Thursday, 8 May 2008

She's talking about that baby again!

Permission to speak about the carved baby in my side bar just one more time? For I have the most lovely story relating to it. For those of you who have missed any mention of it here in the past, on the outer ring of Trafalgar Square there is a church called St-Martin-in-the-Fields, raised far up above the road by a long flight of shallow steps. On a tall stone plinth before the church doors there is a baby carved from stone, smooth and quite perfect, attached by it's umbilical cord to the ground that it lies on, which is, by contrast, rough and coarse. The baby is archetypal, with rounded cheeks, slightly curled toes, small clenched fists, and a wonderful plumpness to its small body. It is so perfect to me that I had never questioned how it had got there, who might have carved its little limbs, or when it might have been installed. It was just there. I have become quite attached to it and rarely visit London without also going to spend a couple of minutes marvelling at its loveliness. So you can perhaps imagine how utterly delighted and surprised I was to receive an email out of the blue from Rachel, saying that she had come to my blog as a reader of Raspberry (who had very kindly linked to me that day in her post) and that as she had scrolled down my blog she had thought it fabulous to come across a picture of the baby in my sidebar...as it was in fact her own husband, Mike, who had carved it. She included a link to her husband, Mike Chapman's, own website, which is home to even more sculpted wonderfulness. Do go and have a look...as his work is, in my opinion, just so very beautiful and I have found it fascinating reading the words that accompany the photography of his work. It also tells of a summer school that Mike runs so that he might pass some of his skills on to others...again, finding this out was a complete delight and I am quite sure that at some point in the next couple of years we will try to book Ian into this, as it is something that he would love to do.

Perhaps it's not comprehensible how excited I was to receive this email unless you too have fallen in love with this baby, but it was one of those moments when my heart felt like it was about to burst with happiness, for if I ever had thought about who might have created the infant (for some reason, I hadn't, perhaps because it looks so perfect that the idea that it had been chiseled away and formed by human hand seems quite absurd) I would probably have guessed that it was carved hundreds of years ago by a team of men....so to find that it was one man, very much alive, with the most perfectly lovely wife who reads craft blogs...well, I was stunned.

There is something so lovely about the roughness of the earth that this perfect child comes out of, as if to say that no matter what the state of our world, each child is born into it perfect and unblemished, and the fact that this is set in stone is, to me, emblematic of the certainty that this will always be. What reassurance of goodness this sculpture provides. Rachel told me that the sculpture is in fact named The Christ Child, which was created for the Millennium to celebrate the birth of Christ...which somehow threw me for a moment as, not having a faith myself, I had never imbued the baby with any religious associations...but actually, like all art works, I think any viewer will give it their own meaning and so although I'm now mindful (and I can't write that word now without smiling for, following my best-loved words giveaway, I know that it is one of Robyn's favourites) that it was created with a particular representation in mind, to me it will always more strongly hold an element of both of my own children in it, as well as the lovely innocence of infants...I love to think of it lying safely on its stony bed, blissfully unperturbed by the drunken revellers that carouse below it around Trafalgar Square on a Friday night.

I was quite fascinated by what Rachel's house must be like, as my first thought was that it must be so strange (although obviously very normal if you're Rachel!) to live with someone capable of creating things quite so extraordinarily beautiful all over your home...so of course I asked her, and it does indeed sound like their house is full of special things, (such as a stone mouse carved running up their fireplace), but actually I've come to realise that Rachel is more than capable of her own lovely creations...and I'm left convinced that if she ever chose to start a craft blog it would be full of the most wonderful things.

I think to me the coincidence of Rachel seeing her husband's work on my blog represents how far-reaching and extraordinary blogging can be...even with a relatively small readership, so many different sorts of people will pass by the pages...and ultimately the world seems very small.

I have a photo of the stone baby tucked into the frame of my mirror, next to another baby that has also become special to me. When I was a couple of months pregnant with Dinosaur-boy my sister sent me this postcard of a painting by Blaise Smith that she'd seen at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the 2003 BP Portrait Award exhibition. I adored the colours in the painting and propped it up on our bedroom fireplace in the house where we lived at that time, purely because I liked the way it looked...but a couple of months later I found that I felt incapable of taking the postcard down; I had looked at this baby each day and become more familiar with its face, the folds of the blanket that it lay beneath and most especially had come to treasure the pose of its hands, so much so, that it seemed to have come to represent the baby growing in my own ever-expanding middle.

The reassurance of seeing this baby each day, sleeping beneath an identical checked wool blanket to the one that was folded in my airing cupboard, was great. It is only more recently, that a very dear friend walked into our room and looked at the pictures propped in the mirror frame, and commented, horrified, that the baby's slightly grey, lifeless skin made it appear to be dead...I can see exactly what she means, but to me it is a happy contented picture, proving as I had said earlier, that every person will view an artwork differently. For me this baby sleeping so sweetly has become so muddled with my memories of Dinosaur-boy sleeping in his crib that it is as much one of his childhood photographs as any that actually picture his true self.

