would anyway.

Roses for Rita

Thinking about this sent me looking for tattoos that just might appeal, here are a couple just for the hell of it. But believe me, it ain’t gonna happen! Probably.

Angel Wings

Tree of hearts