I have my Grandpa's hands. Not literally. That would be weird. Especially since he left this world several years ago. It would also be weird, I suppose, if he were still with us. I presume he would quite like to keep his hands. For dunking custard creams into tea and stuff.
He loved custard creams, and jammy dodgers. I would wake up and run into my Grandparent's bedroom when I was little and crawl under the covers. Us both waiting for Grandma to come up the stairs with teas and the biscuit tin. I can't remember ever drinking tea but there was plenty a biscuit dunking. Things haven't haven't changed much on that front. The only reason I have a cuppa nowadays is for a hot soggy biscuit.
He had huge fingers. Imagine four Lincolnshire sausages lined up in a row. The kind so hearty they would win first place at a Sausage Of The Year show. I made him a ring once for his birthday and the size was nearly off my ring stick. A Z+4 I think and that's not even his biggest finger.
The size gap gives it away, we're not quite complete identical hand twins. But, I have inherited hands that are good at doing things. Noisy messy things. I feel blessed to be working in a profession where I can use my hands in such a way that makes me notice how steady, gentle or precise these parts of our bodies can work. Until they mess something up. And comparatively, the work I create isn't all that intricate. My hands I'm sure would be like chattering teeth next to a surgeon or horologist or one of those insane people who carves figurines that can fit inside the eye of a needle.
Grandpa's hands built a work bench for my workshop. As soon as he heard I was setting up a jewellery workshop he started to build one. He stamped his name into it and I asked if he'd carve 'Grandpa' into it too. The first one he made was solid and sturdy. The second one that he made a couple of years later is a tad on the wobbly side and it was the last thing he ever made.
It's been a couple of years now since I released a new collection. In fact, it was the year after Krissi, my intern, left that I finally completed the last one. Her venture into vegetarianism subsequently resulted in Summer Farm which subsequently resulted in my own transition into a potato paved world too. She's since been travelling the world for at least two years so it's safe to say that it has been awhile. I can announce with some relief, that a new collection is in the pipeline. Albeit a long pipeline with several U-bends and a few blockages.
I have a niggle. You know that feeling. It pops up, pokes you in the eye and tells you that you can conquer the world together. Then life diverts your attention and it slinks away back down to it's small box located down a long corridor and several flights of stairs, in the deep depths of your brain. Occasionally peeping out and giving you a prod when you're not looking.
This niggle is telling me to jack everything in and become a furniture maker. The reason I've been banishing him back to his box is not because I don't want to be a furniture maker but because I know it's going to take a bloody long time to get there and I can't fathom where I'd even begin this quest. Also, now that I'm starting to know myself better I also realise that I have a tendency to obsessively immerse myself in new creative pursuits only to bore quickly and ditch them for the next one. Leaving a sorry trail of oil paints, terrarium bowls and upholstery books along the way.
In the summer of 16 I lived in a van called Ronnie for three and a half months and drove around a good chunk of Europe.
Around one month in, we stopped along the Canal Du Midi near Béziers in a campsite right on the waterside. There was a restaurant near the bridge which we ate at for my birthday. Next door was a terraced barn with it's doors open, inside an array of beautiful wooden carved candle and wine holders. The lit candles glowed in the dusk and drew us in. Me probably more so than Matt, who most likely hoped I wouldn't notice so he could go to bed quicker and avoid filling Ronnie (our van) with anymore holiday trinkets.
We ventured inside and met Gary. He knew we were English straight away. Who doesn't? We most definitely have a 'look' about us don't we? If not a 'look' then the befuddled sheepish facial expressions in response to any foreign form of "hello" or "can I help you" definitely gives it away.
Gary was the maker of everything in the shop. I told him that his work was beautiful and that I was a jeweller who'd always wanted to try my hand at wood work. I've always loved the idea of making some jewellery boxes. He told me that all I'd need to do is find someone willing to show me how.
He lived on a dutch barge called Thor and the next day as we cycled past his boat he appeared out of the roof and showed me a jewellery box that he'd made since our conversation. He said if I was around for a few days longer he'd show me how to make one too. I'll never forget the overwhelming surge of surprise and kindness that washed over me. I was unsure whether to take Gary up on his offer, I felt quite shy and nervous but I'd told myself to embrace all new opportunities and be a 'yes' person to the best of my ability whilst on our trip. And so, in the spirits of saying 'yes' we decided to leave the campsite a day later so that I could make the box with him. I took lots of photos and I'll share them with you in another post.
Because of meeting Gary I'm going to pay attention to this niggle. This niggle is allowed out of it's box. I'm going to give it time and respect and dedication. Someday. I haven't gotten round to it just yet but the day will come. All in good time. The following new year I set some goals. Similar to new years resolutions but not about losing weight or going to the gym. They were - attending an art class, learning to rock climb and doing a woodwork course. I can say with some smugness that I achieved two out of three. Art class lasted around a month and a half. Easle currently sitting unopened and unimpressed in the corner of our dining room.
I booked onto a five day short course at the Peter Sefton Furniture School in Upton-on-Severn. I loved every second of the course and Peter was kind enough to let me camp with the chickens next door to the wood workshop. It was August so it felt like more of an idyllic summer's countryside camping trip than a woodwork course.
