June H.

I'm sending you all my apologies for an "Open Studio" silence from me for the last few weeks.  Life intruded in a big way and I needed to take a few weeks off to cope with it and sort myself out….so now I'm playing catch up.  I have been keeping up with all your post though via Open Studio and Facebook and enjoyed that very much.

As I have found the whole CST process stimulating, supportive and liberating, I wanted to be able to make final posts as you have all been so very honest and generous with yours, which has added an extra layer of richness to this already excellent Course.

Week 4 - "The Power Of Limitation" was a thoroughly 'grounding' experience for me.  It initiated a massive (and much overdue) sort out in my Studio.  Magazines, Books and Materials all found new homes and new uses.  And the sort out is still going on, on a regular basis ( as my initial sort out didn't quite get to the bottom of everything and in order to make good decisions for myself I developed a '3 pile system'…1. Get rid of…2. Keep… 3. Don't know, so keep for two weeks and check again.  This has proven to be a good process for me.  I had so much stuff!  I'd worked as a free-lance Artist on Participatory and Community based Project, Residencies in Museums and Hospitals and on Commissions for 20+ years  My wooden shed in the garden which is my studio was groaning with materials and equipment.  It's very trimmed down now, but it is still a "work in progress' and my 2 weeks reviews may continue for quite a while.

The making side of Week 4 - "Use What You've Got" proved to be a creative turning point for me.  This idea suits me.  It allows me to focus and not become overwhelmed by choice of materials, methodology or visual ideas.  I decided to let my 'gut' guide me as well as my head….and my tidier and less 'weighty' workspace, and the process and physicality  of clearing it did, as Jane suggested, cleared my headspace up too.

In the clear up, I found a couple of linocuts I'd printed last year, but knew needed more work…"a little something else" but I didn't know what.  I found them amongst a huge pile of 'possibilities'.  They visually yelled at me from the pile and I knew immediately that I wanted to hand-stitch onto them.  So I started…and I'm still finishing off the second one. I will attempt to attach photo's of both at the end if I can catch the light to photograph them, otherwise I will show under a separate post.

Week 5's Essay gave me much to consider - "Making and Taking Time" is the way I most love to work.  I allows me to be calm, settled and objective and enjoy the process of making, even when things go awry.  Working in a rush encourages me into rash decision making, allow doubts and nervousness to sit at the desk with me and welcomes panic to the mix.  When I think about how I have worked over the last 27 years I seem to have, so often, refused myself time and space to work with pleasure rather than panic, by squashing in as much as I possibly could in a day, with no thought of serious 'planning ahead'.  This weeks essay gave me an opportunity to write it all down and provide myself with better support in the future.

"Really Big or Really Obsessive" gave me much 'pause for thought' too.  And made me smile.  It was so easy to recognise myself…yes I'm the really obsessive one….and loving it. This coincided with me starting to stitch the second print, with even more stitching that the previous one….much more…I mean really much much more!….Its not quite finished yet!  And…the stitching is very very subtle, but its totally changed the surface of the paper.  I just love it.

Week 6 - "What does Alignment look like to you"? was when everything fell into place, became 'right' for me.  I was spending regular time in a much clearer space.  I was prioritising my studio time and was productive and happy…and for the first time in a couple of years, at peace with myself.  I was no longer having long arguments with myself in my head and continually feeling I was doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

This weeks Essay and guidance added an extra layer to this 'rightness'. Reconsidering my skill set,,,what I wanted to continue with and what I felt I could leave behind, plus recognising  and detailing the skills I might want to acquire, was very empowering.  The question Jane put to us "what do you love and what are you good at?" was so clear and to the point that I did a "Happy Dance" around my shed….and it allowed me to start putting "stuff down on paper"….coherently.

