Illuminate

DSCF4704

The long school holidays are over and my two children are settling back into school and the new old routine of getting up early to catch the school taxi which takes them to school. We have a great system in our area for the rurally situated children getting to school. The council supply a free (to parents) service of a ‘taxi’ who picks up all the children in the local vicinity and takes them to school, and brings them home. This service orperated when I was a little girl too, and it’s a great way to lessen how many cars are on these tiny roads.

DSCF4687

So September always feels like the start of the a new year for me, alongside my girls starting a new academic year at school. Those that caught my gloomy blog a few days ago, since deleted, will know that I’ve had a setback during the school break. In the summer my mentor/arts officer emailed to tell me she’s leaving her job, which rather knocked me sideways then upsidedown, and I’ve found myself back to square one. This was swiftly followed by a lino printing demonstration table at a local agricultural show which, though some children loved having a go at printing using my little press, didn’t feel like an overwhelming success. I’d worked hard to have some lino printed lampshades to display, with new designs, and though I got a few lovely compliments, I found it hard hearing very negative comments about my pricing and the disbelief that I actually sell my work (lots of eye rolling), even though they could see how much work goes into each and every lampshade. I realised it was the wrong setting for my kind of work but I still drove home in tears. This is the first time I’ve done anything like this, so hearing those not very subtle harsh comments hurt, and I’m definitely not leaping about wanting to do another one!

DSCF4712

But I am bouncing back, after these two upsets. I now have a nice collection of lampshades which I really enjoyed making, and despite those few folk at the show, I’ve had some great feedback online. It has renewed my wish to carry on with enthusiasm and a desire to succeed, even though it’s not the path I was heading on before the summer. The work I’d developed back then is still in the back of mind, but first I need to focus on how to move forward with the skills and knowledge that I do have, which is drawing, printmaking and enjoying the physical nature of making things. I’ve decided to continue developing lampshade designs, which in turn can also be used for framed wall prints and maybe matching cushions and other home decor items. Following advice on my favourite Facebook group ‘Linocut Friends’, where I asked for help and advice about where to go from here, I’m going to approach some outlets whom might stock my work…interior design outlets or designers, funky lighting shops, posh boutiques etc. The hefty commission these places take will be a stumbling block, but something I will have to accept and work with.

DSCF4716

I’ve a few ideas for some new designs to try. Hares for one! Having decided never to do hares due to them being everywhere on everything, all over the place, I’m going to embrace those elegant long~eared beauties in my own quirky style. I hope I will gain confidence the more I do, and get more and more adventurous exploring animal themes and colour. So far all my (lampshade) designs have been printed in a way that means each and every one will differ from the other. This uniqueness and lack of repetition is important to me and will continue, though it does mean each one takes much longer to print! I like the idea that people who purchase one of my pieces will know no~one else will have one exactly the same. The crossover between craft and art. My current range of lampshades can be found here on Etsy

Once again, please wish me luck!DSCF4697

Advertisements

The Underpants Gnomes’ master plan…

I seem to be having endless new starts or new directions in my sporadic blogs. I hope my next one will be different.

But here I am again!

This blog is going to be a stream of consciousness as I’ve been in turmoil all week and need to write down all my thoughts to try and make some sense of what I want to do. By writing, the words have to make sense to a reader, therefore formulated logically in my mind beforehand. I need to formulate my thoughts and get them down, in the hope that tomorrow I will enter my studio with more clarity and focus.

Before we moved house I’d got in touch with our (wonderful) local Arts Officer who was recommended by a new artist friend. After a couple of postponed meetings (moving house), we finally met to discuss what I’m doing, where I’m going, where I want to be and how she can help.

That’s a lot to discuss!

These questions have been swirling around my poor foggy brain for about 2 years, hence the many new directions and false starts. I’ve been feeling lost since I joined the Crafts Council and tried to move forward with Socktacular by having pieces in galleries and trying to get to the next level, but I felt it all came crashing round me and this failure knocked my confidence and feeling of worth. Despite how it may look, I want and need to succeed in something I’m good at, but I’ve not known how to achieve this. I’m like the Underpants Gnomes from South Park.

