That was a year, wasn’t it? A year of surprises. How was it for you?
It has been an interesting year for me. I am an artist and, in addition to running Creative Bristol, I am trying to make some headway in developing my own art practice. This process started in 2008 when I began the Foundation Course in Art and Design at Bristol School of Art. I decided not to do an art degree, so since finishing the Foundation Course in 2010 I have been working to understand the nature of my own art practice. I have taken courses and workshops to learn about materials and techniques. And since having a little studio space at Hamilton House on Stokes Croft, I have been making lots and lots of work (my excuse for the lack of blog posts on this website this year, I’m afraid).
A funny thing happened to me when I visited the Affordable Art Fair at Temple Meads in September of last year. Instead of looking at the amazing work on display and thinking “I wish I could create that”, I looked at the work with a strong sense of having started to travel along my own creative road. I was not tempted to join the artists on their road: I did not want to make work like theirs. This was a very important moment, when I realised that I have begun to develop my own practice. Continuing with the ‘road’ analogy, I should stress that I have barely set off on my road. But I am on it – and the rest of my life will be spent travelling along that road.
That is not to say that I am not interested in other artists’ work. I am – and I always benefit from going along to an exhibition and seeing what is on display. Bristol has such a lot of galleries and exhibition spaces, with venues leaving and joining this community all the time. Check out the Galleries, Shops & Exhibition Venues page of this website for information about exhibition spaces. You can also see the work of local artists and makers by visiting one of the Art Trails that take place in the city. I show my work at three Art Trails. They are great opportunities to discuss artwork – a process that always helps my work to develop once I am back in the studio. A list of Art Trails in Bristol and surrounding areas can be found here. (Dates and times are updated as they become available.)
And I still want to learn from other artists. I want to attend workshops and courses to help me learn how to use new materials and techniques. I always benefit from having my approaches challenged and being encouraged to look and think differently. So, I am pleased to say that there are still so many places in Bristol where we can all take classes and courses in art, craft and design. Find out more on the Places page.
We ended 2016 with a real sense of uncertainty about what is happening in our country and further afield. At a more local level, the owners of the building where I have my studio have indicated that they may sell the building. The organisation that runs the studios is looking at all possible ways of ensuring that the community, which has developed in the building, continues to have a space to create. Another local creative hub, Co-LAB has also been forced to leave its base in the Broadmead shopping Centre. Following a very successful crowdfunder, they will be looking for a new home over the next few months.
Uncertainty is unsettling, but you don’t have to think about it too hard to realise that certainty is actually a bit of an illusion. Even when we think we know what lies ahead, we don’t really know. Change is neither good nor bad: change is change. Once we come to terms with the shock and grief that accompanies change, we often see that something good has come out of a change.
The creative culture of Bristol (with its many diverse, small, organic, passionate groups and projects) is well placed to respond to the changes and challenges of the coming year. Sometimes when we are faced with change and uncertainly, we see more clearly what is really important to us – and direct our energy towards making it happen. In a city with such close links to the sea, I thought this quotation from Louisa May Alcott was particularly appropriate:
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship”.
I hope that you all have the opportunity to practice your creativity in 2017. Who knows what the creative landscape of Bristol will look like by the end of the year, but I am going to try to embrace change – and see uncertainty as an opportunity to explore possibilities.