I made lists upon lists - whittled them down, put them in order. Very satisfying, very revealing.  The instructions and suggestions in the Essay were excellent for me.  Pertinent and Clear.  Her statement "Life is short and studio time is finite.  Ideally the time you spend in the studio should be a balanced combinations of what you are good at and what you liked to do." absolutely hits the mark for me.  Thank you Jane!

This was such an positive and enlightening week for me and the quote from Kahlil Gibran made my heart sing.  "And what is it to work with love?…It is to charge all things you fashion with the breath of your own spirit".

Week 7 - Making Work Distinctively Your Own.  Jane asked "what are artists seeking if not to marry meaningful work with enjoyable work?"  When I asked myself this question, I realised that all all of the time I've been making artwork, I often had one or the other….but only for very small pockets of time did I have both.

I reviewed what I'd written for week 5 and realised that, as a freelance artist, I had felt pulled in many different directions for most of the time and only allowed myself to totally focus on my own artwork for short and unplanned periods of time….basically, when I had a gap in my diary, or when I had agreed to take part in an exhibition.  However, I was quite good at working hard in these short little pockets of time, however, over the years, these little gaps between paid work became fewer and shorter. I did a part-time MA 2005-2007 and that allowed me two days a week to focus on my own work.  Also it was challenging, made me use my brain and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  But after it, paid work took over again and I seemed to fall back into old ways. In 2008, I signed up with a local Gallery and agreed to produce 3 new pieces every two months.  What was I thinking of?  I thought it would help me with my practice…it didn't.  I just felt more and more under pressure.

The following couple of years I seemed to work the whole time, with little time for family and friends.  I not only lost track of 'content' I lost track of myself.  My freelance work went from strength to strength, but with my own work, I began to loose my way, my objectivity and my confidence. I became very ill with a virus and had, in the end to take 6 months off work. This weeks lesson and essay allowed me to look backwards and see what happened and why.  It wasn't necessarily a bad diversion, especially as, out of the blue my Husband was sent to work in Cologne, Germany for 6 months and the dog and I went too.  6 months became almost 2 years on and off.  It was an amazing experience, all the better for it being a sudden opportunity.  No time to worry.

I'd never lived in the centre of a large City and I'd never been to Germany before.  It was wonderful.  We all loved it.  I had an opportunity to join a class at a Printmaking Studio by the river and learnt lots of new things, made new friends and had all sorts of new experiences.  And I still stitched while I was there….its nicely portable!  But I still couldn't quite find the 'June' in the imagery I was using.

This course came just at the right time (life does that sometimes doesn't it?) and it has helped me review and clarify many things.  The course notes and my written and visuals responses to them, will be something I will return to again, on a regular basis, I'm sure.  Its like a toolkit in a way.

Week 8 - Each of us is Fascinating.  This is where I'm up to now.  Writing my full history. I really had to build up to doing this.  For some reason it really scared me, but eventually I just made myself launch into it.  Its taking a long time.  More than I thought.  I found I had a need to write everything down even if it seemed small and unimportant.  I wanted to write everything I could remember.  And the more I write…the more I remember. "The Shitty First Draft" is an excellent way to describe this process!  To begin with, I couldn't seem to write fast enough and I seemed to feel angry…did anyone else feel like this?  When I wrote about my childhood, I felt like a child.  Same hurts, same emotions.  But its become very cathartic and, in a way, soothing.

I'm looking forward to finishing it all, so I can begin to whittle everything down and begin working on my statement.  But I feel the need to write everything I remember down.  I need to see it written.  So it will take as long as it takes.

And now the course has reached its official end and I'm very thankful that I trusted my instinct and signed up for it.  It has been a challenging, revealing and a joy.  I'm looking forward to completing weeks 9 and 10.

My practical work continues to engage me and gives me great space, time and pleasure and I spend as much time in my studio as I can.  I value my time in there and am thoroughly enjoying the work I'm a making at the moment.  A series of work does seem to be developing and I seem focused and clear on my next moves.  And, at the moment, I am still making time and taking time…..