There Are Going to be a Few Changes Around Here.

This Friday I attended a workshop by the amazing Patricia Van den Akker, director of the Design Trust and creator of the Dream, Plan, Do planner which is designed for creative people to help and support them in their business.

This lady kicks some ass!  She is proud of the fact that she asks the questions which hurt; which dig under the skin; which make you question what you do and why.  There was a moment during the day when it dawned on me that, as it currently stands, my business is completely unsustainable!  I cannot physically make the volume of work which I need to create (and sell!) in order to make ends meet.

IMG_20170621_153140_647

This level of work is simply unsustainable.

Whilst for some people that might sound like the end of the road, for me, sitting in the auditorium listening to this inspiring woman, it simply means ‘Look out, Guys, there are a few changes coming this way very shortly!’  In actual fact, it is a relief.  I have all but burnt myself out over the past couple of months trying to support the demand for my work and I knew something had to give.  Patricia has given me the ideas, the determination and the drive to make those changes.

One of the more entertaining exercises that she asked us to do related to considering how our own personality and artistic behaviour informed our business:  She asked us to imagine ourselves as a form of transport.  What would we be?

IMG_2763

Pitting ourselves against the elements.

I tried this out on some of the family yesterday and whilst my husband sees himself as a sailing boat because of the desire to pit himself against the elements and be challenged, my daughter visualised herself as a double decker bus, seeing above the crowds, travelling in style and at speed but able to stop regularly to pick up and set down ideas.

I would be a ferry:  I love water travel and go out of the way to be on or near the water whatever the weather.  Ferries often cross spectacular reaches of water between beautiful waterside landscapes.  Ferries help people on their journeys, they often make it easier for someone to arrive at their destination by providing a shortcut.  People love a ferry ride – it gives them a little buzz of excitement.  Indeed the King Harry Ferry in Cornwall is so popular that it has its own Webcam on which people can, and do, watch the chain ferry live as it plies backwards and forwards across the Truro River saving people a long round trip from the Roseland Peninsular to west of Truro.  Of course, being an artist, I also don’t expect to be paid until I get them to the other side!

I am Such an Exhibitionist!

During this last week the exhibition Light, Clay, Colour ended and another one, for the finalists of the Royal Arts Prize started and it has got me thinking about the nature of different types of exhibition and the pros and cons of each sort.

Our three person exhibition at Fountain Gallery attracted a lot of attention.  We must have averaged about 25 visitors per day with some days being much busier than others.  We each sold work, although I think we would all agree that we would have liked to have sold more, but at a self invigilated show such as this, at least we keep what we make.  There is no gallery commission and that has to be a huge bonus.

18447171_1827821457536619_5005787878029371307_n

Preparation takes a lot of time.

We also enjoyed plenty of feedback from our visitors.  People are not shy about saying what they like about a piece and what they don’t.  They offer comments which can spark a trail of thoughts and might eventually lead to a whole new body of work.  I had a couple of very interesting discussions along those lines and am excited to know where they might lead. On the down side however, I spent a lot of admin time on this exhibition.  Preparing press releases, most of which got me nowhere; helping to design, print and deliver fliers; organising the hanging, displaying and labelling of work; writing, editing and printing out price lists and artists’ profiles.  The list goes on!  I also had a lot of up front costs: the hire of the space, the printing of publicity materials, the drinks and nibbles for the private view to name a few.  Then, when the exhibition was on, it was down to the three of us to invigilate – that is a lot of hours sitting in the gallery!

The Royal Arts Prize exhibition is a totally different kettle of fish:

The aim of the Royal Arts Prize Exhibition and Award is to search out for and showcase artworks by artists that have embraced their individual exegesis in art, artworks that are a product of an inner balance in a world full of diversity and often chaos.
An exhibition of 26 shortlisted artists for the Royal Arts Prize. The prize will be awarded to artists that present works that are the product of an emotional connection between dream and reality; we’re exhibiting contemporary art that shows the force driving individuals to express and affirm their personality and ego, through today’s modern art landscape. A winner will be selected by a judging panel made up of Art Professionals and Artists. There will also be a Visitor’s Choice Prize awarded to the Artist with the most votes by the visiting public.
30th May – 10th June 2017
Opening times Monday to Saturday 10:30 am-6:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12.00- 5:00 pm
Admission: Free

You enter the competition, if you are fortunate enough to be shortlisted you take your chosen pieces to the gallery and leave them there.  You come back three days later for the private view where you drink their wine and eat their canapé whilst trying to look intelligent, artistic and graceful and then you swan off home and let them sell your work.

