Helen Muspratt: Photographer at Pallant House Gallery

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When artist/pigeon photographer Mel Ede invited me to go to a talk about a photographer at Pallant House Gallery, I snapped up her offer (pun shamelessly intended) even though I didn’t know anything about Helen Muspratt. I am so glad that has been rectified as her photographic work is beautiful as well as being pioneering, and she was both artist and business woman.

I was suitably inspired by the talk, which was given by her daughter Jessica Sutcliffe, author of Face: Shape and Angle Helen Muspratt Photographer and an impressive woman in her own right. With slides of some incredible portrait photography, we heard the narrative of Muspratt’s career. It is always refreshing to hear the narrative of a female artist that isn’t peppered with emotional adversity and personal tragedy. That isn’t to say that Muspratt had it easy – it was the 1930s and she was a woman setting up and running her own business, as well as creating her own wild artistic experiments in photography.  

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Man Ray is an obvious influence in Muspratt’s work and her use of the solarization technique produced some stunning portraits.

I loved hearing about her entrepreneurial and photographic adventures with Lettice Ramsey (another charismatic character I was delighted to learn about!). They set up Ramsey and Muspratt in Cambridge and created a wonderful body of work as well as photographing some interesting people – members of the Bloomsbury Group; Roger Fry, Julian Bell and Burgess and McLean who later became notorious as spies!

But is wasn’t just an exclusive set that Muspratt captured on film, her political affiliations led to documentary work in Soviet Russia and mining communities in Wales. My favourite of all the photographs in the exhibition at Pallant House Gallery is the busking miner. After seeing him playing the violin in the street, she invited him into her studio where she captured an intensely beautiful and poignant portrait.

I adore her use of angle, of light and dark. And if I didn’t already wish I was part of the Bloomsbury set enough, how amazing would it have been to be photographed by this artist! 

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The exhibition at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester is on until 8th May 2016. 

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Inspire yourself and your insta-friends with #InspirApril

#InspirApril 2016

It’s almost #InspirApril! Yes it is time for you to inspire yourself and your virtual creative conspirators. 

I love a good 30 day creative challenge with daily prompts! This is why I got together with my boss babe friends to create the #InspirApril instagram challenge last year. We had so much fun and made so many new cool insta-friends that we decided to do it again! 

We have a fresh load of prompts for you and how you respond is totally up to you! Obviously I think the more creative the better! Pictures, art, words, video, music, old or new. I’m probably going to mix it up with photographic and poetic responses, I think… I’m winging it, so I’ll decide on the day! 

Feel free to join in, make sure you use the hashtag #InspirApril so we can find you and show you some double-tapping love. You can post every day or just when you feel inspired. 

You can find us all on Instagram – here are some links: @CassyFry @AmyLovesBlog @HelenThornber @JenniferHamley @NikkiLoyMusic

So excited to get creative with you again!

Make room for a little bit of a poem

Your heart has no vacancies

But there is always room for one more right?! 

I was going to write a blog post, but I wrote a poem instead, and now I’m writing this blog post to give you a glimpse into how I’m sharing my poetry. I’ve gone full circle on this full moon. 

My lovely supporters on Patreon have been waiting patiently for more exclusive content, so I thought I’d pop the full poem on there. It is an inclusive kind of exclusivity though as you can opt in to my poetic Patreon world for a not-so-princely sum of 80p (or $1 USD) a month. In return you get access to all the things I write and the wonderful feeling of knowing how important you are to me!

Talking of Patreon, I adore this blog post from talented Ros Barber, who I am now supporting. Reinvesting my modest creative earnings into creativity! Imagine what would happen if we all did this! Oh, it would be the sexiest sustainable shared economy ever!

Back to the poeting though, if you follow me on Instagram you will know I share petite poetry, quirky quotes, typewriter thoughts and word works in progress (@CassyFry if you don’t already follow me). Some of these come at you in real time rawness, written in the early hours and posted with little editing from my sleep-deprived mind. Others I write and save for posting later. Some are old things I am finding as I work through my old journals. Others are screenshots, scans or snaps of my books. It is a mixed shoebox of poetic sighs.

