Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Life is the Art of Drawing Without an Eraser

Quote by John W. Gardner
Our youngest daughter is currently in her first year of sixth form, studying for her AS levels. She has, on average, an hour long bus ride there and back to school each day, sometimes late in the evening if she remains behind for rehearsals for the school plays etc. She loves school and has always been a hard worker.
Students in their twelfth and thirteenth years of school, are given several 'free lessons' within their timetable, two thirds of which are meant to be used as private study time. Our daughter generally uses her free lessons to go to the Art dept. to continue working on her course work - The school's art rooms are open to any sixth formers wishing to use them outside their scheduled lesson times. Putting in so many extra hours has meant that she has built up a large working sketch book and many completed works.
The other day she came home from school a little upset. Some of her fellow students had been saying to her how unfair it was that she was so far ahead in her Art AS level work, and how much work they still had to do in order to get through the course. She had told them that she had put in many hours during her free periods to work on the modules. (Her classmates had generally used their free lessons as a chance to go home, with many of them living across the road to the school, its easily done).
It was hard to hear and I felt sorry for her, as she had done nothing wrong, but had been made to feel guilty for doing what was required.
I tried to reassure her and tell her that she had worked hard to be where she was, and that she deserved the time off she allows herself over the weekends.
I know a lot of hard working people, and to my mind, they are generally the happier people I know. Yes, sometimes the workload can be great, spare time can become non-existent, but this is outweighed by the satisfaction of achieving. I think it is fulfilling to have a busy life...It is true what they say, that life is short, it is what you make it.
Of course, 'all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy' - I am a believer in making time to do some of the things you want to do for you..this is more easily done when you have worked hard and earned it and there are no (or not so many, at least!) tasks hanging over you.
But, I don't seem to have very much spare time to do the things I'd like to...At Christmas, a couple of friends and I tried to fix a date to meet up just for coffee and to exchange gifts...but when it came down to it, none of us could find the a mutually convenient time...It was quite sad...And typical of women I think...Men do seem more able to make time?
I guess my daughters situation got me wondering...Maybe, because each of us is different, what works for one of us, may not work for another. I wonder who is generally happier though; those who work hard, but rarely have free time, or those who don't work, or work the bare minimum, and have time to spend as they please? Its hard to get a balance these days, when there is so much that has to be done - I wonder if there is a middle ground? I know I've talked about it on my blog before...and I still don't have an answer! Does anyone?!
We are lucky in our parts of the world that we do to some extent, have the opportunity for choice...Yes, my friends and I have chosen to be self-employed, so the workload is down to ourselves...It is hard to be your own boss, when the boss is a bit of a tyrant though! ;-))
I have decided not to take part in the V&H/Textile Fairs this year, as the additional work involved in handmaking lots of extra stock on top of the shop, can be too much. (I will be doing a few fairs which are close enough to Shepton Mallet to make it worthwhile me attending to advertise the shop...these fairs can be found on my website under 'fairs'.)
Anyway, that was what has been going round in my head recently...I just thought I'd off-load on my blog for a change. I'm not sure that I have expressed myself very well here, as I have a lot on my mind today - There are some worries on both sides of our family at the moment, which have got me thinking this week, but I'd prefer to keep them to myself for now.
Sunday I was up early as usual to go out seeking treasures. The weather was certainly cold again, so I think I was lucky to find the few pickings that I did...
This lovely Victorian children's book...with beautiful illustrations. It is shown on top of a vintage Laura Ashley needle-cord dress - the traditional style that she was once famous for.
An antique hand mirror with fretwork and a small beaded bag.

C1930's plaster-ware dog.
Rusty, but still attractive 'Salter' scales and an embossing press.
Several vintage dress patterns and a long length of Victorian beaded trim.
A china shaving mug and men's requisites for travelling toiletries!
Lots of pretty brooches - Ideal for the brooch pillows that I have started making as Valentine's Day gifts.

