Sparklewren

aesthetic art corsetry

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As of September 2016 (our seven year anniversary) we are no longer accepting bespoke orders. 

For those curious, I'm taking 2017 (and possibly 2018) "off" from bespoke to explore some interests which have had to take a back seat whilst pursuing corsetry these past nine years. I'll still be embellishing and selling one couture corset per month (the Butterflies), plus creating a separate collection of pieces as a personal project (the Moths). But for now we are finishing up our last few bespoke orders. We also have a small number of bargain sample corsets to sell. 

Please note, as we now work from home our corsets are embellished in an environment that includes a short-haired cat and a coal fire! I also volunteer with horses at a charity stables each week. Items are stored and worked on cleanly, of course, but do keep this in mind in case of allergies, etc.  

As ever, I'll use this blog space to write down whatever ramblings come to mind. Which, fair warning, has slowly been less about corsetry and more about horses over the past little while... Many posts have cross-overs between the two though, since playing around with unexpected parallels and connections is always fun.

History tells me that the readers here will be largely split by interest, so to avoid boring anyone (haha!) here are the three main topics/tags that I think you will be most interested in: 

 

  • Business: thoughts and experiences from being a self-employed corsetmaker
  • Corsetmaking: philosophies of making and some construction techniques
  • Equestrian: merry experiences volunteering at Summerfield Stables, plus notes from my self-directed equine anatomy studies. 

 

I did toy with the idea of making a totally new blog for my horsey leanings and learnings, since making notes on everything I'm observing and studying is much fun. But for now, I think I'll keep everything in the one place.

So, time for a fun and "different" 2017. Thanks to all for your enthusiasm and generosity towards our corsetry over the years! We'll have to wait to see what the next two years bring.  

I kind of want to cut something up...

I'm tired and happy following Day One of the equine dissection that Sharon May-Davis is holding this week. How fascinating everything is! Being a craftsperson my natural inclination (upon seeing something being carefully taken apart with a scalpel) is to want to get involved, which, of course, isn't part of the deal with this course. We're watchers rather than doers. I surprised myself with how much I wanted to be involved though. I wondered if I might have mild squeamishness but no... just felt curious to know how it felt in your hands when the anatomists were noting things like the difficulty cutting through thickened/damaged areas of fascia. 

It's largely confirming the few bits and pieces what I already know, whilst also introducing me to areas that I haven't really looked at yet. I've a feeling these three days are only going to whet my appetite further though. Pretty much everyone else there is a physio or some such, but I think I've managed to ask a couple of questions without disgracing myself too badly! And, truly, the most fascinating aspect of it is the individualism of the beastie on the table. Muscles, etc. tell a story and it's wonderful watching knowledgable people unravel that story.  Our lad this week has some of the usual signs of forceful riding, plus more damage too. Sharon laid flowers on his neck whilst working, something that she apparently always does in a display of sensitivity and empathy. She also began the day by saying that for every horse dissected at least another twenty are helped. I imagine she's being modest there. If people truly care about them and are open to new knowledge, how could this information help but ripple out in a beneficial way to more and more and more horses? 

I'm too tired for any further writing, but UK people do note... Sharon is giving a lecture in Worcester this Saturday evening all about her recent research. Just search for it on Facebook and you'll find the event info. I'd thought not to go as I'm skint, but now I'm keen to find the money (£65), it's just all so interesting. I believe she's also talking as part of the Horses Inside Out conference in 2018, so that's another one worth planning ahead for. 

Right, got to rest my brain now, need it working again for tomorrow!  

Moot Boot!

Little Poppy. She's getting better and braver each time I see her, so pleased. She takes her time feeling comfortable and is still flinchy and afraid if you do anything she considers erratic, but if you're quiet and predictable and slow in your movements, she eventually deems you a friend. But oh dear, I had a human friend stay the other night and this was an outrage to Poppy! But hey, it's a step forward that the dog is able to express outrage about a new person rather than only terror, haha. 

Little Poppy. She's getting better and braver each time I see her, so pleased. She takes her time feeling comfortable and is still flinchy and afraid if you do anything she considers erratic, but if you're quiet and predictable and slow in your movements, she eventually deems you a friend. But oh dear, I had a human friend stay the other night and this was an outrage to Poppy! But hey, it's a step forward that the dog is able to express outrage about a new person rather than only terror, haha. 

