The Highs and Lows of it all

Oh what a week!  I love Open Studios.  I enjoy all the meetings, I like talking about myself and my work and I love selling but it all seems to take a great toll on my energy levels.  First comes the build up with all the making involved – have I made enough?  Have I made the right things?  Is the quality up to scratch?  Then two days or so before the actual opening I begin to worry about layout  – how much gallery versus how much studio.

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Gallery or studio?

People like the idea that this is where I work and yet they also seem to like a well presented gallery space and so getting the balance right is quite difficult.  Then comes the event itself – 4 days of talking to whoever comes in.  What do they want to know?  How much do they want to engage and how much do they want to be left to look and think.  I don’t find this at all easy.

 

This time I decided that I would make a piece throughout the show and yet this is also fraught with difficulties –

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I am always covered by mud!

I am permanently covered in mud when I make and this is not always a good look when trying to engage with a gallery owner.  Not to mention the mess that it makes all over my phone as I try and keep up with Instagram and facebook and use my phone for my credit card sales.

 

The aftermath of the show often heralds the most almighty emotional crash.  I am exhausted and the room is a mess; there is half a packet of pop-corn and some stale wine lying in the corner but nothing nourishing to eat and I have lived on hastily shovelled pasts salads for 4 days. I am elated by the sales and possible openings but drained by the prospect of getting it all back to normal and beginning to make once more.  I am unsure what the future holds and which opportunities to chase and how hard to chase them.

Probably the most useful thing to do with the few days after the show would be to take 3 full duvet days but I am not very good at that and so I was in bright and early on the Monday morning trying to get back to normal.  It was mighty quiet I have to say!

One thing is clear though.  These Open Studio events at Wimbeldon benefit enormously from the fact that we have a dedicated co-ordinator who’s job it is to get the shows up and running.  She has found us some great sponsors and some fantastic opportunities, she has ensured the smooth running of the event, she has greeted many of the 4500 visitors personally and has probably had little to eat and very little sleep for days.  So Julie, this blog is largely for you.  Your tireless hard work and cheerful attitude to everything we throw at you is incredible.  I am a great many other artists really appreciate what you do on behalf of the studios – it won’t be the same without you.

More News About My Third Lung

Biologically impossible, I know, but my Dad has always called Richmond Park his third lung.  If you live close to London and spend much of your time struggling with the volume of people, the traffic, the fumes and all the other things that living near a big city involves – as well as all the great bonuses such as galleries, events, courses and so on – then having Richmond Park on your doorstep is a truly wonderful plus point.  I treasure it so much and its conservation is of considerable importance to me.

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The inside of this vessel is decorated with images which remind me of the life in and around the brook.

It was with that thought in mind that I arranged with the park manager to make a few pieces using material from the park and selling them for its benefit: 50% of all sales proceeds is donated to the Friends of Richmond Park for their use in conservation projects.  Having sold the first one at Kew Gardens during Handmade it was with great pleasure that I presented the Friends with a cheque for £300.  In response they posted a link to my website in their newsletter and on Facebook.  The result has been dramatic!  I am enjoying peak viewings on my website and have had a number of requests for similar vessels.  Given that I am short of work ready to sell during the Open Studios, which starts in less than a week, I had already decided that I would keep my space as more studio than gallery and would make Beverley Brook vessels throughout the weekend, as a kind of ongoing demonstration.  It seems that this is a good plan because, if activity and enquiries are anything to go by, I am going to need a couple!

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A new Beverley Brook vessel is already under construction.

At the moment I have one, slightly smaller one which is half finished so it looks as though I am going to be a bit busy before, during and after the show and that the coffers of the Friends of Richmond Park are in for a boost.

 

 

Home Alone

Last week the lovely Regina moved out of my studio.  We had been sharing for about 3 years and it had worked really well.  I know for absolute certain that I would not be where I am now if she had not suggested that we might share a studio together.

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Regina throwing one of her minute pots just after we moved in.

I remember our first open studios.  I was so nervous that I simply could not sit still.  I had to go for a walk half an hour before the kick off because my leg muscles were twitching so much! We have both come such a long way since then.  Both of us have gained a huge amount of confidence.  I have completed the ceramics diploma and she has virtually completed a course in silver smithing and jewellery making which has seen her incorporating her ceramic work into beautiful rings.

