Woo-hoo! I’ve booked to go to a day of Dances of Universal Peace with Allaudin Ottinger!

Yesterday, I booked to go to a day of Dances of Universal Peace at Sparkford Hall, near Yeovil in Somerset. It’s not long to wait, either – Saturday, 9th January 2010.

I’ve only ever seen Allaudin on YouTube videos, and he doesn’t often travel to the UK, so it will be great to get the chance to go to a Dance Day with him. He has a very joyful approach, and the Dances of his that I’ve previously done with other dance leaders are just great.

Allaudin Ottinger, a US dance leader for the Dances of Universal Peace

Here’s a brief biography of Allaudin:

Allaudin was born in Kansas City, Missouri. A lifelong dedication to music, gathering people together and pursuit of the miraculous, led him to study Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. This in turn led him to “Sufi Dancing” in the college town of Lawrence, Kansas circa 1976. More experiences in Sufism followed, which led to a deep darshan with Murshid Moineddin in the spring of 1978. Allaudin took initiation and a short time later found himself the leader of the Kansas City Sufi Center. It was 1979, he was 22 years old and he had a burning in his soul that this was important work.

In 1980, Allaudin was made a Cherag in the Universal Worship by Murshida Fatima and has officiated at the marriage of many couples across the nation. Throughout the next decade Allaudin led hundreds of Dance and Sufi meetings in Kansas City. In 1982 Allaudin began the still continuing Ozark Sufi Camp, where thousands have learned about the path of Sufism. His career as a travelling musician was blossoming through all these years as he played drums in every kind of ensemble but especially the internationally recognized jazz and world music collective, BCR Band. In 1989 Murshid Wali Ali made Allaudin a Sheikh in the Ruhaniat. Allaudin’s work life includes the field of education, museum exhibit and design. He has published his own well loved collection of Dances, Zikrs and Tavern Songs called “In The Everywhere and Always”

Allaudin will only be in the UK for a couple of weeks, leading a Retreat over the New Year at Hazel Hill Wood near Salisbury, then doing three dance day events – the Sparkford Hall full dance day, a Zikr evening in Glastonbury on Thursday 7th January and an afternoon of Dances at Richmond and Putney Unitarian Church, London, on Sunday 10th January.

Here are the contact details, if you’d like to go, too:

(The Hazel Hill Wood Retreat, near Salisbury, Wiltshire is already fully booked, apparently)

Glastonbury Zikr – Chris at CThorpe@educ.somerset.gov.uk

Sparkford Hall, near Yeovil, Somerset –  Patricia at patriciamettica@yahoo.co.uk

Richmond & Putney Unitarian Church – Lindsay at lindsayastevens@blueyonder.co.uk

Places need to be booked in advance, and some of them have discounts if you pay sooner rather than later!

Other events, which take place all over the UK, can be found on the Dances of Universal Peace website.


More thoughts on doodle embroidery

Since my previous post, it’s been bugging me as to why the interest in doodle embroidery has caught on. Partly, it’s due to a couple of authors bringing out books featuring that style of embroidery, so that it’s been put in the public eye. I think at least one of them has a business selling the designs featured in the book she’s published.

My book 'Miniature Needlepoint Carpets', published in 1996, which is now only available second-hand

I’ve no problem with that – I did the same when my book ‘Miniature Needlepoint Carpets’ came out in 1996. Now, it’s only available second-hand, though – it’s been out of print for over five years. Blame Guild of Master Craftsman Publications – they decided to remainder it, not me! Most of the designs from the book are still available individually as chart packs from my website, though.

What interests me, in particular, is what grabs the imagination of the public and makes them think ‘Mmm, I’d like to do that’, once they see a certain style appearing, that’s new to them. Is it really the idea that they want to stitch something, but think that, as they’ve got very little time (apparently – see the previous post on this subject!), they choose a project from the perspective of the time it will take to finish, rather than the enjoyment they will have while they are creating it?

When I used to sell my miniature needlepoint kits at needlecraft shows around the country (I don’t attend shows any more, I sell only from my website), people would sometimes ask, ‘How long will this one take to complete?’, and that always bemused me, as I’d never think of the ‘time cost’ when I’m considering buying a kit. What’s more important to me is the aesthetic look of the finished item, the interest I’ll get from doing (learning to do?) the various stitching or other techniques needed, the colour scheme and where I’ll put the finished item, etc. etc. Possibly the cost is a factor. But the number of hours it’ll take is virtually irrelevant – I’ll stitch it till it’s finished.

It would be like asking in a restaurant ‘How long does it take to eat that?’, and if you’re told ‘twenty minutes’, then you’d choose something smaller/easier to chew up. Doesn’t make sense, does it? You’d choose your food, hopefully, on how it tastes, not on how quickly you can stuff it down your throat.

Doodle embroidery – what is it all about?

A selection (very SMALL selection, actually!) of my embroidery books

Yesterday, I went to a really good, independent bookshop near where I live. It’s called Webberley’s, in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, and it’s a great shop. Two floors of books, both fiction and non-fiction, on all sorts of subjects. A large craft materials section makes it even better.

