Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Gentle Domesticity week 3 book study...

Having studied the overview in week 1 and the introduction chapter in week 2 today we’ll begin an exploratory walk through the wonderful double page ‘topic’ sections which run through the remainder of the book.
I describe our continuing study as exploratory because this is what I have found with each turn of the page, each topic that Jane Brocket shines a light into…they make me explore my own way of living in the domestic world. Out first three mini-topics begin with…

A Habit of Seeing

The 'seeing' Jane has referred to here is the inspiration gained when stopping to truly examine the everyday things around us and those which we come across in other ways. She mentions her prior belief that inspiration belonged to artists, poets, architects, designers and the like, but then she had an epiphany about what triggers inspiration in everyone…

“We can walk through life without seeing, without taking in the details, the words, the colours, the pictures, and miss the whole point of inspiration. Or we can adopt an approach that allows us to stop for a while and look and listen and reflect and enjoy.” (page 16)

This really resonated with me because I am an observer of small things, and taking forty or fifty photos each day is fairly normal. I love to zoom in and watch the birds dancing under the water sprinkler or interact with each other in the bird feeder. During my early morning swim I watch butterflies and carpenter bees flit back and forth over my head and when in the pool at sunset under an ever darkening sky I watch the stars come out,  awe-inspired at the beauty and splendour they display. My husband always waits for me to cry out, “There’s the saucepan and Orion’s belt!” He’s not sure why they bring me joy, but they do. In fact the more I observe nature the more my creative mind is stirred to design.

Jane continues –

“For the one thing that sets creative people apart is that they have acquired the habit of being receptive to inspiration, actively seeking it or even simply recognising it. “ (page 16)

When Jane started her Yarnstorm blog over ten years ago she would focus each day on something positive in order to have a subject for her posts and over time discovered her sources of inspiration, rather than diminishing, kept increasing.

“Some days are more passive …I may feel inspired by something as simple as a new flower…or reading a short story…but on other days I am inspired to think up a whole quilt design, take up crochet or imagine a pineapple tea cosy.” 

I often pull out my scrap basket for colour inspiration, laying various prints side by side until a spark of creativity is lit. In the kitchen inspiration more often comes from having to use up what's left in the fridge before the next grocery day and to be honest, some of those meals have been the most delicious.

The second mini-topic this week is...

 Framing Domesticity

When we were homeschooling the children from 2000-2010 a regular Wednesday afternoon treat was the study of artists and works of art. I’d brew a pot of tea, lay out a spread of cake or scones, fruit, nuts and cheese,  and for a couple of hours the children and I would focus on one artist, ten of their paintings, and then discuss what we liked or disliked about them.  The kids would often paint or draw their own version of a painting they liked the most and we’d stick it to the fridge for a few days or pop it in their art folders. I found this one of the most creative subjects over those homeschool years because I personally learned the arts of observation, appreciation and inspiration.

Jane Brocket has always been drawn to paintings which feature domestic scenes, something I'd not considered until reading her book for the first time in 2008.
Just as the children and I did in our afternoon art appreciation lessons, Jane closely examines each painting to 'see into' the artist's view depicted on the canvas and often comes away with an enriched evaluation of their life and her own.

In this second mini-topic “Framing Domesticity” (a 4 page spread) she shares a few of her favourite paintings and the reasons why they bring her joy.

A Life Well Spent (James West Cope 1878)

“…this mother was doing something incredibly valuable and enjoyable…the pivotal maternal figure, a relaxed but attentive son, a daughter who is already multitasking, and just a little touch of happy disorder with books and yarn left on the carpet. And I reckon any mother who knits red and white stripy socks while listening to her son’s catechism must have hidden depths.” (page 18)

Summer in Cumberland (James Durden 1925)

Set just after WW1 Jane was charmed by the gentility of this painting, glimpsing a moment of Englishness through a domestic scene with order restored after a world war yet still aware danger could once again loom close. This inspired her to “value the apparently casual domestic moments because you never know what’s coming next.” (page 20)

A Knitting Party (Evelyn Dunbar 1940)

Evelyn Dunbar was an official war artist in 1940 and focused her paintings on the women at home and their domestic war efforts. Jane’s favourite is this one with its unspoken sense of camaraderie and feminine solidarity. She also observes that the women hold their knitting needles differently, have eyes lowered as though keeping their thoughts private.

