Following a serious illness, I’ve been recovering- the Covid19 pandemic with its enforced separation, has been a gift although I miss not socialising (as I’m very much an extrovert). But the days of being alone and silent, reading, and resting have been worthwhile. I’ve managed to work, mainly via online platforms but any form of external visits have not happened.
But being at home, doesn’t mean end of creativity. So I’ve been able to do creative things such as writing and crafting. This was a recent creative endeavour during Easter, colouring boiled eggs with natural materials such as turmeric, onion skins, and coffee with layering on bits of leaves, flour paste and skin to create texture and decorations. In times of stress, any bit of creativity will enable healing. I also created a painting out of bits of used ‘Over head transparencies’- remember those? and odds and ends on a bit of discarded empty picture frame (without glass) found on the street. Even frozen water bubbles became an idea for musing about the passage of time. Cooking became a very creative pastime. I realised that anything can be creative if you want to make it so.
Pottering about is an art. Being creative is about being healing yourself- it is a magic!
I recently visited Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, UK. Kettle’s Yard was the home of Jim and Helen Ede during 1958 to 1973 . Jim had been a curator at the Tate Gallery in London 1920-30s. Collecting and curating art and nature in his home, became his cure for undiagnosed PTSD brought on by the Great War. He became a patron, collector and buyer of works by then unknown (and some famous) artists- paintings by Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Christopher Wood, David Jones and Joan Miró, as well as sculptures by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.
Jim did not distinguish between high art, naive art, and nature. There are no labels, so the visitor enjoys the work as it is. Surprisingly for a curator’s home, there no curatorial statements either. Alongside carefully positioned valued artworks, we find broken and old furniture, glass, ceramics and natural objects. The aim was to create creating a harmonic whole, not perfection. He was influenced by his visit to India after the war and his work reflects his interests in Eastern religions and folk art. He invited students for talks at the end of each term and in the end, left the house to Cambridge University. He meant this humble home to be neither ‘an art gallery or museum, nor … simply a collection of works of art reflecting my taste or the taste of a given period. It is, rather, a continuing way of life from these last fifty years, in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculpture, in light and in space, have been used to make manifest the underlying stability.’
Looking and reflecting on the interiors, as an architect and home maker, I came to realise that to create a home you have to know yourself and your own needs deeply. And to create such an harmonious home, you don’t need expensive things- just things that reflect who you are. So Jim and Helen Ede’s home could be viewed by some as eccentric and unsophisticated but the abiding impression is that of a couple who consciously chose to eschew the materially rich for that which is soulfully rich. A lesson indeed for these chaotic times and materialistic culture. Such expression where someone’s inner life has been thrown open public gaze requires inner confidence, critical thinking and unwavering certainty. This is the home of someone who has absolute happiness, not relative one. In the end, the lesson for me wasn’t from the art but from the collection and the home as one.
Lessons on design and interiors from Kettle’s Yard
Make the design work for you, don’t follow others blindly.
Choose things that enhance the spaces- these might be cheap things like plants, rocks, books and sea shells. They could be things that you love to touch and see.
Follow the design through as you walk from space to space. It might be simpler and cheaper to have a flow, rather than each space having its own ‘theme’.
Remove and hide things seasonally. This gives a sense of the home through the seasons.
Eclectic collections have a charm of their own. Many design magazines feature empty monastic looking spaces but as this home shows, you can have many things if displayed well.
Earlier I wrote about how I learn something from my altar when I do my prayers. I have two candles, a little offering of water, and an incense urn along with two vases of greenery. Watching my candles I relearnt the lesson of ‘slow and steady wins the race’. One of the candles appears to be in the path of a slight breeze that blows through the gaps of my patio door. This one splutters everywhere and naturally burns faster than the other one.
The other one burns steady and lasts much longer. I try to switch positions to avoid one candle looking shorter than the other but the one that started life fast never recovers.
So the lesson here is start and keep slow and steady. You cannot make up for the ravages of a fast life later on. There is something to be said about a life that concentrates on keeping still, rather than trying to out do everyone else. No wonder that someone doing too much suffers from what is called ‘burn out’.