Art versus craft versus product……Where are the lines? Are they (or can they) all be the same? What matters for what market?
In the turmolic washing machine that is now life at Canny Maker HQ this is the current question of the moment. I am standing still but beginning to look forward and wonder which way to turn next. This summer will mark 4 years since I left my office job to look towards a new pasture. The various life changing events in between have somewhat delayed arriving at the new pasture I had in mind, but we must still move on and persevere, There is now no way back. But what next? After finishing my MA I was set on working in the art world, making works which reflected an inner poetic expression, seeking to offer a personal experience shared with the external onlooker. I moved away from the making of map string, a natural shift but one originating in a creeping feeling of something being too contrived. The poetry of my work I shifted back to the writing and calligraphy – its natural home – and one where there are still so many worlds left unexplored.
But again, a pause.
As time passes, idealism fades into reality, and the reality of life with a family is one where the family must come first. Ideals are all very well when all I’m wasting is my own time. So I am back asking myself what I want to do – do I want to go back push my art, making work for exhibitions (of which I have not been in any) or do I want to make work which can actually sell. For money.
Someone once told me that they would be really sad if I ended up “just selling stuff on Etsy”. Lately I have been wondering why? Is there something so wrong with making handmade products and selling them online? Is it some elitist thing which means I need to only be making and selling in Liberty, not in some other small scale way? This is the question isn’t it – why do so many people see selling work as selling out. I could be just as much a designer maker as being an artist. Or both, at the same time. Its all just a matter of labelling isn’t it?
Someone sent us a card once which said “When life throws you lemons, make lemonade”. Sometimes though it is hard to see the way out when you are weighted down with so many metaphorical lemons. So you carry on doing what you do, running from the past, doing anything not to look forward and managing to completely miss “now” from any part of your life. It has been like that for a long time at CannyMaker HQ: I realised it is now 8 months since I last posted anything on this blog, and 16 months since leaving Camberwell. Time flies when you have your head in the sand.
Over the last few months, I’ve been doing some mindfulness training, and slowly trying to sort things out. I’m not sure what I’m doing or where I am going – both in life and work. In life I’ve at last been slowly making my metaphorical lemonade, and it is time to do the same in work. Perhaps the uncertainty will bring back the creative freedom which was lost in the post-MA haze of trying to make a career of it. Mum often says to me, “don’t try, just do” (I think that might have been from Yoda), but it is true that we are often guilty of trying too hard and not just getting on with things.
I thought I would start again, looking back through all of the ideas pushed aside during my MA. There was some really good stuff in there which was left half-explored and it’s time to blow the dust off. My starting point is the pure pleasure of a brand new sketchbook, and the topic I had originally in my first week at Camberwell – that of liminality and the liminal space. Now with my new practice-based research skills, I might have better luck at detangling the topic which I found just too big at the time. I dug through some of my old ‘inspirations’ notes and found this quote from Do Ho Suh; it suits both the topic and the life lesson rather nicely.
“I see life as a passageway, with no fixed beginning or destination. We tend to focus on the destination all the time and forget about the in-between spaces.” – Do Ho Suh
There is a long road ahead of each of us in life. Meandering though a land we cannot see until we pass through it. Like many, I find uncertainty difficult. My mind tries to help me by always fixating on finding a destination, finding the right path through the divergent choices we face, so each step points forward. When you are sure where you are going, the gentle meander of day to day life seems easy to deal with.
But the universe is too cunning to outwit it with such strategies. We can never see far enough through the rain to know where we are going. No sense of dimensional space applies to fate: what is forwards can also be backwards, and what can seem like downwards can often be forwards. Coping with this Escher-esque world requires us to continually change our frames of reference. Adapting ourselves to progress, meeting each circumstance as it is thrown at us. Lest we find ourselves crouched at the side of the road, too paralysed with fear to move on.
And so, I have found myself at a fork in the road. A fork with many paths leading off in different directions, with no signs to post the way. What do you choose when you no longer no where you want to be? Being forced to pause momentarily allows you the chance to reflect. Not just the school-book reflective essays which you write knowing your tutor is marking what you say. No, this is real, personal reflection where you don’t care anymore if anyone or no-one ever reads what you say.
It has been 7 months since the end of the structured learning of my MA has ended. Looking back from here I see how much I have needed the validation of others to give me a the confidence to move on. Once that is taken away, so quickly life is plagued by uncertainty and the shadow of creeping doubt – of your talents, your desires and your ‘plan’, which rapidly fades into dust once it sees the light of day. Where now? The old festival of Imbolc has just passed, the moment we start to see the light of spring slowly returning to warm the winter dark. This is the perfect time for reflection and re-dedication. Should I release myself from the pressure of achievement? Not doing anything for any reason other than the rawness of desire? In the business world, not having a corporate vision & strategy is the easiest way to fail. But life is not a business, and living without passion and joy is surely not living at all. Then again, we still have to pay the mortgage, and no decision (however hard you try) can ever be made in a vacuum.
Context is everything.