As I studied this painting myself I could imagine the women silently praying for husbands, sons and brothers who were off at war as they did their part from home to provide socks, scarves and vests for many soldiers they would probably never meet. It sparked in me the importance of doing what we can with what we have to do our part when a need arises. 

Jane was a lone knitter for years until joining a knitting group, which is one of the reasons she delights in paintings with knitters as the subject.

“This is why I feel an immediate connection with any realistic painting of knitters; these people negate my isolation and make me part of a much greater and wider domestic art.” (page 20)

Our final mini-topic this week is...

Vicarious Kitchen Pleasures

“Some days my creative output is zero; life is more a matter of holding everything together until relief arrives in the form of Simon/a glass of wine/a child taken out of the equation/bedtime. On days like these, I have to live out my need to create through my children. Instead of swimming against a very strong current, I find it easier to go with the flow and let them do the making.” (page 22)

This is another 4 page topic and one which helped me on a few occasions when the overwhelm of teaching our children and numerous ‘needs to do’ threatened the mental peace my DNA was made to crave.

On days like this when her children were young Jane would gather them together to create in the kitchen, specifically to create by decorating cooked wares…and they did this in hilarious ways.  An example - one of her daughters decorated cup cakes with blue icing and shark lollies and other sweets to create a ‘shark attack’ scene inspired by a nautical themed Donna Hay magazine (the annual kid’s issue).

The point she’s making here is that we can be inspired when others create. If there’s no energy to create with the children simply give the children ‘tools’ to create for themselves and sit back to enjoy the fun.

I admit that I was never the mummy who encouraged ‘play’ in the kitchen but I was very much into saving cardboard, toilet roll inserts, ribbons, buttons, felt, string, glue, tape, wool and other odd bits and pieces for them to create with on weary afternoons, rainy days, or if they had that “I’m bored” look on their faces. We had a large half-cupboard which over time became  full of all those wonderful ‘scraps’ that a child can turn into a boat, fort, dolls house, secret treasure chest, greeting cards, posters, paper dolls or a variety of monster type creatures which could be hidden in odd places for unsuspecting family members to find.

Jane concludes this section with some chat about gingerbread architecture and her realisation that making a gingerbread house is simply not for the faint-hearted or one who is light on free time.

“My goodness, they take some making…I spent an entire day…this was quite enough gingerbread architecture for a whole year, or maybe even a lifetime.” (page 24)

But her children thoroughly enjoyed the process.

To DO...

This week lets each be inspired to "see" what is around us and how it can inspire our own creativity.

I also have a few questions which I hope you'll answer in the comments below as this book study has so far offered way more than I imagined through the shared input of how you and others live a gentle domestic life with inspiration, creativity and joy.


What do you regularly observe in life that triggers your creativity?
Has this week's study encouraged you to 'see' art differently?
What did you like about the three paintings Jane chose to focus on?
What creative afternoon ideas can you suggest for children (of varying ages)?

Next week we'll be studying pages 26-33.

Every week in the Tuesday book study post I'm encouraging readers and lovers of the gentle domestic life who have a current blog and have blogged about Living the Gentle Domestic Life this year to link their relevant post for others to come by, visit their blogs and be inspired.

NOTE: If your link is advertising or not a true reflection of the heart for living a gentle domestic life it will be deleted. 

I hope you'll join in!



Jenny said...

I had my pen & book ready to underline quotes again. Thanks so much for another fun book review.

I think the domestic artwork has been my favorite section so far. I will definitely look at art differently after reading this & really want to go to a museum now!

Your questions..
1- Your blog for one, among other blogs I follow, really does trigger creativity for me. Plus, I try to walk in the woods every day & I think just the quiet time to think & see the beauty is another trigger.
2- Yes, I guess I answered that above!
3- My favorite was 'A Life well spent'. I just think it's the most beautiful. But one thing I love about 'Summer in Cumberland' is the young boy at the window. I have a son & I can see a yearning in him to still be in with his mother, enjoying her peace & comfort but feeling as if he's too old. I'd like to see this enlarged because I think I may see a mischievous grin on his face as well...as if he's thinking about doing something to give the girls a start!
4. I don't think I should list all my ideas...I have so many! But I'll share a few I'm doing right now with my 15 mo old grandson. I sit him in high chair with a coloring book & crayons....a safe place to color. We do quite a bit of water play & quite a bit of cooking & food play.

