Creativity in Isolation

Creativity in Isolation

After months of planning, panicking and packing we finally landed in Auckland on Saturday 20 March 2021. This post is about my experience of Managed Isolation and Quarantine in New Zealand, on the surface a very specific situation but thinking about it, our 2 weeks in isolation has many correlations with the shielding so many people in the higher risk groups have been doing for the past year.

Before we left I knew I would need some supplies to keep me occupied in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ), I packed a selection of watercolour paints, paper, and a sack of wool tops and some pencil roving to crochet with on the 26+ hour plane journey.

Having such minimal supplies with me, I felt challenged to use / reuse what we had in the room. I saw this limitation as a good thing, sometimes having too much choice can be overwhelming and to be honest I still enjoy the quizzical looks and eye-rolling from Chris as I gleefully retrieved what he thinks is rubbish from the bin.

For my first piece of felt in New Zealand I thought I would experiment with adding a hole to a book resist. I started with a simple, 3 page, egg shape cut from a plastic chocolate bar wrapper.

Laying out wool on such a small resist was very fiddly but with patience I achieved this shape (apologies for the very poor quality photo).

I probably should not have been, but was surprised that I could not persuade the top of the egg (around the aperture) to expand more, the act of adding a hole to the resist, severely restricted the space inside the egg around it.

Taking influence from Maori symbols and tattoos I added a spiral motif which symbolises new beginnings, growth and harmony; an appropriate sentiment at this juncture in my life. When I cut it, I had intended the spiral to sit on the base of the sculpture but now it is finished, I see a bird with a flamboyant plume of feathers on its head and it makes a small pot.

The meals here have been very good and interspersed with pastries, cakes and fruit salads making it hard to go more than 2-3 hours without eating something, not good for the waistline but with every meal delivered in a paper bag we were accumulating rather a lot of bags so I set about trying to up-cycle some of them with mixed results!

A pencil box designed to fit our narrow windowsill
This woven “platter” defeated me in the end, I just wasn’t happy with how the edges folded.
My favourite use for the paper bags… 😉

After some fiddling I discovered the “string” handles on the paper bags could be unravelled and they contained some really lovely textured paper strips in a surprising range of colours.

I haven’t made anything with the twining techniques I learned from Mary Crabb for a few years so set out to see how much I could remember….

I was pretty happy with this little pot (I am sure the weavers will be able to spot the mistakes).

As it turned out, I could not have timed my incarceration better, there have been a host of free tutorials and videos posted over the last couple of weeks to keep me entertained. Too many in fact, I haven’t been able to find time to engage with the stitch-along.

The IFA had their AGM last weekend and published a series of videos from 4 renowned makers for their members (these will be available for another 6 months if you are dithering about joining). I was a bit limited with my colour choices and did not have half the materials suggested for Fiona Duthie’s tutorial but am still really pleased with how my interpretation is coming along. I plan to work on it some more once our shipping container arrives in May and I can see myself rearranging the tiles ad infinitum, these are 2 of my favourite arrangements (so far!).

I have been watching some of the Sketchbook Revival videos too. This is a free annual event were approx 20 different artists give a 30-60 min presentation. Most are “how to’s” or sketch / paint-alongs, I find some of them can be a bit hit and miss but am sure there is something in there for everyone! It is still running for another week or two this year, you can sign up here.

It has been nice to have the space and time to draw and paint mandalas too, not something I do very often as I doubt any of them will make it beyond the pages of my sketchbook but they are very meditative to do and a good option if you have lost your creative mojo.

While I didn’t manage to crochet on the plane, after a dubious first attempt I did manage to complete this crochet pot from Corriedale pencil roving. I will felt it, dye it and add a face (fox?) before using it as a planter.

The hotel we are staying in have gone out of their way to make our stay as bearable as possible, each meal was delivered with a little inspirational quote (apologies if I have duplicated any), if you click on the photo it should enlarge for you to be able to read them.

As I write this we are in the final 24 hours of our stay, the sun is shining and we have just received my final covid test results (negative), 1 more sleep to freedom! See you on the other side!

Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei (that’s all for now) folks 🙂

24 thoughts on “Creativity in Isolation

  1. You made it through! Can’t have been easy.

    Your creativity with just stuff you had to hand is amazing. The small pot is lovely and at first it does look like a bird but it could also be the head of a mythical creature with a curly horn.

