Coronavirus in Cuba. An artists creative response to the coronavirus crisis

I loved it when Augustin sent me his recent work, the Olympics poster particularly moved me. This is a unique time  in our history, we are living it. 

My enthusiasm for selling Agustin’s work is even greater than before. For many of us comfortable enough to get through lock down in homes with running water and other resources that we take for granted remember that not everyone in our world has this luxury.

I know that in our own country things are less than perfect and to be honest sales are not important but if we can loosen our grip of resistance, (lock down in mind as well as our reality)  during  this time we will feel more movement and the ebb and flow and rhythm of being will keep its dance. Therefore my invitation is to look outwards and know that you are  part of a story that will be looked back on. We are creating history, at sometime in the future this artwork may have some meaning for you and be relevant, if not today.

I am taking orders for Agustin’s work, he cannot print them just yet, lock down and social distancing apples there as it does here. But by ordering and pre paying, even a small deposit for the posters you are enabling them to be printed and sent over here. It will take time but we are all in the together. 

Augustin receives 80% of our payment direct into his bank account, the remainder goes towards the costs of getting them here and then out to you. 

I would love to hear from gallery’s who are interested in showing his work.

Follow your dreams and live by your passion.

WHY AM I DOING THIS? Why am I trying to support an Artist in Cuba? Random, right? It’s just how I am, If I see something that I like I want to share it and if I see an opportunity to help someone I take it.

I think Augustins work will appeal in our culture, it’s very cool it’s political, it’s post castro, its relevant and beautifully executed. 

My aim is to raise awareness of Augustins work out side of Cuba so he can be showing his work all over the world. 

There really is very little chance of his work being seen out side of Cuba and for all Cubans are generally looked after they by their government, they lack opportunity for private enterprise and cash. They have a government  income of $25 per month and that dent go far.Most Cubans will never be able to afford any thing like a car, most will struggle to buy new shoes.

I was drawn to Augustins work at an collectors fair by the port in Havana. I posted his and other artists work on my FB page and offered to buy them for friends back home. Whist on that previous trip I met Augustin and he showed me his catalogue of work. Without tourists going to Cuba, post Trump travel restrictions for Americans and now Coronavirus sales have gone from down to non existent. 

It would bring me enormous pleasure not just to send cash which I know will have a real and positive impact of Augustins life and for his family but also I think people here will enjoy his art and start a conversations about social injustice and inequality. 

This is a non profit venture 80% of each sale goes direct to Augustin and 20% goes towards shipping and postage and packaging.

Art tells a story and informs us of our world. Augustins work goes beyond Cuban charm, it’s not music and dance and old cars. It tells a real story of what we take with ease and enjoy for fun has a dark side, one of corruption and power, that those who are rich can do what they like.

We think that big corporations have power, they do, they are rich. But they are one rich because we buy their products. This artist is asking us what a sweet drink does for our world

Adds life, creates and illusion of fun loving and living, we take it and enjoy it. We all know that this drink is bad for us, but we still buy it, but do we know what they do with their profits. 

I invite you to look beyond the brand, beyond the glossy adverts, beyond the smile, the song and the hand holding. Look at the art and then do a google search. You can form your own opinion and you can share this with others.

Owning this art means that you care about socialism. Sadly Cuba though supports artists offers limited freedom for them. Also the artists have very little resources therefore by owning this art you have provided 4 months income to the artis and his family. By owning this art you are taking courage to talk about difficult subjects,

I give my time freely for this part of my business and I fund my travel myself. It is my love of travel that brings me in contact wit the most interesting people. My entrapenurial spirit sees opportunity everywhere, helping others is easy for me. It is my aim through my work and creativity to take people to inspire and motivate people to live their best life possible. This business is a by product of my own lifestyle choices, to live how I love to be, in inspiring company with people all over the world.

I find ethical ways to off set my flights and take every opportunity to be sensitive to environmental choice in my everyday life. 

On my last trip to Havana, in November 2019 Augustin took me a new private gallery, http://www.maximacubart.com.