Unknown said...

We live in the country,and my inspiration has always been from nature. I love taking pictures as well of the beauty of nature and of animals.#2 The art from her book reminds me of times past, not like today, but very inspiring. The painting made me think of the different life's of others from the past. Encourage spending time in nature with children, taking pictures.

Delight in Nature said...

My inspiration comes from the natural world. Whilst walking my dog yesterday I watched and listened to a song thrush singing its heart out in a hawthorne hedge. I came home and looked at various YouTube clips to ensure I had the species correct. One day I will capture that image in cloth and thread but for now the idea will be entered into my design book.

I love the genre paintings of Albert Anker showing ordinary women and children in domestic creative occupations. They often depict older women which is where I am in this journey of life. I have no little children to be creative with and have many single friends who still embrace domesticity for their life style. Our creativity focuses on gifting our creations to friends or charities.

Thank you for this series. I'm finding it comforting in the cold drear days of winter here in the UK.

Ondrea said...

Another thought provoking post. I have answered a couple of questions on my blog post. I am still waiting for my book, not so patiently lol. Hope you are feeling heaps better.

Kay said...

My book arrived this week and I have loved having time to read it along with your posts. I am slightly sad that my version is american and they have changed some the vocabulary to american words, also all of the recipes have been changed to using cups instead of grammes/ounces as they would be in England. The Ebay post didn't say it was american, but at least I have a copy.
Have you read Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer by Jane Brocket? It is s beautiful cookery book that focuses on recipes inspired by children's literature giving excerpts from the original books. It is a very gentle read, fun, and takes me back to so many stories. x

Joanne said...

Hi Jenny,

Mindfulness! That's what they call in modern times what you and Jane Brocket are so good in!
For a while now that has been a "hip" subject!
Courses, books, lessons, tapes...

Book study...I haven't done that in years, many years!

Thanks for all what you write! All your time and energy you share with us!

Jenny of Elefantz said...

Yes, Kay, I own that book too...and many others of Jane's!

PennyP said...

Thank you for taking us through this book - I can't buy a copy at the moment because the cheapest I can find is £64! I love the paintings particularly the time well spent. Ideas for creative play for children - chalk drawings outside on the patio or other flat surface, ' Painting' outside with water and a clean paintbrush, stringing buttons from the button box onto thread, collage with pictures from old calenders / greeting cards.
I find being by the sea inspirational - it calms and brings life into perspective.


Tammy said...

1.Things that trigger my creativity to be honest not a lot anymore. But reading your blog and a couple more does inspire me greatly. But mostly just your stitchery projects. Something about needle and thread makes my heart sing. 2. Has this week's study encouraged you to 'see' art differently? I have no clue Jenny. I never thought about it. 3.What did you like about the three paintings Jane chose to focus on? I can see why she interpreted them that way I think. Painted Art has never really been something I was interested in. 4.What creative afternoon ideas can you suggest for children (of varying ages)? coloring outdoors with chalk. We used to do this for hours when my daughter was little and big too...Lol we had so much fun with it. Sewing for doll clothing she would look at the doll catalog then we would pick out an outfit and she would have to help make it. Cooking she would have to gather the ingredients and help measure then help with each step. My daughter loved to paint from the time she could finger paint and still she paints but her pictures are much improved... also she used to like to make jewelry from pasta strung on twine when she was younger. And we adore gingerbread houses the prefab kind you buy in boxes we assemble but then we modify them with everything we can find. We have a huge box of stuff just for doing our gingerbread houses I keep in the top of the pantry. Thank you for this weeks book study

Rita Lynn said...

1)We live surrounded by mountains. The sun rises and sunsets are glorious and inspire me. The dark skies at night are so full of stars and that is an inspiration. We also have a hummingbird feeder just outside our living room window. The variety of birds coming is wonderful.2)It's a good reminder to me.3) I love the peacefulness and supportive feeling in the paintings. 4)I've found it great fun to give children fabric and lace pieces and see what they come up with.
Thank you for taking us through this book.

dewdrop said...

