Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Δ I'm always "square pegs in round holes" Δ

oblongs into triangles

It's been a long time since I've been home. I keep wondering what it will feel like to walk on through into my space, the neglected air of the unlived in life. The unbreathed in or out of rooms. I think of my children, my bed, that dog, a fire in a stove and a garden happening without my daily examination of it. Does it even exist if I'm not there to prod it? 

And I mentioned the other day about 'going back' and someone very rightly pointed out that it's not Going Back at all. It will still be going forward. None of us are ever going back. So, a little home nausea creeps in but it's there to remind me that somewhere there, is a place where the wind will whistle out of my aching bones. 
I will find the dreamed about hum of silence.

Kathmandu is noisy. India is deafening. Asia is chaotic. 
My home page home surrounded with its thick traffic noise absorbing hedge is almost unearthly quiet. The noisiest thing is the dawn chorus which used to wake me up dawnly and dutifully as the birds sang the day into life. Here in Nepal there is the usual competition between dogs, the boys school next door, which sees the arrival of pupils around 6 am whereupon they beat the rhythm of a football against a half built, half concrete, half bamboo scaffold. Like a steady shot of stutter, the bouncing ball rolls through to my subconscious and lets me know it's time. 

Time to get up, sit, meditate, find a small corner to unroll a skimpy little yoga mat and do the one thing that makes everywhere feel like home. Reaching up and out and in. Coming home every morning. Going Back? Never.

The other constant colour in my life is the print studio. A solemn concentrated walk away. I have to be fully aware and intent on traffic, potholes, dead things and the strangely ugly but endearing, one eared half dead dog that almost wishes me a Good Morning as we meet each other's eyes. He sits and he sits. Blinking into the dust, the exhaust, the weary brick lined streets.

I scoot across the crossroads where the road has been dug up more times than I can remember and I've only been here a month. No health and safety, no signs, no cordons. Just a hole. 
In the middle of the road. 
Big enough to swallow a motor bike and several passengers.
If you fall in it, it's your fault. 
It's refreshingly non nanny state but there must be a happy medium.
This isn't it.


I turn left at this marigold and enter the art centre where we have a print and binding studio. I have started to try to make it a more inspiring place. Fill it with spring leaps of colour. The joy is already in here. Bouncing from the walls like the eternal football. It just needs a touch of illustrating.

studio days
studio days

The deaf young people I work with are bubbling over with enthusiasm and sweetness. We greet with a traditional Namaste, hands in prayer and then they rush me for a hug and I love them then for their simple faith in me and that we're going to have a great day together. Cutting, sewing, measuring, glueing. Smiling, signing, even singing, one girl sings a tuneless song under her breath, it is the soundtrack in here. It's comforting. Like Nepali tea made from milk bought in a plastic bag.

The girls travel for an hour to get to the print studio, they live out of town, in rural places and they trickle in to work by microbus. A jam packed bench seated small truck. They pick small plants on their way to the bus stop through the rural landscape and bring them to the studio and we print them. They were using dark indigos and clarets but I'm trying to encourage a bit of experimenting with colour and thanks to a very generous and kind offer of some new ink from Chocolate Girl we got a delivery from FedEx of some white stay open ink. This will hopefully open out our palette into a new spectrum and we can't wait to get mixing and cooking up a feast of colour. Thanks to the generosity of previous sponsors, we have a small table top etching press which we use to make these monoprints of plants...And I, in turn, have been turning them into rubber stamps to ease up the process.

studio days

The studio is a bit basic and thanks to the Power Problems we have here i.e intermittent supply = no water. If there is no power, then there is no water as it needs a pump to operate. The only water supply is in the loos anyway so we installed our own sink and water supply. I think this might be considered luxurious around these parts. It is poor. It is basic but we make a do. 
I don't think I could ever moan about my cramped, packed to the rafters workspace ever again. This is my challenge here. It's hard running a print studio with very basic supplies and even if we could afford them, the specialist items aren't available here in Kathmandu. 

studio days

studio days

So far, I've become a teacher of bookbinding, a guide for printmaking, a creative force, a reader of faces and body language and I'm learning Nepalese sign language. I think I can say for the first time I am spinning on newly oiled and slick machinery. 
But I have to say that out loud to believe it. 
And no-one to hear me but me.

During the last four weeks, we've moved to a new studio and I've been painting out a wall full of dark uninspiring emo graffiti with the aid of a table and a bamboo ladder. I've taught two new book structures, had days of printing sessions and lots of quality control. I've also got a desk full of hand-carved (by me) printing blocks to make this year's Christmas card. I've designed a new catalogue and am in the midst of the charity newsletter. Not much time to bruise and ponder. Just as I thought. A more thoughtful me is emerging. Not necessarily kinder but lazier to leap. But towards these hesitant hands, eager eyes and half closed sea shells of ears I feel an ocean of kindness, a rush of tenderness for difficult lives and fuzzy round the edges futures.

studio days

new rose book
airing the prints


chocolategirl64 said...

splashes of fresh colour to brighten our hazy Essex sky: nothing changes here!
loving greeny ferny printy:
really really want to sponsor or provide more for your girls: must put thinking heads together:
sounds to me like you are listening to the rhythms of life around you:
listening to yourself:
good isn't it?
a beautiful post honey:

gill said...

As always a lovely post Louise - I feel I'm there with you!
Fabulous colours in your printing classes

Sarah said...

You are doing such a great job! I love the way you describe everything and everyone-all brought to life so well! Is there anything I could send you to help with the lack of supplies? Let me know!

Carol said...

Lovely prints, wonderful books. Seeing your workspace does make me realise how lucky I am to have a good space to work. Your writing is warm and gentle, full of empathy for your students.

suzie said...

what a beautiful and absorbing read that was Loubs. KInder? Oh I think so, you are really making a difference.

Can you take a photo of the one eared dog? Pretty please?

Rebecca said...

Gorgeous pics and words. You are amazing

Tor said...

It sounds so wonderful what you are doing. xx

Francesca said...

ahhhhhhhh. stunning as ever. like a breath of fresh air. and even a bit of philosophy "..does it even exist if i'm not there". i could think about that the rest of the day. x

Lizzie said...

The photos are fabulous. I love the colours you and your students are using. How lovely that people send you things, to help your students.
The prints are beautiful, the books look great. You are doing wonderful work and I am so glad your girls appreciate you!
You sound very thoughtful and quite introspective. Somewhere so basic and simple kind-of releases the soul and lets it speak; our lives here are so chaotic and pressured, but by the wrong sort of priorities. When life is more basic, then the priorities have time to become a bit more straightened out - water, food, shelter, then work, equipment, materials... Life.
I hope you don't feel lonely there. You sounded a little wistful. We are still here - and we love to hear from you, even while you are there.
And the same Sun shines on us all.

jax said...

Catching up on your posts, keep up the wonderful work your story telling is making me feel as though I'm there, in your colourful world. x

Anna Watkins said...

Love, love, love!
(I left you a comment before , wonder what happened to it?)


nath said...

i love the way you write so much. always getting straight to the truth of it all. love the photographs too.

the travelling bookbinder said...

Lou Lou You ARE AMAZING and i love you too.
Rach x x x x x x x x x