Tag Archives: Jeanette Winterson

Stories

“Of course that is not the whole story, but that is the way with stories; we make them what we will. It’s a way of explaining the universe while leaving the universe unexplained, it’s a way of keeping it all alive, not boxing it into time. Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently. Some people say there are true things to be found, some people say all kinds of things can be proved. I don’t believe them. The only thing for certain is how complicated it all is, like string full of knots. It’s all there but hard to find the beginning and impossible to fathom the end. The best you can do is admire the cat’s cradle, and maybe knot it up a bit more. History should be a hammock for swinging and a game for playing, the way cats play. Claw it, chew it, rearrange it and at bedtime it’s still a ball of string full of knots. Nobody should mind. Some people make a lot of money out of it. Publishers do well, children, when bright, can come top. It’s an all-purpose rainy day pursuit, this reducing of stories called history.”

Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, p 91 

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words and silence

I once wrote ‘Words are the part of silence that can be spoken.’ And again, I said, ‘Every word written is a net to catch the word that has escaped.’

Language, ruled by Mercury, is made of doubleness. The things that can be said – the dazzling power of language to communicate, to restore,

to invigorate, to explain, to make possible, and the things that can’t be said – the thresholds of language where silence allows no noisy crossings,

no not even a whisper.”                     Jeanette Winterson (from here) 

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the power of making something

The most satisfying thing a human being can do – and the sexiest – is to make something.
Life is about relationship – to each other – and to the material world. Making something is a relationship
The verb is the clue. We make love, we make babies, we make dinner, we make sense, we make a difference, we make it up, we make it new….

True, we sometimes make a mess, but creativity never was a factory finish.
The wrestle with material isn’t about subduing; it is about making a third thing that didn’t exist before. The raw material was there, and you were there, but the relationship that happens between maker and material allows the finished piece to be what it is. And that allows a further relationship to develop between the piece and the viewer or the buyer.

Both relationships are in every way different from mass production or store bought objects that, however useful, are dead on arrival. Anyone who makes something finds its life, whether it’s Michelangelo releasing David from twenty tons of Carrera marble, or potter Jane Cox spinning me a plate using the power of her shoulders, the sureness of her hands, the concentration of her mind.
I have a set of silverware made by an eighteenth century silverworker called Hester Bateman, one of the very few women working in flatware at that time. When I eat with her spoons, I feel the work and the satisfaction that went into making them – the handle and bowl are in equal balance – and I feel a part of time as it really is – not chopped into little bits, but continuous. She made this beautiful thing, it’s still here, and I am here too, writing my books, eating my soup, two women making things across time. I feel connection, respect, delight. And it is just a spoon…

But the thing about craft, about the making of everyday objects that we can have around us, about the making of objects that are beautiful and/or useful, is that our everyday life is enriched.
How it is enriched? To make something is to be both conscious and concentrated – it is a fully alert state, but not one of anxious hyper-arousal. We all know the flow we feel when we are absorbed in what we do. I find that by having a few things around me that have been made by someone’s hand and eye and imagination working together, I am prevented from passing through my daily life in a kind of blur. I have to notice what is in front of me – the table, the vase, the hand-blocked curtains, the thumb prints in the sculpture, the lettering block. I have some lamps made by Marianna Kennedy, and what I switch on is not a bulb on a stem; it is her sense of light.

So I am in relationship to the object and in relationship to the maker. This allows me to escape from the anonymity and clutter of the way we live now. Instead of surrounding myself with lots of things I hardly notice, I have a few things that also seem to notice me. No doubt this is a fantasy – but…

The life of objects is a strange one.
A maker creates something like a fossil record. She or he is imprinted in the piece. We know that energy is never lost, only that it changes its form, and it seems to me that the maker shape-shifts her/himself into the object. That is why it remains a living thing.
Of course it is possible to design an object that will be made by others – but that is an extension of the creative relationship, not its antithesis. It is the ceaseless reproduction of meaningless objects that kills creativity for all of us, as producers and consumers.
But are producers and consumers who we want to be?

To make is to do. It is an active verb. Creativity is present in every child ever born. Kids love making things. There are different doses and dilutions of creativity, and the force is much stronger in some than in others – but it is there for all of us, and should never have been separated off from life into art.
I would like to live in a creative continuum that runs from the child’s drawing on the fridge to Lucien Freud, from the coffee cups made by a young ceramicist to Grayson Perry’s pots.
We don’t need to agonise over the boundaries between ‘art’ and ‘craft’, any more than we should be separating art and life. The boundary is between the creative exuberance of being human, and the monotony of an existence dependent on mass production – objects, food, values, aspirations.
Making is personal. Making is shared. Making is a celebration of who we are. Jeanette  Winterson 

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