And finally I had to buy this set of 4 Babycham glasses...
Seeing as the bubbly stuff is still produced in Shepton Mallet by Gaymers - Hopefully the glasses will be bought by a local fan!
I've made lots of new cushions from some fab 50's fabrics - More details here.
And I've just added this new one, ideal for a 'foodie' as a Kitchen chair cushion, or for an additional splash of colour in a child's bedroom.
Made from a child's rag book page and a vibrant c1920's fabric.
Although it is still cold, its good to see the start of the spring growth emerging from the ground.
Snowdrops (very late this year)
And day lilies...
Winter-flowering honeysuckle...
And the first flower of forsythia.
The fine crisp weather did mean I was able to do a short burst of sanding outside, on some furniture I also managed to source over the weekend.
The little red cupboard was then given a coat of cream paint, which I later distressed once it was dry...Mostly in the areas where natural wear would take place.
I then protected the finish with a beeswax polish, which I bought from the BBC during the filming of the Edwardian era. It is a lovely gentle polish which I think they made up for the show - It was sold in a jar and was made from beeswax and turpentine.
I wanted to use a vintage wallpaper in the door panel...easier said than done, as these old papers can be very brittle...
But once glued in place, it looked fine.
Its such a pretty American paper, which I bought a few years ago on eBay.
I lined the inside of the door too!
The set of drawers that I sanded were given a coat of gold paint...
I wanted this c1950's desk/dressing table to have a slightly regal/French feel. I used a tinted wax for this, to generally age the look of the piece.
I delivered it to the shop today.
I also bought this little table, which (thankfully!) didn't need a makeover - I just gave it a quick polish.
If you happen to be in Shepton Mallet this Saturday, the library is holding a 'Love Our Library' Day (10am - 1pm) on the Market Place, to celebrate the official announcement that it is one of the libraries in Somerset that won't have to close. Yeah!
Have a great week,
Niki x
Tête-à-tête from Jill - Thank You! x


  1. Just think how far your daughter will get in life, she is dedicated and that is a good thing, she will learn to pace herself soon.
    I have no children, I find it hard to meet up with friends these days because of that, as their lives take a different course to mine in that respect, I kind of get left out, as I do not fit the mould any-more.....which makes me sad......but then I do still have some friends who do want to know me despite that!
    so its all good!
    Did your daughter paint the tree in her room....?
    Its so amazing!x

  2. Hi, my son is also studying for his AS's at the moment, he is dyslexic, and I know at times he has felt the same as your daughter, it seems he has to work twice as hard as his friends, to achieve good grades. He too works on his free periods, when his friends go home, and sometimes late into the evening, but he is doing so well. Good luck to your daughter and well done for working so hard. This is a quote I have written down, sorry I can't remember where from, I'm always randomly writing things down!
    'The happiest folk are those that are busy, for their minds are starved of time to seek out woe'
    Sophie x

  3. Dear Niki,
    Those that make those comments are only jealous - deep down they know that they should have got on and done the work too but were too busy lazying around.
    Being self-employed I understand your dilemma. I remember my dad telling me it would take me five years to find good people that want to work for me but that in those first five years I would find plenty of people who want to get paid for doing nothing. I now know how right he was but when you find the good staff it is so lovely to be able to take some time out and know that the staff will look after your interests. So my advice is stay with it and it will bring its own rewards.
    Love your daughter's bedroom by the way.
    Hope to be in the area of Shepton in a few weeks and will try to pop in.

  4. I have these same thoughts all the time - I work very hard. I'm not even home from between 6.30am until 7.30pm on a good day, and really only have the weekends. I still manage to squeeze in facials, daily gym, nails etc. Sometimes I feel guilty for these extravagances, but then I remind myself that they didn't happen by chance - I worked to get where I am. It's a bit of a catch 22 - you either have plenty of time and no money or vice versa.

    The one thing I do know is that the busier you are the more organised with your time you tend to be. For example, Tim's mum was moaning about having no time for exercise when she works half days comes home and sits on the sofa all afternoon!!

    I love your daughter's room by the way! :-)

  5. Anonymous11:05 pm



  6. You need to work hard to get to where you want to be in life, but you do need time to play too.
    I love your daughters bedroom, did she paint that lovely tree?
    I've got that exact same Laura Ashley dress circa early 90's, but it had to be shortened in length to fit me now I'm debating whether to make Caitlin a little dress from it as I cannot get into it anymore!
    Julie xxxxxxxx

  7. Soon ... soon ... you WILL receive your Christmas gift ... although it might have to be combined with your birthday prezzie!!