Over two weeks since I last wrote, apologies! 

Have been up North. Family, house clearing (many bonfires, much stuff to throw away) , and a quick visit to Glasgow with John. Busy but good! 

Much horsey fun had. Viewed a beastie for sale over near Carlisle. A very worried soul who needs someone quiet and patient, but ideally also someone who will appreciate his physical limitations. Conformation is such that he'll need a very light rider really (once he gets to that stage), but also a good long period of rehab, groundwork, possibly even physio. He seems to have some old damage that's grown into lots of brace and compensatory movement, which is kind of fascinating in its own right. After I'd seen him, I spent a few days thinking and looking and researching and trying to figure out what was going on in his body. I don't know if he'll find someone ready to give him what he needs, but I hope so. Had he ticked a couple more boxes, I'd have been very tempted to take him on myself... I did like him a lot and would have let him have a few months off in the first instance, chilling in the field at home, then take it from there. But as it stands, I think he needs more than that since his "problems" (for want of a better word) aren't purely emotional. And my resources, at this point, aren't quite good enough for him. A horse like that would really benefit from being one person's home-yard pet. Being seen daily, with very low demands put upon him, until he opened up emotionally. Then, physical rehab, etc. He needs someone who lives next to his field and potters around quietly in the background, and that's not me at this stage. 

Very sweet character though. Hugely anxious, but obliging enough to stand frozen still and let you handle him in his box. You can't help but feel affection for animals like that. Different story in the field, he'd rather have nothing to do with humans and if he's not being held he's off. They're each like mysteries, horses, I'd love to know what his life story was. 

Saw my old Freddie a couple of times. He's a treasure. I really need more beasties in my life to love. I suppose when you feel like that, new characters present themselves, whether friends or partners or pets. You're ready to notice their appearance and welcome them in. I remember writing in a teenage diary that I felt like I wanted to share stuff with someone, and then all of a sudden there was John. At the minute I feel like I want more animals and fresh air in my life. Someone told me that city-dweller lungs are often found to be as black as smoker's lungs, on dissection. Spending time at home with mum's dogs, birdsong in the day, and owls at night, I really felt it all quite keenly, and I'm wondering if now is the time to properly start looking at rural moorings and/or canalside fields for sale.

Everywhere we went we passed fields full of horses (Thoroughbreds, generally, though people seem to think the Northern countryside will be full of cobs), and that's how it's always been at home. I remember reading in If Wishes Were Horses that the author had a mental map of all the horse-filled fields around her home and I think that must be true of all horsey children. Or at least, the ones who didn't have a horse of their own at that point. I realised on this visit that I still have that map in my head and that (without thinking, as a reflex) my head turns every time we pass one of those fields. There was a rather lovely dappled grey Thoroughbred rugged up outside of Haltwhistle that I hadn't seen before, so there's a new one for the map. 

Did some equine anatomy reading whilst at home. I had a few books and such to collect, as I'm currently having my post sent there. I buy things when they're on offer or cheap, and then it piles up so that it feels like Christmas when you collect it! 

In a quandry about the boots I ordered though. When you have wide calves, riding boots can end up expensive. This company are quite affordable and had some on sale, so I ordered their basic "show" boots in February. I already had one pair (their "field" model)  which I'd gotten through ebay months and months ago. The field pair are too small in the calf, but I got them cheap so I've just kept them for the future. The elastic inserts at back are meant to give you three inches of play, but they don't. The elastic is too tough. If it were softer/stretchier, they'd fit and be lovely. So when I ordered the show pair, I got the wider fitting. Alas, the elastic inserts on the show boots are different. Prettier, softer, and stretchier. Sigh. So this pair fits without even unzipping and I can fit two hands inside each boot at the same time as my leg. Too big. They're also a quarter inch too tall which would be fine except that as they drop I can tell that they're going to fold behind the ankle and rub a little bit. 

