Tag Archives: hygge

Dealing with the dark days of winter.

I often feel low at this time of year, probably down to the short, dark days of winter.

Last year in the run up to Christmas I felt stressed by my workload, as well as the preparations for the Christmas celebrations. So this year I made the decision to do things differently, I estimated how much stock I would need from last year’s sales, I made it in the summer months and started listing in the autumn. So all I need to do at this time is network, answer emails, do some custom orders, pack and post. This has helped enormously, I feel rather calm and relaxed this year which is a huge difference to last year.

Even if I didn’t have a rush on at this time of year I would probably feel low, not depressed but dulled, I want to sleep all hours of darkness but  when I go to bed often I wake up about every hour or very early in the morning, then my thoughts take over.

I’m reading a book called The Wild Remedy by Emma Mitchell, which Lesley reviewed on Art Elements .
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It’s a beautiful book and I’m really treasuring reading it, I take my breakfast back to bed and read a little from this book while I wait for the house to warm up and the daylight to emerge from the gloom. I could happily sit and read the book from cover to cover but I’m forcing myself to read just a few pages at a time and savour them like a delicious chocolate truffle. I found myself running my hands over the cover and feeling like I was giving the book a hug this morning which I thought was unusual behaviour but it’s  such a lovely book.

I  already know and relate to the ‘feel good’ powers of nature, I try to get out for a walk as often as possible. The little things like ice on some rosehips catching the sunlight, or a flock of redwing visitors squawking in the trees, or crunching through frozen puddles can fill me with feelings of happiness and calm.

Today  it’s sunny so I took a short walk in the bitingly cold wind to see the fells covered in snow.  On my arrival home I had a brief inspection of the newly replanted border to see if the snowdrops were coming up, they are at least a cm tall. I got told off by a blackbird, then I went to look at the vole holes in the bank. I noticed a pile of berries from the cotoneaster gathered at the entryway. I thought this was a little odd as it tells everyone where you live, I  might have to read up online and see if this is typical behaviour.
UntitledDuring the short days I no longer try to work in the semi darkness of mid afternoon, I find the energy saving lights really bad, they don’t give me enough light to work. I just accept this now and stop when the light goes. I do sit and knit or crochet in this half light, so long as it’s a simple pattern. I have also discovered this winter that knitting tactile soft fluffy yarn can lift the spirits. Sitting by the fire knitting is pure, simple hygge pleasure, like stroking a cat on your knee.

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Comfort foods also help, a bowl of steaming homemade soup ( recipe here) is like a hug in a bowl.
UntitledA slice of homemade cake and a cup of tea can make those looming dark skies at 3 pm seem not so gloomy at all,  if I  sit by the window I often see skeins of geese, or flocks of starlings flying in haste to join the flock for their murmuration ballet before roosting.

I think the weather so far this winter has played a huge role in my more upbeat mood. This winter we have had a lot of bright crisp frosty days with lots of sunshine, I know sunny days makes a big difference because as soon as the wind and rain returned last weekend my mood dropped significantly. So if the sun shines even briefly I try to get out for a few minutes and enjoy it.  Every little helps, and once the end of January comes I can see the days starting to get slightly longer, the snowdrops will start to bloom I know the gloom won’t last much longer.

While writing this I have come to realise this is just an extension of what I’ve been doing all year, I’m working with the seasons and not trying to fight against the long evenings and short days. It seems to be working, I feel really quite relaxed and content .

Do you struggle with the dark days, what do you do to combat them?


 

My Ikigai – Raku Firing

Ikigai is a trending Japanese term which means something similar to Raison d’etre; a reason for being. Or putting it simply a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Having a kiln is most definitely my reason to get up early, when opening the up kiln every morning is like Christmas morning.

At the moment I especially enjoy raku firing. On a dry bright Autumn morning what’s not to like, being out in the garden with the trees changing colour, birdsong and even a visit from a hedgehog. To top it all you don’t have to wait til the next day to see the fruit of your labours.

Getting back to the raku glazes I mentioned in an earlier post; before I hurt my ribs I did some glazing and took photos to see if I could work out what affects the glaze colours, it’s all in my earlier post but basically I photographed the leaves with the glaze pots so I knew which glaze was on which leaf.
ceramic leaves collageHere are the leaves after firing in their groups, they weren’t all fired at the same time. The first group of leaves were glazed by OH, who got roped in to help, the colours are not as colourful  as I have gotten with this glaze so I think he has applied the glaze too thin. ( Shh don’t tell him ). Some have nice copper colours and one has a bit of light blue which is lovely.

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This raku leaf has a blue / copper glaze , the results are much the same as I’ve had before.leaf to hang on wall

These 2 leaves have a glaze called cosmic copper which doesn’t always look as good as this, I did put the glaze on thicker this time.copper leaves

There’s not much to say about these in terms of colour they are similar, but you can see the speckled effect you get from throwing on sawdust in the reduction chamber.

raku leaves wall art

These 2 leaves look quite different, I will mention the colour in a moment.

ceramic leaves

Another 2 leaves where one has more colour than the other. I was amazed when I opened up the bucket and saw the colour on this leaf and the one above. What had happened was the 2 leaves had lain on top of each other and where they overlapped the colour was intense.

 

Raku leaves

Here’s another pair of leaves that came out much the same, but the other oak leaf has a lot of colour; this leaf had been fired before but I didn’t like the result so it was given another coat of different glaze and refired, the combination of 2 glazes could have affected the result but I don’t know.

Raku leaves from Kiln Fired ArtThis is how it looked before, it is a lot nicer now.

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Although most leaves with the same glazes are very similar I think I have learned a couple of things. Firstly  I think a thicker application of glaze gives a better chance of good colour.

Also, as I already know the reduction process is key. I think I may try overlapping leaves deliberately, and I might even try putting one in the chamber upside down, but that may not work so well as the sawdust is likely to blacken it.

So all in all it was a great reason to get up in the morning, so what’s your ikigai?