What went wrong with Socktacular? In order to have work in galleries, I had to raise the prices to cover the commission a gallery take from every sale (up to 50%), but by doing that I went from selling every piece, often before I’d even finished it, to not selling any…not a single one. I can’t tell you how crushing that was. I realised there was an upper limit to what people would pay for an art doll made of socks, perhaps because of the association they have with the toys. And as is the case with a lot of textile work, the prices I’d been charging in no way reflected the hours that went into each and every doll. That was the start of a Socktacular decline for me. I love those little sock art dolls and they’ve given me so much pleasure to make, most of the time, but it seemed like I got as far as I could with them and there was no future to work towards. Maybe I gave up too easily; I didn’t stop making them, but the spark had dimmed. I’m not one for churning out the same thing like a machine; I need different challenges and to make an actual real living from my work and I realised Socktacular couldn’t offer me either of those things. Books and animation had been suggested along the way and are on the back burner to maybe revisit. I have pondered setting up workshops in how to make a Socktacular doll and my arts officer has suggested a way this could be achieved…so that door hasn’t closed.

So, once I’d recovered from my self pity and licked my wounds, I started to think what else I could do, maybe alongside Socktacular (or not) and printmaking bounced up shouting ‘pick me, pick me!‘. It’s been an interesting and challenging journey of experimentation, relearning techniques, getting back into drawing and really working hard at deciding what kind of images I want to create, with a very strong desire to make it work. Although I discovered that there are a huge amount of exceptional printmakers out there so the chance of getting noticed or being ‘discovered’ were very slim, and my confidence wavered a little (hello again), I was/am happy with the point I’d reached before we moved house and was starting to sell pieces. I had lots of ideas for new work and developing a range of lampshades.

Photographic evidence of my procrastination this week.

So back to my meeting.

I was nervous about meeting the arts officer, though she came highly recommended as very professional, enormously helpful but also a lovely person too. I hoped I was good enough to deserve her help and that I won’t be a disappointment in the future. I’ve reached a point where I need help, to stop me going round in circles. Going right back to my art college days, I’ve never been exactly sure of what I wanted to do. I enjoyed sculpture and focused on that area as I had to choose, but I loved printmaking too. Since graduating the sculpting has been difficult to achieve due to various reasons (the kind of sculpture I love doing is very messy) so in order to satiate my need to do art, I’ve ended up dipping my toes in lots of things. And 23 years later I have realised that I have become Jack of All Trades, Master of None! I need to hone in on one aspect that I love, whether that is a subject matter or technique.

This week has been so very hard and my inner gremlin, my biggest critic, has been working over time. My arts officer gave me some homework to do before our next meeting. I’ve been instructed to play! Which sounds like the best homework ever! But my goodness it’s sent me into a spiral of self doubt and the realisation that I have no idea what I want to do in order to achieve stage 3 of the Underpants Gnomes’ master plan. But my arts officer can’t do anything for me if I have no clear path to follow and no solid consistent work to show anyone. Every decision I’ve made these last 5 years has been powered by the need to try and sell what I make. It’s become an all consuming driving force that has taken over every aspect of my creativity, and now I’ve been instructed to abandon that decision maker, leaving me empty and with questions I can’t yet answer. Do I want to make sculptures, do printmaking, drawing or a bit of everything? Do I want to go back to Fine Art? If I choose Fine Art, do I now have what it takes to succeed where I haven’t in the past? Do I want to follow an Applied Arts path, which I’ve often thought would have suited me better than Fine Art, if those courses had been available when I was studying? Do I have what it takes? Can I overcome my (recently identified) imposter syndrome?  Do I want to find one thing that works and stick to that without deviating…I’m starting to understand and appreciate why many artists, once they’ve found a ‘product’ that is successful, don’t deviate from it because starting again is exhausting and risky? How does one play with no clear structure or objective?

I have managed to answer a few questions though. I have identified that I am not a landscape or cityscape artist, nor figurative…so that leaves me with the natural world of animals and other creatures, which I like doing. Tick. I’m not a painter. Tick. I’m not keen on doing or having to think about backgrounds. Tick. Question, does that dictate I should re~explore sculpture?  What else…? Another question, if I’m an ‘Animal Artist’, do I want to be making social/environmental statements, just celebrate animals and creatures for their beauty, form, colour etc, explore myths and folklore (all these things have been mentioned in previous blogs), or produce a range of ‘products’ along the lines of lampshades: I do like designing, printing and making up lampshades but can I sustain that indefinitely? Another thing I’ve identified that is important to me is I enjoy the physical process of making art far more than thinking of the initial ideas…though the lack of ideas of which I’ve always suffered, is due I now realise, because I’ve never answered any of the above questions, ever!

So how does one play, with all these things swirling about? I’m approaching 45…not a carefree 20 year old!

My attempts at playing this week:

 

If anyone has been in this situation and cares of offer any advice or insight, I’d be enormously grateful!