 

Now we have come to a parting of the ways.  I suppose the time was probably right.  Regina needs somewhere to work where she can solder, which is difficult at Wimbledon due to the fact that they are not very keen on naked flames and, to be honest, I was spreading so much that I was in danger of backing Regina into a small corner much of the time.  So she has packed up her wheel and gone.  I shall miss her!  I enjoyed her company and I loved her work and I wish her well.IMG_20160610_091653  When I arrived at the studio for the first time since she had packed her bags it seemed very empty!  So, since this marks the beginning of a new era – the first time I have ever had my very own studio – I decided to give it a lick of paint and then spread myself.  I am very sorry, Regina, but it really hasn’t taken me very long to move into your side and I have to confess I am loving the fact that it is my mess.

You have been a great friend and I wish you all the best, wherever you end up making. What ever happens, don’t stop creating!

Meanwhile, Studio 403 is now open for business and for those of you who have been waiting to hear from me about some work: Thank you for you patience and I am getting right onto it now.

Busman’s Holiday

Ah, I love Cornwall!  I love the coasts and villages; I love the people; I love the rugged beauty of the moors and the intimacy of the narrow lanes, which are currently looking particular spectacular fringed as they are with drifts of cow parsley, foxgloves and red campion.

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The hedgerows and road verges are so colourful at the moment.

 

It has been such a treat to travel around with no time pressure visiting artists in their lairs and chatting to them about life, art and Cornwall. Not being able to get into my own studio and knowing that this is a time for just lapping up the atmosphere has been so relaxing.  Who could ask for more?

I began close to home on the Roseland where, much to my surprise, I discovered only one artist was taking part in Cornwall Open Studios. Carol O’Toole and I happily whiled away the time in her  studio in Tregony.  What a lovely lady!  She made me feel so good about my decision to move to Cornwall.  I showed her my work, which happened to be in the car, and she showed me hers.

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Carol O’Toole: a fabulous mix of print and paint.

I love the fact that she, like me, does not stick to the rules.  In her case this results in delicious combinations of print and paint which work brilliantly together.

Later in the week I prowled further afield, crossing the ferry and trekking into the wilds of Feock and Mylor Bridge to gaze with admiration at Lucy Spink’s jewellery – Just as well she does not have any kind of facility for taking credit cards or I might have parted with a fair bit of money – and the print makers Jenny and Sarah Seddon.  Despite having committed a dreadful error here and failed to read the booklet properly, the Seddons were not officially open on the day I went, the welcome I received was as warm as any and the work was enthralling.  I would not have minded staying with the Seddons all day!

Of course I had to drop in on Paula Downing whose work I had seen at Truro Museum and who I really wanted to meet.  She could not have been more friendly and, despite the fact that she was actually trying to run a workshop at the time, was happy to chat about the ceramics scene in Cornwall and sounded genuinely interested to meet a fellow manipulator of clay.  Paula’s light and airy studio felt like a tree house.  You look out of the large windows across the valley of the River Fal and see nothing but a canopy of deciduous woodland.  How she gets any work done is a mystery to me – I would spend all day gazing at the wildlife!

My overall impression of the Cornwall Open Studios is that, whereas in Wimbledon we get around 4000 visitors in 4 days, life is hectic and the opportunities come to us, the artists in Cornwall get nothing like those numbers in 10 days.  Here the visitors have to make quite an effort to seek out the studios (I got lost more than once) and the artists have to make a massive effort too.  Tea, cake and hospitality were on hand wherever I went and

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Some of the settings were simply glorious.

some of the settings were simply glorious.  Most importantly, those who had grouped together with more than one artist in a building seemed to have a real advantage and were clearly receiving a disproportionately higher number of visitors. 

 

Well you would if you could!

Studio or Cornwall?  Cornwall or Studio?  Well it was a bit of a no-brainer really.  I have a mass of work to do following the Open Studios, commissions, ideas, gallery approaches.  All very exciting really but it is going to be HOT this weekend and my studio will be like an oven.  So early on Friday morning, before the rest of London was away I high tailed it down to the South-West and beat the crowds.  The sun was shining when I arrived, the sea was blue and all of a sudden I felt like a different person.

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The sun was shining, the sea was blue

The truth is that I have been feeling a bit burnt recently:  Pop up shops; Open Studios; teaching;  it all takes its toll if I am honest.  So I am planning to do very little for a week.  Feet up, tiller in hand, bobbing about in the oggin in my darling boat.  Then back to work refreshed and raring to go.

Not only that but it is Open Studios in Cornwall this week so I can call this a bit of a busman’s holiday and go wandering around the lanes and byways in search of other ceramicists who are already based in Cornwall.  I am looking forward to having a bit of a snoop if I’m honest.  My studio is currently only on paper so I could do with picking a few brains about layout, equipment, lessons learned before the diggers move in to clear the area.  Cornwall’s Open Studios is great for that because, unlike in Wimbledon, here the studios are spread all over the county and you get to visit some fabulous spaces.  I don’t imagine that I will get round all 259 artists but I certainly want to seek out a few who work not too far away.

