Quote from Kahlil Gibran
This summer I'm celebrating twenty years since graduation. I finished my degree in Woven Textiles at Loughborough College of Art and Design and with a recently won RSA bursary went off to India backpacking. today I have been reading my diary from the trip and looking through the photos. I'm still amazed I had the confidence to go, and still inspired by what I saw. It was the start of the big adventure called 'being an adult', the adventure that doesn't come with a manual, that has to be taken one step at a time.
Painting inspired by my travels in India
Straight after returning from India, I started work in London, wavering, unsure of who I was and who I was going to be. The tick list of exams and university had finished and I had to set my own goals. Thinking back I was full of fear, always worried that things wouldn't work out, and yet here I am, looking back at twenty years working in the creative industries. So I am taking a moment to celebrate the journey of my creativity.
My student work - I've always loved chickens!
Woven textile sample from my degree work
Soon after arriving in London I started to work with a textile agent, Rowena Bristow, who helped me build a portfolio of designs that she sold internationally. These were mainly embroidered designs, but later I created designs with paper rather than fabric so they could be easily scanned ready for printing. Samples were created by hand and then sold on to industry who worked out the technicalities of manufacture.
After having my children I worked as a designer for a card company before deciding to market my own work to galleries. That makes it sound simple, it wasn't! I had no confidence to approach the galleries and after starting my family I struggled to balance my creative aspirations with family duties. For a while I thought I would stop work and focus on being a Mum but I realised that I was not being myself if I stopped creating. I came to the conclusion that instead of stopping being me to be there for them, they were (and still are) a part of my creativity, and ultimately my most beautiful creations. By accepting the whole of myself, rather than the narrowly defined role of 'mother' enabled me to give my inner artist the honour she deserved. Although initially without routine or a set plan, the routines of parenting gave a rhythym to my days and in the nap times and night times I began to make art from my soul.
'Through the Storm' was the first piece of work I created in the style that I now work in. It seems an apt title to represent a time in my life that was challenging to say the least. Based upon showing this piece in an open exhibition, I was invited to create a collection of work for the gallery and so began my career as an artist.
In showing my creative journey with the above images, I want to show how there have been many different stages along the way both in terms of image making, but also in intention. Many creatives start in one field and end up in another. The journey is rarely linear and I have always tried to satisfy the breadth of my creativity, drawing, writing, making. My art work, whilst having its roots in colour and shape, has matured as I have. Did I think any of it was great? No. There are always things I'd do differently, that's what makes me carry on and create another piece of art. I do not think it is the lot of the artist to be brimming with confidence. I don't think it fits with the inquisitive nature required to try new things, look at the detail of life's intricacies and experiment with new ways of representing them. I work each day at being more confident, more expressive. Teaching workshops has given me the priveleged position of sharing the creative process with others, of meeting people soul to soul and enjoying drawing, painting, printing, and being.
Many of those who attend my workshops under value their creativity. It isn't surprising in a society that diminishes the arts, that sees art as not being a valid career path, not being worth funding. And yet it's an intrinsic part of being a human. Without imagination and new ideas we are stifled.
So my post today comes with the hope that you value your creative journey, whether you have been on it for a short time or the long haul. Respect that life can only be led, one footstep after another. Each of us has different experiences, different espression, we need to respect that too, respect who and what we are, our own uniqueness. Tell people what you make, what you create. Show people your drawings, tell people your ideas. Invite a friend to a gallery, make art, buy art. Write down your dreams, make a plan.
I still don't know where my creativity will take me but I now have faith in it, and in myself. I can't stop being creative, anymore than I can stop breathing. In looking forwards I hope to get the opportunity to travel, to return to India. I wold love to show my children, for them to experience a completely different culture. I would love to experience again the exhilaration of travelling, the newness of each experience, the overwelming of the senses. And along the way I'd like to make art, share art, teach and encourage.
Re-reading my diary from India today I realised what an amazing education that trip was. There was so much trust that things would turn out okay, in the face of illness and crazy journeys in unsafe transportation, there was a sense of being really alive. That trip was raw and undiluted. It wasn't the fantasy version but visceral. It made me look at life holistically and developed a spirituality that pervades my work.
Reflecting on the last twenty years has reminded me that life is short. The best experiences have been those that were overwhelming, that required a heartfelt response, that were raw and undiluted. Those experiences have made me stronger. Some of life has been as expected, but so much I could not have forseen. But the vein running through it all has been art. I love to make art but also to teach, encourage and inspire others, and seek out inspiration. I'm looking forward to the next twenty years!
Links to some inspiration for the senses: