I don’t believe in New Year resolutions. If you want to do something – I think you should get on and do it! Don’t wait for that one day of the year to make a change. The concept of a ‘new year’ does have its uses, however. Breaking up time into chunks means that we can think about what we were doing during clearly defined periods of time. The start of a new year allows you to think back to what you were doing at the same time the previous year. And what has happened during that year. My 2014 was really interesting. I started working from a small studio space at Hamilton House on Stokes Croft, established links with even more creative people in Bristol and beyond, and made, showed and sold my work at various events around the city.
If we rewind a few years, we come to the time when I used to walk past the Bristol School of Art on my way to work. I literally DREAMED of being able to study there (but didn’t imagine that it would ever be possible). At some point I decided to visit the fabulous shop Creativity and buy a few bits and pieces to make some handmade cards. After that I bought some supplies to make jewellery. One of my friends asked if she could buy one of the pieces of jewellery that I had made for myself and I agreed. I then dreamed of selling my jewellery and cards at fairs. I signed up for a fair at my children’s school, which went really well. I did more fairs. I went part-time at work. I signed up for one-day-a week course at the Bristol School of Art (the only one that still had spaces – enamelling).
By going into the School of Art once a week I started to feel closer to the dream I had had since school – of taking a foundation course in Art. I spoke to tutors and put in my application. In September 2008 I started the (two-year, part-time) Diploma in Foundation Studies in Art, Design & Media. I gave up my career (a decision that was also linked to a desire to be more available for my two children).
The foundation course was an amazing experience. But it was also very challenging. The course takes you on a quick tour around a whole range of media and processes. Students going on to study art degrees use this course to help them decide what to specialise in (fine art, fashion, ceramics, illustration, textiles… etc.). I didn’t apply for a place on an art degree. I’ve already got a degree and PhD and my children might need the money for their own studies!
The work that I made for the final exhibition of the foundation course was about trying to fulfil your own dreams whilst trying to dealing with the responsibilities of adult life. The sign next to my final exhibition work said ‘Destination: Developing personal practice’. This is what they put when you don’t have a degree course to go on to. So, that was my task – to develop my personal practice. And since July 2010, that is exactly what I have been trying to do. I realised that although the foundation course was crucial for my own creative development, it didn’t actually teach me to do any kind of art properly. I didn’t know how to draw, paint, sew, or print. I sat at home and realised that I needed to sign up for some more courses to try to develop my skills in art, craft and design.
Very cleverly, someone in my foundation course tutorial group suggested that we book a venue and have an exhibition to make sure that we carried on producing work after the foundation course. We exhibited at Centrespace Gallery in November 2011 as Group C Artists. To prepare for the exhibition I worked using the skills that I had learned on the foundation course: research, sketch booking, experimentation with materials and processes. I produced a body of work that I was really proud of and I really thought I had cracked this whole being an artist thing.
January 2012 came and I stalled. I did some workshops and courses, but without a tutor setting a piece of work or an exhibition to prepare for, it became impossible to focus. I have never been good at committing to one thing and with art I feel drawn to pretty much everything (except ceramics, for some reason I just don’t like doing ceramics!).
By January 2013 I was starting to feel like my creative journey might be over. I am definitely the kind of person who needs to create, but the stress of trying to develop my own practice at home, on my own (without the support of like-minded people or the critical eye of a tutor, and still lacking any real competence in any techniques) was making me think very hard about how to go forward.
Because I had done workshops and courses in various locations around Bristol, I had an idea to set up a website to tell people about what creative stuff is out there in the city. On 21st January 2013 Creative Bristol was launched. Although it has taken up time that I might have used to develop my own artwork, it has been such a valuable experience. It has allowed me to get to know so many creative people and organisations around the city. This in turn has made the process of ‘developing my personal practice’ much more of an achievable reality.
I still have dreams. In 2013 I dreamed of being able to be in a creative place like Hamilton House. By June of that year I was working there as a volunteer on the Reception Desk. I met artists with studios and put my name down on the waiting list for a studio. This idea of having a studio seemed like a fantasy, until April 2014 when I was offered a space and said ‘yes!’ I have also felt ready to start showing my work at art trails.
But most importantly, I don’t feel anxious about ‘developing my personal practice’. I look forward to finding out how my work will develop over the rest of my life. I want to research and experiment and see what happens. I know everything will probably take much longer than I think it should, and I try to learn to be patient! I still have so many dreams, but it is amazing how they have a habit of becoming reality if you keep going.
So – here are my creative goals for 2015.
• Meet more of the fabulous creative people of Bristol and share the creative love on Creative Bristol
• To work hard to develop my own creative practice, but to be open minded about what that means – and to enjoy the journey along the way
Please feel free to share your creative goals for 2015 with Creative Bristol! And whatever you wish for, have a brilliant creative year!