  8. Hi Niki,
    I have two teenagers, one taking GCSEs this Summer and the other A levels. They both work in completely different ways, one doing all homework and coursework immediately and the other leaving everything until the last minute - I know who is the least stressed! Well done to your Daughter for being so ahead in her work.
    You will be missed at the V&H fairs, I always buy something lovely from your stall. I'll just have to visit your shop instead!
    Debs x

  9. Hi Niki-

    I always think it's a bit different for us, because we love our work so much, that there's no real definition twixt life and work- it all merges into one happy day!

    I love work of all kinds and relish the sense of achievement at the end of the day from having done what I do to the very best of my ability, and hopefully created a liitle joy on the way!

    Love all the bits in the pics, thanks so much for sharing it all


  10. Hi Niki
    A very thoughtful post,it is sad for your daughter, and no matter how much you tell her that she will be the one that benefits in the end, will not help her now. I worry about Tom, being away at 16, I know the temptations are at college to stop him from studying, easily lead and doesn't need much to distract him, which is unfortunate as he is clever and talented and as the Government intend to sell off the Forestry Commission his work placement opportunity is getting less and less.
    I love your cushions and desk, I know how you feel about the fairs/stock/shop and I only buy, sometimes I paint but I certainly couldn't make like you as well, I had some lovely rag books and had a similar idea but my sewing skills are zero so they just went for sale,you are very disciplined and obviously not easily distracted. You wil be missed at the V&H, but you have to be sensible about these things!
    I hope that your family problems resolve themselves soon. Heres looking forward to the daffs!

  11. Hi Niki, well said - perhaps we all have the same thoughts when it is about our children and family, our life, our work. I do enjoy less work now and more time for doing things I love to do. I still have not enough time for it all. But it is such a good use of time when you have less work.
    Good for the library! . I might come across not this weekend but the weekend after - shall see with my son how it works out.
    Bisous, Bayou

  12. Sorry to hear of the upset suffered by your daughter, it is difficult to do I hope she can try forget about such thoughtless and no doubt jealous) comments, she will benefit from her dedication. I'm sure her commitment to hard work is from your excellent example.
    I worked full time for over 30years, sometimes more than one job at a time. I am now retired but still feel like I should be "doing more" whilst at the same time not wanting anything that requires regular commitment.
    Once again you have made and also lovingly restored some beautiful things.
    Hope the family problems can be resolved.
    Carol xx

  13. Just read your mail and I'm sorry that your daughter has been upset.
    As an ex art teacher I understand her passion to get on with her work.
    I think it was about her age that ART became so important to me and its never gone away.
    The people who taunt her and complain are just jealous and being unkind.
    If she can ignore she's got to and she's allowed to do as much extra as she wants.
    I bet her teacher wishes she had more of the same.
    Give my love to her and tell her to just carry on.
    Diane. XXX

  14. Sorry to hear about your daughter's worries Niki. If it's any consolation my daughter, who is the same age, has experienced the very same thing. It's very sad that you can be teased or mocked for just doing what you're meant to be doing. It's so hard at that age to have the courage of your convictions but it's lovely to see that your daughter is doing exactly what's right for her and not being swayed by the crowd. Good luck with it all

  15. Nikki,
    My husband and I chose to open a vintage shop in Wimbledon 6 months ago to pursue a 'quieter life'. Having been head of Art at a local independent school, I was ready for a calmer existence. I had no idea the work that was involved in running a shop. Yesterday I missed one of my closest friend's baby showers because I simply couldn't bring myself to be around people on my day off. I opted for a 'duvet' day,and ate pancakes in front of the telly while my husband and I 'licked our wounds' after what had been a particularly tough week. I also tutor art students as we have a small art school attached to our shop and know the pressure that students are under to keep up. Please tell your daughter, she must never 'dumb herself down' to make others feel better about themselves. Art requires dedication, not the fleeting type but the passionate type. It is so important that she does not allow detractors to spoil or mar her career.
    Big hugs to her, had she been one of my students I would have recognized this dedication and encouraged her to feel great about herself.
    ps.we love your blog

  16. I have just had a catch up of your previous posts and can really empathize with you in this one. My daughter sounds just like yours in that she tries hard at school, excels academically and doesn't waste her spare time. I am so proud of her.

    I guess our girls will have learnt all about responsibility and independence when they get into the big wide world and for that we should be truly grateful!

    Best wishes,


Thank you for finding the time to visit me...
Niki xx