Hiatus

Hi All,

It’s been some time since I posted and I thought it would be best to let you all know what’s going on, especially in the light of today’s events in Brussels.

I’m going to take a little break from my lovely Bazaar Collective community for a bit. I’ve already told our close team and they’re so sweet and supportive. That’s not to say I’m going to be totally anti-social, I’m still going to see everyone on the ground here in Brussels, but I have less time for organisation get-togethers and less time for creative work at the moment. There is an awful lot going on at home and it’s taking all of my energy just to stay on top of it and stay sane.

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This is my garden. It’s all mine. And The Belgian’s, of course. We bought it and will spend the next 20 years paying for it and it’s my small little slice of heaven. Once I get through the next few months, I will lock myself away here for a short while to recover. I am going to garden, cook, eat, read, do some office work in the mornings, some house repair in the afternoons, and not much else besides for just a few months. I hope to burst out the other side full of energy.

I’m writing this today in Brussels, a few hundred metres from the Maelbeek metro station where a suicide bomber just blew up a metro carriage, killing a number of people. This morning three bombs went off at Brussels Airport. Looking out my window, it’s a glorious evening and there are people walking around a sunny park and cars going up and down the street. Those weird Brussels wild parakeets are flirting in and out of the still-bare branches, concentrating on forming their next batch of crazy offspring. If it wasn’t for the sound of the sirens and the constant text messages from my family back home, I would not have the feeling that anything catastrophic had happened in Brussels today. Catastrophic doesn’t even cover it, this changes our lives completely. It changes how we see Brussels, ourselves within the city and our own daily actions. I find it all so elusive. I can’t grasp the events or their consequences. Since November we’ve not only been expecting something like this but I’ve thought about it daily. My new commute involves that same metro line. I think about it constantly and am often anxious when I’m pottering about on the tram or metro. Now that it’s actually happened it doesn’t change anything, only justifies the anxiety somehow.

How do we manage this? I had already stepped a little back from my creative world because of other pressures, but if I step back from the world any further I’ll become a hermit. And this is not the way to deal with this new world we’re in. But how to deal with it? With platitudes and “show them no fear” slogans and pictures of beaches with the words of Paulo Coelho in some godawful font? No thank you, that’s not my style. For the last few years I’ve been dealing with fertility issues. I initially took a step back from the blog and from creative work because I’ve just been so exhausted trying to manage that. It’s three years later and we’ve moved no further on that, so I’m quite destroyed by it all. Around November last year I sat back and said no more for a while. No more drugs, no more tests, no more 7am hospital appointments, no more tears. We’re now about half way through an adoption process that we had started last summer, which would mean a child brought into my life within the next year or so. The idea fills me with equal parts delirious joy and abject fear. I desperately want a child in my life but how do I manage that if events like today become a European norm? I have absolutely no answers. When I was a kid, I thought my parents had all the answers. My Mum gave birth to me when she was 20 years old, 13 years younger than I am right now… Any child arriving in my life now would have every right to expect that I have all the answers but here I am, asking you…

So, excuse me for a while, I’m going to hunker down with The Belgian and create a nest where we can feel safe together and from which we can fly. I’m posting pictures of the renovation process on our old townhouse apartment, which is fun but also total madness. We had no idea what we were getting into! If you’re interested in following that process, please have a look

Otherwise, give me a while and I’ll be back. Probably unchanged, with as many questions and fewer answers. But hopefully with a little more calm.

a x

PS this is a good piece by Deborah Orr in The Guardian today on Brussels. If the government could see their way clear to sorting out their petty disputes and forming a common ground, we’d be right behind them in support.

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To Jim & Chaos

This is a little bit of a random post after such a long break, but at this stage you know well how my scattered brain works! For a long time, I have absolutely believed that if anybody could have “saved” this world, it’s Jim Henson. (I put inverted commas on saved because there are various opinions about whether the world needs to be saved, and from whom/what it needs to be saved…) He’s up high on the list of my great heroes of humanity. Lots of us know him from the amazing Muppet Show and tend to remember Kermit’s flailing arms or Statler & Waldorf heckling from the balcony, but he was that and so much more. The ideas that shone through in his hugely varied productions were those of community, of sharing, that of taking care of each other, of love and my favourite – that peace & chaos are two sides of the same coin. Of all his productions, The Muppets especially were pure, unfettered, blind chaos, a riot of colours and sounds and jokes, but the feeling of peace I have after watching of the early movies especially is undisputed.I always watch the Muppets on a bad day, and today is a particularly nasty one, so I’m about to put on The Muppet Movie

