Ah, Angel and Dick Strawbridge, what HAVE you done to me?
You see the thing is that, I’ve been recently OBSESSED by this show called Chateau in The Country where British couple Dick and Angel Strawbridge buy a dilapidated chateau and then over the years, renovate it. I wrote it in my recent blog post Loving the Crafty Side to my Network.
Although I don’t have the guts as they do to move to another country and sink money into an old castle (for one, my husband and I have no idea about renovating or construction). We are total ignoramuses when it comes to looking at a backyard and thinking about “possibilities”. Our imagination doesn’t stretch that far. You should see the state of our back garden at the moment. If I mow the lawn, that’s pretty much all I can handle. That’s creative enough.
However, as I watch the Strawbridges, I am utterly amazed at their ingenuity, imagination and creative flair.
There’s something of a flash of brilliance when old, battered materials found discarded on the property can be recycled and customised. I love the idea that Angel has reused the relics from the chateau’s basement, attic spaces, cupboards and rooms to recreate, renew and refresh the chateau but still keeping the historical elements to it – with a new spin and using new methods to invigorate the old.
For example, in one episode she “brings the outside in” and recreates the walled garden flowers by pressing the flowers from the said garden into the wall of one of the turrets. Similarly, she revitalises the old wallpaper which was hundreds of years old, redesigns it and makes the same wallpaper and then ends up placing a card on the wall with their story, so that “people in the future could read it.”
People like this amaze me. I’m in awe of them because to me, they have some spirit inside them that see possibilities.
Many times through the show, Angel would look into the camera and say, “Oh, I’ve never done this before, there’s always a first time right?” and I think, “That’s it! That’s EXACTLY what we all should be doing.” It doesn’t have to be perfect – as long as you have the idea and you give it a go, you just don’t know how it will turn out.
It’s that creative flair that I wish I could have.
Watching the show has reacquainted me with different craft processes such as thermal printing, screen printing, flower arranging and so much more. Every time I watch an episode, I have this strange desire to go and press some flowers (which I did); or go cut up magazines (which I ended up covering some old Adobe notebooks given out as freebies at conferences with brightly coloured material).
I even dragged a long heavy branch for over a kilometre at a recent walk in the park wit this idea that I’ll create a macrame wall hanging from it sometime.
When I look at Angel and Dick Strawbridge, in some ways, they also remind me of my parents.
My father, an artist should have been an inventor of sorts. He’s got that flair I’m talking about. He can make any piece of rubbish left on the pavement for the rubbish tip into anything he wants. To date, I have never known him to buy anything new instead he builds it from hand. He designs it himself then uses whatever materials he has around in his studio and workshop to make it himself. My brother, an engineer, has followed in his footsteps being handy with his hands and tools.
Meanwhile my mother, is the creative type who is skilled with sewing, crochet, weaving and cooking. When I was growing up, all of my clothes were handmade by her as was many things in the house: upholstery, cushions, blankets, you name it, we didn’t buy much. Nor did we buy our fruit and vegetables as much of it was home grown in the garden. I think my creative knack for knitting came from my mum (although she doesn’t know how to knit. This craft was something I taught myself through books growing up).
So all the things that the Strawbridge family are doing aren’t really new ideas – they’re old ideas but they’re bringing them back to life and creating a wonderful environment where we can appreciate everything because it has character, it has a story behind it and there’s some meaning.
However, one thing I don’t have that they all do – and I wished I did – is that when I look at the Strawbridges and my parents, what I’m missing is that “FLAIR”. By that, I mean the IMAGINATION OF POSSIBILITY.
Sure, I can knit.
However, all I do is follow patterns.
This means that although I have the skills of the craft, I don’t have the genius of the creative sparks of ideas to create my own knitting patterns.
If I had the creative flair, on my daily walk in the park, I would look at the red, orange and yellow leaves that have fallen on the ground (because it’s autumn here) and get inspired to create a cardigan of the same colours with knitted leaf patterns in the border and then create a story around it so that it makes meaning for me. I’m not good at bespoke.
To do something that hasn’t been done before and the only pattern is the one that’s in your head.
So what I’m saying is that I don’t have that DESIGN NOUS.
The measure of true creative flair and genius would be the value of these ideas and then the execution of them.
To not follow another’s pattern but instead be inspired by it to create something unique and of your own.
I’d like to “bring the outside in” as Angel Strawbridge says and it dawns on me that this is what being creative means.
I want a future where creative endeavours are my daily rituals whether it’s knitting, crafting, being outside in the garden or in the kitchen. I want the technology that I use to be used in the spirit of learning and creating – not wasting time on it.
(Oh, I don’t think I can go back to school to learn creative flair. The show has so inspired me that I have asked my mother to now spend Saturday mornings with me to teach me how to darn, repair, sew by hand and by machine – so that’s my new skill I’m adding for my future).