BUT . . .

  • You pay a fair price to enter the competition and there is no guarantee of being among the chosen few.
  • You have fewer pieces on show
  • You have no control over the publicity, except for a pdf invitation prepared by the gallery which you have to accept, warts and all.  In this particular case it looked great and I was really excited by it but, given the dates on the invitation, some of my guests arrived to discover that the exhibition had taken longer than expected to hang and so they had not opened on the day they had announced!  If we had been organising it ourselves we could not have got away with that.
  • You have to accept the price that they sell your work for will not necessarily be the price that you put on it and that you sometimes have little say over that.

    BridgetMacklin RAP

    Proof reading the invitation should be the gallery’s responsibility.

On the up side, the gallery has a huge and interested client base, the private view  included people that the gallery has on its mailing list, many of whom don’t know you, and so this kind of exhibition is a great opportunity for building your own customer base and you don’t pay commission for work sold.

The third sort of exhibition in which I am currently involved is through my regular gallery.  Tregony Gallery is what I would call the ‘slow burn’ of exhibiting.  I have had work with this gallery for some time now and I like to think that we are building a good relationship.  I seem to be receiving a steady flow of sales.  I don’t pay to exhibit my work but they charge me a percentage on everything that I sell through them.  This seems entirely fair given what they do in terms of invigilation, publicity and promoting their artists.  If you get a good gallery, and Tregony is, the work just sells and you get the money – well some of it at least!   I just have a responsibility to the gallery to keep supplying them with the work that they want.  The customer feedback is through Brian and Judy so it is slightly less ‘in my face’.  I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad one!  All decisions about the running of the gallery are made way over my head.  I’m dead certain that is a good thing!  So when the gallery came up with the idea of Tregony By the Sea and asked if I wanted to be involved I was thrilled!

Tregony Gallery presents ‘By the Sea’, a new event showcasing the best in contemporary and traditional artists, from locals to Londoners and recent graduates.

We are thrilled to be displaying new work and key pieces from a selection of our most talented artists and makers in the beautiful harbour setting of St Mawes.

Visit us at; Millennium Rooms, The Square, St Mawes TR2 5AG.

9 & 10 June 2017. 

(http://www.tregonygallery.co.uk/bythesea.html)

 

Spring is in the air!

I have been suffering a considerable level of Pot Anxiety in recent weeks.  This is the state of stress which keeps ceramicists from their beds in the middle of the night because an idea hits or a problem resolution crystallises.  At which point there is nothing to be done except to get up – sleep will elude you until the offending thought has been dealt with.  The current bout of trouble stems from having rather a lot on and some difficulty knowing how to get 4 firings through the kiln before I head up to London in preparation for the exhibition at The Fountain Gallery which starts on 16th of this month.

At 4:00 in the morning there are few cars on the roads in Cornwall and, as I drove the couple of miles to my current studio to swap pots and glaze things in the dark, I really felt that the world belonged to me alone.

On the return journey I tuned into BBC Radio 4 and discovered that I had woken early on the perfect day.  It was International Dawn Chorus day!  The song birds that the BBC was recording were fantastic but imagine my confusion when I stopped the car, turned off the engine, got out and still the music played!  The birds of Cornwall were all up and about and heralding the morning with gusto.

I could have gone back to bed but that would have been a crime against nature.  Instead I brewed a mug of tea, pushed my feet into my walking boots and set off through the woods to the little stone quay at the bottom of the hill.  Through the woods the pale green canopy was still not fully out and the path was fringed with blue bells, red campion, wild garlic and with a late narcissus and an early foxglove or two completing the spectrum.  The birds were giving it everything they had got – it was truly magnificent.  IMG_20170123_103337

By the time I reached the water’s edge the tide was just beginning to ebb – sucking at the stones on the slip way as it crept back out to sea.  The surface of the river was as flat as a mill pond.  You couldn’t really make out the colours because the light was so gentle but I could see a couple of small boats hunched over their moorings and, in the houses opposite, there was not a single sign of life.