There’s a lot of chaos in the world at the moment. Actually, I keep forgetting that it’s not just limited to right now, I’m so privileged in my life… There’s a lot of chaos in the world, full stop. Brussels is unsettled. We’re watchful. Looking over our shoulders and keeping an ear on the news for updates on public transport and movement around the city. I love Brussels. I have made it my city, my home. Today was better than earlier in the week, but I hate that I felt uncomfortable when I went out. I don’t use the word ‘hate’ lightly. When I think about my discomfort on the metro this morning I have feeling in my chest like I want to spit or shout or punch something. But there’s nobody or nothing to spit at or shout at (and in any case, I’m a nice girl 😉 so we are forced to deal with these emotions in a different way. The city was plunged into chaos for a few days, but, as expected, the Belgians came through smiling and managed to find the peace in the chaos. You’ve all heard about the lockdown cats. Shep participated. There’s even a video now, to encourage tourists not to fear coming over the holidays! Amazing. That video is too damn short.

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Our street is under surveillance!

We can all do something to find peace in the chaos. In our own way. I’m not going to tell you what your own way is. And we should do this, not just until we feel better, but forever. Take one of Jim Henson’s ideas and run with it. Imagine a world where dogs can play piano, frogs can sing and play banjo and they can all ride bikes. (Paraphrased from Spielberg’s tribute to Jim Henson.) I’m putting together a plan for my new garden that is pure fantasy,  but I think I can make it work. In the back of my mind is an eventual plan to work with kids in our community on making a kitchen window garden and DIY home things. Things that I will test out in this fantasy garden first. Sow some wild ideas perhaps…

If you have a little time, try to find your own rainbow connection. Your peace in the chaos.

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a x

Back to normal

Today was a super productive day and, given the current outpourings from media, a surprisingly positive one. I’ve been reading a lot lately about climate change and climate emigration. I think I said this before, it makes for scary reading. But today was one of those gems. The kind of day when you start to believe it might just work out. We might just be able to pull together and take care of each other and our futures.

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The Bazaar Creative Sunday group met for the first time since the summer break. As usual, some people couldn’t come and we had new faces. So it was a lovely mix of old and new faces, old and new projects. Next month, if you are thinking of joining us, we will meet slightly later because of the Brussels marathon that morning. I’ll send an email closer to the date but about 1.30pm next month, I think! Lots of lovely positive vibes, shared experience, helpful advice and knowledge. Perfect!

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Amy and I worked on a banner that we took with us to a big public meeting at the Brussels refugee camp later this afternoon. The meeting was really impressive. The idea was that all of the people interested in volunteering at the refugee camp should come together to be organised into groups. The help has been a bit scattered and ad hoc until now so it was a great initiative. Myself and Amy have joined the animations group to organise some activites in the camp as long as it lasts. There are many people doing logistics, food, communications, fundraising and lobbying. We feel it’s also important that we bring something of the host city to the camp while people sit around waiting for their fate to be determined.

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The banner in situ at the camp this evening! For anyone else interested in volunteering, the organisers are communicating through the facebook group Platforme Citoyenne de soutien aux refugies Bruxelles. They will publish information on how the groups were organised today. Anyone who is interested in joining myself and Amy in our activities are more than welcome. We’re searching for small textile ideas that don’t take a lot of time but which can be distracting/engaging for both adults and kids. And for all hands on deck! This was the first weekend that made it clear that there is a crisis to be solved, but it won’t end here and it would be wonderful to have helping hands once the initial buzz fades.

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I’m listening to the radio as I write and just now on the BBC news at 6pm, I heard that the Austrian chancellor spoke today about the situation saying that the open gates policy, ignoring the law that states that migrants must register in the EU country where they land, needs to be rolled back. He said things must “go back to normal” now that the initial crisis has passed. (I literally heard this on the news 5 minutes ago and can’t seem to find a news reference to link to. I’m sure there’ll be more in the papers tonight.) It’s amazing to me that a man in such a position should think that we could ever go back from this point. This is the new normal. This first wave of refugees fleeing death in their own lands is not the last we will see of the mass movement of peoples. I mentioned above I’ve been reading a lot about climate change, and there exist already in the world, large groups of displaced peoples. They have been forced out of their lands, either because land has become inhospitable as a result of fossil fuel mining, or because their land is literally disappearing. (This is one of many links to articles you can find with a quick google search…) Here and now. This is the beginning. I believe the sooner we adapt to this new situation, the better it will be for everyone – for those fleeing famine and war, and for us preparing the welcome them. We will be stronger for it.

The guy speaking in the photo above spoke on behalf of the refugees. Of the few short words he said, one sentence stuck with me. “We are not dangerous. We are endangered.” As a society we cannot fear this change, fear these people. They are desperately in need of help. We are strong and well able for what will come, as long as we stick together. Come along to the next meeting and see how comfortable and joyful people are as they’re working to help others out of a bad situation. See their hearts open, wide open.