So. What I really need is the show boots in the size of the field boots that I have. Or the field boots in the size of the show boots. To complicate matters further, the company have just changed their sizing following a "happy accident" at the factory, so I can't just order a new pair without taking that into account also. Good lord. Will think about it and decide whether to sell these on or just make do. I've not been riding since I ordered them anyway, so they're rather moot now. Moot Boot! Which wouldn't matter except that as I get smaller the show boots are only going to get more ridiculous around my leg, so once I'm riding again they may well be completely redundant. I feel like I should also point out that I'm not really whinging. This is a rather nice "problem" to have, it's just kind of amusing. You'd think it would all be simpler than this. 

At any rate, a really lovely visit home. It got me feeling motivated to get more boat DIY finished and more life-things sorted in order to better facilitate future horsey fun. Perhaps tomorrow we'll build the shelves for all our shoes and my horsey bits and bobs. Have the timber, just need to find the energy. Tuesday will either be catching up with work emails (apologies if anyone is waiting!) or doing some anatomy study/prep as the day after is when the three-day dissection begins. I'm so excited! Need to figure out what I'm doing in terms of travel and/or a hotel though. 

Corsetry Patterns a-go-go!

So, clever Marion (former editor at Foundations Revealed) is publishing a book... of historical corset patterns from 1900-1922! 

This is exciting. Those years are not much addressed in contemporary corsetry, and since there are 19 different patterns I imagine the book will provide a really nice overview of the changing silhouette of the time. Should be of interest to both contemporary designers and historical costumers. 

You'll have to watch the Kickstarter video for more information. She has basically found this rare book from 1924 and is on a mission to re-publish it, better than before, with more information and a functional, simple layout. I'm especially curious about the equestrienne corset and the Parisian one-piece corset! 

 

On Mastery

I was watching a video the other day about development of skill. It had two especially interesting points to make. 

First, the science of this topic has concluded... there is no such thing as a plateau. If you're not improving, you're sliding backwards! That's depressing. But the flipside of it is that progression can be very small, easy, attainable, and localised. And the backwards slide can always go upwards again. 

Second, and I've half said it already, that the main reason progression stops is that we block the process by getting "okay" at too many things (or attempting to progress in too many things) instead of mastering things so that they become automatic, are thus "put to one side" in our mind, freeing up mental energy to tackle and master the next step. Crucially, each step has to be so small and easy that it can be mastered within no more than three sessions. Imagine that. This definitely appeals to me, as I like to learn something detailed and precise rather than lots of things at a lower level. Why do you think I ended up self-teaching corsetry instead of going on a general sewing/design course? 

The former makes sense in relation to the Sigmoid curve that we've discussed before. The latter is insightful for those of us who may take on too much at any given time. I'm not too guilty of that, but since I like to flutter back and forth between topics I can sometimes not cement something as well as I should have before continuing. Eg: with equine anatomy, I'm currently most interested in structure. But last Summer I quickly learned the digestive system in order to help support the girls at the stables who were preparing for their exams. Have I internalised/remembered it all? Nope. Because I didn't give it as much concentration as I should have as I wasn't naturally drawn to the topic. But I was halfway there, and if I'd just been a tiny touch more deliberate and focussed I wouldn't need to re-learn aspects of it now. 

As pointed out in the video, "practice makes permanent". For corsetmaking, this is yet another call to do things deliberately and as well as you can, right from the start. My first corset was made from a truly inappropriate fabric, as I did what everyone else did and bought something cheap to practice with. A rather pointless exercise (unless the point of the exercise is to get past nerves about cutting or sewing, in which case buy cheap fabric and hack away at it until your confidence is up). If I'd stayed there, instead of quickly ditching it in favour for proven corsetry fabrics, I'd have learned how to be an okay corsetmaker. If I'd stayed there for any length of time, I'd have made my skill level and knowledge permanent and never approached any sort of mastery. 

Mastery, by the way, doesn't have to be a big word. Craftspeople, especially women, can be uncomfortable with words like this. It's too arrogant. But in terms of learning theory, it's just about proficiency, ease, automatic skill. If you thread a needle and execute a quilter's knot without thinking, that's mastery. You could easily nail that within three deliberate practice sessions, making your life easier longterm. If you use a thimble without thinking, that's mastery and, what's more, it's wrist protection for the entire life of your sewing career. 

Development of mastery is made possible when it is broken into tiny steps, as per the video. I'm interested to see what topics are covered in Part Two though, as I've a feeling it's going to be along the lines of adjusting expectations and environment to suit. 

