The 2022 Forest & Wye Valley Open Studios Art Trail is nearly over and despite two days of road closures I have had some visitors and some sales. I’ve discovered that having to be available for a large slice of the day it does provide a lull where it’s possible to review where I’d like to go from here with my stitching. I’ve always found that planning and buying materials, then creating something is fun, and naturally seeing my inspirations materialise is very satisfying.

Suffolk Puffs Cushion

But these goods do have to end up somewhere. I’ve been honing and developing my stitched art since I retired from my management role in the NHS many years ago. I’ve done craft fairs, Open Studios art trails, established new craft and stitching groups, presented workshops, written my own website and made items for my family. Together with all this sewing activity I’ve studied for Level 3 Certificates in Patchwork & Quilting and Hand Embroidery. There’s no question that this has been extremely fulfilling, keeping my brain active as well as providing succour during the extended period of my husband’s long illness.

But what now? In truth the involvement in the FarOpen Art Trail hasn’t really paid off despite some lovely visitors and selling a few things. I can’t really see me returning to regular craft fairs now that I’m older as I don’t have the energy and reserves of strength that I had a few years ago. So now I must consider the quantities of cotton, silk, organza, utility materials, tools and equipment built up over the years, all valuable and precious to me. But as I take a break from stitching and think about it all I consider the time, money and investment put into my hobby since I retired and wonder about the next step. The goods that I’ve made during all these activities will need to find a home. I do have some special items earmarked for family members but this will still leave many things that I’ve made without an outlet. I know there are many charities looking for good quality items to sell for funds and this, of course, is what my family may choose to do once I’m gone. But is that what I originally envisaged when I launched into these years of effort and expenditure?

I already support many charities with regular cash donations and I give good quality clothes and materials to them from time to time. But considering all the hours and hours of my life that have gone into making bags, quilts and many other goods, all of which have been produced with care and skill, is that what it was for? My studying with City & Guilds to achieve Level 3 certificates in Patchwork & Quilting and then Hand Embroidery, just for the items to be sold cheaply in a charity shop is perhaps not what I’d imagined when I started. In recent times I’ve regretted not starting all this when I was young and could have developed it into a full business. But being wise after the event doesn’t help with my contemplations now. So here I am nearing the end of the 2022 Art Trail and wondering where to go from here.

Felt Applique Houses made from a design by Wendy Miller

I do belong to and play a significant part in two local stitching groups. Wye Valley Stitchers is a fairly new group and in my role as a committee member I contribute my admin and technical skills as well as leading the occasional workshop. I do find that there is a demand for groups such as this, particularly as we’re living longer and can be retired for many years and perhaps just hoping to find a satisfying and rewarding hobby. The other group I started about a year ago and is well supported by local friends. We try different things each month and again it provides a social opportunity as well as the various craft activities.

As I start to move forward with new ideas and leave the art trail behind I can see that sharing my skills and materials is probably the way forward. In this country we are privileged to have time to spare when not working, particularly after retirement. Those of us with experience, skill, ability and time can and should share what we have with others who are looking for something interesting to do. This sort of group activity provides a service and a wonderful chance to make new friends. So that is my chosen way forward.

Part of a block printed cushion cover sold during the art trail

2 thoughts on “The Art Trail

  1. I know how you feel, Patsy. I have painted pictures and exhibited, had a few successes and ended up with some that galleries and agents won’t take as my name is not on their list or I am unheard of. We spend out on our time, tools, education, materials and production, only to find that we are doing it for ourselves. Next time we meet up we will talk about it and find our own solutions. Just find a project you want to do for you and I will too. Something you can pick up, put down and walk away from. Enjoy the rest of your exhibition. See you soon. X

    1. Thanks Chrys, in truth I’ve enjoyed the lull in pressure and have been reviewing and reading and just relaxing. I can’t see me giving it up I love it too much. I do find that people want to learn and I think there will always be outlets for teaching others. It’s just having enough energy to do it and of course the will and enthusiasm to give of yourself for free. x

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