It’s a Wrap!

I have become increasingly concerned about the type of packaging that I use: getting through bubble wrap by the mile since I started selling my work.  In a recent accountability workshop for like minded creatives we talked about this and someone mentioned paper bubble wrap

I decided to trial it at the Contemporary Craft Fair in Bovey Tracey, Devon last week.  I bought the Rajapack EX MINI system which comes on a cardboard dispenser and also provides tissue paper to interleave with the packaging.  I also bought a big roll of string and some brown recycled paper bags.  The cardboard dispenser and was easy to set up.  It’s quite a small thing to transport, but as you pull  it from the dispenser the ‘bubble wrap’ cleverly expands into a honeycomb structure.

IMG_20190607_125257_710 The verdict?  The first couple of pieces that I pulled off the roll didn’t quite go according to plan – maybe the piece was too big; maybe trying to use the dispenser while it was on the floor, under a table, hidden by fabric impeded things; maybe it is always difficult until the dispenser is a little less full – but I was delighted to have found an alternative to plastic which works brilliantly to protect smaller pieces and the environment.  It looks good too and there is a weird satisfaction in the way it comes off the roll!  I think the jury is still out for larger works which I was less confident were adequately protected.

Given that my work is about the fragility of our landscape, it is vital for me to find a satisfactory solution to the wrapping of my work.  Not sure I’m all the way there yet but I am certainly feeling much happier.  And let’s face it, if we all do something isn’t that better than a few good people doing it perfectly?

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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    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)

 

Where Do You Go To?

When I am not in the studio it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am not working on my art.

River Journey, Bridget Macklin, 2014

Armed with a trowel and a plastic bag.

Given that my art is about landscape I am often to be found wandering the countryside with a small trowel, a pocket full of zip lock sandwich bags and an indelible pen – just in case the urge takes me – but there are masses of other activities involved which are somewhat less glamorous.  Social media takes up a lot of my time.  Research; planning; applications for competitions, galleries, grants etc all have their place as does the designing, ordering, collecting and delivering of advertising which might or might not hit the right spot and lead to sales.

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Consider yourself invited!

This week I have been delivering fliers for our up-coming exhibition at Fountain Gallery, near Hampton Court.  Each of the 3 artists involved took 800 fliers to push through letter boxes.  It doesn’t sound much but, believe me, it can take hours.

You need to find the posh houses, those with two expensive cars outside, because these are where the people with disposable income live.  So we are talking approximately 800 security gates to decipher, 800 long drives, 4800 steps to front doors and indiscriminate quantities of gravel.  I think that I have walked the length of Chesil Beach this week!

Then there are the letter boxes themselves.  High up and you have to jump, low down and the bag full of fliers on your shoulder swings round to give you a hefty clout on the knee as you reach down to push through.  Whilst horizontal flaps can be relatively easy, vertical flaps are always a nuisance.  They need two hands: one to hold the flap up and one to push the flier through.  If the flap is too small you have to fold your expensive flier in half, spoiling the impact somewhat, and if too many of the springs are too strong you risk repetitive strain injury in both thumbs from forcible pushing.

I have eventually learned to be suitably cautious of ‘Beware of the Dog’ signs.  At one residence I saw the sign, heard the dog and assumed small because of the pitch of the bark.  What I didn’t spot until he had the flier in his mouth was that miniature yappy dog’s best friend, gigantic Irish Wolf Hound, had been watching me for some time through the upper part of the door.

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Let me take that for you!

 I learned to dread the letter boxes with a flap on the inside as well as the outside most of all.  Not only do you not know what is in store until you are committed to the action, but the inner flap is inclined to want to hold you prisoner causing nasty biting injuries as you withdraw your last finger and the flap snaps shut.  And you can’t even shove the entire bundle into a post box and dash home because, unlike other types of junk mail, you paid for these out of the yet-to-be-seen profits of the exhibition so they have to hit their mark come rain or shine and I don’t mind telling you that I didn’t see much of the shine!

The doors themselves make interesting studying.  I am really into front doors at the moment as we are trying to decide on the design and colour for our house in Cornwall.  It seems that grey is the colour.  I did see other hues but grey is predominant and, whilst I couldn’t possibly comment on what goes on behind them, there really are 50 shades for the exterior décor of posh houses in 2017!  I must have seen pale dove grey, dark satanic grey, blue grey, green grey, purple grey . . . . . . I think we might be going for bright red in St Mawes.

After wearing my legs down by several inches I decided to try doing it by bike.  It is a while since I rode my bike but after a few preliminary wobbles I was off up the road.  It didn’t take long before I was gazing at the tarmac at close quarters though.  I had forgotten the need to disengage feet from pedals when approaching a roundabout and was now face down in the middle of the road feeling embarrassingly representative of Nurse Chummy from  Call the Midwife.

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Given my new found respect for the postie, I shall be using one of these.