Both Holly and I have "mastered" cutting for corsetry using a rotary cutter. It's quick and easy now, which allows for accurate work and efficiency. But that isn't just down to practice. No matter how deliberate or focussed or small the step, if the blades are blunt or snagged, if the cutting board is warped or damaged, if the fabric is layered too deep or difficult to cut, mastery won't be obtained. If that's the case when you're first learning, you may well get stuck there, internalising a level of skill which isn't high enough. Once something becomes automatic, it's much harder to change. A bad workman may well blame their tools, but good workmen make sure they've got the right tools for the job in the first place. The "right" tools will no doubt vary from case to case.

We all have our quirks. I struggle to study if my notebook has blank pages or dark lines. Faintly lined paper, preferably in an A6 book with a retractable pencil, lets me learn swiftly. Larger notebooks make me feel somehow exposed, so I don't learn as well. If the thickness/texture of the paper is displeasing, or if I'm having to use a pen which either scratches or leaves a thick line, it's like the flow of learning has been disrupted. Resources and environment matter to development of skill. And whilst having such precise preferences about notebooks might be a tad ridiculous, if I know that this is an easy way to make my life easier or harder then of course I'm going to leverage that information. 

Learn about learning, as it applies to everyone, but also learn about learning, as it applies to you. 

Quarters

So I'm sitting in Costa attempting to make use of their wifi (it isn't working) and mulling over my "year off". 

It seems wild that the first quarter of the year has already passed. I've ticked many tasks and goals off my list, but the couture corsetry side has been moving slowly.  

A year likely isn't going to be enough time for these corsets. I have once again underestimated how much work we really put into them. Working only one day per week has thrown it into stark relief! Everything takes an age. There are good reasons most corsetry has machine-finished binding. There are good reasons to use fewer steels. The reasons are generally entirely valid from a construction point of view and to do with the purpose of the corset, but a happy side-effect is also that one saves time and money and can thus earn a living more easily. 

Our Butterflies and Moths should be treasures. That's my wish for them. Not to make perfect things, but to make things with heart. Things that will become markers of moments and feelings, both for me the maker and for you the owner. I remember staying up all night watching Strictly Ballroom whilst finishing the binding on a beautiful cranberry corset. There's a thrumming energy in your chest that comes with completing the act of creation. You tell me about feeling unapologetically beautiful in something I've made, perhaps for the first time, and I love that I've contributed to that sense of glowing sunshine and joy. The work has to be about "flourishing" or its pointless.  

I've quoted the final passage of "From Blossoms" by Li-Young Lee many times before. 

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing, 
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.


Joy. Unbelievable, heart-bursting, joy. For me as a child, those moments would come when I was alone with my pony, or sitting on the hill above our house, or walking somewhere windy. A sense that there's nothing else you would rather be doing at that moment. That you want for nothing. That you're free and full of potential. 

As an adult, I am aware that one can cultivate these simple moments, by understanding yourself better and constantly adjusting your expectations so that you are more open to joy. All I want is to be in a field whilst animals and/or humans that I consider friends mill about. And when making corsetry, all I want is to create opportunities for flow, with music, a cat curled up nearby, working beautifully tactile materials in my hands. You perhaps have to sacrifice other things to create such a life, but that's fine. 

Butterflies and Moths. The former are colourful, rambunctious and disparate, whilst the latter are muted, delicate, and cohesive. They will each become joyous in their own way. And whilst any piece of couture or craft or art may seem nothing more than a frivolous trinket, such pieces are actually performing a function. One of blossoming. One of self-actualisation. One of becoming. For me, the maker, by letting me explore, express, and master a skill. And for you, the owner, by letting you explore, express, and master a facet of your sense of self. 

Making less corsetry, and spending more time outdoors with mud and horses, suits me. I've a feeling this "small" year for my business may tip over into two. 

Pleasant surprises

A good productive day, in the end, which surprised me. 

I slept the sleep of someone who is deeply knackered... Apart from when Cat woke me up by bringing a live rat aboard and letting it go. The damn thing has gotten into the walls and was scratching around somewhere near my head during the night. Eek. I am doubtful it will find its own way off the boat alive, but you never know. 