Usually my inspiration comes from my time outside in nature. Unfortunately, here in northern Minnesota, it has been very very cold, so time outside is not so pleasant. Yesterday, I spent time with my seed catalogs & planning this year's vegetable & flower planting.
I loved the painting of the women knitting. Although I'm a quilter it reminded me of the times with my quilting friends, how we are all together but working on separate projects. The shared ideas & encouragement. I can see what fun it would be to share my craft supply storage (it is quite abundant!) with children, seeing how they would use things for new purposes. Makes me wish my many great-nieces & nephews lived closer, what fun we could be having on cold winter days. - Diane in Minnesota

Debby in Kansas, USA said...

I loved the art focus. It never occurred to me that I also love the domestic portraits. It's like getting a peek into someone else's life. I also want to say that I love the description of art day in your homeschool! What a fun way to learn about art & artists.

Everything triggers my creativity these days. Not always, though. I attend an Art Journaling class at our church every week. It's been for about 10 yrs. now. Our *leader* is a nun that taught art in an elementary school. While opening up many new types of crafts to me (cutting a Matisse picture or Pysanky eggs (Ukranian egg painting), I can't go a day without seeing something(s) I'd like to put in my journal. I have a little notebook that I take into church and when something the priest says jumps out at me- could be a personal comment or a bible verse- I jot it down. Then, I make an art page for it in my little book that's about the size of an index card. I have vineyards, hearts, clouds, fire, etc.

I loved how Jane (and the previous posts) pointed things out in the pictures that I may not have noticed! The art combined with the discussion has certainly made me see art differently. To not just look at it, but to *enter* in as if entering a room of strangers.

I enjoyed the domesticity of the pictures Jane focused on. Groups of women doing ordinary things. They were warm, inviting, & cozy. They made me want to join in or reproduce the picture in my own life, if that makes sense.

I was a pre-school aide/teacher during high school and college. My absolutely favorite activity for 3-5 year olds was water painting outside. We had some old fat house painting brushes and we'd fill up several buckets with cold water on a hot day. The kids would *paint* everything with that water. The walls, the walkways, the playground equipment, etc. They'd also draw things with smaller brushes, the sun would dry it out, & their canvas was clean to start over. I later did this with my nephews when they lived in the desert. They loved it. As for me, I always loved making things from nature. Leaf impressions with crayons, pictures from pine cones (I made a great owl picture at camp with the pine cone parts), & hand cutting snow flakes.

I mentioned making a Matisse style cutting in my art journaling class. This was a huge challenge for me. Our instructor gave us each a pair of scissors and put a big pile of colored paper scraps in the center of the table. And a white sheet of thick paper for our canvas. She told us to close our eyes and imagine where we see God around us on a regular basis. I immediately thought of this little tree island in our backyard. We have feeders, bird baths, a ladder, bird houses, etc. We get toads, rabbits, squirrels, & birds, of course. I can sit and stare out there for hours and I always think how magical it is and the variety of animals God created & how different they all are. So, without a pencil or anything but scissors, I freestyle cut the parts for that entire scene. When I was done laying it out, she gave me glue to paste it all down. It is easily one of my favorite pieces of art that I've ever done. I honestly didn't think I could do it and I LOVE how it turned out. I call it "Debby's Matisse." If you've never seen a Matisse of paper cutting, take a peek online. They're amazing. We also saw a video of him actually doing it.

Jenny, thank you for another wonderful lesson. I look forward to another!

Angie in SoCal said...

If you don't mind an electronic format, Amazon has the Kindle ebook of this title for $10 US - less in pounds. Here's the link:

Dee said...

1) I love the simple things in life that spark my creative side. 2 & 3) I have never been a book study before and I'm enjoying this very much. Jane Brocket's description of each painting was very enlightening. I saw more than colors of each painting I saw what she was saying about each one. 4)I love fabric scraps and would give my grandsons scraps and let their imaginations go wild. Thank you for the book lessons. I look forward to another!

knitster said...

