Wednesday, 21 May 2014

⚽︎ Summerhill ⚽︎

We took off up the A12 at 5am on a busman's day off to visit Summerhill.
Picnic and raincoats at the ready.
Summerhill is a co-educational boarding school in rural Suffolk.   I saw a documentary about this school when I was a kid. A school where students could choose which lessons they go to or none at all. I thought it looked and sounded very cool. It was ahead of it's time then and I think it still is today.

"Founded in 1921, it continues to be an influential model for progressive, democratic education around the world"

And what a wonderful place it is. Idyllic, rural, relaxed, happy and charmingly eccentric. The students we met were all articulate, confident, mature and proud. We had the pleasure of a school tour where I was able to take these images. What beautiful and lush grounds for a child to wander and explore. alone or with friends or teachers. No school gates, everything open and gloriously free. I would have FLOURISHED here. Most people I know would have too.

The first stop was the art room. I didn't like art lessons much at school, I had no confidence in my creativity having had a few berations when younger for doing my own thing (when I look back I am appalled at those 'teachers') I loathed sewing because I was scared of the teacher as she used to be ferocious in her critisism. Yes, I am looking at you Mrs Bailey.

This art room was very ready to get stuck in, all kinds of equipment and an enthusiastic teacher ready to teach. Check out the cool sewing thread reel storage board. I need one of these. A lovely student explained to me how to make it. Bang nails in a board basically. 

The windows opened on to the school grounds. Children poke their heads in to see what's happening. Zooming around on skateboards and bikes. The rule that has evolved (the students make the rules democratically) is that if you are out of the school building you move your tag to the out board for health and safety reasons. Simple and Perfect.

If you leave your wheels out in the rain, I guess it is your loss if they go rusty.
But you can always nip over to the woodwork studio to fix things up.

Or you could sit and dream and design your next project.

I fell in love with the place, the charm and sophistication of the system appealed to every part of my childhood self. To every part of my teenage self longing for kindred spirits. This is the school you imagine when you dream of the perfect school. The quirky cross pollination of Enid Blyton adventures and a free festival.

I felt quite emotional remembering how much my education lacked at my school and that the antiquated Victorian system is still in place now but with even more attainment, rules and boxes to tick. THIS is the place that is the answer. A school that is like a family, a home and a beloved friend all rolled into one. A school that lets you become your very best self and if the best self is a bus driver or a politician or a nurse that self will be happy and fulfilled. I think Summerhill is doing an amazing job in the face of adversity and constant criticism. I long for it to continue, for it to grow more beautiful people in it's quiet understated way. I hope that one day the model of Summerhill will be replicated and chosen as the ideal after they have finished experimenting with attainment and success driven models that aren't a measure of a human's happiness but a measure of what mainstream society is being brainwashed into thinking is successful. 
Phew. I'll shush now.
I wish I had gone to Summerhill, I would have reached the same ideas about being alive but a lot more quickly. Oh well, I am here now.

Looks like they made a chair for my arrival.

I love these assorted notes on the back of the classroom door for the teacher to utilise.

Looking out of the science classroom.

Another delicious aspect of the school.
Skateboard ramp built by previous students
Every child should have access to a tree house

Heaps of outdoor fun.
Everywhere we went, students zoomed past us running, skipping, cycling, skateboarding, stopping to bounce on the trampoline or to collect their break biscuits. The whole place was full of vitality and collective energy. I didn't see any feral grubby anarchists at all.

I love the wheels strewn and abandoned, ready to be taken up again.
One of the few rules the students have made for visitors: not to touch abandoned wheels as the owner might be coming back for them. A Very Good Well Thought Out Rule.

Dog guarding the school

Plants and flowers in abundance

I loved all the little notices and signs I came across

Upon graduation, all students sign the brick wall.
I wonder what Mark does now and whether he thinks his school days were beautiful?

After our school tour, we were lucky enough to attend one of the famous school meetings.
The students and teachers all have an equal voice, issues are raised, suggestions are gathered and then a democratic vote is led. The maturity and wisdom of the students was inspiring and delightful.
A huge thunderstorm broke out when we were listening and the rain teemed down outside the old wood panelled room. I felt transported and aligned to a historic democratic practice which sent a shiver down my spine.
This is the way everything should be decided.
There was always the FOR vote and show of hands count and there was also a chance to vote for NONE of the suggestions. I wish we had that as a vote in the upcoming elections. A NONE OF THE ABOVE vote to show we don't want any of them. I guess more people would vote knowing their collective distrust of a dreadful system would be counted.

I wish I had gone to Summerhill, I wish I had been able to send my children and I wish for a similar concept in every town as an alternative to what we have now. Summerhill is so ahead of it's time, the world just hasn't caught up yet. Remember when only a handful of people had Apple computers? It was considered slightly dippy, slightly hippy. I think Summerhill will come of age and become what it should have become 50 years ago. 
A universal model to grow beautiful thoughtful people. 