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Doctor Livingston?

In the meantime, there seems to be a bit more jungle clearance to do at our new abode before the builders can find the house so I don’t think I am going to do too much putting my feet up but I am planning on returning to London refreshed and raring to go . . . . . .

 

 

Will You Still Love Me?

There is a move afoot to go and live in Cornwall properly this summer.  I am extremely excited about this – I have handed in my notice for my teaching post and, whist I will miss the lovely children that I teach 3 days per week, I am very excited about the future . . . . .

Well, I think I am!  I love Cornwall.  It is, to all intents and purposes, my home anyway and the Roseland Peninsular is calling me in no uncertain terms.

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The Roseland Peninsular is calling me.

But, and it is a very big but, what will happen to my ceramics?

 

Eventually I will have a studio in St Mawes.  I have the planning permission for it, it will be easy to reach whenever I want to pop in for a few hours or just for 10 minutes to check on the kiln, I wont have to drive through the London traffic taking up to an hour to go about 6 miles, I can sip my coffee gazing at the weather coming in over the Lizard.  What’s not to like?

Absolutely nothing!  Except, it is a risk isn’t it – this jumping off the rat race.  Wimbledon offers me so much.  It may cost a bit but it gives me easy access to a fabulous customer base without whom I would have stopped playing with clay long ago.  The twice yearly Open Studios, the next one of which is coming up in May, regularly sees 4-5 thousand people come through the doors.  The feedback which they provide on the work they see in your studio is invaluable and the purchases that they make are extremely affirming of the effort which one puts in for the rest of the year.  In addition,  when the feeling leaves me and I don’t know what to do, there is always the kettle.

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Wimbledon Artists Studios gives me so much of what I need as an artist.

You can usually find someone to bounce and idea off, share a moment of frustration with or simply ask how they are doing.  Then off you go, back to work feeling a release from the doubt or what ever was bugging you.  In addition to that, the is Klay.  Our new baby is growing fast.

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Klay is doing so well.

It has done so well in the short time that it has been in operation that the 12 of us had a long and deep discussion this week about what happens when we get to the end of our three months popping up in Camden.  I want to be a part of this project.  I believe that it has a great deal of mileage and, judging by the response that we are getting from our customers and also from Camden itself (whose generosity allowed us to get up and popping in the first place), I am not alone in this belief.

 

It seems to me that I ma going to need to find some way of having it all!

Oh What a Week!

I think that I can honestly say that this week I have felt more tired than in almost any week of my life!  On the other hand, I would not have missed it for the world.  Wimbledon Artist’s Open Studios is always a fantastic event.  I love meeting the people who choose to come and talk to me about my work.  It does my ego a huge amount of good (or harm depending on how you view the need or otherwise for me to have an inflated ego!).  I still remember the first time that Regina, my studio share, and I took part.  I was so nervous that I spent some hours before we opened our doors pacing around the nearby park trying to calm myself.  I commented more than once on how if one person who I did not know chose to buy one of my pieces I would be happy.

Now I feel like an old hand.

I feel like an old hand!

I feel like an old hand!

I have 5 Open Studio events under my belt.  Each one very different from the last.  This time I sold less that sometimes but the feedback which I received was so positive that my ego boost has still led to an increase in hat size!  One of the great things about the event was the number of people who voiced an interest in coming to the ceramics diploma final show, now only a few weeks away.  I have a long list of email addresses to send invitations to .  If it is not yet in your diary and you are interested, make a note now for Islington, Candid Arts Centre, the week of 1st July.  I will be posting more details as it draws nearer.

So this week has been about catching up with myself post that event; fitting in three wonderful days teaching and enjoying every minute of working with children who do not find accessing education as easy as their peers, despite their incredible intellect; getting the last of my large vessels made for the final push: they are so big that they are taking 3 weeks to dry and so I cannot keep going right up to the line; making sure that all my glaze planning is up to date; contructing the contents of my vessels –

Not thinking ceramic thoughts for a whole five minutes!

Not thinking ceramic thoughts for a whole five minutes!

I will show you what I mean in a future blog but, to whet your appetite, lets just say there is a massive contrast between strong, sturdy, reliable vessel and frail, vunerable, gossamer thin contents-  and, most necessary of all; restoring my energy levels.

It was a wonderful moment when, whilst floating on the high seas yesterday afternoon aboard my darling escape pod, Annika, that I realised I had not had a ceramic related thought for over 5 minutes!