They were preparation a state of for opening and it was exciting meet the business owners and view their collection of art by Cuban Artist, an un taped market waiting to be explored. The gallery represent Augustin and you can read more about him and see more of his work here. 

http://www.maximacubart.com/autor/agust-n-hern-ndez

The gallery represents change in Cuba, galleries of this stature are not normal and this one has positioned itself across the road from the national gallery of Cuban Art. This is the like a Bond street gallery in London. Except Havana has no equivalent of Bond street, so this is an interesting time that I am observing on my trips to Cuba. Despite the challenges that they face there is growth and diversity taking place. This is also seen in a lot of new restaurants which have a more european feel and not at all authentic Cuban. Is this wrong? People often comment on the changes taking place, and that Cuban will loose its authenticity. I doubt that very much and voice what A cuban said to me, is why can they not have choice, why can they not have the experience of different food, in the same way that I remember when new trends and styles come into our society. 

Change is everywhere, our past, present and future are a tapestry of life, interwoven threads of experience, rich in love and compassion for others. Our relationship with each other and the rest of the world hold potential for sustainable and shared richness in the joy of being part of our whole world. I invite you to engage, support and share.

IT’S THE GOOD LIFE WITH LIGHTS

I Love new finds and I have been searching for a table lamp for my 1930’s flat and here was the perfect fit.

Meet 60wattsmax a very cool man who absolutly knows about mid century lighting. I saw the his stall at the farmers market, St Marks Church, Kennington, London. I knew this little anglepoise lamp would be perfect in my flat. But on this day Mr 60wattmax couldn’t take card payments due to having had his card reader stolen when his car was broken into the night before, so he asked us customers to pay on line when we got home, trusting us to take our purchases away with out paying. Love the vibe. Mid century nerds go there and check out his stall. Or find him on Instagram @60wattmax, fabulous glasswear and pottery.

WHO KNEW WOO WOO

So there I was standing out side Under Cover Records next to Streatham Hill Station, SW London. I live in the area but never walk past this shop, I see it when I sit in traffic but if I do walk past it is always on the other side of the street. I was hanging around waiting for my niece, she is the daughter of my late brother Guy, who sadly passed away several years ago. I saw this album by Freddie Mercury in the window and it made me smile as my brother was one of those bad guy types.

As I was taking a photo to share with my niece the man in the shop called me in. I told him the reason that I had taken the photo and he said “I am reading you”. Ok me thinks, and I just stand there whilst this mirrored my thoughts and conversations that I had had over the previous 24 hours. WTF, yep, kind of woo woo. But I do not want to make light of this because it is something real in the unreal and sometimes its useful to have that mirror held up in front of you and see yourself as others see you.

The record shop man / shaman, said he plays a record and sees who hears the music feels the vibe and connects with the shop.

As a 1970’s kid I was reminded of a TV program called Mr Ben, an animated program about a man who goes into a fancy dress shop, changes character and has an experience.

Well I invite you to try this for yourself, I doubt that I imagined this, you might not have the same experience, but if you like vinyl then your curiosity could be, at best satisfied.

Painting over the facts – young men and suicide

It’s a shocking title, I know, but it’s a shocking state of affairs. The hypocrisy of the art world, to see value in what the artist might have been punished for. The value of being seen to be cool and on trend with out taking a risk or even caring. Art, cash, selling out, moving up, moving on……