And while I'm on the subject of babies...I've just read Lisa's latest Craft Boom post where she interviews Amy Butler and have seen that her next book is focused around patterns for mother and child 0-12 months..,what an incredibly powerful incentive to have more babies...but no, I will buy it in September when it is published and make things instead for the lovely babies of friends.

I also must say that my sister has drawn it to my attention that I have recently only blogged once in two weeks...sometimes real life crashes in to such an extent that blogging temporarily takes a back seat...but I feel I ought to apologise for the huge amount of unanswered emails and messages (currently over 300) and the fact that I haven't commented for so long on so many of my favourite blogs. I am delighted by every single one of the comments that people are kind enough to take the time to leave, and I have enjoyed catching up with so many of the wonderful blogs that are my daily reads on Bloglines...but time feels sparse at the moment and my mind is elsewhere, so I hope you won't mind if I am temporarily a little un-interactive!

Wishing you all a lovely weekend in the sunshine.

Florence x

22 comments:

  1. Hi Flossie, that is just the
    Synchronicity, serendipity, whatever.
    I just love it. This in one of the beauties of the internet;the world just becomes a smaller place.

    I hope you have loads more lovely connections like this xx

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  2. Ooh, I must've touched the keyboard there. some words are missing-but you get the idea? I hope!

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  3. hi Flossie,
    Everyone's sleeping while I read this post and fall in love with this baby made of stone!
    I've just had my third (end last) baby a week ago and watching her sleeping with all her innocence makes me crazy.
    Shes seems to be very strong...enough to grow in our crazy world...
    Many thanks for this picture.

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  4. Thanks so much for those beautiful images and the stories behind them.The statue is truly fantasticaly amazing!

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  5. Connections, that's the joy of blogging isn't it.People who get us, a chance to connect with someone who has touched our lives. Amazing.

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  6. What a beauty thing!
    I've loved Mike Chapman's work!

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  7. The world is indeed very small and time is very short.

    The thing I liked about the baby is that it is almost hidden. You have to look for it, but when you find it it's worth it. And I think joy is a bit like that - even when it seems lost, it will be there somewhere, ready to surprise you.

    xJ

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  8. What a beautifully long post Florence, written with such sensitivity and feeling. How fabulous to know the story behind the carving. Blogs and connections are truly amazing. I will make a special trip to visit your 'stone baby' when i am next in London.
    Hope you are enjoying this beautiful weather.
    warm wishes
    Ginny x

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  9. I do love that baby, but was not aware of its existence until you pointed it out, it seems so tranquil and gentle

    April xx

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  10. Another lovely post Florence. How amazing this blogging world is - all these little connections to such wonderful people. And post when you can - I think everyone's a little busy at the moment and we completely understand!

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  11. You are so generous with your words, Florence, thank you from Mike and I. I do not understand how these connections occur, I am just so happy that they do. With our best regards from Dorset, Sculptors Wifey xx

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  12. What a lovely post. It is years since I have been to St Martin in the Fields and I don't remember seeing the baby then - probably before it arrived - but I shall look for him next time I am there, for sure. How wonderful for you to "meet" the sculptors wife!

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  13. I have always loved watching my children sleep with tiny spiderweb veins delicatley drawn on their eyelids it has a magic spell on mothers I think, the comfort of just watching them. I think its so easy to become personally attatched to a beautiful piece of art or a song and ten times nicer to know the story behind itor feel a connection. What a lovely pilgrimage too to visit this statue, I've alwyas felt that blogging is just about taking a second to spell the roses and celebrate all the lovely things its so easy to miss so don't give up on us- we love to hear what made you smile each day

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  14. Hello Florence. Sometimes, as you say, it is almost impossible to blog regularly, but it is strange how much I miss it when these gaps occur - both as a write of them and a reader of many. It seems to clear the head and allow the creativity through.

    That is an amzing story about the baby; I read Rachel's blog regularly (she makes such gorgeous bags) and had no idea her husband was such a craftsman too. The little baby clearly says a lot to you, so wonderful for you to have an even stronger connection to it now xx

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  15. How amazing. Small small small world.

    And hearing about the AB craft book made me consider another baby too (for about 3 nanoseconds!).

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  16. how lovely to know the story of the baby!

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  17. wow - I had shown my daughter your blog with the baby so she could visit it next time she was in london. I just love it when stuff like that happens.

    wonderful - and thanks for sharing that!

    Kath
    x

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  18. Glad you are back, what a small world. Take care as always
    xx

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  19. How amazing!
    I can see why you're so taken with the baby. He's quite amazing isn't he?

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  20. Lovely story...and lovely images to go with it! The baby is beautiful... Happy Days :o)

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  21. It's a beautiful baby and what wonderful craftsmanship. Come and see who won the giveaway...hint.

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  22. Mindful! Funny - you probably have all sorts of words now that have associations with random interwebs people. It is a great word :-) That baby is amazing, and even more amazing is that this world is so small. How awesome that the wife of the sculptor reads your blog!

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x