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.

img_20161108_111837

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 –

20161111_153800_007

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.

The Third Lung Continued . . .

For those of you that have been following me avidly, thank you by the way, you will know about my love of Richmond Park and about the pieces which I have been making in response to the project to improve the ecosystem of Beverley Brook which runs through the Park from Robin Hood Gate to Roehampton Gate and on into the Thames at Putney.  I was really pleased to have one piece ready for the Open Studios this week and even more pleased to sell it!  Another£225 will shortly be on its way to the Friends of Richmond Park to support its program of projects ‘protecting the peace and natural beauty of the Park.’

img_20161110_142045

Beverley Brook Vessel No.2

 

The interest in these pieces has been huge and the third piece , which I have been making throughout the weekend has attracted a considerable amount of attention and people love the story.  But for me, the best bit of all is the knowledge that the park is benefitting from these sales.  Beverley Brook Vessel No.3 is being constructed during the show and will be completed sometime in the next few weeks. I am looking forward to giving it a good send off and being able to contribute more to the protection of this valuable, fragile resource.

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.

20161004_114908

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!

beverley-brook-vessel-2

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.

 

 

If . . . .

I love the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling. I believe that it has a really great list of attributes for a true human being.  Yet Kipling missed something.  Earlier this week life became a little hectic.  On day one of the exhibition in Kew Gardens people were crowding into the aisles to look at all the wonderful things to buy but not many ready to part with much money.  They were, on the other hand, very happy to talk.  One lovely chap was asking about the cost of exhibiting, the time it takes to make each piece and the disconnect between the value and the cost of high quality craft.  Same old, same old.  We agreed that making this kind of work is a lifestyle choice as much as anything and that one cannot expect to be rich on the back of one’s creativity and he came up with a great extra line for Kipling’s poem.  I think it is going to be the way forward for me:

  • If you can keep yourself amused and still have enough for beer and cheese,

Seems like a plan to me!

On the other hand, Kew has been good for me and I am quite hopeful of being able to afford some reasonably exotic cheese as a result.  20161005_110254I began with my stand showing almost exclusively new work.  I wanted to promote my most recent ideas.  I filled my stall with my fragile, thin porcelain vessels which have inclusions of found clay.  It looked good and I was really pleased with it.  The trouble was, and don’t get me wrong, this is a good problem to have, so did the customers.  By the end of Friday it was looking decidedly bare!  So late on Friday evening I made a panic dash to my studio to get some work to fill up the gaps.

img_20161008_132444

Old work sitting along side the new to plug the gaps.

This meant that I ended up on Saturday with works which would not normally be anywhere close to each other and that fact alone has led to some interesting thoughts and comments.

 

I think the time has come for a bit of a rethink – the contrast is great when I sit one of my really rugged, sculptural pieces beside a fragile one.  How good would it be if I made pairs using the same material?

img_20161008_165346

Contrasting pieces look so good next to each other.

I need to get beyond the Open Studios first but, after that, it will be time for some serious research!

 

The creative Vibe is alive and well.

It is wonderful what a calming effect this aquatic life is giving me.  I have managed to make a load of work this week, despite the heat in my studio, which in August is normally enough to drive me out.  It is just as well really.  The pressure on me to create was growing exponentially.  I had 4 more works to make for an exhibition in Cornwall at Tregony Gallery which starts in early September; I have a lot to do to prepare for Kew Gardens in October – it might seem ages away but I shall be in Canada throughout September; I had a commission to finish for a 70th birthday present and I need to restock my shelves at Klay London.  So a wee bit of making was always going to be a good thing.

IMG_20160804_121725However, the desire to create is also an ephemeral thing – here one minute, vanished the next so it is always a huge relief to me when I turn up at the studio and find that I can get right on with it.  The days when I seem to need to spend an hour or more on Facebook, wash the floor, tidy the shelves and still the urge to make does not come are really very difficult.  Does anyone else have this problem I wonder?

20160806_141731

Finished works – one a commission, one destined for Tregony Gallery

IMG_20160804_154017

I suddenly wanted to make big!

IMG_20160805_153250

Please form an orderly queue for the kiln

 

Anyway, this week I have been churning it out.  The kiln has been fired 3 times and the shelves are groaning under the weight of drying works.  Phew, what a relief!  But the best thing?  At the end of the day, covered in dust and feeling tired, I can sit on the pontoon beside the boat with a glass in my hand and my feet in the water and watch the cygnets practicing their one footed swimming – and BREATHE.

