Using your own original ideas.
I moved a little while ago to a new studio. And for the first few days its just felt… odd. A bit like you are sitting in someone else’s lounge room making art. Luckily I already know quite a few of the other artists and the lovely chap who runs it so it’s not entirely weird.
As many of you know I was working out of a clay studio for two years. Although I loved it I wasn’t making anything but ceramics and that wasn’t quite right for me. Making ceramics can be really obsessive. I used to say to myself, today I will take some paper and do some drawing or I will think about the greater scheme of what I want to make. But nope. As soon as I would arrive I’d be making just clay. It was amazing for focus.
But I really did want to make other things. Then the clay studio moved a bit too far away. The combination of the two things meant I found myself putting off going at all.
Of course I did try working at home, but after two years of focused work I just couldn’t get anything much happening. I have written a lot about the idea that you should make art wherever you are and you can if YOU REALLY WANT TO. But maybe I’ve been wrong. I kept just thinking yep as soon as I have done those dishes, helped my child with her homework, sorted out those tax receipts…. and the fact that I do design work for money in the one spare room, Uurgh. You get it; no art. So after 6 weeks of art drought, I went and rented the tiniest space I could, which was all I can afford. It’s about 4 square metres. Enough for a desk, bookcase, easel.
It is kind of daggy which is good, it’s not oppressively glamorous. [You can read my thoughts about fancy studios here]. It has natural light, [a first for me in a studio]. The clay space I worked in before was communal, so I didn’t have space to myself, so that old chore of packing up every time was always there. It’s relatively quiet which is also great. This studio has chest height barriers so you are neither in a communal space nor completely on your own. Quite a healthy mix I believe. You still get to see some humans, have chat in the coffee/tea room, but you are left alone especially if you appear to be working or you have your ear buds in.
But on my first day I felt fake, I felt WEIRD.
Like I was pretending to be an artist. But it was ok because I had a strategy.
This is how it went.
You know how I often tell you, to write down every idea, no matter how minor it seems in a notebook [digital or actual]? Just scribble it quickly with a tiny sketch if that helps.
Well this is when that baby is vital. VITAL! Instead of twiddling my thumbs feeling uncomfortable and staring at the middle distance I was straight into making some stuff. Doesn’t matter what. Maybe it was clearing noisy ideas out of my head, maybe it was trying out some new materials.
The first few days I was there I got asked the question many times. What do you do? My answer ? I started off saying: Well the last two years I have been doing ceramics but at the moment I am just playing. After I’d said that a few times I had the confidence to explain myself less. Just playing, I’d say. Interestingly I’ve had a great response to this. Most of the other artists agree that you really need to just play sometimes. It’s revitalizing. And if you are between series or big projects it’s a good idea to pause and just think about what you are making and why, rather than just whirling through. And its fun! My last big series was turning into the biggest slog. One of the artists I spoke to today who has also been at the studio for only a short time said he was just getting a feel for the materials after a big break. He wasn’t sure how long this would take but he said it didn’t matter. It would take as long as it took.
Sometimes we slip quickly and easily from one body of work to another. Bt other times finishing a big bunch of work can make you feel strangely lonely or lost. A couple of the artists I spoke to said it’s dangerous to make nothing for too long if you are finished with an old idea, and that playing is a good solution.
You have to play without judging what you are making. It doesn’t matter how the pieces turn out, it’s about seeing if you like any of these new ideas, mediums or methods. It’s about loosening up and getting into a groove. It’s about what you are going to maybe make next.
In my extended period of art play I have made quite a few nutty things , here are a few of them.
I finally finished this tiny scene made of paper. It’s a tiny tent with cushions table and coffee pot.
Some pen and watercolour. My imaginary house.
Some old school drawing.
Tried sculpting a new medium.
Made a pom pom vignette just because I could.
Sewed a prehistoric looking flower from my drawing below.
And finally, I did a nice little ceramic Godzilla who will eventually be holding a bunch of flowers.
Did I learn anything? You bet I did.
Got to go and play now. You should too.