Kenya 2.0: I’m back! Or did I ever leave?

I’ve been called nomadic by several people. It is true that I don’t associate home with a specific location, but rather with a place where I feel comfortable and I can read, write and do my creative things. Therefore, the question of being back or going away is a tricky one. Is it even a goodbye or a welcome back when you feel at home in many different places? I’m writing this post because I’ve been back in Kenya for about 2.5 weeks now and planning to stay for longer. I want to share the creative projects I’m doing here.

My stay here now is different from the last time though. The first time I came to Kenya to do research for my master thesis which is finished now. This time I’m back for love and to see if I can make a life for myself here with all the skills I’ve learned so far in life. In this article, I’ll show you the art projects I brought, and I’ll also tell you a bit more about my plans in Kenya.

The Quilt Projects

Quilting the Kenyan quilt

 

The work on this quilt occupied most of my previous six months in Kenya and the five months I spend in the Netherlands to finish my studies. Now, the quilt top is finished and the quilt is ready to be quilted. When you quilt you sew through all the layers of a quilt to keep the layers together. I already made a start with the quilting as you can see in the picture:

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I won’t show a photo of the complete top, because that is a surprise for next week’s post. You can read more about The Kenyan Quilt here:

Crazy quilt blanket

This project was started on the aeroplane to Kenya. The top is made from leftovers of The Kenyan Quilt and an old scarf. Part of the scarf is used in some tote bags I made as presents. However, the scarf fabric was so soft I wanted to use it as a blanket as well. I call it a crazy quilt because I’m using many different embroidery stitches to sew through the layers. In this way, I am teaching myself to embroider.

Crazy quilt blanket
Crazy quilt blanket

The Dear Jane sampler quilt

Last time I went to Kenya I missed working on my Dear Jane quilt. And these days, my motivation to finish this quilt in the next ten years has even increased because I reached the 100 blocks milestone! Now there are only about 160 blocks to go… The first Dear Jane block in Kenya is finished:

Dear Jane Quilt Block C-7: Megan's Mountain Laurel
Dear Jane Quilt Block C-7: Megan’s Mountain Laurel

The Cross Stitch Projects

Death of Discworld cross stitch

This piece is part of an art trade where I get awesome dragon scale gloves. The pattern is by Lyndisfarne Cross Stitch, who makes trademarked Discworld patterns. The Discworld series are satirical fantasy books by one of my favourite authors Terry Pratchett (GNU). Check them out if you like fantasy, humour or social commentary.

Discworld cross stitch Lyndisfarne

Unconventional X stitch giant octopus cross stitch

It always looks amazing to combine something most people associate with homeliness, such as cross-stitch, with something macabre. Most of the patterns Unconventional X stitch (UXS)  creates are like that. I am a fan of the work UXS  does and what that means for the cross-stitch community. UXS their work helps to reach a bigger audience for cross stitch because of the original patterns they offer. As a tribute to that effort, I decided to make one of their patterns for myself. I finished a big part of the bottom and it is exciting to see this pattern come to life. The fabric is from Jodyri Designs.

 

Shards of Fire dragon cross stitch

This pattern is made by another person in the cross-stitch world I greatly admire: Pinkythepink. The pattern is based on original artwork by Euclidstriangle. Both my love for dragons and bold colours is big, so when I saw this pattern, I had to make it. I was not aware of a large amount of speciality thread and stitches this pattern uses though, many I had never seen before! But I won’t let that surprise stop me. I will rather see it as a learning opportunity to expand my skills and knowledge of cross-stitching. So far, I love the process of learning how to use the speciality thread.

Hot air balloons cross stitch

This is a big cross stitch project I brought to Kenya last time, and since it’s not finished yet I carried it again. This is a kit from AlieExpress I ordered to see if they’re any good. For the longest time, I was very suspicious about the thread choices of this kit. However, the past week I started filling in the top right corner and it is coming together nicely now. Thank God for perseverance.

Embroidery Projects

People suck embroidery

 My friend is coaxing me to make an embroidery piece for the Big Memory Quilt I’m making for her. I do it gladly for her though because she gave me a great drawing as inspiration:

people suck T drawing with the sunflower idea

This embroidery will become part of a big memory quilt I’m making for her. A lot of her old childhood clothes and such are used in that quilt.

Coat of many colours badge

I wanted to make my boyfriend a coat of many colours. However, I don’t know how to do sew clothes yet. So, this badge is going to be the first step to achieve my bigger plan. The picture below gives you an idea of what I’m going for.

coat.jpg

What will I do in Kenya?

My goal is to continue my research into the future of pastoralism and conservation. In the coming months, I’ll be writing proposals and meeting with people to decide which exact direction to take with my work. Besides research, I also want to write for non-academic publications about my research and experiences in Kenya. One place is the Dutch Website WereldWijven. I believe it is important to share your research and experiences with other people. If there is a way to make people benefit from the research, I will find it and execute it.

One of the events I joined so far to work out research plans is the Camel Caravan organised by IMPACT, the organization I collaborated with for my research. The Camel Caravan is a yearly event that aims to create awareness about the challenge pastoralist people face and the importance of the Ewaso Ng’iro river in their lives. During that caravan, we walked through pastoralist areas and met many people with stories about the challenges they face. It was a great inspiration for future work. But I not only went to Kenya for my career. I also fell in love and  I want to give that love a chance.

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Conclusion: many quilts and embroideries

If you think these are a lot of projects, you are right. Not all of them must be finished though, so it doesn’t matter. I’ll just work on whatever takes my fancy and see how far I get. Some questions for you:

  • What are you planning to work on in the coming months?
  • Do you take art and creative projects with you when you go on a trip?
  • What is your favourite kind of project to work on while travelling?

In the coming months while I’m in Kenya I will update this blog as often as I can. Also, whenever I write a blog post, I’ll be sure to update you people on my adventures and work in Kenya. In the meantime you can also find me on a new website I’m setting up to collect the stories I write: Bella G. Bear Writes.

Would you like to know more?

 Next week’s post:

– A showcase of the finished Kenyan quilt top


See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: bella.g.bear.art) for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.

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