By the time Holly arrived this morning I was already thinking that waking up had been a bad idea. So I set her off with beading and went straight back to bed for a couple of hours. Hurrah for good employees, she's so chill and reliable. Felt physically exhausted but also pained from the waist down, same as last week. I didn't volunteer on Thursday because of it, and it takes quite a lot for me to decide that I'd be better off at home than out in fresh air and mud. I think it all traces back to my iron levels, so hopefully that'll be sorted soon. 

Anyway, boring preface aside, I thought today would be a write-off. But in the end, Holly finished the beading and lace on a lovely client's watery cincher (photos to follow) and I made some steps forwards in terms of cataloguing our moths and butterflies. The moths page is no longer blank! I've got nearly half of them listed, albeit without full information or pictures. But it's a start. Just imagine them all lined up in an exhibition or book, they're going to be so lovely. 

Updated the Cyclamen Butterfly as we laced it onto a mannequin today and enjoyed writing a little bit about the moths, especially the Mouse corset, which is just more delicious every time I look at it. That colour... 

Truffle (bottom) and Mouse (top). 

Truffle (bottom) and Mouse (top). 

This month I have been feeling increasingly low, which I think is just iron levels again, as noted. I began feeling like I was falling behind and "failing" (not a word that I usually give any significance, I never consider myself a "failure" in any bad way). But actually, we've done most of the things we set out to do.

We've launched the colouring book and raised £100 during the first week for Summerfield Stables (thanks to all who bought a copy!). We've finished all but one of our outstanding orders. We've progressed on butterflies and moths, and found our first collector for one of the former (as always, the listings say "sold out" just to prevent people from buying without discussing with us first as we wish to ensure that you are well matched to your chosen couture corset). I've cleared a bit more of my own debt (which is neither here-nor-there, except that I would like to have no pointless outgoings by the time I'm ready to buy a horse and/or patch of land). I've begun my driving lessons (which are surprisingly fun!) and despite having less than zero energy I've not stepped too much backwards in my fitness efforts. All of which is good news. So despite feeling to the contrary, March has actually been a success and "future me" will be glad of the things we ticked off the To Do list. You can't always trust your own emotions.

I'm trusting them where the corsets are concerned though... They're going to be absolutely delicious.  

A few of the moths and butterflies when they were being sewn in the studio. 

A few of the moths and butterflies when they were being sewn in the studio. 

Driving lesson number four

I am just so run down. Have massively messed up my iron intake these last few weeks and it's caught up with me. Today, volunteering, I was putting ponies away and when putting Bobby away, opened the door of the portaloo (which is next to his stable) and thought, "nope, horse won't fit in there..." before leading him into his actual stable. My brain and my body just aren't up to speed when I reduce my iron. Need more oxygen travelling around! 

Another horse, Mo, decided to have a confused moment too. I was opening the gate to her field when she spotted a yellow carrot-shaped object on the floor and reached down to sniff it. I'm not even sure what this object is, but it's some sort of plastic toy and is about 10 or 12 inches long. Horse then picked it up, took it entirely into her mouth, and I thought, "oh Christ, horse is going to kill herself." Luckily, she's a gentle soul, so opening her mouth and removing the object before she properly started chomping was no problem. But seriously. I think her brain switched off for a moment too, today! 

Fourth driving lesson. First time in the rain and first time doing three-point turns. Piece of cake, really. But overall I was less good this week, a bit less smooth on the pedals. Didn't manage to fit in lunch beforehand and think, combined with existing fatigue, this was not ideal. Memo to self: eat before driving lessons, got to stay sharp. 

Have been playing with driving theory apps on my phone, also a piece of cake. Most things are common sense, but the ones that just require memorising (stopping distances and such) will come soon enough. Am quite enjoying the whole process. It's certainly much more fun than I thought it would be. I don't know how I'd justify the expense of running a car (though I do now want one, as it would help with future horsey fun), but we'll deal with that when we get there. 

Right, dinner time and then hopefully an early night.  

Oh, was telling one of the apprentices about my "mouse-dun" coloured corset today, saying that I might put a call out on Facebook, etc. in case anyone has a mellow, mouse-dun pony (something photogenic, naturally, like a Highland or Andalucian) that loves to prick its ears up for camera. I'd really love to shoot that corset alongside such a beastie. Hopefully we'll shoot many of the Moths more than once anyhow. 