My son is now an established graffiti artist. I have learnt a lot from him about the writings on the wall and respect what is behind the images. The sense of person, an anonymous creation and unknown identity. It’s a very cool way for young people to express themselves in this world of constant gratification and a need to be seen and liked. It’s a massive worry for me as his mum, its high risk and is also illegal. However I admire his passion and appreciate that he found a place in a community he feels aligned with. Recently we were at a super fancy high end art show in London, where we spotted for sale the mother and baby piece by Stik, http://stik.org it was framed in iron and made of brick….My son said its amazing to think that Stik would have risked a criminal conviction and injury for this and I felt depressed to think that it will be housed in the home of the super wealthy. I want to raise a point that I took a photo of the green and pink piece, sprayed on the wall of the tunnel under the railway line on tooting common (SW London) because I liked it. Of course the council painted over it later on with dull grey paint. I said the wall looked better with the art work on it. My son said but the council won’t let us have these spaces where we can express ourself safely…..I could go on but I want to get to something very important. My son took to graffiti for his teenage angst, and in our city we know that money has been taken away from youth services and also young men are extremely vulnerable. The picture at the top POWE.R is taken on my high st in Streatham SW London, and yes it’s a massive piece of what some will call vandalism but it has been created in memory of the late owner of the tag POWE.R, sadly he committed suicide earlier this year. No doubt it will soon be painted over but we can not paint over the fact that another young male takes his life in a world that wants to cover it all up.

I wish I could say more, be more articulate, I wish these young people would come forward to speak to the aurthorities who shut them down, paint over them or actively do not support the needs of young men in our society.

I hope someone sees this who can raise more awareness and keep the narrative very much alive in the public domain, not paint over the issues.

The Power of Now

IMG_0496I was sitting reading The Power Of Now, by Eckhart Tolle in a cafe in Havana when the person next to me asked what the book is about. Simon is Cuban and genuinely didn’t have a clue about what I was talking about. In fact he thought that it is was crazy to have to have this concept of now explained in a book. What kind of people are we in the developed world?

One that spends a lot of money on these books, I told him that the book is an international best seller and I first read it 18 years ago. I could see he was doing the sums and watched his jaw drop. I sort of felt a bit daft. Afterall what was I doing sitting in Havana with a stunning view, in a place full of colour and vibrancy reading how to be in the now when the now is now….know what I mean.

I said that sometimes we need to see the words that will remind us to be present and by reading we learn and we become aware of what can be a better and easier way of being. That in our busy lives we forget how to slow down, how to breathe and are so consumed with a drama in our head that we don’t know how to find ourselves in the present time, that is Now.

I was speaking a different language within a different language, talk about making a mess of the moment.

I just closed the book and made conversation instead.

New finds and New Friends

Am back again with my theme of the gift of time along with doing what I enjoy and sharing my stories on collecting and where this takes me.

