Going Nowhere?

This week a dear friend introduced me to Simon Jenkin’s book England’s Thousand Best Churches.  She did this shortly after I had introduced her to one of the gems of the Roseland Peninsular, the thirteenth century church at St Just in Roseland.  I am particularly fond of this church and so it is one of the places which, when showing visitors for the first time, I take great care to approach from the right direction.  We walked out along the Bar, a spit of shingle which reaches  across the creek, so that she could see the church across the water.  She was appropriately impressed.  A series of ‘wow’s and other appreciative sounds confirmed this.  Later we walked round and into the church.  It is a beautiful and interesting place full of peace and history.  Its creek-side setting and semi-tropical gardens are the icing on the cake.

I was astonished that Jenkins only gives St Just one star and have resolved to explore some of the Cornish churches to which he awards 4 stars in order to compare and contrast.  Turning to the page for the Roseland churches I was shocked.  None of them merit more than one star and Jenkin’s summary of the Roseland is ‘A secret annex which might just as well be called Going Nowhere!’  I would like to add to that, please, Mr Jenkins.

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Creed Church.

The Roseland is steeped in history and tales of daring do; its coast is rugged and yet gentle at the same time; its geology is fascinating; its villages have their hearts in tact because they still have sufficiently large residential populations, having been blighted slightly less than some parts of Cornwall by people who own houses but only use them for a few weeks a year.  I could go on and on but, given that one of its charms is that people leave it alone to some extent, I won’t tempt them!

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This is my playground!

 

Having given Jenkin’s remarks some time to filter through my tatty brain I appreciate their accuracy.  Geography makes his comments completely accurate.  Apart from a couple of ferries there is literally one road in and one road out.

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You don’t come to the Roseland unless you meant to!

You don’t come to the Roseland unless you meant to – and I meant to!  It gives me a sense of well being.  It is my playground.  It inspires my work and I am truly glad that I now have the opportunity to live and work here.

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The Roseland inspires my work.

 

 

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)

 

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. 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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Don’t let me drown

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

Reasons To Be Cheerful . . . . .

Things have been a bit strange since the Open Studios in November.  There have been some massive highs, some horrible lows and everything in between.  To cut a long story short I have decided that I am going to bring forward the moving of my studio to Cornwall.  The building plans are no further forward but I don’t want to work in London for various reasons and so I am going to rent a studio on the Roseland until my own studio is ready sometime next summer.

I have agonised over this.  Things have been taking off in London and I didn’t want to lose out just as it was going so well.  However, I have given myself a stiff talking to; pointed out to myself that, if I am any good, I don’t need the big smoke; gone for one of my favourite walks on a fabulous December afternoon and reminded myself that I have a lot to be thankful for.

With somewhere such as this to inspire me why would I not want to hasten my westerly migration!

To paraphrase the words of Paulo Nutini I have the view from my window and a nice warm bed; I have a great place to work and a bucket full of mud; I have some great ideas and a nice warm kiln; but most of all, I’ve got my Roseland!