Mouse

When I saw Glo the other day  she pointed out that we really need to arrange a shoot sometime soon. So today I thought I would look through my Moth corsets and decide which ones I might want to embellish first. Ooh, it's been a fun way to spend the day... 

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I narrowed it down to a selection of seven (shown above) and then managed to narrow it down to five. I think. The shoot is meant to (finally) be the horsey one that we've been daydreaming about for years, so I want to play with muted, neutral tones, made intricate by the addition of couture lace, metallic details, and so on. 

Whilst Holly worked on a corset in "truffle" (the only one shown above with lace), adding steels, finishing lower binding, and continuing lace appliqué, I scribbled ideas for the others and revisited my sketch books. I then began work on the corset shown third from the bottom, a beautiful and unusual shade of duchess. 

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The company sells it as "mouse". I've spent all day looking at it and the longer I look the less accurately I can describe the colour. It is almost warm-grey. Not quite taupe. It's too drab to be blonde, but too luscious to be drab. It has champagne overtones but it looks like it should be velvety to the touch. In the end, I've had to concede that "mouse" is the only way to describe it. Which then made me want to find a mouse-dun horse (http://sporthorse-data.com/horse/10674993/103/Horse_Brownbread_Squirrel-big.jpg) and dark-haired girl to shoot it with! But we will have to be happy with whatever we have available to us. 

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Unfortunately for the reader, the shades of this duchess are often impossible to photograph accurately. These are just phone snaps, but even on a camera it's tricky. They change too often, you can't pin them down, so whenever you capture them in a photo you are only capturing one aspect of their character. I end up trying to use Instagram filters to recreate the colours that were lost in taking the snap, but it never quite works to convey their loveliness. 

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This "mouse" corset is going to involve symmetry (as I feel most, if not all, of my Moth corsets will), intricacy, neutral muted tones, and dulled metallics. Think metal beads and pyrite stones. The silver and gold "rope" you can see to the right is a necklace that I've had for nearly a decade. The beads are cups that sit into one another with a central elasticated thread holding them together. It makes for a snake-like effect, which I think will work beautifully alongside "ropes" of fool's gold. This piece will, I think, be very much akin to Pyrite and Unicorn from the "Where Angels..." collection, except I am hoping it will be even more faded and dusty looking. I'm considering rubbing some ashes from the stove into the silk, to see what happens. Which reminds me of a client I had years ago who said she liked a bit of dirt mixed in with the couture. Quite right, I quite agree. 

You know, with the darker tones of the beads we may use, it is indeed looking very reminiscent of mouse-dun colouring. I like that, it pleases me. Will pursue it further.  

Foolishness, curiosity, and books.

Someone shared this video on Facebook today and, since it describes a large part of the sentiment behind Where Angels Fear to Tread (our curated corsetry project from 2016) I thought you might enjoy it.  

I've spoken about this topic many times before. I meet dozens and dozens of would-be corsetmakers who, even if they have no plans beyond developing a new hobby,  hold themselves back from ever trying. The fear of failure is too great. 

I think, thanks to things like FR, OCOC, and various Facebook groups, this is less of a problem these days. And whilst none of us are immune to "it" (that feeling of shyness and ridiculousness, that fear of other people's judgement), I do firmly feel it benefits us to be foolish every once in a while. Life is largely ridiculous anyway! There's a line, in The Last Unicorn, which expresses this with the utmost pathos and generosity...

"[...] and even Molly, who loved her, could not keep from seeing that a unicorn is an absurd animal when the shining has gone out of her."  

There was once a ridiculous news story, years ago, about tiny heat-seeking missiles disguised as bees. It really tickled my mother who said, "imagine if that was how I died?! Sat on the loo when an explosive bee flies up me!" You laugh from both the horror and the humour of the idea. She said it would have to be written on the headstone and everything, so that every time my brother and I thought of her, or had to explain the story to someone, we would laugh instead of cry. 

Status, dignity, youth, ability, beauty, they all come and go on account of being something attributed to you by others (and thus, something you can't control). Desperation to hold onto them is guaranteed to make them go faster! For those of us lucky enough to live in a safe place/time, life is wonderful and ridiculous and rarely more than we can manage (which isn't to negate the seriousness of overwhelm at all, I'm only speaking in general terms).  