Then there are ones, like the piece above, which are from a longer poem – most of these I don’t share anywhere in full, but I’m going to start posting them on my Patreon page, because there are actually people paying me to write now, and I owe them all my words!   

Check out my Patreon page

About my writing rituals (which include coffee and dancing, obviously)

Dancing is a writing ritualI am interested in writing rituals, in fact all the working habits we develop, whether it fosters our creativity or gets us through a day in the office, or factory, or wherever you earn your money. How we approach our work is fascinating to me; partly as I was raised to believe a job is something you do because you have to, and have ended up seeking work that brings me joy, in my employed and creative careers (which overlap), and partly because I am interested in people and working styles, especially in a creative context (as an arts professional and a creative writer).

Oh and I am also a workaholic that doesn’t buy into work life balance. I just believe in balance and value what we learn when we wobble. It helps that I am also a playaholic and restaholic – all my addictions wrestling for dominance creates some kind of equilibrium. 

I also believe that what we do around our writing (or any other work) is important to our productivity. I feel this more so now I am working on a personal project (also known as ‘my damn book’, or the increasingly apt working title Bloody Hell That Hurt).

Writing is both really easy and incredibly hard. When you’re in the flow, it is glorious, the most natural automatic thing, transferring the energy of thoughts and ideas onto paper becomes instinctive. However getting into that mode is the tricky bit. We all hear different stories of writers that start early in the morning or late at night, who write in an allotted time frame or whenever the muse strikes them, the writers that plan and the ones that wing it. 

There is no secret recipe for writing, but there are probably are finite ingredients, so reading about writing and investigating what others do can be useful if you can avoid overwhelm. Like everything in life, I believe we should each do what works for us, whether that is embarrassingly clichéd or can’t-tell-anyone-about-this weird. 

Here are my current writing rules and rituals…

Write every day.  

This is important, writing gets easier when it is habitual. However I don’t sit down to write X amount of words on project A or B. I keep my definition of writing loose and freewheeling. It includes: writing/doodling in my sketchbook/journal, typing a blog post on my laptop, noting down a cool sentence I just said/overheard/thought of, sitting down at a desk and drafting a chapter of my book or writing a poem on my phone. It can be a sentence or 3000 words. I like to mix it up: use a pencil on a note pad, a calligraphy pen on a postcard, a biro on the back of a receipt, keys on a laptop or a finger on a touchscreen. I try to keep it fun, although I regularly enjoy the purposeful urgency of a deadline.   

Surround yourself with words.

Getting intimate with words is important if you want to write, your relationship with the written word will probably be as complicated, connecting, romantic and rewarding as your human relationships. Writers are first and foremost readers, you must be wooed by the words of others before you can use them to create worlds of your own. Read everyday – fiction, poetry, blog posts, articles, personal development books, autiobiographies (although maybe not all at once!). I also put quotes, word art and inspiring text on my walls, on my clothes, wherever I can! 

Move your body. 

I dance every morning before I write, I take dance breaks as I write, and I often end my day by, you guessed it, dancing! I’m talking about gentle movement rather than high energy exercise (which doesn’t work for me, but might for you). Moving my body has changed the way I live my life and the way I write, for the better. A combination of Tai Chi for Chronic Pain, the Alexander Technique and Qoya has radically changed the way I move, use and think about my body. Tai Chi showed me how to slow down and make my movements small and smooth. The Alexander Technique taught me about posture, release and surrender. Qoya has helped me find my feminine self, a wise(ish), wild(ish) creatrix, and to move through emotional pain in a way that feels damn good. Moving (in whatever way works for you) helps to get ideas circulating around your body, keeps your writing arm and typing fingers fluid, stops your legs from going numb and your shoulders hunching up, releases negative emotions and creates feel good chemicals. It is an essential and sensual part of my writing process.    

Drink all the coffee.

Ok, probably not the best advice, but it is necessary for me. I can not function without it. I need my caffeine. I am working on incorporating other fluids – I usually grab a supply of water, juice and a travel mug of coffee before I install myself for an epic write-in, as I prefer to spend my break times dancing (although I do often dance while the kettle boils). I am hoping to update this writing ritual to ‘Fuel up!’, ensure you are well fed and watered, but as I am writing this about my current habits, rather than my aspirations, it is basically all about copious amounts of coffee.   