    Love the things you made with paper! And it shows how incarceration inspires curiosity – would you otherwise have investigated the handles?

    The felt tiles are super – again, even with a limited palette, you’ve pulled it off.

    Looking forward to seeing the planter finished although it does make a rather fetching hat for hubby.

    Good luck as you step out of your ‘cell’ and into your new life.

    1. Thank you ladies, yes it is very true that necessity is the mother of invention, if we weren’t incarcerated with a mountain of paper bags there is no way I would have contemplated up-cycling them and pulling the handles apart to see if there was anything interesting within would never have happened (BTW not all bag handles are created equal, the supermarket bag handles were a boring, heavy brown paper, unlike the joyful strips inside the hotel food delivery bags!).

  2. Gosh Teri – so much positive energy – so much achieved! Well done and thank you for sharing your creations (love your mandalas). It was great to talk to you on Jitsi in the middle of your stay – and hard to believe you were on the other side of the world.
    You ae going to have such fun in the coming weeks – good luck with everything

    1. Thank you (and everyone) for keeping me sane during my incarceration, it would not have been such an easy ride were it not for all the witty banter with “textile crazies” such as you 🙂

  3. I am envious of your energy and creativity. So much with so little. You are a positive force in the world. I am sure you will love your new home and it will love you.

    1. Thank you Ann, you are too kind! 🙂 I know it sounds odd but I found it strangely liberating to have so few materials to work with. Sometimes having too many toys to play with can be paralysing, I know I can fuss and dither over what I want to do for weeks given half a chance! Perhaps there is a challenge to be made from limiting us to just one material… ?

  4. Thanks for this inspiring post proving that creativity can be found anywhere with the right attitude. Glad you have made it through and best of luck finding a new home and job. I look forward to hearing all about your new adventures.

    1. Thank you Ruth, I’m looking forward to starting our new adventure so I can share it with you all 🙂

  5. Great post Teri, it took me back to the days of Blue Peter….the only things missing were a cardboard toilet role inner and a Fairy liquid bottle! I agree with your favourite use of the paper bag but the best “make” has to be that woven vessel. Like Ruth, I’m also looking forward to following your adventures once you get out and start to build your new life over there. Have fun!!

    1. Ha ha, funny you should say that Karen…. we did have a toilet roll inner by the end of the first week but the washing up liquid bottle they gave us is still going strong (I suspect they did not know I would be using it for felting, not just washing up the dishes!). I also kept the corks from the wine bottles thinking they might get upcycled too 🙂

  6. Teri. Wonderful to see all these beautiful pieces together. You have creativity in your blood! Thank you for sharing your experiences of these past two weeks. Enjoy your new found freedom 💖

    1. Thanks Helene, I could not have done it without you all (a lot of the ideas came from you guys!) 🙂

  7. Wow, such creativity in minimal space with minimal resources….Kudos to you Teri. It is amazing how far we can push boundaries & explore every nook & cranny (in your case handles) when we have time.

    Looking forward to seeing the finished crochet planter….just hope it won’t still be on hubby’s head 🤪😂

    Wishing you a happy escape into the wide open fresh space and good luck with your onward exploits.

    1. Thank you Antje. It might be a few weeks before I can finish the planter, all my dyeing kit is in the container and we heard today that there is an enormous backlog in the port it’s headed towards. We were expecting it at the end of April but May is looking more likely now….

    1. MIQ wasn’t half as bad as I feared it would be before we flew out. 🙂

  8. You are very creative with a small amount of supplies. It inspires me to do more thinking outside the box. Thank you for your inspiration.

    1. I definitely recommend it Jill. Perhaps save a few items that would normally go in the bin / recycling and then put your thinking cap on, what else would they like to become? 🙂

  9. What a mind, to be able to use limited resources and turn that into a positive thing! I love it 😀 I’m glad you’re heading out to a new phase in your life! I bet you’ll be missing the hotel food 😉

    1. Thank you Leonor, my stomach did struggle for the first few days, if we didn’t eat anything for a couple of hours it would start rumbling. Adjusting now but have gained a few kgs that need to go!

    1. Thank you Marilyn, your support while I was in MIQ was much appreciated! 🙂

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