I have decided that, out of a new found sense of respect for the postie, I shall be having an external letter box in Cornwall.  It will be positioned at a height which does not involve bending double and it will be located at the end of the drive so that the postie can lean over and shove the mail through without ever having to disengage his feet from his bike pedals as he passes by.  Enjoy the link!

 

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. 

 

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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.

 

 

 

Freedom

As some of my readers know, when I am in London I live on a boat.  This week we cast off our moorings and set sail on the River Thames with few plans except to go up the river. It is wonderful to be so free to chose how to spend our time.  By day two we were chugging gently past Runnymede and thought we ought to take a look around.

History is everywhere in this place.  I knew about the Magna Carta.  I had at least done THAT much history when I was at school but it did me a lot of good to read about it again and consider what the signing of this document actually stands for. Obviously there is more to it than this and I know that King John was not quite as good as his word so it was some considerable time before we enjoyed the freedoms which is lays down but I am absolutely clear that during the time since it was originally enshrined in history it has been considered a true milestone in the fight for individual rights and freedoms.

Both the United States Bill of Rights and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights owe a great deal to Magna Carta, to name just two.  Without it the world would be a poorer place. When I reached somewhere with a wifi signal I did a bit of searching and found this wonderful clip on the British Museum website which, for those who are interested, gives a ‘nutshell explanation’ of this incredibly important document. It is worth a look.

There are a number of other memorials in recognition of the struggle for liberty at Runnymede and so, puffed up with pride that it all started here in Britain, we set off to take a look.  Eventually we found ourselves on the hill over looking the river.  Here there is a haunting reminder of the loss of life by Allied Air Forces during the Second World War.  In one year, 1943, there were more than 30 men killed with the name Smith.  That is to say there were 30+ men with the surname Smith who were sergeants in the RAF killed in that year.  This does not count other ranks called Smith.  Nor does it include  members of other Air Forces: Canadians; New Zealanders; Australians to name just a few.  Nor does it include anyone with surnames which include ‘Smith’ and some other suffix or prefix.  as I looked at this particular column of names – one of 300 – I found myself shivering with some intangible and deeply sad emotion. More so that when I tried to digest the fact that 20,000 men are remembered on the monument.  Maybe that number is too large to comprehend.

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The combined Air Forces memorial at Runnymede.

I hate war!  I cannot understand why differences of opinion cannot be thrashed out over a plate of Nachos and a beer or two.  But the fact remains that in the early 20th century the world was plunged into despair and huge numbers of people died for the simple reason that they believed in Freedom.  I have never felt more appreciative of their sacrifice than I did standing there in the solitude as the daylight was dimming.

I need to make something very special from the small handful of clay that I picked up in a tree throw on the slope of Cooper’s Hill below the memorial.

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I want it to be as open and welcoming as possible.

I have started on a large dish which is as open as I can make it.  I want it to look as though anyone might be able to approach it and rinse their hands.  I also want it to be as fragile as possible in recognition of the fragility of the peace and freedom which we are so privileged to enjoy in this country.  If I don’t get it right the first time I shall keep remaking it until I do because this matters!

 

Rumours of my Incarceration are Greatly Exaggerated.

Sorry, I am at it again.  This time poor old Mark Twain is getting misquoted but not without just cause if you ask me.  You see I have been out and about collecting mud again, this time in a torrential rainstorm, and the residents of a small, respectable town in Devon are probably expressing grave concerns!

This all started because I have been invited to be the featured artist in an exhibition called Escape by The Hybrid Gallery in Honiton this summer.  I am excited by this opportunity and thought it would be sensible to begin my making by making a visit to see the space.

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We lay like sardines in the back of the car

I remember Honiton.  We used to have to drive through it on our way to visit grandparents in Torquay.  Then we lay sardine fashion in the back of our Morris Traveller estate, watching the lights and the telegraph poles swoop by on  seemingly endless journeys.  Now you flash past on the bypass with children firmly strapped into child seats.

Then it was famous for lace and there was a pottery in the town employing quite a number of people making slipcast functional ware.  Now many of the shops are gift or good food orientated and there is a Pottery Café on the site of the old pottery which hosts parties where you can decorate pre-fired wares whilst sipping smoothies and tucking into a panini.

 

It was years since I had visited the town and the rain on this particular day was  not at all conducive to sight seeing but Honiton is a true gem! Having had a bit of a look around I squelched my way to the public library where a quick search of the local history section revealed that the original pottery had, for many years, made use of a seam of clay running behind the workshop.  That was all the invitation I needed!

I was off – scampering up the main street and leaping puddles like the sure favorite in the National.  Lo and behold the house beside the pottery was having building work done and so, swathed in my sodden jacket and dripping with rain clutching trowel and zip lock bags in my damp, little hand, I knocked at the door.  Just then a young lad came round the corner of the house.  His expression on hearing my request was one of mild shock and incredulity but he agreed to my request and so, before he could call for men with straight jackets, I was down on my knees.  Three sandwich bags later (and, some would say, several short of a picnic) I was back at the car with my trophies and ready to start making.