Many creatives have been inspired to show their support for Ukraine in various ways in the last few months – a way of enabling many of us to deal with our sense of helplessness at what we have seen unfolding on our television screens. These have been my small contribution, and since both sold (with some of the money going to the DEC Ukraine Appeal), I probably need to make some more.
I knew one had gone to a member of the clergy who was working to support families trying to host Ukrainian families, in the Salisbury Diocese. However, when watching BBC South Today, I was rather startled to actually see not only her, but the necklace I’d made, which she had been wearing daily as a witness to our need to support Ukrainians in whatever way we can.
This amazing opportunity has come through Sophie Hacker, the ‘artist-in-residence’ at Gilbert White’s this year. Sophie, who I knew through her connection to Winchester Cathedral, saw the wallhangings on my Instagram feed and wanted to know more. Chatting together, she thought they would make a great workshop subject in her ‘residential’ year, because it fits the ethos of Gilbert White’s; using traditional skills, natural fibres, and upcycled/preloved items, but to create something with a contemporary feel. With Sophie’s encouragement it has also been good to explore how my background as priest, amateur naturalist and occasional gardener also fits with Gilbert White’s own story.
I was privileged to spend time with Sophie in recent months as we’ve explored and shared some of our skills and the delights of Gilbert’s Garden, and I will be delighted to have her as my ‘assistant’ during the workshop. Since she first mooted the project, I have been able to develop some visual ideas based on the scenery in and around the Gilbert’s Garden, some of which I’ve shown here. Her initial conversation with me also came at a time when I was starting to explore the use of willow frames for some of my work, and has been the catalyst for me seeking to extend the range of natural fibres I use, including making twine from garden plants including Phormium (New Zealand Flax) and Rhubarb, more of which in a future post.
I will be leading the workshop in the wonderful barn of the Gilbert White Field Studies Centre. Participants will learn to weave a simple hoop of willow and be introduced to the basics of the tradition of Dorset Button making. Sophie will also help participants explore Gilbert White’s garden as they develop ideas for a small wall-hanging which they will be able to create during the rest of the day. Materials will be provided, including willow, threads, upcycled items and a variety of natural fibres. Participants are also encouraged to bring along any fabric and yarn scraps, ribbons or old jewellery that might be appropriate. Further details and a booking form are on the Gilbert White’s House and Garden events page.
Sophie Hacker works in a wide variety of media including stained glass and has in recent years produced works for Romsey Abbey (The Calling window, a memorial to Florence Nightingale) and Winchester Cathedral (the ‘Water into Wine’ altar frontal in the Epiphany Chapel). She was the first professional to describe me as an artist! I am indebted to her for giving me the confidence to extend my creative and presentation skills in this way, and to the team at Gilbert White’s who will I know make participants as welcome as they have made me. Do come and join us for what I’m sure will be a wonderful day.
When I was putting together my stock for the shop at the Sustainability Centre recently, I was asked to create some price tags for my items. Whilst it would have been relatively simple to use a photo of one of my items, I thought that could be a bit limiting in a weird sort of way, because there’s such a diversity to the stuff I produce, depending on where inspiration takes me.
So I’d been on the look out for something ‘Ramtops’ related – ideally a ram doing something creative, or similar. That’s the name we gave our house nearly 25 years ago, and comes from the name of one of the mountain ranges in the Terry Pratchett Discworld books. Being ‘Ramtopsrac’ has been my nom-de-plume ever since, across all sorts of social media. I’d kept my eye out, searched various label and stamp making companies, and nothing had seemed to quite fit the bill.
Then among an online network of creative clergy a lovely priest in the Nadder Valley in Wiltshire called Jo Naish produced a series of sheep related cartoons for ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’ (Fourth Sunday of Easter, when the reading is John 10:11-18)… one of which was a ram, on top of a mountain! I love it. I realise it doesn’t reference the ‘making’ process of the variety of items I produce, but it was suitably quirky and distinctive enough to fit the bill, at least as far as I was concerned. Whilst I wasn’t going to use it for the purpose it was shared, Jo was very happy for me to adopt it as my logo, for which I am hugely grateful.
So, here’s my logo, and the blurb I created to go with it. I hope I will get the opportunity to make more use of it in the future.
Here’s me playing catch-up on the exciting thing that happened for me in June: my handmade items are now in stock in a shop! (They have been since 10th June, but one or two other things have happened since then too!)
It took a bit longer to make this happen than originally intended, but given so much of my stuff is natural fibre, upcycled, recycled, or ‘found’ in some way, I think the ethos of the Sustainability Centre and what I’m trying to create are a great fit for each other.
There’s a whole range of items which I’ve made including earings, keyrings, pendant necklaces, brooches and wallhangings. It was lovely to be able to make use of an old basket, inherited from my Mum, and carefully stored for the last 25 years. She had a bit of a hoarding tendancy, which in part is what much of my creativity has been based on!
The eagle-eyed will also note the new logo on the tags! This was the first opportunity for my new ‘logo’ to be pressed into use. More of that in the next blog-post!
I’m very grateful to Lyn the shop manager at the Sustainability Centre, for giving me this opportunity. I wonder if anything will sell?
Theoreo means, in New Testament Greek, to wonder, ponder, or 'chew over.' Theore0's are my reflections on current issues, facing the Church and Christians. I frequently consider issues such as the relationship between faith and economic life, Christianity and leadership and, other ethical issues. Many of these issues are covered in a book I co-edited called Theonomics (available either through Amazon or direct from Sacristy Press). All views are my own. I aim to provoke and stimulate wider debate, for the common good and hope not to offend.