On my next visit to my Mom's house a wooden box was waiting for me. My Uncle David heard about the woodwork venture and dug out all of his and Grandpa's old chisels. Those three days spent meticulously sharpening chisels with Peter will now come very much in handy. These chisels need a lot of work. And I need a lot of practice, so I'd say we are a good match.
Half a year later and I haven't touched the chisels. Aside from these photos. I haven't the pennies to buy the kit I need to sharpen them to the level that I did with Peter. But when I do there is a big box ready and waiting to absorb some hefty bouts of obsessive energy.
DISTRACTED ONCE MORE
I wasn't overjoyed with the birds eye photo of the chisel box so I moved it around the patio into better light. The sun was setting over the fence and the clouds broke intermittently. The front corner of the box now sat on an island of moss. This little fella caught my eye. He was far more interesting to photograph. It was a to race to capture him when the clouds parted and the wind slowed. He is so tiny and delicate. I just love the way his sleepy head hangs. It looks as if a water droplet gathers on the tip of his nose but it is some kind of bud, perhaps? Please pardon my lack of vegetative terminology. I love that you struggle to see this with the naked eye, not with my eyes anyhow. It only comes into view once zoomed in upon afterwards.
Photographing these guys was so fun. I felt like I'd joined their little world for a short time, and they were wondering to one another who on earth this giant lady fully stretched out on the ground before them was. Adorned with soggy moss and twigs in hair. Thankfully Ted our over sized greyhound poops in the side garden.
Back to the chisels...
As you can see, they need a lot of work. If, or I should say 'when' I get round to sharpening them I'll share that with you and include a link here. If none of that sentence is clickable then it currently remains a persistent prodding niggle.
A TRIP TO GRANDMA'S HOUSE
One of the reasons I have enjoyed writing this blog so far is the mini journey each one has taken me on. I've set the challenge of photographing everything for each post with my D7000 and not using existing photos. I wanted to show you Grandpa, and because I can't take any photos of him and because I couldn't find many photos of us together in my Mom's photo albums I went to visit my Grandma. Something that I definitely don't do often enough. I haven't seen her since Christmas. Which was hilarious. I thoroughly recommend playing Balderdash with someone who is losing their short term memory.
I turned up in Ronnie. Our beloved van is now for sale but I'm carless until he's sold so I'm currently driving around (but avoiding parallel parking at all costs) in a medium wheel base high top van. On reaching Grandma's house, I was greeted by a wall of heat comparable to exiting a Las Vegas hotel lobby. The TV was deafening and there was a rather dehydrated open packet of bacon on the kitchen surface. Which I was quite relieved to see Grandma notice and remark that they might have 'gone a bit funny', instead of adding them to our cheese on toast. I wondered whether to suggest throwing them away might be a good idea or cling filming them in the fridge (in future) but considering how much mouldy stuff I probably have in my own fridge I thought this slightly hypocritical and perhaps a tad patronising to someone who has strolled the earth for 93 years.
We ate, thankfully, bacon and salmonella free cheese on toast and went upstairs to look through old photos.
Grandpa's name was Royston Frederick Turner. He was the best Grandpa (as I'm sure all those lucky enough to know their Grandpa say). He had bright fiery red hair and huge freckles all up his arms. They were so joined up he was more like one giant freckle. He had a mole that stuck out on his chest which he had removed because we used clamber over him and poke it. He had a distinct Grandpa smell and when I got super close to the chisel box I could smell it. I also smelt it on the drive home from the workshop on the day that I took the first photo with my hand and his ring. Smells can be so powerful. You get a feeling. Of course depending on the smell, not always a good one.
There's a perfume called Ghost that vividly takes me back to my early teenage days working as pot wash in the pub next door and wandering the roads of Hartlebury after school with my friend Sarah. Finding entertainment in whatever we found lying around the roadside. Apparently I must have found great joy in us waving at cars coming home from work with a large red rubber gardening glove stuck on the end of a long stick. It's the main memory that plays over when I think of those days. Dad drove down the hill that day. He never did mention said waving when I went home for tea. Perhaps he thought I was just pleased to see him. Or probably didn't notice.
This is the door to Grandpa's garage. Going inside to photograph his workbench, it's not as I remember it. It's damp and dusty. Cluttered but empty. I remember summers in the garden darting up and down the lawn running through the sprinkler. I remember jam sandwiches and strawberry milkshakes. I remember ice cream vans, cross stitch and paint-by-numbers. I remember comparing my shoe size to the welly print in the concrete at the end of the path outside the garage. I remember when I couldn't quite squeeze my shoe into the imprint anymore. Looking at the footprint now, it seems so foreign. Like it belongs to another little girl.
Thinking of memories of Grandpa and times passed never to return, my eyes are welling up. Time and life only moves in one direction. No matter how busy our lives get, I've learnt that it's important to make time. Little changes in the everyday slink past unnoticed and it's easy to assume that things will always remain.
Despite his workbench being unvisited for a little while, remnants of his handiwork are very much still present. Plenty a wood shaving nestled amongst rusty screws and a sleepy rocking horse rests in the corner. A project once started for my younger sister. I would love to finish it one day for him.
Thank you for reading, I hope you've enjoyed hearing all about Grandpa.
I also just had to share the photo below with you. For the sheer volume of hair that my Mom rocked as a baby. Quite the barnet.
- Tags: creative journey