Sleep patterns

I am about to embark on another collaborative venture.  More details will follow but suffice to say that I am going to be working with other makers on a project which is going to involve me taking the way they work: their colours and textures and incorporating them into a body of work for a joint exhibition this autumn.  I am truly excited to have been presented with the opportunity and, given the pleasure that the collaboration with Candide Turner Bridger and Nigel Slater gave me for the recent Earthlines exhibition, I know that it could result in some great work.

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Collaborative work for Great Walsingham Gallery.

But, and it is a big BUT, I also know that I now have a whole lot of sleepless nights coming in the next couple of weeks.  All my best ideas happen in the middle of the night, usually at about 3 am.  The initial electrical surge is followed by a protracted process of going over and over the finer detail and sleep becomes utterly impossible.  There is little point in getting up and beginning to make as the whole thing has to ‘cook’ for a while first.  Sometimes a walk helps – so the puppy is on standby for some strange night-time excursions – but, please, if you have any dealings with me in the next week or so, do not expect much in the way of quick witted repartee!  

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Please be gentle!

All in My Own Time

I have been reading Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal this week.  It throws a fascinating light on the experience of getting old and I commend it to everyone.  41cD6wyaxLL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_[1]As a window on the world of narrowed horizons and the choices available to the elderly and frail it is fascinating.  I suppose it was a particularly relevant book for me, given my own father’s increasing frailty but I think the main message in it for  me is actually that all of us need to be prepared for this stage of our lives which does not tend to treat us kindly.

There is a section in it which struck a chord with me very loudly.  Gawande talks about the change in how we seek to spend out time at different stages of our lives.  ‘When horizons are measured in decades, which might as well be infinity to human beings, you most desire all the stuff at the top of Maslow’s pyramid – achievement, creativity and other attributes of “self-actualization”.  But as your horizons contract – when you see the future ahead of you as finite and uncertain – your focus shifts to the here and now, to every day pleasures and the people closest to you’. (Gawande, 2014, p.97)

This explains a couple of conversations which I have been involved with over the past couple of weeks.  Both during my mentoring session and during the Bristol seminar by Patricia van den Akker (See my last post) I have been asked the ‘where will your business be 5/10/20 years from now’ question.  I have found this particularly difficult to answer this time around:  I am aware of a definite shift in my energy levels and inclinations recently and I find that my knee jerk response to this question is ‘who says it will be anywhere at all!’  But this makes things very awkward.  If I don’t know where I am going why set off?  What IS the point?

There are still good friends who are certain that what I do is simply a hobby, that I do it to keep myself amused.  I suppose it did begin like that and then there was a stage where I needed an outlet for my work so that, at the final reckoning, my children didn’t enter the loft with fear and trepidation wondering what on Earth to do with all those pots!  But now I have to acknowledge that things have gone beyond that.  I am chasing a dream of it being successful and so presumably I do need to know what success is going to look like when I get there.

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Why does it have to be all about the money?

I find that cannot drift about simply making stuff and hoping that people like it, I need a reason to make in the first place and, for me, that needs to be connected to somebody else wanting it.  But at the same time, I am not sure that I have to be utterly driven by building the business.  I need some aims but they don’t have to be measured in financial terms.  And anyway, what does success look like?  I don’t think that it necessarily has to have a load of pound signs in front of it.  It is something I need to give some more thought to but I do know roughly what it looks like and I will share it as it happens.  In the meantime though, I am no longer sure that we do have all the time in the World!

 

 

 

Calm Down Dear!

One of the very good thing about being a part of the Design Factory is the provision of a mentor to support you in your creative business.  I have to confess that I have been actively avoiding my mentoring session because I have had so much on that I couldn’t bare the thought of my mentor piling anything else on top.  list[1]

What a fool I am!  During a lengthy and well structured session today we went through the success of my past year and considered where things needed to be done better – not more, just more planned.  It was incredibly useful to actually break down all the events and to work through what might have made it even more successful.  I now have a list, it isn’t a very long list but I have considerably more confidence as a result of it that I can go some way to avoiding the turmoil of the past couple of months if I follow it.

Just three things on my list

  1. Address my marketing – do what makes a difference and don’t bother with what doesn’t.
  2. Get a planner – and use it!
  3. Research the galleries that I want to stock my work. 
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    Tregony Gallery will remain firmly on my list!

Having got that all out of the way I decided that the day was too good to be in the studio and I set off to play in the water.

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With the Falmouth Classics in full swing it was wall to wall boats in the bay.

When I got back to my phone it was to a message form the wonderful Tregony Gallery to say that whilst I had been messing about in boats they had sold five of my pieces!!  Do I panic that I need to make more work I hadn’t planned for?  No!  I will refer to my planner and decide what to do calmly and sensibly.

 

And so, with no apologies, I’ve got a little list!

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!

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.

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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!

 

Planning my For-ever Studio

It’s a scary thought but the studio that I am planning at the moment is meant to last me a lifetime!  So I kind of need to get it right.  Previously there has been an element of making do with the space that I had and be thankful for having it.

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Not much room to throw a pot here!

The space I have in which to work has grown over time from half a little tiny space to the whole of that space to double that space.  But it has never been my space – someone else has held the lease; determined where the lighting, cupboards, windows were; made unhealthy decisions on the amount of insulation that artists need in the walls and floors of their work-space!  (I know where the cold goes when the weather warms up in Cornwall now – My studio is the original heat sink!)

 

This time, I am going to have to decide for myself where are the best places for work surfaces, cupboards, the sink and the shelves.

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Not much of a view!

Windows and plumbing are already sorted – I didn’t want a great view because I knew that it would distract me and I did want great plumbing because I know what clay does to U bends!  But the rest of it!  So much space, so many possibilities!

 

If you visit the Victoria and Albert Museum you can see a mock-up of Lucy Rie‘s studio.  It is quite a compact space – much smaller than I am about to have – and within it she created the most beautiful work.  Size is not everything!  So I need to bear in mind that it is not where you create but what you create that is important.  I do not want to let the new super-space to go to my head but, on the other hand, given that I can arrange it as I want, I might as well have it as I want it.  Decisions, decisions!

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Lucy Rie making magic in her Studio.