Voices of Makers #4

Weaver James Donald describes adapting to a new reality which brought fresh routines, anxiety and gratefulness, and how an idle thought to alleviate boredom led to the creation of over 85 mood boards now inspiring others to do their own versions.

Our Voices of Makers blog is a space to share experiences, information and ideas to support and inspire each other, and is part of our Rethinking our Rhythms programme. Please tell us your stories and thoughts – get in touch via instagram, twitter or online form.

James Donald with Domino the Dominator Photo: Michael Battiste

It is Captain Tom’s birthday, Thursday 30 April 2020, the day of writing this passage. The days are melting like a watch in a Salvador painting and the requested title to write about “Rethinking your rhythms” feels apt. My flow hasn’t changed as such, I seem to have adapted to this new liquefying reality.

Initially the lockdown cast a large treacle-like shadow to wade through over my perfectly chaotic life. It’s made me realise the sticky fragility of it all and grateful for much of what surrounds. Grateful for my good neighbours, they are even better than what the Australian soap would have you believe, dynamic, helpful and a real mark of what community is in a microcosm. A great stairwell of people that have brought differing, welcome skills to the party.

I’m also thankful for my most excellent chums, makers and non makers alike. People to talk with, air grievances with, share knowledge and an anxiety or two, all very healthy and welcoming to assist deciphering the chaos and move forward with what has been offered in terms of aid, help and support. What did the new rules mean collectively, as individuals, as makers, as a community during this pandemic. Chums are good and have been appreciated more than ever in all its exhaustive mediums. Zoom included.

Being subjected to a raft of self appointed experts, was startling, exhausting and anxiety making in itself. So much information to digest, bombed at once, with interpretations of the ‘truths’ tricky to fathom. Social media was the new pandemic causing much anxiety, not the pandemic itself, as hellish and vile as it is. Experts in the new chaos were sought. I rather enjoyed listening to Stephen Fry’s take on this on The Andrew Marr Show a few weeks back when he spoke about “the experts and those who think they are” which at the time struck a chord with what I was seeing from the on line clatter. At best tiresome and at worst damaging. Stephen spoke about “redefining your sense of time’ and like the title “Rethinking your rhythms” this is indeed what I, as a creative, sought.

Like others who have written for this blog previously, I feel lucky, seeing the beautifully mouth blown glass half full. My daily routines have been recalibrated and continuously adapted too, with new truths taken and turned it into something that suits. It’s not been an easy transition, with errors made, but once the online chatter had been switched off, I began to listen my inner Fry and feel a new, dynamic path through this “crisis” has been settled into. Breathe.

It may surprise but I’m not the sort to give in to streaming services and endless glasses of the red stuff to receive an energy ageing hangover as a reward, moderation doesn’t work for me. Those days are gone. Limited resources dictate a change of buying habits, veg boxes are on order, once dusty cook books scoured with vigour, health is more important than ever. Under the lockdown supermarkets are spaces that unsettle. New non lackadaisical routines have been navigated that includes shopping journeys. Advantage of this given time has to be grasped and public money well spent. I may never get these opperchancities again and I am not grand on regrets.

I have a dog, Domino the Dominator, a stubborn French Bulldog, a domination. One of the casualties of this lockdown was the resting of our dog walker, which in turn meant a stepping up. Domino has found parts of our environs and beyond that we never knew existed on our daily excursions as directed by the lockdown guidelines. It’s a rhythm, where Domino gets to sniff dynamic newness, I get to record compelling themed images on my iphone. Nine images are grouped into colour motifs, displayed daily on my Instagram account and shared onto my PickOne Facebook page. It gives our daily dance a fresh and new invigorating purpose. Some days it’s a straight forward high energy number, some days it’s mind blending slow foot tripping foxtrot. Either is a healthy stretch for the mind, unlike the online bluster. 

Initially I shared these images onto my personal pages, nervous to impart anything of my exploits on my business pages for fear of being judged. A casualty of the initial online ballyhoo and condemnation by self appointed experts was scarring, impactful and inhibiting, mentally and creatively.

These positively distracting mood boards, 85 and counting, of spicy mustard, dusty pink, bottle green and various hues have been shared are now being interpreted by other creatives from all over – Ohio, NYC and Doha, where a Head Mistress is instructing her teachers to prepare one a day as a motivational tool. The school children in turn are now doing their own versions. How galvanising to hear how others look and observe in a time that has become reflective and contemplative.

I am now looking at ways to turn this into a fund raiser for the NHS. Captain Tom has nothing to fear. What started as an idle thought to alleviate a boredom whilst on holiday in lockdown Spain has turned into something else. I went to Gran Canaria, and as I stepped off the plane on the 13th of March, Spain went into lockdown, seven days of confinement in a gated sunless cacti garden ensued, with soldiers and police patrolling the streets of Las Palmas. Not the holiday I intended, with a bizarre sense of groundhog day on my return to Leith, with less police. Tragic.

As a weaver it’s impossible to work from home so again, rejecting the self appointed experts I have been following government guidelines on what I should/shouldn’t be doing. Again I feel lucky … lucky, lucky, lucky to have a studio space that allows one to get in and on with my creative practice and expand on it in glorious solitude. A varied income has been temporarily lost, but the gain is great. Gaining space to sit, breathe, observe with no application form of sorts is comforting.

The vastly supportive Instagram #artistsupportpledge with the #lifegenerously message, has for me been a raging success, targets have been smashed, flattening my fearful curve of selling online. Another gain. I have my eye on several glorious ceramic pieces as my reward for rethinking my daily rhythms during Covid19 and one which I can drawn energy from. No box set can beat what’s been given.

Long live the NHS!

Read the experiences of other makers: Voices of Makers #1: Carol Sinclair, Voices of Makers #2: Fiona Thompson, Janet Hughes & Kathryn Williamson, Voices of Makers #3: Jo Garner

We are inviting makers & Members to get in touch via instagram, twitter or email with tips on how they are rethinking their rhythms, whether working patterns, things people are doing, or info to share.

We have also created an online page where you can talk about your experiences and share what matters to you.  We give you the option to be anonymous or to provide your name and you can also let us know if we can share it with other makers in our new ‘Voices of Makers’ blogs.  We can’t answer specific questions but if we can offer any suggestions about something we will try and do so.


Images: Mood boards, James Donald

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