If they had jobs for me and Mr LouLOuLoves here we would gladly take them.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

⧉ Yinka Shonibare and The Brighton Pavilion ⧉

Yinka Shonibare-The British Library
The Old Reference Library 
Brighton Museum & Art Gallery 
Royal Pavilion Gardens 

I had the pleasure of working on this vibrant life affirming project in the last few weeks. It has now opened in Brighton so if you are having a day beside the seaside this month then it's well worth catching. Even if only to gasp at the enormous vitality of so many African/Dutch fabrics in one place. Stunning. And it's free. MORE DETAILS HERE

 "Yinka Shonibare MBE’s new site-specific installation explores the impact of immigration on all aspects of British culture and considers notions of territory and place, cultural identity, displacement and refuge"

As an esteemed and valued visitor to this blog you get the behind the scenes shots of one of the studios where all the books were bound by a merry band of binders including yours truly who truly loved every moment. 

Those colours contributed to our happiness and well being as well as all the mugs of tea, chocolate bourbons and custard creams we consumed for 8 hours a day. It was a great job and expertly executed even if I do say so myself. I'm in my element surrounded by books, fabric, glue and scissors. And nice people.

 Tea, biscuits, old books, and life stories. A glorious way to spend an afternoon or 1000 years as far as I am concerned.

Working with all those old books was really exciting, pulling off old dust jackets to reveal wonderful debossed type into book cloth underneath. 
All rocking up to inspire my typography experiments of late. 
This book was 1970s flower arranging torture but the cover sang to me.

And this cafe was around the corner from the studio, it's sweet hand painted sign a leapfrog of yellow on a high blue Spring day. Isn't it enough to make you smile? 

In quiet moments (not too many of those) I've been reading Ken Robinson's 'The Element'. It would be so exciting if education could incorporate a bit of heart led activity so our children end up doing something they really love.

What's making you feel in your element this week? 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

❡ bluebell slumber ❡

One day soon I will show you the true extent of the building work and upheaval that is going on behind the hedge. It is a case of 'you can't make omelette without breaking eggs' and the eggs are well and truly broken. But the omelette is on it's way. If you think I am writing in riddles then you are correct because I have let almost a years worth of builders and living out of boxes and complete disarray finally get to me. I am living in riddles. What this does is make me almost insanely pernickety about the tiniest of details. Rather than look at all that is left to do and all that I have to organise I decide that now is the time I wish to sew pillowcases. Perfectly. I don't even sew that much. I did a meadow's worth of bunting for Daughter Number One's wedding in a field. I hem things and fix things and sometimes I sew books or into paper but I find myself drawn to the sewing machine now. I want to make dresses and bags and curtains but I thought I ought to start with squares and straight edges. You know? Try and contain some order I guess.
In the eye of the storm when I was supposed to be condensing a home's contents into 2 rooms I dug out my Singer and found a corner on the landing and sewed these from some thriving and energetic fabric from Cape Town. 
Even non sewers have fabric stashes for One Day. Don't they?
I put together a little 'how to'. Because I have got all the time in the world  a strange urge to keep blogging when all around me is unchartered and unfathomable. I think it is because blogs can make life look beautiful and ordered when the rubble, noise and disruption become overwhelming. People live in war zones and I'm fretting about dust. I feel stupid.
Looking at fabric makes things feel better, look at this amazing design. It's like torches shining a light through the night. Or dandelion seeds or pencil points or flags. 
This was the other choice. The cloth is from South Africa but this one is reminiscent of Indian paisley. But very African on closer inspection. 
This fabric was particularly narrow so I cut a long strip 182cms by 56cms. You could cut two pieces to save on waste, making one of them 21cms longer to make the pillow flap. I don't want to confuse you though if you want to make them for the first time. I think sometimes you have to dive in and learn from the first one you make then you can adapt to the fabric you have. I always get the iron out as well as the sewing machine. They partner up well to point you towards a neat finish. I ironed myself a hem either end and then sewed them without pins which would more than likely give a true seamstress the vapours.
Here's a pic of the old Singer who has lived with us for 20 years now, she was an antique when I got her. Still limping on. Just like me. The wiring would be condemned now so don't tell the sewing stewards.  
A neat hem and I'm happy, all is right with the world again.
I've got a terrible habit of working in inches AND centimetres which is a default of my generation. The young middle aged. Once you've made your hems, on one of the hemmed ends turn in 8 inches or 21 cms and pin or iron flat. 
Then you bring the two short ends together (right sides facing) and sew all the way round leaving the flap end open. Then using your bone folder or a pointy thingummy poke all of your corners out and press well. Then finish it all off with some fat border hems on the right side to make them look like they were made in a French designer's garret. And if all of that made no sense at all I made a diagram which I enjoyed more than making the pillowcases but not as much as I am going to enjoy waking up to these patterns next to my face. 

Sorry for the volume of pillow images but 3,483 images of rubble and dust and cardboard boxes cannot be made to look even vaguely lifestyle bloggy.

Then just as I think everything is under control I find myself avoiding builders, general blokeyness and decisions and swishing to the woods and lying down among the bluebells  trying to capture their particular essential bluebellness and failing. But not really caring.
OH dear bloggers, what will become of me?