So here I am in Havana Vieja, the old district.  Just in the corner of Plaza de Armes towards the port  I stumble across a collectors market, feeling tired and hungry but  I couldn’t resisit a quick peak. It’s a small place, old books, coins, stamps, little things from a time gone by a hint of another era. There are cameras, postcards, and posters, the usual revolution era ones, most of these are reproduced but they are great.
Some thing catches my eye and as much as don’t want to I can’t help myself asking about a poster with former President Obama on it, and here my joureny starts. I love the poster  for several reasons. It now seems controversal to like Obama, but I remeber when he won and how excited the world felt, that energy reverberated, it was time of hope. This is a collectors market and full of things from the past, we buy these things as a memory of that time. The poster causes a reaction here as people want change to happen fast and there was a lot of hope invested in Obamas visit. I do not want to make any sort of political statement here, all I am saying is change often starts with a hope and a vision and then conversation. That first step can be the hardest one.
All that said I am a fan, and I love political satire and social commentary.
Here is when the conversation starts with Raul the stall holder who sensing my interest shares with me his love of the artist Ares who created the poster. I am familiar with the poster but didn’t know anything about the artist who is one of the few graphic artists to show successfully outside of Cuba.
Raul then shows me more posters and I am leaning toward the ones that are contemporary, mostly by Ares and I feel a purchase coming on. I know my family will love them too so I am justifying this as not just reminders of my time in Havana but good gifts that I will enjoy giving.
So the deal is done, I will have to go back in a few days having changed money and have to find something to protect them in on the journey home.
Celebration lunch  roof top restaurant where Hemingway stayed. Here is a good poster by Ares for a new bar, saying Hemingway was not here, a reference to a city committed to its grand restoration to pay homage to every thing and everyone that has a historic value.
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More wondering and I find Ares’s studio where students can study his work, I get to eavesdrop on a lecture for teenagers on his art. The government is intent on educating people here about all aspects of culture, they are re learning old trades for restoration on an industrious scale.
On route I see an art shop that I suspect will have the art tube for me to transport the poster’s in.
Contactless  payments doesn’t happen here, in every sense of the word. If you are making a purchase then there will be some sort of contact made with that person, or maybe its a connection with the person who you are making the exchange with. Even in simple exchanges there is a conversation to be had, all the time my Spanish improves if only on a moderate level but my confidence in speaking is improving along with my ability to really listen. Something that I feel has been lost in our super fast world at home.
The challenge in contrast to the ease that I have in London was one of my many reasons for traveling and being in a city where simple things like taking money from the cash machine is not a given.
First stop, queue at the bank, one of my £100 Euro notes has a very little tear on the edge and is rejected, no worries in the bigger scheme of things as I am sure that when I go to Italy later in the year this note will be fine. But at this stage I am not sure what use a bank card is here. I get the cash and go to the market to pay for the posters followed by a search of something to carry them home in. As suspected the art shop has the tube but I don’t have enough cash on me which means a walk back to my Casa and back to the bank. An assurance that I can use my bank card if I need to in future as I see my in case of emergency cash depleting. To the art shop, by the art tube, which I make a mental note to never travel without again. Back to the market and for a much-needed coffee with Raul.
Raul and I chat about our  shared  love of collecting, the periods in history that we like along with his taste in American rock music and English punk. We share photos of our family and when he learns that my daughter makes period costumes for theatre we arrange another meet up so that he can give me a gift for her of illustrations of period costumes.
In the meantime I post on Facebook the posters and let friends at home know that I if they want any I will buy them and bring them back, a win win, Raul makes sales and we get to enjoy this art which is not so easy for us to get in the UK.
The pictures that Raul gives me for my daughter are incredible, taken from a book from the late 1800’s, from a french book, illustrated fashion from the day.  He is finding these things in house clearances. Can you imagine finding books from that era in England and what they are worth.
So this morning its back to the bank, with my art tube and to the market, my life is Hanava is beginning to feel like my life at home.
And so this story goes on, Raul now shows me these posters from the 1970’s fashion and working women.

One Woman, One City, One Month

It’s about time.

Here I am in Havana, Cuba in February, a very welcome change to the weather at home in the UK and I am experiencing total gratitude for gifting myself with this time. “Thanks to yourself” I hear you ask. well yes, it me, my idea, my vision, my dream whatever you want to call it but I would say YES to gifting myself with time. In our world time is a currency, we either have it in abundance or not enough of it, time is measured and it is billed, it has a value that more often than not we do not connect to. We are aware of money and how long it takes us to make it without giving much thought to how long it takes to spend it. So what I am saying is this is a gift to me from an investment of time and money earned over my working life to  invest in my dreams of a reality that I now want to live, experience and enjoy.

My first choice is Havana, and for me right now it was a right one to make.

Before coming here I had heard several opinions from people who don’t really know me about their experiences in Havana. I was shocked by their reactions, what I got was a projection of their experience which with some different levels of extreme was what I would call a toxic dump. Urm, I have never being one to knowingly put out someone elses fire but one persons reaction was visceral, they even used the word anger that I was staying in Havana for a month without seeing the beauty of the whole of cuba.

Hey ho, another persons visions of a dream is someone elses vision of hell, ce la vie.

I live in London, and am busy most of the time, there are things that have to be done and things that I like to do and things that must be done. Time is pretty much taken up with doing. To be honest I like doing and will be doing in Havana, in fact I am doing a lot here and I love it. The difference is ‘doing’ on my terms which by other people standards is that for me it will be a month to do what some people will do in 1 week or 4 days or less.

