A post I wrote for the Art for Wellbeing blog on the process of making art.
We’ve just completed the Circus, Fairground and Magic project and what a great 10 weeks it has been. This theme had lots of really interesting possibilities and the group produced some fantastic pieces of work.
During the project we had lots of conversations about making art, how you have to take it bit by bit and not overthink the outcome. We talked about how during the process of making a piece of art it is common to go through several stages. At first you might be full of ideas, then perhaps overwhelmed by all of the possibilities. Once you’ve picked an idea progress might come quickly and it feels new and exciting. There often seems to come a point when you lose that enthusiasm, perhaps it isn’t turning out how you thought it would, or perhaps you run into a challenge. At this point it can feel like you want…
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Well, this year, what can I say…
It’s been a year of collective tragedies and personal highlights. Change, transformation, chaos and reorganising. At the Art Academy we’re doing a project on Liminality. And I couldn’t think of a better word to describe where I am at now. Between places, eras, ideas. And where we are at as a planet, a chaos before the reforming.
I’m feeling the call to hibernate at the moment. To process all that I have created, to let ideas simmer and to build energy for what’s to come next year.
Collectively we have a lot of work to do and need to nurture ourselves in order to do it. Personally I have so much I want to try and experiment with. I have new exciting projects to participate in, people to meet, a new town to explore. But also challenges, a chronic health condition to navigate and a relearning of my limits.
Everything has turned out differently this year, plans have changed and I am entering a new period of my life. It’s exciting and terrifying.
For those of you who came on my courses last year, and have signed up to my email list, I’m still processing this and figuring out a way forward, but stay with me!
More than ever I believe in creativity as a way forward, for individuals and for society. I think we need to be creating, sharing, encouraging and protecting each other and my plan is to figure out how I can best be part of doing this.
That’s all I can say for now. I’ll be sharing some projects I’ve been working on over the next few months, and continuing to process, rest and build up strength.
I was really excited to find out that a piece of writing of mine was to be included in a Psychogeograpy Zine to be included in the LRM’s Loitering with Intent: The Art and Politics of Walking in Manchester and Beyond – at the People’s History Museum, Manchester.
The exhibition is on until October 16th and is a must see if you’re interested in the themes of Psychogeography, Situationism and how we interact with the cities we inhabit. It’s also one of my favourite museums, with historical objects representing the struggles and lives of the people.
The piece of writing was a collection of thoughts around a residency I completed during the summer/ Autumn of 2015. I have been thinking a lot about the city that I’ve made my home over the last 12 years, and that I spend my childhood visiting. Noticing the frequent changes over the past few years and the feelings of loss and nostalgia that is promoting in me.
Some of the places I talked about in the piece have already been demolished, in just 6 months since I wrote it. Here it is, with an accompanying image from the work that was produced during the residency.
A Different Kind of Map: Imprint of a trading estate
During the summer of 2015 I found myself becoming obsessed with an area of Salford – the ‘other’ city – where unmanicured space still exists, a place on the brink of change. This place with the best view of the Manchester skyline and green space that helped me to breathe. Open space, a rare commodity in cities.
I’d find myself crossing the Irwell and sitting in the stillness of the Princes Bridge. A bridge for pedestrians and cyclists. Entering the no-man’s-land between the two cities. One shiny and one exposed and raw.
They say the city is for consumption, ‘People factories’, traditional industry now transitioned to the business of high-rise office blocks and dystopian gleaming private spaces. Contained and restricted. But this place tells a different story.
Clover, nettles, buddleia, thistle, the roar of traffic and the sound of water. Cranes and buildings creeping up, gated and fenced off. The clatter and screech of trains and the banging of construction. A place for passing through. And then, down the steps and into this edge land of both cities.
This area in the process of being discussed, bought and branded. Remnants of activity common to edge lands. In transition, with developments springing up and ‘unused’ land being cleared. An area that was once used by industry now seems unused and unloved, but in reality, used in ways which seem unfathomable to those in the business of development.
I began documenting and capturing fragments of this environment. Wandering and observing, taking in the space in a way that I hadn’t before. Making use of things that existed in the environment that shouldn’t have; paint, board, scraps of metal, plant-life. Taking away and gathering. An archaeology of sorts. Found objects were displayed, altered, added to, encased, re-purposed, weeds pressed, berries collected and jam produced. Equivalents were made, maps, rubbings, drawings, photographs.
In responding to and exploring this environment in an unstructured way, I unconsciously created a visual map of its un-mappable parts. On a map just a series of blank squares; but actually an area rich in stories, traces of objects and alternative uses. I aimed to give the traces a sort of new life, a permanence. Examining the things we make, their transformation back to nature and the elements they came from – what we leave behind and what sticks around. Spaces captured before they cease to exist.
And, bubbling under the surface are always the big questions. Questions around the value of land, ownership and consumption. Questions about our society’s obsession with productivity and concern for those spaces and buildings that are in between monetary usefulness.
Walking and collecting as document of space and time.
I wandered and gathered. And from that, a new kind of map was formed…
You can pick up a physical copy of the zine here – it’s a beautiful object with some really fascinating work included.
January. A time to take stock of what’s working and what’s not. Resolving to do better this year. Worrying that nothing will change. Again. Losing those 30 pounds… for real this time. Giving up all foods that contain white sugar and flour. Going gluten free. Joining the gym. Taking up yoga. Quitting smoking. Quitting drinking. Quitting gambling. Quitting failing. January in the western world is full of anticipation and anxiety as we look for a fresh start – as we look for something that will keep us moving into the life that we want.
How might we take the start of another calendar year to surrender into a version of life that is simply… enough? What it would be like to be satisfied – really satisfied – with exactly where we are, regardless of what our external life situation might look like? How can we use our everyday actions to…
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It’s been a busy old year. So many exciting things have happened, my artistic practice has come on in leaps and bounds and I have been making, making, making!
I’ve also been facilitating lots of groups, witnessed people’s creativity expanding, met lots of different kinds of people through my community work and been inspired by the way they approach art making.
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about creative hibernation, or down time. As artists we tend to think we should be making all of the time. When I’ve had periods where ideas don’t seem to come to me or I feel stuck, I have tried to push through it, and motivating myself can be really tough, leading to me feeling bad about myself.
This year though I am embracing this period as a chance to process what I’ve been doing. Consciously and unconsciously. And I’m starting to see my creativity and art practice as something that moves in cycles, just as nature does.
Here’s some things I’ll be doing over winter to honor this period of the cycle;
- Having a lot of rest.
- Connecting with friends and family.
- Organising my supplies, tidying up ready for the new period of creating to begin.
- Reading a lot around the themes I’ve been interested in over the year.
- Reviewing my year and choosing my word of the year – so I’m able to consciously choose what my 2016 might feel like.
- Making connections and looking at the work I’ve been producing.
- Writing and discussing ideas.
How do you feel about your practice at this time of year? I’d love you to share any things that you do (or don’t do) when you’re in a period of creative rest! See you on the other side!
I always do this workbook by Susannah Conway at the end of every year. It’s so good to reflect on what’s happened and plot out my hopes and dreams for the new year! I love her writing style and all of the tools she provides. Also I love choosing a word for the year. This year mine was Brilliance (more about that in a future post) Best of all it’s totally free!
I love this process as it feels much more genuine than setting resolutions for things I want. This helps me focus on how I want to feel, which is so much more important.
I wanted to share this with you all – and encourage you to check out Susannah’s website. Beautiful photography and words and really inspiring!