I have family all over the world – Australia and the USA mostly, but other places too. And it’s not because Irish people are addicted to travel and can’t wait to get away from their lush green island. Over our long history we were forced to flee not once, not twice but many times. The Great Famine (‘Great’ is a dubious choice of word but I guess it was named in an era when ‘great’ meant impressive/enormous and not awesome) saw a quarter – A QUARTER – of the Irish population flee overseas in search of a life in which they would not be forced to watch their children starve to death. Again in the 1950’s the Irish economy took a nose dive and people were forced to journey to the UK and Australia to find work. There are many great Irish nurses in English and Australian hospitals as a result of that flood of emigration. And let’s not forget what the Irish media have taken to calling Generation Emigration. I’m one of these myself – I emigrated to find a more sustainable life, in which I could expect to live in a big city and afford a life that won’t drown me in debt forever. But here’s the catch, I’m lucky enough to have enough money in my pocket to earn me the title of Expat, not immigrant, on these Belgian streets.

There are many other things I could say on this subject, but I’ve already bored my friends to tears, and I don’t want to do the same here. Just read this one for the feels!

a x

 

Jewels on a Sunday

How much do you know about Silver Clay? I knew nothing before last weekend when we did the workshop on making our own jewellery from silver clay. It was incredible!

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We had a lovely instructor, called Bea, and you can find more information about her on her website. She explained that silver clay is recycled silver dust, mixed with a gum. You sculpt the jewel in any shape or design that you want. Once the piece goes in the oven, the gum disappears and you’re left with a beautiful piece of pure silver jewellery. It’s magic!

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The clay, however, is really tricky to manipulate. There are lots of tools and tricks but really it’s hard to get it right. Our group is pretty talented though and we made some gorgeous pieces!!

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This is my ring below. My hand looks freakishly red… I don’t know what that’s about. I swear I don’t have sunburn!

photo 3-4But how gorgeous is that ring!? I’ve always admired the work of Irish designer Eily O’Connell and I was inspired by her to make the ring, although it’s nothing compared to her work!

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Some of the other pieces by these very talented ladies! We’ll be doing more of these types of workshops and if you’re interested in joining, keep an eye on the blog!

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This weekend we’re holding the last of the Bazaar Craft Sundays before the summer break. If you’re in town drop over to Rue Maes after 12noon and say hi!

a x

Paper Work

So anyone who has ever glanced at this blog knows that, next to textiles, my favourite thing is paper. Paper, paper, paper, in all it’s glorious forms!

I got chatting about paper again today with a lovely girl I just met from Hungary. Johanna is an illustrator, living and creating in Brussels. We got chatting about our love of paper and I remembered of the paper projects I want to get working on. One that I’ve been toying with for ages is making another zine! In addition to my lovely chat with Johanna, I came across the below flyer for a zine workshop for kids during the summer in Brussels. Lucky kids!!

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I. Love. Zines.

I’m actually watching a Skillshare class right now about making zines! If you use Skillshare check it out – Kate Bingaman-Burt, Making Your First Zine.

I have made only one zine to date but I loved it. I only made about 30 copies and most of these I sent to people who contributed to it. I made that zine with the same approach I use for everything – bringing community together! I asked some friends and some great artists that I met online to contribute to it, and of course, because I’m surrounded by wonderful people, they all came through for me. It didn’t take so long to pull it together, and I loved the experience of piecing it, shaping it and printing. I was very lucky to have a contribution from the queen of zines herself – Linda Tieu! Her illustrations are just gorgeous and she’s of the firm belief that anyone can draw. She produces zines to encourage us scardey cats to pick up a pen and get to it!

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In Tokyo we visited a shop that both sold zines and had free ones to take away. As you can imagine, not only were there great zines, but they were Japanese! There’s something about Japan’s creative world that makes me want to give up on European life and move there and live in an osana, slowly boiling while watching the Japanese world revolve around me.

I also found a shop in Amsterdam a couple of years ago selling all types of self-published work by contemporary artists and I picked up some wonderful pieces there. Here’s a pic of two of these. The smaller one, by an artist called Brah Yak, is one of the nicest paper paper pieces I have in my collection. I can’t find anything about the artist online but the piece is a gorgeous little story called Passport to Heaven. The shop is called Boekie Woekie and is well worth a visit if you’re ever in Amsterdam!

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Continuing my paper-love story, I recently took a skillshare class on travel posters. I’ve been thinking a lot about Brussels and how awesome it is as a creative city. I wanted to create a poster to reflect that. This below is a prototype which is based on all the flyers for events that I had lying around the house. It’s not the final version but I’m going to get a high quality print of the Mannekin Pis picture and use that as the base for the final version. This is just a draft that I use as my front-page link for my Creative Brussels page here on the website.