20160806_140302

One legged swimming will take place after a rest in the sun.

Less is generally More

This week I had a meeting with a client about a commission that I am doing for her.  We were discussing the decoration for the interior of the piece.  She had previously provided me with several architectural plans and I had spent a while trying to work out which to use.  Now she had some better plans and she also had a map of the area which is the subject of the piece.  This meant that we were both in danger of becoming a bit overwhelmed by choice.  We tried out all sorts of combinations; she was so attached to the story behind the commission that was hard for her to decide what was the most important part.

The Battersea Vessel low res

Tell the whole story –

IMG_8680

Or keep it simple?

 

In the past I have done very simple and, with equal success, included lots and lots of information all overlapping.  So which is best?  And how am I going to glean from a client which one they would prefer?

The problem is that until the images have been transferred onto the piece it is impossible to see how they work with the piece.  It is only when the transparency reveals the drawing and its relation to the markings on the vessel that you know if you have got it right.

A brainwave struck me as I was grappling with this.  I need to be able to see the impact of the drawn lines before I order the decals.  Why I didn’t think about it before I do not know but I am off to find an online stockist of transparent  film which will work with my antiquated printer right now!

Memories are Made of This.

This week I have been making test pieces; some for commissions but others using clays which people have brought me to experiment with.  The results have been mixed but some have been really lovely and I am excited about the promise which they hold.

 

20151114_093020

Test pieces lined up on the window sill.

Of particular note is a piece using material from the hole which was dug last winter outside my family home of 50 years by the men who were replacing the gas main.   They were digging it round when I thought it should have been square!  and they looked at me as if I had lost my marbles when I asked them to let me have some of the material from the bottom of it but I think I might be going to get the last laugh!

 

It is really important to me that this material can be worked into a thing of beauty.  The hole from which it came was directly outside the front gate to the home that my parents bought when I was ten years old.  My siblings and I spent our formative years living here; I got married from this house; both my children were baptised from this house.  Copious tears and shrieks of laughter have been shed around the kitchen table here and now it is being sold.

In fact, indirectly, the hole is involved in the sale of our home.  If it had not been for the gas men digging it, Dad would have had no trouble parking his car and the con men who came to his aid, and then abused his trust by subjecting him to a dreadful scam, would not have upset his equilibrium to such an extent that he was no longer able to stay there surrounded by happy memories.

So this material is for a commission of sorts:  Its for me!  The finished piece will take pride of place somewhere in my home.  I think I might even build a special shelf for it.  I don’t exactly want a shrine for my childhood.  It was good, but not that good!  I just feel pleased at the idea of having something so closely related to so many happy memories in full view.

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.

015

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.

IMG_20160601_121619

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.

R009-648x1000[1]

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

20160601_132427

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. 

 

Beauty and the Beast

Oh no!  Just when I thought that I knew where I was going, along comes a true fan and expresses a considerable desire for work which I no longer make and thought I was finished with!

This Way That Which is Right Path Choice Arrow Signs Opportunity

Here we go again!

I spent last Saturday at Klay London working a stint in the gallery with my friend and fellow artist Ranti.  I love her exciting colourful work and I respect her opinions hugely.  The gallery was quiet – everyone must have been south of the river at Wimbledon – so we got to talking about the direction in which our work is going.  She was firm with me – go in the direction that you have set yourself.  It works, it is what you want to do.  I nodded sagely.  She is so right and anyway, I have written reams about which direction to head.  I have, as my devoted readers will know, made up my mind.

Sunday came and I was back at the Open Studios in Wimbledon.  One of the early visitors to my studio was Dave.  He is a bit of a fan of mine, although he loves my rebellious side and insists on continuing to call me Frankie long after I acknowledged that I needed to conform a little bit and call myself by my given name. He has a couple of my pieces already and had made a return visit for more.  But what to choose?  To my surprise he took relatively scant notice of my new work and headed for the older pieces, the bits that I am no longer interested in.

 

He also expressed a wish to see the final pieces that I made for my diploma – which I had not even bothered to bring in from the car!

I am left wondering whether this level of self doubt is ever going to leave me or whether, as an artist, it is my lot never to be absolutely sure ever again.  Perhaps I just need to accept it and remember the words of architect Frank Gehry to get with my intuition.

quote-creativity-is-about-play-and-a-kind-of-willingness-to-go-with-your-intuition-it-s-crucial-frank-gehry-58-5-0506[1]