The chorus was diminishing now as the song birds all went off in search of their breakfast but the rooks and the oyster catchers were in full swing, it was a beautiful morning and a joy to be alive.  I tried to record the sounds but technology defeated me and anyway, I was being far to self indulgent to try for long so here is the BBC podcast from early on International Dawn Chorus Day.  If you don’t have the patience to listen to the whole thing I commend the last twenty minutes to you.  You will not regret it!

On Vessels.

I have often wondered why one of my great loves does not influence my ceramics.  After all, my work is about vessels which carry a story.  So why does my love of sailing not come in somewhere?  The answer escapes me but, in a week where progress in the studio has been just that – progress – and we have had our first outing of the year in Annika, I decided not to write for the sake of it and instead to share with you the two aspects of my love for vessels.

 

polishing bonanza

During a week of serious preparation for the up coming exhibition in East Molesey I have been having a polishing bonanza. 

 

annika

Annika:  This was taken last summer in warmer conditions but we did enjoy a quick once round the Manacle Buoy and then back home under spinnaker in a lovely 17 knots of breeze yesterday.

 

 

 

There has to be an easier way . . .

One of the most significant changes resulting from moving my studio to Cornwall is that instead of working in a very creative atmosphere, as at Wimbledon, I am now surrounded by more practical types.  I am flanked by a dog grooming parlour and the store for a fish and chips enterprise.  There are at least two units involved in mechanical engineering plus a shellfish processing plant: sensible, down to earth practical types who know a good piece of kit when they see one.

So conversations range round subjects such as can I keep a look out for the gas bottle delivery or whether there is any life in some old rotavator rather than whether or not to enter a particular exhibition or competition.  It makes a change but, even more than in my lovely artists’ community, I am prone to feeling like a fish out of water from time to time and it is because of this that certain bits of my machinery do not come out until everyone else has shut up shop for the day.

My most exciting piece of kit is a wet diamond polishing machine.  It is a veritable monster!  I use it to polish, rather than glaze, the outside of my work.  It is what gives my pieces their tactile, lustrous quality.

Hybrid gallery 1

The diamond polisher is what gives my work such a tactile quality.

It does, however, give me some difficulties.  True to its name, this polisher is wet!  Extremely wet!  So wet that I become soaked to the skin in very short order, despite full waterproofs.  It shoots water in every conceivable direction and leaves no part of me dry.  I have to use it outside in the yard.  If I worked in my studio I would run the risk of finished work floating out of the door.  It also blasts lumps and bumps off the work, throwing bits of grit everywhere.  I wear safety goggles to protect my eyes but they don’t have wiper blades and so it is minutes few before I can hardly see out.  It resembles working in a car wash.

Imagine my embarrassment, then, the other evening.  Everyone had gone home and it seemed safe to bring the monster out into the yard and start polishing.  I had not appreciate the importance of it being Friday until the lovely, young fish and chip man arrived to collect his van for his regular weekend run to the village.  It was blowing a stiff easterly so I was freezing cold as well as drenched to the skin.  With my hair plastered down over my goggles I couldn’t actually see who was talking to me.  A large bin liner worn underneath my  waterproofs is meant to mitigate for the fact that they are not in fact waterproof but what is provides in terms of practicality it lacks in the style department.  The dungarees belonged to my father in law and should have been thrown out years ago when the shoulder straps failed to maintain their elasticity.  They were several inches too long for me so I have sliced them off rather unevenly below the knee, revealing more than is fashionable of a pair of blue floral wellies which have been kicking around the house for years.  It is not an altogether fetching look.

My friendly chippy worked away on his van, his gas bottles and his fish for a while but in the end he couldn’t resist it.  ‘So, there has to be an easier way than that, right?’

Yes, I rather suspect there does.  I need to find out how to tame my monster before I die of drowning.

41aojtr5gml-jpg-clipart-best-clipart-best-4IAaVR-clipart[1]

Don’t let me drown

I Must Go Down To The Sea Again

  • To the beautiful sea and the sky, I find the rocks exciting and have simply no idea why! (with sincere apologies to John Masefield).

