Lesson Three - Kate H.

The Committee

I first read Daisaku Ikeda’s speech “Creative Life” (delivered to the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris in 1989) 15 years ago. In it he describes his experience of walking through the Louvre. He observed that the art he saw had all been made for God that is for an external audience. By contrast, Japanese and Chinese faiths internalise the spiritual rather than externalise, leading to a creative culture of art being made for the self. I have spent 15 years of Buddhist practice shifting the art I make from being for an external audience to being for myself; or as you describe, dismantling the committee. The last person to leave is a dear, supportive friend who kept turning up with gallery cards and information where I could show and sell my work. This New Year I realised that this was not what I wanted, I do not want to sell my work, it is too personal and I want to keep it for me. I make a handful of private pieces a year, I like them and they become part of my collection. I have worked in industry, to commission and now make my money through teaching; so my own work is precious and mine. My colleague observed that I came to work in the New Year walking taller and with a confident demeanor. I am also taking much greater care of myself and believe “I can”.

So I thought I had no committee to dismantle, I had done the work. An easy week for me!

Then I woke up to realise I still have two committee members: Old Father Time and The Education Mistress.

Between family and work I am constantly clock watching. When my son was 2 I had a large commission to guide my students through. My husband took my son out so I could make a large collage, recording the stages, as the starting point for my students. I had to paint the papers and tear the collage. I was working from a David Hockney painting, he had kindly given us permission to use, and I had to tear a tree. I had no time left to paint more paper before an inquisitive 2 year old came home and I froze. I rang my friend and blurted out my predicament - she became the cheerleader “Go Kate go! Go Kate go! You can do it, you can do it! Go Kate go!” I rang off, tore a tree, texted her my thanks and finished it all in time. The pressure from family and work commitments made me freeze. The gentle and humorous support of a good friend broke the ice rapidly. I now regularly quote her inside my head, but time pressures still hold me back.

I became aware of The Education Mistress in the Week 2 activity. When my friend retired from teaching textiles she went to do an HND. Her tutor told her she would have the hardest time in the group to do her own work because she would be so governed by the rules for delivery and assessment of courses. Although it was being in bed with flu last week that found my rebellious solution, when I explored this I realised I was kicking against good educational practice that was confining me. I am an award winning educationalist and pride myself on the courses I have created, guiding people to become makers in their own right. I have also taken these structures into my own work, to protect the creative “flow” when using complex processes. I had always seen the positives from the educationalist in me, not the negatives. I have now seen this aspect of my makeup, thank you.

So solutions so far:

Live like water, not fire! This comes from a Buddhist teaching - Faith like fire is a passionate faith the flairs up but burns out. Faith like water is constant, drip, drip, drip, but remember water can cut through rock. I am recognising the power of regular, small pockets of work; I have already completed a large piece this year.

I am categorising type of activity:

  • Low engaging activity when I do not need to over think, such as weaving cloth, which I find de-stressing, and can do in grabbed time.
  • High engaging activity, which I time table in to large spaces of time.
  • Hand stitching that I can do in the living room during family time and is kept in a basket to grab.
  • Journal, laptop and sketchbook by my bedside as, because of health reasons, I am here from 8pm.

I have developed a partnership between my own work and my teaching. All my samples are worked to my personal themes, my advanced courses reflect and continue my personal research. Deadlines of courses keep me productive and on track. However, once a deadline is passed, ideas are shelved and potential not carried through. I am asking myself the question “If I did not teach and could make anything I want, what would it be?”

I am taking on more teaching staff and timetabling myself in a different way for the next academic year, freeing myself for personal studio time.

I am very happy to share my work and it connects with people's lives. I love doing this and through my art I can open up dialogues during difficult times of life.

“Creative Life” is published in “A New Humanism”, the University Addresses of Daisaku Ikeda.