I'm not a photographer. But I'm glad I picked up a camera. At one point, I wasn't a corsetmaker, illustrator, or author. I don't recall anything truly "bad" ever happening from pursuing an interest or being open to ideas. I've had plenty of "failures", designs in the bin, spells without money, attacks from other corsetmakers, and hours spent trying to craft perfect emails for fear of accidentally offending someone... But none of that matters, not really. Not compared to the sense of flourishing and discovery that comes with learning anything new. Not compared to the good work that you can look back on and feel proud of and that, if you're very lucky, might ripple out and help others in some way. 

I'm not a photographer. But I'm glad I picked up a camera. At one point, I wasn't a corsetmaker, illustrator, or author. I don't recall anything truly "bad" ever happening from pursuing an interest or being open to ideas. I've had plenty of "failures", designs in the bin, spells without money, attacks from other corsetmakers, and hours spent trying to craft perfect emails for fear of accidentally offending someone... But none of that matters, not really. Not compared to the sense of flourishing and discovery that comes with learning anything new. Not compared to the good work that you can look back on and feel proud of and that, if you're very lucky, might ripple out and help others in some way. 

Do you know that line from Maya Angelou?  

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." 

It's true of work and art too, I think. Details fade, for better or worse. And yet corsetmakers may focus on one skipped stitch or one missing bead, rather than the overall impression. Business people might worry about one mischosen word in an email, rather than the overall nature of the communication or relationship in question. We can fixate on the things we dislike far too much and it wouldn't matter, except that it is often to the detriment of good work, good art, and a good life. And what did Epictetus say? 

"People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them." 

Anyway, there's a thought for a Sunday morning. I have been exhausted recently. Slept until midday today, it was incredible. I fancy going to the cafe to study, but (and Christ, it happens every year) the place was swarming with colourful kids and loud parents from the annual cheerleading competition that takes place in the NIA. Might be the same again today. 

Yesterday I was reading Sara Wyche's "The Anatomy of Riding". It is very good and presents information in quite an unusual way. There is a real focus on explaining functionality in terms of what the rider or trainer needs to know. Joints are shown as mechanical diagrams rather than accurate depictions (eg: some are drawn like the hinges you would see on a door), to make type and range of motion clear. Eg: the base of the neck is super mobile whilst the limb joints don't have much capacity for lateral movement, both facts which rather work against the rider. I've got a second book from Wyche too, on muscles in motion, which I'm looking forward to getting round to. Because this first one focuses on functionality, it sometimes omits details like muscle names. At one point she refers to criss-crossing "flyovers" along the spine, and I think she means the multifidus (which I was studying the other day) but it's never explicitly said. 

My mum still doesn't understand why I'm studying all this stuff when I've no intention of changing to a horse-based job (if I'm really lucky, I hope to be able to craft a life in which books are my primary income, then I can dip in and out of corsetmaking at my leisure). Well it's just curiosity. My dad was into astronomy and physics (he studied the latter at university), but his job was as a self-employed, self-taught, carpenter. Plenty of people have hobbies that they pursue to high levels but I suppose because we live in such a linear culture that's not the norm. Or, when it is, the hobby is the creative thing whilst the work is the "serious" thing! 

But I'm really enjoying that I can put both my work and my hobby to use. Combining the two (with projects like painting those anatomical boards for the stables) is huge fun. 

Oh, and in related news, the colouring book is doing quite nicely! For this first week (so, until Friday) the proceeds are ear-marked as fundraising for the stables I volunteer at, so if you're thinking to buy a copy or two do it now! Just search my name (Jenni Louise Rose Hampshire) on your respective Amazon site. 

The most infuriating part of using CreateSpace to publish is that I can't see sales in "real time". I get to see them a few days after the fact. At the moment, we've got half our sales from Europe and half from UK. None from the USA! Come on stateside supporters, you're letting the side down... ;-) 

Anyway, we've made a start but I'd really like to push for more. So... 

If you know people who might be interested, if you have people you want to buy advance Christmas gifts for, if you want to support the ponies, or even if you just want to support my name so that the corsetmaking book has better visibility once it's ready(!), then please do share the links far and wide. It would make a big difference and be much appreciated. 

Thank you in advance!