Actually I do.  Take the Lizard Peninsular for example.  I was there this week collecting a lovely piece of ceramics from Richard Phethean which I had bought at a master class given by him last Sunday.  (More of that in another post).  The sun was shining – which it had steadfastly failed to do for the preceding few days – and I was motivated to check in on the igeology app on my phone to find somewhere interesting to explore.  Sure enough it was not long before I was indulging in a geology fest on a beautiful beach backed by glorious cliffs and with a myriad of rock pools and some pretty nasty looking rocks out in the surf waiting to snare any passing sailors.

 

20170208_113655

Nasty rocks waiting to snare any unwary yachtsmen!

 

The app described an area of ‘Unnamed Igneous Intrusion, Devonian – Felsic-rock. Igneous Bedrock formed approximately 359 to 416 million years ago in the Devonian Period. Local environment previously dominated by intrusions of silica-rich magma’.  Cool!  Loads of interesting things might happen to a small sample of this mixed into porcelain in the kiln.  But to be frank, I think the app was only telling a small part of the story.  Everywhere I turned the colours altered.  There were red rocks, green rocks, blue rocks: a regular case of rock porn!  I scampered around on the beach like a kid in a sweet shop exclaiming at the colours in the pebbles on the beach and admiring the shells – even they seemed to have absorbed some of the magic of the place and shone with an iridescent golden glow.

Of course, being the disorganised clot that I am, this was the moment for my camera battery to give up and I came home with almost no images of the strata.  Hopeless!  But the reassuring thing is that I now know of yet another great place to go to  the next time that I need to marvel at the incredible beauty of our landscape.

20170208_115750

I must go down to the sea again!

I am also driven to seek out my geology books and discover precisely what I was looking at.

 

On the Road Again.

It is the story of my adult life.  When I know the way around the supermarket, when I can confidently navigate the back roads it is Time.  Time to get the boxes out and say my goodbyes.  My daughter was only seven when she suggested to me that we were Travellers, although, given her creative imagination she was probably already referring to time travellers!

This move is a strange one in that it is very piecemeal.  First we packed up the house and put everything in store.  Then we started creating the house that we will move into next summer. Now I am packing the studio and taking on a temporary space at Lanhay and, whilst the new space will be bigger and cheaper and closer to the building work, I don’t like the act of moving out!  Don’t get me wrong.  I am extremely excited about going to Cornwall.  I have wanted to live there since I was about ten and this is a dream coming true. But Wimbledon!  I feel this is where I have come of age.

015

Regina at work on our studio.

 

It is almost exactly four years since my lovely friend Regina suggested that we should share a space at Wimbledon.  This was pre diploma.  My work was amateur and I was completely unsure of what I was doing.

IMG_8466for website

My work was amateur!

Regina, on the other hand was a skilled thrower who knew precisely how.  Four years on and so much has happened.  I have completed the Course at City Lit and what an experience that was!  If I had not had a space at Wimbledon to practice and develop, the diploma would have been virtually impossible!  Since then, I have had about 20 months of flying solo – Regina left for pastures new and, without the rigour of formal study , I have been developing my practice, honing my skills and getting ‘out there’ at shows and in galleries.

 

And always, in the background, a supportive group of ‘proper’ artists to whom I could turn for advice and support.  We have had great discussions about my work and theirs, they have helped me with my first approaches to galleries, we have held each other tightly when things were tough, we have talked over the kettle about everything under the sun and I have really appreciated their company.

This week I have dismantled my studio in preparation for moving out on Saturday and everything is one chaotic mess.

img_20170124_125628_069

The studio is in Chaos!

Well I can cope with that.  But what is more difficult to bear is the metaphoric drawing out of the tent pegs.  The hearing of conversations in the corridor about a future that I will not be part of.  The knowledge, which comes with experience of so many moves, that it is time to let go and get out fast – no fuss, no drama, just gone!

 

I hate this part!

And so I am stalling!  Not really going at all!  Having my cake and eating it!  Making in Cornwall but hanging on by my finger nails in Wimbledon. Thanks to the wonderful Louise Diggle I have a small corner of a studio in Wimbledon in which to lurk.  Somewhere to talk to clients and discuss my work.

bellmansknottclient1

Somewhere to talk to clients.

Maybe even take part in the future of WAS.  I realise that I won’t belong properly and I am aware of how hard that will be but I just can’t quite let go so, Cornwall, here I come but in Wimbledon. . . . . I’m still standing!