Is it mist or is it fog? I cannot say. I cannot tell. It makes the world outside appear stilled, mysterious, waiting. As if it is holding it’s breath. Nothing is moving. The wind has gone, as has the rain, just this mixing of warmth and wetness. There are no birds. Nothing pushes through this grey. Nothing shifts it. No, there goes a rook, cawing. It is like smoke. The air smells like smoke sometimes. Sometimes when I walk in the early mornings it smells of wood-smoke. A smell I usually associate with Autumn but these days every one has fires. And they no doubt light them as much for comfort as heat. I would. Sharp edges are softened, blacks and whites become grey, melding together in fudged shapes. Smudged shapes. An impressionistic vista from my studio window. The light struggling to come through. A white grey, not a pea-souper.

I’m in a mist too. Ah, the rain has returned, spattering on my window. I don’t know where I’m going with my work. Do you have to? He is so good. I come back from work all a dither. It sends me that place. There are no ease-full states to be had there. It is an antithesis to me. All disorganised, all at sea. And I am thrown. It is all that dealing with strangers, with how I am seen and responded to. And whether they choose me or him. It is ridiculous. An old pattern. The school-yard repeated. Do I belong? Am I an outsider? How do I fit in? How do I learn their games? I forget my freedom. I forget the blissful freedom of it. I can be who I like, just turn up be kind, be gracious and go home. And I can read. And the days when I am not there, when they may have given him the work rather than me I can do this precious stuff here. I can be here, finding my way through the mist. Is that not OK?

It is. And then when I have compounded my discomfort by trawling the internet for further evidence of my smallness I come back to him and he calms me. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, he says, you want to do it, it is your work, your love, your passion. I paraphrase a little. I cannot remember it exactly. Sometimes I am not paying attention, even now remembering my desire to shut off his good sense my back tenses. He’s said these things many times, it is truth, certainly but sometimes I am stubborn, too married to the self pity. Too misted-up to see. He talked about my focus being on the amateur sewer. And yes, he is right. That is what interests me. The solitary amateur sewer and how they define creativity. Why they do what they do alongside work, home-life and other demands. I want to find their voices. Does she exist, this amateur needle worker? Or is she a composite of my imagination? Is she in fact a she? I need to listen to the tapes. And straddle my discomfort, my knowledge of my non-knowing. To deal with the awe I feel about other people’s work. It is the kits that intrigue me. The following of pre-set patterns, like a musician being led by a score. What does that feel like? The responsibility to come up with the idea is not yours, you just have to work it, make it, play it. And yet, what happens in that small space between following and being guided? Decisions are made. Mistakes too. The mistakes make it mine, she said. I need to listen. To find the diamonds in the rock.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.