I was hoping to browse through their craft/embroidery books section, and maybe make a few suggestions to ‘Santa’, as he’d come, ready-prepared, with his credit card. However, I came away disappointed, and not for the first time, after looking through recent embroidery book titles.

It’s not the shop’s fault – I know they can only buy in what’s available from the publishers – but I find the latest ‘craze’ for books on ‘quick and easy’ embroidery extremely depressing. The projects in the books seem to all be things like ‘how to stitch three buttons onto a shop-bought cushion, add some lazy daisy stitches and you’ve got a wonderful addition to your home’. No you haven’t, actually.

And why are the only ‘allowable’ colour schemes brown, brown, and more brown?

And don’t start me on ‘doodle embroidery’! What’s that all about? Take a line drawing of something that looks like bad clipart (is there such a thing as ‘good’ clipart?), and then backstitch over all the lines, often in just one colour. Voila! Erm…you’ve then got a line drawing that’s been backstitched over. What do you then DO with it?

The embroidery books that I’ve loved to collect over the years are truly inspirational. Gorgeous photography, projects that have your fingers itching to start as soon as you open the book, instructions so clear that even a completely new technique looks simple enough to try. Stumpwork, ribbon embroidery, thread-painting, blackwork, 3-D projects, historical items…they’re all tempting if presented in the right way.

The selling point with a lot of the designs in recent books is that they’re quick to finish. This is partly what I dislike about them. I know there is a modern myth that ‘people these days have less time’. It’s very easy to buy into that idea. However, there may be more things available to do now than in previous times, but each person still has the option of CHOOSING – and maybe that’s the real problem. Many people watch TV for five hours a day, and think that’s OK. Then they say they’ve got no time. Excuse me? Turn the thing off. Even better, get rid of it. You’d be amazed how much more can be achieved when the  time-filling, gadget-needing activities are eliminated.

If someone has little time, but still wants to do somethng creative like embroidery, I do question the idea that a project needs to be completed in one session, too. If you’ve only got half an hour a day to stitch, but you work on one project for a month (30 lots of half hours), you can easily make a very worthwhile item in a month.  What’s wrong with that?

Maybe I’m just weird 🙂

I do sometimes get the response, ‘Well, it’s OK for you, you’re a designer, so of course you like the complicated designs – it’s easy for you.’  But that idea won’t wash either, I’m afraid. I’ve never had professional training in embroidery. I taught myself, from the age of four, because I was ENTHUSIASTIC. I became very focussed on what I wanted to do, sometimes dropping other activities to allow more time for what really interested me. If people never push themselves, we’d all still be sitting in our prams, eating rusks, not achieving anything. Perhaps I’m just more determined than other people? I dunno. 

OK, rant over. I think I’ll go and have another look through the heaps of books I’ve already got on embroidery….

How to fix back pain without drugs

zero balancing
A zero balancing therapist with a client

I have had back pain of various kinds for years. A few years ago, though, I managed to find a way to alleviate the pain in a way that gives total relief, for several months at a time (until I do something stupid, such as gardening for eight hours at a stretch, or picking up a railway sleeper and carrying it for a hundred yards, tucked under one arm. Honestly.)

The treatment I have found is Zero Balancing. I first came across it through a McTimoney Chiropractor, as I had previously been attending a very good Chiropractor to help me with a balance/dizziness problem that I’d been getting. But then this particular therapist became pregnant, and went on Maternity Leave, so, for the few months that she was unavailable, I had to find another therapist to go to. The second one was a bloke (Yay! No chance of him getting pregnant and stopping work, then!). Chiropractic is a very gentle therapy anyway, but I found that his style was even more gentle than the woman that I’d previously been going to. Partly, that’s because what he was doing wasn’t just the spinal manipulation technique of McTimoney Chiropractic, but the more holistic approach of Zero Balancing, too. In a couple of years, with sessions about three months apart, I’ve had chronic insomnia sorted, my nasty dizziness sorted, and I’ve been given easy exercises to do which make working at the computer all day a lot easier to unwind from.

At one point, I had given myself a frozen shoulder, through doing embroidery for days and days, holding a hoop frame in my left hand, and doing all of the stitching with just my right, so that my whole upper left body went into spasm. The Chiropractor told me to definitely stop doing that, or I wouldn’t be able to stitch at all in a few years’ time! What a threat!

The best description I have found of what Zero Balancing actually is, is from the Zero Balancing Association UK’s website:

“Some therapies, such as osteopathy and chiropractic, address the physical structure of the body, whilst other therapies, such as homeopathy and acupuncture, seek to balance the energetics of a person. Zero balancing engages both body structure and body energy simultaneously so as to bring each into a more harmonious relationship with the other.
Disturbances in this relationship can happen as a result of accidents, repeated or chronic strain, emotional events in a person’s history or simply because of poor postural habits.Zero Balancers work to restore the normal flow of energy that permeates the bones and to align that flow with the physical structure so that the whole person functions at their best possible level.” 

I have certainly found it to be very healing, both physically and emotionally, and would recommend it to anyone with a long-standing pain problem such as mine.