March 1: A disastrous day salvaged at the eleventh hour by managing to explain my research to a taxi driver.
March 2: A woman in the village was giving away a sewing machine – imagine my delight when it turned out to be a Bernina Nova 900, Rolls Royce of mechanical machines! It just needs servicing.
March 3: A not-great day of feeling somewhat erased.
March 4: A spark of an idea at today’s ceramic class fieldwork. One aspect of my research involves considering how creative ideas develop in amateur making, and, with my creative thinking processes being somewhat rusty, I’d been thrashing around for an idea that I could take forward and develop for the next few months. A few snatches of thoughts left to bubble away and then, ker-ping, something appeared!
March 5: This one was about struggling with the participant/observer balance in a very hands-on printmaking fieldwork session. My frustration related to other participants: I was very aware that if the session hadn’t been part of my fieldwork, I’d have left and perhaps not returned, such was my mood on this particular evening. There’s a lesson here about persevering, perhaps.
March 6: Feeling at odds with the world and wondering if I’d ever feel at home, or find a ‘fit’, both in academia and elsewhere.
March 7: I have a history of problems with my right knee, and I only swim breast stroke, which is the swimming stroke known for wrecking knees. For some reason breast stroke doesn’t seem to exacerbate the problem, but I made the foolish mistake of swimming a couple of lengths of back stroke and ended up in large amounts of pain. Not clever.
March 8: One for International Women’s Day: taking up space is an ongoing challenge on so many levels, but here’s to keeping on keeping on.
March 9: Lights in the darkness, seen from a train home from London and the Heritage Crafts Association conference, ‘Making is Good For You‘.
March 10: A surprise flurry of enormous snowflakes, which came and went within an hour.
March 11: Making a pinch pot in ceramics fieldwork. The pinch pot is one of the simplest vessels one can make with clay, shaped by ‘pinching’ and turning a ball of clay in the hand. The form has been written about extensively, and I was determined to give it a go. It turns out I could happily spend days and days turning and shaping these small clay bowls in my hands.
March 12: Exposing handmade positives in screenprinting fieldwork. The image is drawn onto a piece of acetate using, in my case, a chinagraph pencil for a ‘hand-drawn’ feel’. This acetate is then laid underneath an emulsion-coated screen in an exposure unit, and when the exposure, rinsing, and hardening-off has happened, the screen is left with clear areas where the black bits have been on the image, so ink can pass through these areas. The image is of a Minolta Autocord twin-lens reflex camera, which I’d been given – and used a lot – several years before. What goes around, comes around.
March 13: Back and forth in the swimming pool. Halfway through a massive swimming week as part of a challenge to 32 miles over the first three months of the year.
March 14: A day of floundering and struggling with PhD but, as with craft processes, so, too, with this.
March 15: The day as a series of hurdles to overcome. I’m a big fan of a ‘to-do list’ but sometimes the list can threaten to topple and crush a person.
March 16: A great day of learning bookbinding at Leeds Print Workshop. This one is about Japanese stab binding. A couple of people attending the session had been given the day as a Christmas gift, and for me, even though it was still fieldwork, it felt every bit as relaxing as any ‘spa day’ might.
March 17: The ongoing challenge of taking up space.
March 18: It’s taken me until recently to remember that my all-singing, all-dancing mobile phone has a Voice Recorder function, so of course now I’m using it to record everything – interviews with course participants, and thoughts on all things PhD, mostly muttered to myself whilst shambling round the woods with the dog.
March 19: Talking about the stages of the learning process at screen printing this evening – so much to learn, and while we’re still grappling with the tools we can’t be getting on with the work we want them to help us produce. Very much in Polanyi’s ‘focal awareness’ position, rather than ‘subsidiary awareness’.
March 20: A head full of cold does not facilitate clear thinking.
March 21: A terrible insomniac day improved by spotting wild primroses in the woods.
March 22: I got to the end of the week feeling utterly emptied. Time to relax and stick myself back together.
March 23: Looking down Llyn Padarn towards Snowdon. Today involved a lovely – and relaxing! – time wandering around, drawing things, and blowing my nose lots. Nobody to answer to but myself – the best of times.
March 24: Wandering in the Llanberis slate quarries, finding inspiration amongst the ruined quarry workers’ cottages for my spark of an idea for ceramics.
March 25: The last day of the ten week ceramics course, and the prospect of glazing three pieces. This is a pair of glazing tongs, which looked a little terrifying when they first emerged from the cupboard known as ‘Narnia’.
March 26: The last day of the ‘Make Your Mark: experimental screen printing’ course. I discovered that silver acrylic paint doesn’t work like other acrylic paints, but still came out with some prints to be pleased with, and a lot of new knowledge, particularly from fellow participants.
March 27: Thinking about how my methodology relates to my methods, and trying to visualise it in diagram form.
March 28: Wild garlic sprouting everywhere in the local woods.
March 29: This was the day when we were ‘supposed’ to be leaving the European Union, and things are as unclear as at any point since the referendum. On one hand I’m pleased it hasn’t happened yet, but on the other hand I want to know where we stand. I don’t think I’m alone in that.
March 30: A conversation with my best friend about the importance of friendship and networks of friends. I’m becoming more and more inclined to turn inwards, increasingly uncertain of my competence at sociability, and this isn’t a good thing.
March 31: This week I swam the last four miles of my 32 mile swimming challenge, and managed to raise £463 for Yorkshire Air Ambulance. I’ve found that I can swim much further than I thought I could, and that swimming clears my head like few other things can. A triple win!