Friday, 29 January 2016

Anything is Possible - The Library Birds

I love pens! To write, to draw, to sketch, to doodle with and whenever I visit an art supply shop, stationers or one of those fancy knick knacky gift shops I can never resist having a doodle and buying one or more to add to my collection.  So my favourite flavour of the month pens are a set of 6 Derwent Graphik Line Makers ranging from super-fine 0.05 to a broad 0.8, all just perfect for line drawing in my sketchbook.  

For my inspiration I turned to the ever diminishing Birmingham Central Library, notably the giant birds painted on the side.  Birmingham artist Lucy McLauchlan painted the giant mural called 'Todo Es Posible - Anything is Possible' in 2010.  Her work which is often site specific and on the outside of large buildings has a distinctive bold graphic style with recurring motifs of faces and birds.  The birds here were a reference to the closure of the library in that it is an offense under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 “to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built. ”

So the birds are still here for now but their days are certainly numbered. Maybe another wake will be held for them before they finally go, similar to the one held at the beginning of last year for the old library building.

I for one will really miss seeing the birds on my way to work so I hope they stick around for just a bit longer before flying the nest and before we say goodbye to them for good.

Monday, 18 January 2016

From Tank-Top to Cushion

So my tank-top ended up as a cushion. I felted it first by slinging it into the washing machine with a pair of my jeans on a 40 degree cycle but this does only work if your knitwear is labelled as hand-wash only (machine wash wool is treated not to shrink or felt) and made up of 100% wool. 

This shrinks it down nicely and felts the wool so it can be cut without fraying and I used an old cushion pad.

I have felted quite a few jumpers in the past in this way and I am now working on my PhD (Projects Half Done) in 'Sewing up Old Felted Jumpers into a Throw'.  Well these things take time!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

I Feel a Big Sort Out Coming On

So I am diligently working my way through all my New Year Resolutions, some of which have fallen woefully by the wayside and will doubtless reappear on next year's short list (still going strong with 'Dry January' and fitness routine though I hasten to add) but the one I am currently most enthusiastic about is tidying. Oh how I love to de-clutter and at certain times of the year i.e. the start of a new year or the advent of Spring I often feel a big sort out coming on.

What has really prompted this huge jettison of clothes and other such stuff though is a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo recommended by my very good friend Dominika who is an expert on all things Japanese. When I told her about my passion for sorting and tidying she told me about this amazing book that has taken Japan by storm and is now appearing on the bestseller lists here in the UK.  

I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from discarding so I thought I would first tackle my knitwear drawers as I have more jumpers and cardigans than I can shake a stick at. There are approximately 50 items of knitwear in the drawers above. It's no coincidence of course that this blog is called 'You Can Never Have Too Many Cardigans' a phrase I inherited from my dear old Mum but I have far too many for my own good.  They take up valuable space and to be honest I only wear a favourite few and it's a well known fact that women only wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time. In recent times I have been operating a one-in one-out sytem to avoid getting the drawers wedged but the time has come to be more ruthless. I am therefore going to adopt the KonMarie method and send on its way to a better life anything that doesn't grab me or fill me with joy, or as I have often done in the past - try it on, look in the mirror and ask yourself this vital question "Does it do anything for me?"  Be honest and if the answer is no then chuck it!

Is it a tank-top or a sleeveless jumper? Doesn't really matter as I am sending it on its merry way.  It just has to go. In my next blog I will tell you what happened to it after it ended up in the 'get rid' pile.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

From Carbuncle to Paradise

So another year has rolled by (I am sure the years get shorter the older I get) and during that time I have seen such a lot of changes in my home city of Birmingham. At the beginning of 2015 the people of Brum witnessed  the concluding chapter in the demise of the Old Library complex with the closure of Paradise Forum shopping centre, the main pedestrian thoroughfare from Chamberlain Square to Centenary Square, through to Broad Street. In November it was barricaded off completely ready for the demolition men to move in during December. 

Designed by architect John Madin and opened in 1974 by Harold Wilson, the Birmingham Central Library was one of the many targets in Prince Charles' infamous 'monstrous carbuncle' speech over 30 years ago in which he attacked modernist architecture saying the library looked like "a place where books are incinerated, not kept." 

It was much criticised with many agreeing with Charles that it was indeed a bit of a blot on the landscape landing right next to the Victorian splendour of the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and the majestic colonnades of the Town Hall.  Over the years however, it grew on people and ironically once it was decided a new library was to be built in Centenary Square and its fate had been sealed, Brummies took it to heart and started campaigns to save the building, with English Heritage applying for it to become a listed building.  The library lent its last book on 29 June 2013, with the New Libary opening in September of that year. Its final curtain call was in 2014 when it doubled as MI5 HQ in the BBC series The Game.  On 31 January 2015 a wake was held outside to mark its passing with people bringing food and drink and carrying candles.  

So first day back on my way to work on the morning of Sunday 3rd January, which normally would have taken me through Paradise Forum before it was sealed off, I stopped to pay homage and took a few photos.  The streets were deserted and the few folk I saw were the homeless sheltering in subways or doorways trying in vain to keep dry from the persistent rain. Post German Market, Christmas and New Year the whole scene looked very bleak and dystopian.   

The Central Library in better days.

And of course this is the New Library in Centenary Square looking rather like a wedding cake.

Known simply as 'Paradise' and due for completion in 2026, the massive regeneration scheme has now begun in earnest with the Central Library making way for new office blocks, shops, restaurants and a new road system. This is an artist's impression of how it will all look.  For the residents of Birmingham however, it will mean 10 years of disruption but I for one think it will be well worth it. The city can only benefit as has been the case with the canalside redevelopment of Brindleyplace which was recently shortlisted as one of the ten best places in England. For a while I think despite its size and population, Birmingham was in danger of losing its second city status behind Manchester and Liverpool but with the opening of the New Library and Grand Central the city is fast becoming a 'bucket list' tourist destination with new restaurants, bars, shops and hotels popping up everywhere. Birmingham is deservedly well and truly back on the map as the UK's second city. I must visit!

Happy New Year!