The cost of alternative routes

When I first applied to Camberwell, it was under the hope the footnote at the bottom of the course webpage which said “alternative routes will be considered” would be true for me. This should mean that even without the requisite undergraduate education in the arts, I would be looked at for my potential. I was well aware that all I had done formally was my City & Guilds tuition – but with a PhD already I shouldn’t have any issue with the research. It was just the art & design side which might have a skills gap….

….and I don’t have any issue with the research. I understand what needs to be done, the iterative link between thinking and making; I understand how to do self-directed research. However, I feel like I have now come across the harsh reality of what a skills gap feels like. Or perhaps that is a skills chasm. The problem is that I’m not sure how far it is to the other side.

These thoughts are coming from reflecting on the tutorial I had with Maiko yesterday, my first for term two. Maiko as usual was sharp-eyed and saw straight through any blagging, or making I had been doing without really understanding the point of. Talking with her is very helpful, but I always feel a bit shell-shocked afterwards, probably at being brought back to clearly see the climb still ahead of me. Yesterday’s feedback focussed mainly around my lack of clarity on materials and materiality. I still have a tendency to over-think things but not think enough about the fine details of the materials I am using and why. Back to a cooking analogy, it is like a poor sauce which detracts from the deliciousess of the main ingredient and a garnish which doesn’t even belong on the plate. Plus am I making a main course or a dessert? How can I not know which?

One of her other comments was on my daily squares which I had been making as part of my ‘daily rituals’ investigation, which had essentially turned out less to express any emotion and more as a display of a range of different techniques. She reminded me that playing with the possibilities of art like this is what you should be doing on a Foundation course – not an MA. An MA is the time to focus and expand / develop your style into a specific direction to take forward into your professional career. I suppose this hit a chord as I had really considered if I should do a Foundation course after finishing my C&G Certificate. I thought it would be a lot of fun and I would learn lots – but that’s what drove me to an MA in the end. Fun is fine, but I would not be in a position to drive a new business / new career straight afterwards. I am too mature in my career and without enough money to just take a year of work just to have fun!

So, being committed to the MA enough to quit my consultancy job for it, I am not going to let it get the better of me. I have been enjoying the course and I think that can continue while tackling The Challenge ahead. My first challenge, as Maiko and I discussed, is to find the right material which speaks to what I am doing; and to figure out what it is I am doing. I am currently sinking in a sea of good ideas and things I want to try out – structured textile artworks, willow basketry, tapestry weaving, quilted baskets, paper making etc etc. But this is not what the MA is for and I need to keep reminding myself of this. I’m sure this is half of the problem I’m causing for myself. I recall Bridget saying way back during the Getting Started workshops in September – that good ideas you may have to pass by during the course are not lost. You can come back to them in the future – you have your whole career ahead of you after all.

So I’m feeling a bit more positive than last night; I know it will take a little time to figure this out and I will need to be focussed, methodical and proactive. I need to accelerate the crossing of my skills gap and quickly figure out what I really want to develop within my practice.  We have some time left in Unit 1 to experiment, but not that much time.

It’s all character building as my dad would say 😉


1 thought on “The cost of alternative routes

  1. Tom Talbot

    The main message from Maiko seems to be one of focus. Being able to park the nice to do and concentrate on the need to do is one of those challenges that crops up from time to time. Successful people have a clear vision of what that is


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