Procrastination productively.

It is tricky to work out if procrastination is part of the process, a ritual or a distraction, usually because all three are involved somehow. Thinking time, research, inspiration, downtime and emotion processing are all part of the writing experience for me. I often don’t know if my procrastination is purposeful until after the fact, but I tend to go with it, because mostly if I am doing it I trust it is necessary, even if it doesn’t look that way. Things that don’t get my book written, but still help include: going for a walk (with a recording device for thoughts), chatting to creative conspirators and cheerleaders, reading an inspiring book, dancing (obviously), writing something else (mostly poetry, sometimes posts like this) to process my feelings and any type of self care (naps, fetching snacks and bubble baths). Some writers light a candle and meditate, I’m more likely to take a break and watch a television programme based on a superhero franchise. I think that still counts as productive as it resets my brain, sometimes I need to switch up my moods. And as long as I don’t start binge watching and succumb to laziness, then most downtime leads to renewed enthusiasm.  

 

Here are some links to books I have found useful/inspiring/interesting when developing my writing practice. 

On Writing – Stephen King (on every list of books about writing, but for good reason)
Writing the Bones – Natalie Goldberg (lots of great exercises – thanks to John Siddique for introducing me to this book)
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert (essential reading for all creatives)
Qoya – Rochelle Schieck (not actually read this myself yet – but cannot wait as her teachings have already been transformative)
Choose Yourself – James Altucher (for his daily practice, some of which has worked wonders for me)

Finding Inspiration In The Sea

Inspired by the seaI feel most inspired and get my best ideas when I am not sat at my laptop. When I am driving or walking, words flow freely through my mind and often away forever if I don’t capture them somehow. When I am overthinking in the dark of my bedroom, my sub-conscious comes up with all sorts of craziness and stark moments of clarity, which I frantically try to note down without waking up too much. When I see or hear something inexplicably beautiful – like the sea, the sky or a subtle knowing look between friends – it inspires me to attempt to, if not explain it, then capture it. When I spend time talking to people, or reading something that both resonates while challenging my thinking, then my brain starts to connect previously unrelated things, sparking small epiphanies. Aren’t people bloody amazing? Hooray for humans.  

That is a whole lot of external stuff. For us writers, and most likely for other creatives, it is important to get a balance between getting out there and filling our heads with the stuff of inspiration, alongside finding focused time to get that stuff on the page in a meaningful way. 

I am often inspired by the sea. I have pretty much always lived by the ocean. I need to be close to the coast. I feel claustrophobic if I spend too long inland. The salty air can clear my head. A swim in the waves makes me feel wildly alive. Trudging over the stones and wet sand can make me feel as poetic as Morrissey on a Sunday. I both daydream and nightmare about going into the sea, submitting to it completely and never coming back. The sound of the waves can shush me like a mother to a restless baby. If I have a big problem, reminding myself of the vast powerful and enduring ocean can make everything about my life feel comfortingly insignificant and small.

So, no surprise that I had multiple lines of poetry and prose about the sea. Some inspired by Herne Bay in Kent (where Pete took the ‘Beware Soft Mud’ photo I used on SoundCloud), other recorded onto my phone as I walked down Bognor prom in blustery conditions and a lot of memories and moments of me feeling melodramatic about my relationship to the ocean. I had a lot of material and no real form for it. Then, after sitting on some of this stuff for months, a peculiar series of conversations over this last week started me writing something that brought it all together. People really are amazing. So the poem is now a combination of feelings about various people and situations, all churned up in the tide of my words, washing up something new onto my SoundCloud shore.

I hope you like it. And I hope you can swim… 

Obviously, my mermaiden-ness isn’t really that secret anymore – but I thought you might want to know I got the print pictured above as part of the House Of Wonderland Jewellery Box, which I won in a Caboodle Magazine giveaway. The disco duck is made by the wonderful Emily Tull

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