Which brings me back to time, in London,  conversations have been reduced to text, not so much of the spoken word and text is now being replaced by imogis. All this smart phone technology and we are reduced to experiencing ourselves through a sticker designed by someone else. Oh Wow, evaluation……

Holiday time, by this I mean time at home, Christmas or whatever family time we might have. It’s a big deal because its one of the few times that everyone makes an effort to get together and talk to each other face to face, over meals that they make togther and maybe exchange a well-considered gift.

So here I am in Havana with a gift of time and what I am to do, or now after a week into my trip, what I am doing.

Well first question should really be hows it going? And I will say it is going good, thanks.

Any anxiety that I might have absorbed from others negativity was soon diminished by my own reality in feeling happy to be here. It is everything that I hoped and expected. I am comfortable and capable and time is my friend.

I am lost in wonder by the scale of urban decay, I am immersed in the layers of past revealing itself though worn out shades of colour, broken tiles, sun damage, sea damage and war damage. Buildings without roofs, people living in derelict buildings that chime with noise and vibrate with industrial labour. Peeping through the gaps in doors there are the picture post card images of what we know to be relative poverty compared to western standards, (why that is a photo opportunity I don’t know, I guess it’s a glimpse of a life been lived) old style shabby chic. Yes there are men sitting in shorts on PVC sofas eating food. Its grimy, choked up with exhaust fumes from the old cars, there is no sense of heath and safely. Behind doors I see what is left of a stair case, I see people restoring furniture, I see small factories with people at sewing machines, I see the interiors of homes with so little physical substance, I see an upholsterer at work and restoration on the scale of what looks like something from the italian renascence.

I also see colour and feel the vibrancy of the people and the sunshine bouncing off the buildings, there is music and dancing everywhere.

I see progress, it’s on a collective scale, everyone is in this together, there is something for everyone. As the historical restoration replaces what has been, and still is a demolished city, it is a city is in transition, whilst been true to its identity and community this is a time of change. The romance and the old style charm is not just been replaced but enhanced, drawn out from the rubble that has held its memories, nothing has but everything is changing.

Oh for the gift of time, to immerse myself in this vision, lost in the decorative beauty, the long conversations and laughing with exchanges in a different language, taking time to try, to be vulnerable to understand myself better through experience. taking time for change.

VINTAGE TEXTILES – reworking prints

I love to live with pattern, print and colour. Layering patterns and textures is visually stimulating but also draws out our desire for being tactile. The love of touch and feel. The print’s that I collect are genuine vintage and most are archived in museums. For me they are an art form from the past, they are a direct link to a time and era. I rework the prints to offer clients and mid-century collectors  accessories that complaint their furniture collections. The fabrics are in good condition, having not been used before. I do not rework something that has been a former curtain but do have a small stock of curtains which are often used in back drops and set designs. I have a shop on Etsy where you can see what I have in stock. https://www.etsy.com/shop/FabulousNelly

How Did I get here?

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Two years  ago I had the random idea to sell our family home. The idea came from nowhere but it was inspired. It was time for a change, I was approaching 50 and having created a working life based around my family needs, my family needs had changed, the kids were becoming independent and I had time on my hands. I didn’t want to change my work commitments but there was a gap of time that only so much dog walking could fill. Not quite a mid-life crisis but a need to change. I began to think about how I wanted to live and what I wanted to do and then how I could create all of this. There is a phrase ‘pre retirement’ it seemed to tick the box. People who aren’t ready to give up work but are reducing their commitment to work and making time for something new. Time I have realised is a luxury and it was the thing I had the most of. I Wanted to re connect to the passions of my younger years whilst I have the energy to be that passion. These being my former career as a designer, vintage collecting of fashion and textiles, traveling and being involved in the arts. Communicating and engaging in a world outside of school routine, work and family commitments. It’s a liberating thing to let go. When I moved from our family house of 17 years I had edited my life to a few boxes of memories,  and the things that I needed. My daughter was about to leave home and my son who at 14 wasn’t ready to give up on his childhood and  brought the most with him. We downsized from a Victorian London house into a 1930’s period apartment block, that bit sounds cool. Our apartment though had not been cleaned or changed since 1975 (40 years). And so the story begins.