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The other paper project I worked on recently is a series of old postcards of Antwerp, with updated captions. The idea came from an article I was reading in the new York Times on the “muslimification” of European cities. There was a photo in the article, with a misleading and factually incorrect caption, just put there to serve the purpose of their biased view. It was galling. So I played around with the idea and created this series of postcards. It’s another idea I’m going to explore some more over the summer.

Ideas, ideas! Bouncing around in there, I need to nail them down…

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Speaking of paper work – I had my first encounter today with Belgian Revenue… Ugh…

So, I have info coming very soon on the jewellery workshop update. IF you weren’t able to make the first date we offered, put a Save the Date in your diary for Sunday 21 June. More info this weekend!! Hope to see some of you very soon!

a x

Silver Jewellery Workshop this weekend

This weekend instead of the usual Bazaar Craft Sunday we have arranged for a brilliant jewellery artist to come and give a workshop on Silver Clay Jewellery. It’s a new technique that I haven’t come across before but it seems like it will be cool! Iris will be taking care of opening up shop this weekend because I’m going to be quite late coming on Sunday.

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(Photo from The Jewellery Academy)

If you would like to take part in the workshop we still have a few places. The workshop will cost €60 and that includes a four hour workshop, a 10g piece of clay and two precious stones to put into your piece. The workhop will be in the same place as usual – the lovely Den Teirling space on Rue Maes. Send me an email for the details!

Otherwise, I have some news coming this week that I’m quite excited about! Watch this space, wheeeeeeeeeeee!

a x

 

Christmas Madness Continues

When you sell at markets it always feels like you’re ready for the holiday season far sooner than most people. It also means we’re way behind on regular holiday things – I still have no Christmas tree!!

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I have some wonderful photos of the market this weekend, courtesy of A Mama’s Blog. Before I get stuck into those I just want to let you all know that I will be in Micro Marché this weekend with some more of these gorgeous bunnies. The box above is fresh off the machine! Get them while they’re hot!

The market this weekend was just incredible. I posted a photo of our team on Saturday night before we got stuck in. They are the best, most creative, hardworking and inspired bunch of people that you are every likely to meet! We started early on Sunday morning, setting up and as soon as we opened our doors at noon we had a steady stream of people in all day! They were kept warm with the delicious Vin Chaud from Holy Bagels!

SONY DSCThe quality of work on display was astonishing. There was a real handcrafted quality to the fair and I can only hope that any market we do in future proves to be an equal showcase of work made in Belgium. I’ll shut up now and let you enjoy Alix’ photos!

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Beautiful little peg-men by Sil in Pensilory.

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The lady Sil herself!

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Warm lighting and soft toys from Le Souk de Killy.

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A new range of Christmas illustrations from JoJackLee. Illustratrice extraordinaire Maggie is one of the organising team.

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Original pieces from E20 Bijoux.

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My very own Welcome Baby Boxes and luxury handmade cushions!

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Amy holds sway over her busy kitchen!

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And no wonder the kitchen was so busy. Mince pies – yum!

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I had an awful lot of fun showing creative hands of all ages how to make Christmas trees and snowflakes!

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Christmas decoration bows made by Iris in prep for the workshops. They’re so sweet and so easy to make!

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Busy heads bent over scissors and paper.

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The market was hard work but also so much fun. We’re already thinking about when we might be able to host another one. We’ll keep you informed!

Hope to see you this weekend at Micro Marché!

a x

Today is the day! Christmas Market 2014

Yesterday we spent the day preparing the hall for the Christmas Market and honestly, it looks amazing! So warm and cosy with a Christmas glow. We finished the photo booth, where you can take your own Christmas photos! And of course we had to sample it! This is us, the Bazaar Christmas Market team!

Market Team

Today is going to be just brilliant fun! There will be paper-craft workshops at 2pm and 4pm, homemade cakes by wonderful baker Amy and so many handcrafted goodies on sale! Below you can see the test samples, which were deeeelicious! Do come and say hi 🙂

Cake Prep

In addition to being the big market-prep day, yesterday was also the Feast of Saint Nicholas here in Belgium. In some ways it’s bigger than Christmas day, and children prepare for it weeks before. I started the day preparing my first-ever Assiette de St Nicolas for The Belgian. I think by the delighted expression and cleared plate when I got home last night, it’s safe to say it was a success!

Assiette St Nicolas

 

Hope to see some of you today!

a x

Free Workshops this weekend!

Hi all!

As a part of our brilliant Christmas Market this weekend we will be offering free paper craft workshops for all ages!

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The Christmas market team spent this afternoon testing models of wonderful snowflakes and other Christmas decorations. If you would like to take part in a workshop with the Bazaar team, drop along to Den Teirling (Rue Maes 89, Ixelles) at either 2pm or 4pm on Sunday(7 Dec) and grab a pair of scissors and some coloured paper!

a x