Mother's Day...

One of the hardest things to come to terms with since my Mum died has been the loss of clarity of my memories...the blurred edges of things I never thought I'd forget.


This painting helped me to remember...not in the sense that I could recapture exact conversations, but her exuberance, her love of life and the feeling of her being in her element on my Wedding Day.  


On the day itself I'm sure I was very self absorbed but the painting made Mum the centre of my attention, capturing the details of her dress that my sister found for her and the hat she had made to match and was so chuffed with. 

I felt like I was doing her makeup and sharing her joy through her eyes.  We made a new memory and its accuracy lives in my heart.

Of things lost and found...

This morning my habit of putting things down and forgetting where I’ve left them drove me to distraction but also led me on an interesting journey of things lost and found.

Walking home from taking my son to school, I found some flowers that looked as if they were made out of soft tissue paper.  They were so delicate, right down to the scalloped edges of their petals.  Heavy with dew they looked like snowflakes against the dark grass.  I picked up four or five - as carefully as I could with phone, tea and very unruly hair blowing in my face and proceeded home to photograph them.  While attempting unsuccessfully to recreate the scene, I found three spiders I hadn’t seen before - one I particularly wanted to photograph as he had a face pattern on his chest and was smaller and less jumpy looking than the adult version perched very inconveniently above my basil.  I tried arranging the flowers but nature’s windswept beauty was lost.  As if on cue, Gordon came over to investigate and arranged himself artfully on the garden wall - a new focus was found. 

Then my lense was lost - put somewhere ‘safe’ and after a long hunt was finally found.  Now my phone was lost and another more frustrated hunt ensued. Finally, everything found I set out to photograph the spiders and the exquisite feather I’d been saving. I found a new spider, lost the main one I was looking for and in the process the feather but found unexpectedly, a beautiful leaf skeleton, like nature’s lace.  Then I found a miniature snail, but more than that I found a childhood memory.  A long forgotten memory of playing in the garden under the stairs and discovering that there were intricate yellow snails inside the tiny shells and then creating miniature worlds for them - fascinated by their minute scale and detail.  It all came back so clearly.  

I have a similar though far more unruly garden under my stairs so I photographed the snail there, crawling over an antique watch face - much to the annoyance of Desmond who was also found and considers this spot His room! 

Later, on the walk home from school I found a similar spider to the one I had lost and was amazed to see how dragon-like he appeared in the photo.  Below the web I found a tiny purple flower, smaller than my finger nail. Then I found another spider who on first glance appeared to be carrying a tiny piece of shiny aluminium, bower-bird like across the web.  On much closer inspection, the shiny metal shard was very much a part of him and despite his constant movement, he was a delight to photograph.  

Much later, I found one of the flowers from this morning’s failed shoot. Nature’s tissue found, floating on the pond.

I never did find that feather though!


Welcome to my blog!

The Blocked Babushka is a blog about creative expression, mainly through different forms of portraiture.  It’s about overcoming creative obstacles.  It’s also a place for ideas, reflections and connections otherwise unshared, forgotten or lost in the clutter of daily life.  For many years I felt blocked creatively as I struggled to express my ideas without attacking them in the process. With a persistence born of absolute necessity, I am no longer the 'blocked babushka' I once was and I would love to share my journey with you.    

Babushkas feature a lot in my artwork.  I’ve always been drawn to their inner selves, their resilient smiles and decorative insignia.  For me they are a cocoon-like fortress, a family of unlimited associations.  

The first one I made was for a Uni assignment.  We had to create a sculpture in response to the topic Family and Memory. I decided to build a giant babushka doll made of paper mâché based on my memory of a set my Dad gave me when I was little and paint my family home on the front.  The way I remembered it, these dolls were larger than life, colourful and filled with puzzling promise.  I wanted to compare this childhood memory of the dolls with the adult reality of the actual dolls which were still at my parent’s place.  When I had built my big shiny red babushka I was amazed to see how exuberantly colourful she was compared with the actual dolls which were small with plain woody tones and not even red - I could have sworn they were red at least!

Inside the doll I collaged precious memories which my Mum wrote about my childhood. She passed away not long after the doll was finished and I cherish her hand writing and memories - most of them funny.  I keep some of her special things inside the doll and every time I read her writing it always reminds me that she was one happy babushka!

Since this first creation and the memory journey it took me on, the babushka has become one of my most enduring symbols for the complexities of life, the paradoxes of smiles and what they can hide, and the way that family dynamics can shape us but we also have the ability to break the mould.