And this is why I don't make gingerbread houses. My take this week: https://wickedknitter1.blogspot.com/

africanaussie said...

well there!, I learned something new, I would love to see a photo of your Matisse, but you dont seem to link to a blog. I host crafternoons once a month for the church ladies, and that sounds like a good idea.

africanaussie said...

thank you for another wonderful lesson!

Martha MCH said...

Thank you Jenny and Jane! I am enjoying this book discussion and was glad that I nabbed a book early on. I thought that the painting A Life Well Spent (James West Cope 1878) was so sweet. The sweetness to me was magnified when I noticed, on the left of the painting, the image of our Good Shepherd, Jesus, holding the lamb.

PennyP said...

Thank you for this Angie - that's much more affordable!

Debby in Kansas, USA said...

No, no blog. Computer work is an area I could really use a class on! I'll see if there's a way my husband can add it here for me. Don't expect a fancy artwork piece! I've had several friends try it since they heard about it. It's a great use of scraps and very minimal supplies.

Jenny of Elefantz said...

Love the way you described the inspiration and results of "Debby's Matisse" :-)

Jenny of Elefantz said...

There's is more to see than we imagine when we study art, isn't there. :-)

Sherry said...

I am very fortunate to have had a wonderfully creative Grandma who taught me to always “look at things with different eyes”. I also am an observor of the little things and hubby says I am the Maven of Minutia. My mother made us Gingerbread houses each year, however I have never felt the need to do such a labor of love. The paintings are lovely and tell the stories of times gone by. In our techy world of 24/7/365 we just do not take the time to enjoy “The Simple Pleasures of Domesticity”. Jenny I am grateful for you and this review. xo

Kezzie said...

Jenny what day do you do the study on the Gentle Art of Domesticity?
I don't have the book and unfortunately my local library doesn't have that one of Jane's books-although they have some of Jane's other books-but I would still love to read your thoughts on the study and learn something of Jane's book via yours and others comments.


Jenny of Elefantz said...

Every Tuesday, Kezzie. :-)

Kezzie said...

Thanks Jenny. I will make sure to visit your blog on Tuesdays.
I love the pictures that you showed from Jane's book.
At the moment the cost of the book is more than my husband would be happy for me to buy but I will keep looking and hopefully a cheaper 2nd hand option will become available for me to purchase.
I will still enjoy reading yours and others thoughts from the book.


Susan said...

I had many thoughts, some of which I put in a comment, but I was on Chrome, and it ate it. =P I just wasn't thinking. I'm going to do a post, but I will miss the linky expiration time. This was an interesting week.

Trina O'Quinn said...

1. What do you regularly observe in life that triggers your creativity? A. My Orchaids and meditation fountain, My husbands flower garden, the ocean, artwork, clothing, yardage, thread, yarn, mazines. 2. Has this weeks Study encouraged you to "see" art differently? It has helped me look at it through the perspective of creativity. It has helped me understand that being open to receive gives me more opportunity to be inspired. It has encouraged me to see the stories in the art. It has also encouraged me to see art and creativity in everyday domesticity and tasks. 3. What did you like about the three paintings Jane chose to focus on? "A Life Well Spent" : I liked the books and yarn on the floor. In all the neatness and perfection there is a bit of clutter that makes me think this could be a real middle class family. "Summer in Cumberland: I like the lightness and openess this painting brings to my imagination. I like the idea that the boy wnats to be part of the visit only he does not want to be inside. So he goes outside to be in nature and then stays close to the window so that he can hear the conversation without being too obvious. The women do not notice hime while they talk. "The Knitting Party" I love this because this is what women do when we are stressed, we work and create. We talk to each other. Knitting circles, sewing bees etc. We contribute in our own way. It reminds me of the movie "Tea With Mossulini" the more frightened the women became the harder and faster they worked. 4. What Creative Afternoon ideas can you suggest for Children (of various ages)? Very young children stories and games, Building things, Coloring, Cutting Shapes, Pasting, playing outside, playing games and telling stories. Ages 6-12 learning to switch, cook, bake hand sewing drawing writing, whatever they are drawn to and singing. Ages 13-21 Whatever they would like to do, Drawing, Putting on Plays, Writing, Making up Plays, Reading, Handwork, Needle Craft, Sewing and Singing etc.