Juggling a family in lockdown with making and selling, textile designer Lorna Brown describes enjoying creative time with the kids, selling online, making scrubs for the NHS, a renewed love of observation and drawing and conflicted feelings of joy, guilt and anger.
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Six weeks now into lockdown and I finally feel as though I have a new home time rhythm developing. I’m used to juggling my creative business time along with family life, it’s just more intense. Having two kids (12 & 10) at home means that time to focus on my business and creative projects is massively reduced and sporadic but each moment is feeling more precious and significant than ever
Mornings have developed around school work/life skills/exercise and creating motivation and structure for the whole family. Afternoons are a lot more’ free styling it’. I’m finding yoga online with Lesley Fightmaster so wonderful as she does it on a beach, has such a calm soothing voice and lovely short routines….what’s not to love? I am also loving a live zoom class with my friend every Friday morning and it feels so uplifting to be with others in a virtual class.
Sharing my creative skills with the kids has been really well received and I’m unsure why this seems such a surprise to me. We’ve been out with the digital SLR cameras doing our walking/looking projects, where we think of topics and walk round the neighbourhood getting our exercise, really looking at our immediate surroundings and I’ve been encouraging them to look at the world from different angles and perspectives.
We’ve been exploring drawing materials recently (above) and they have been so engaged with this. I prepped up a whole range of backing card off cuts and each day we’ve been working with a new medium on top of the previous day’s materials to build up abstract compositions. We’ve explored some mark making, stencils and gestures using watercolour, acrylic, ink and a variety of pens (below). I’ve loved seeing their reactions, hearing their comments during these projects and spending creative time together which we would never have had before.
In my haste for commitment and structure around week 4 of lockdown I signed up to a Florals and Nature master class course run by the brilliant Racheal Taylor of Make it in Design. These are daily drawing and creative research tasks as well as digital design tutorials, everything can be managed at your own work pace and downloaded. I’ve literally managed to do no work on this course and although I feel tiny pangs of guilt mixed with such a desire to complete the inspiring projects I acknowledge that I’ve ‘bitten off more than I can chew’ currently and I’ll need to revisit this in the future when the kids are back to school
Pre lockdown I was working on my dream project with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to create a new product range for their 350th anniversary. This is on hold currently but I’ve been spending a little time reflecting on all my designs and checking digital resolutions to make sure everything is ready to go whenever they give me the green light.
I’ve been back to my studio only once to get my screens and screen printing materials as I was missing it so much. I’ve a had several screen printing sessions at the kitchen table which have been such a well needed tonic and given me the chance to be in my ”happiest of places” with the sound, smell and meditative motion of squeegee on mesh.
With the textile prints I made I’ve been continuing to work on a small patchwork project started by Miesje Chafer as part of her ‘starter kit’ to support small businesses during lockdown. I find the patchwork something really easy to pick up and leave at anytime but still fulfil my need to be creative.
Something I’d been meaning to do is focus some time on my online shop and never before has it been more important as I’ve currently no income stream and all my classes are on hold until Autumn. Inspired by the ‘Just a Card’ campaign, encouraging people to support and buy from artists, makers and small businesses. I started to promote my hand printed brooches (‘not just a brooch’) as a way to generate a small income stream. These went down a storm the first weekend of promotion on social media and now I’ve been selling a few each week which has been great.
Along with a 20% sale on my wash bags, clutches and square purses and taking part in the #artistsupportpledge on instagram I’ve been making a very small but uplifting source of income. With the joy of selling there has been a shadow of conflict knowing that people may well not have very much money currently or have survival issues to focus on and this has been at the forefront of my mind while I try to promote my online sales.
Of all that’s been happening during this period in our creative lives I’ve never been so amazed at the generosity and motivation by others to help those more in need. Sewers up and down the country have been mobilised by ‘NHS Scotland – For the Love of Scrubs’ campaign, making thousands of sets of scrubs, laundry bags, masks and PJ’s. After several weeks of trying to make contact with the right person, the right fabric and patterns I’ve finally started on my own contribution batch of scrubs. I’m so delighted to have passed my Higher Fabric and Fashion way back in the 80’s and would have never imagined I’d be making scrubs for the NHS during the 2020 pandemic but it feels good to have the relevant skills.
It’s again feelings of joy and conflict that occupy my mind when I’m sewing away thinking about all the frontline workers who may or may not have the right safety equipment. I’m raging with the Westminster Government for not providing the funds to supply enough basic scrubs to workers and relying on its population to fundraise, motivate and produce all of this through their own means. Despite the rage I’m glad to be part of this historic movement of (mostly) women sewing for the NHS. I’ll continue to juggle this while the kids are busy being distracted for a short time or I’ll put on a film and make a good bit of progress……oh I’m so glad when it’s screen time….phew!
Since beginning this post several weeks ago at week 9 I’ve found myself obsessing over the plants and flowers in my window and tiny on street gardens. Completely inspired by Grayson’s Art Club and his inclusive, encouraging, positive approach to making his own art with no boundaries. I’ve been drawing and sketching these plants most days and lying awake at night thinking of composition, media combinations and applications. It’s been a joy to lose myself in drawing and observation again. Perhaps these sketches will inspire a new body of work or maybe they will become an archival momento to these creative snapshots of lockdown time.
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, Voices of Makers #4 :James Donald, Voices of Makers #5: Clare Waddle of Yellow Broom
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Top image: ‘Not just a brooch’