Amelia through the looking glass

I can’t put it off any longer. I want to, but I can’t. I’ve got to start working through reflection properly.

So I am going to start by answering a couple of the questionnaires that Angela gave us (currently and previously) and take up Caroline’s suggestion of writing 400 words reflection on each post/chunk/piece of ‘studio’ work (which will be posted with the relevant work).

Here is the Reflective Practice Questionnaire

Introductory questions

What do you call yourself?
I am an Artist and Graphic Designer.

This is the order that I think of myself as – but if I am talking to other design industry people, I have to state designer first otherwise they don’t take me seriously (believing I am an artist with designer aspirations). Mostly though, I am a ‘creator’. It doesn’t matter what ‘framework’ you put me in, as long as I am making/creating something, I am happy.

What was your initial training?
I completed a BA in Fine Art (specialising in ceramics) without doing a foundation course first (my Uni sometimes took students without foundation). I was interviewed for both the BA and BEd in the one interview, expecting to be rejected from the BA – but was instead rejected from the BEd and accepted on the BA. I was rejected from the foundation course once they discovered I had received a minimum offer for a degree course (the interview was ‘shut down’ once I told them). If I had done a foundation course I might have taken a more focused ‘design’ path and missed out on the rich experiences I had in fine Art. Although this would have meant my career path would have been easier, it would also have meant much more frustration (as it is harder to take the rejection of something you have invested in). As an artist it is easier to remain detached and professional about the choices customers make – as it is a business transaction. As an artist, it is harder to accept rejection as your work is so personally ‘yours’ and says a lot about you.

What kind of work do you currently make or do?
I am currently focused on issues around mental health and mood. This has coalesced into work concentrating on colour from the recording of a daily ‘colour diary’. I am interested how colour can affect and reflect mood.

How long have you been making/doing this kind of work?
This work has been a recent development. I have always been fascinated by colour in landscapes and the mood they create, but it has taken some time to realise why I wished to replicate and present them to others.

Reflective questions

Why do you make/create work?
I need to make work. I need to be creative all the time. This need not be mentally creative and can be as mundane as knitting, sewing or needle felting. In fact, the repetitive nature of such tasks and doing something with my hands is very soothing. But I must always be creating something. This is sometimes an outlet for being creatively frustrated at work, or as a form of therapy. Most of my art is a form of ‘therapy’ in one way or another.

How do you generate ideas?
I take inspiration from anything. Things go into my brain and float around. Elements start to coalesce and form ideas which start to become apparent to me. These can be thought through more and more until a ‘string’ can be pulled out – I do think the description of the Pensieve in the Harry Potter novels best describes how I get an idea. (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Pensieve)

Dumbledore: “I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.

Harry: “You mean… that stuff’s your thoughts?

Dumbledore: “Certainly.

What do you do when things go wrong or don’t work out?
I go back up through the sequence of making to the point where it still worked – I then try to define if an alternative process will result in a good outcome. If this goes right back to the idea and no successful outcome can be found, I shelve the idea and put it back into the melting pot to coalesce into something new.

When have you learnt the most?
I hate to say it, but probably when I have taken the most risks and made work that makes me uncomfortable (either in thinking about the work or in presenting the outcome).

Even if the work has made me so uncomfortable that I could never do such a thing again, it allows me to see things differently and pull back from the ‘extreme’ version and create work that has leapt forwards rather than stepped.

Looking at things in a different way as if the work is not your own is very helpful. It allows you to circumnavigate your own preconceptions about your own work and help to see it as others do – a bit of role playing allows insights and objectivity.

Have you ever changed the kind of work you make? Why?
Yes. My recent colour work has removed me from working with physical materials into the domain of electronic media.

I recognise that I can sometimes become ‘addicted’ to the process and creation of a finished ‘piece’ when working with physical materials. This can often result in ‘crafted’ work (in all senses) which leaves rather ‘closed’ work for the viewer.

By stripping everything right back to the most basic elements removing the intimacy with the material, I am able to focus more clearly on what my work is really about – colour and mood.

Do you have any regrets?
Of course. Everyone has regrets – but it is what you do with them that is important. If you learn and grow from them, then they are really just a learning experience that enriches your life in an unexpected way. If you allow them to hold you back, then they truly are ‘a regret’.

What makes you get up in the morning?
Sunshine, looking forward to making something today and my cats.

What would you tell someone setting out on a career?
You’re a long time working and an even longer time dead. You have to do something you love doing, something that excites and satisfies you otherwise you become a ‘living dead’. If you can’t do what you love and be paid for it, make sure you do what you love in your ‘down’ time.

Only you can make you happy – you can’t rely on another person, job or place to do that for you. Create a set of circumstances that make you feel whole and happy. Apply this ethos to your work and even if others do not like what you do, you will feel fulfilled and your integrity will remain intact. Accept criticism that helps you develop, but not something that affects your integrity or beliefs. Ignore everything else.

Studio Use Questionnaire (Handout 2:1)

What do you do in your studio or the place where you usually make work?

Write down everything you do in your studio or the place where you usually work. Include drinking cups of tea, dreaming, reading the paper, phoning friends etc.
I usually work in my kitchen, living room or garage, depending on the type of work I wish to do. As my studio space is also my house there are too many things around me to list. I have nice ritual of things I need/want to be in place to stop me from being diverted and I do not waste ‘studio time’ doing other things as I only begin ‘studio time’ when I wish to create focused work.

I would usually drink coffee and eat breakfast as I start out (as I would on any working day) and tend to approach studio time as I do work (which is also conducted at home). I am quite disciplined about allocating time to things.

Which of these things do you want to be doing and which do you not?
I am a good ‘planner’ and set aside regular time (at least Saturday mornings if not all of Saturday and some of Sunday too) for ‘studio time’ and this allows me to spend all week planning what I will do in that time. It is rare that I would indulge in a distraction as I prefer to make/do something than avoid it. It is more likely I would avoid writing or cleaning in preference to making.

What else do you want to do that you don’t? Why aren’t you doing these things?
Reflection. I dislike reflection immensely. I find the process too much like ‘therapy/counselling’ and find it often interrupts my flow. I believe I am thinking reflectively and it constantly feeds into my work that way, but stopping to write it down is difficult. I should consider voice recording my thoughts and ‘writing up’ via voice recognition software. This can stop me in my tracks because I know I need to reflect before I continue making – so I do nothing instead. If I make work without reflecting, it clearly shows and suffers from lack of considered development.

Sometimes I consider making large-scale work, but don’t have the resources to do so and often the reason. I should make maquettes in those instances.

Is your studio set up for you to do what things you want to do?
Yes, it is now. I have painted the insides of my garage white and assigned one wall as a ‘working wall’ and the other as a reflective space. This allows me to have a ‘messy’ space for painting and ‘wet’ experimenting rather than messing up my kitchen.  I also have some podiums for placing objects on.

Years of making has allowed me to hone the environment I find most conducive to creating. This is based around my house – I need my creature comforts around me (including the living ones!) otherwise the idea of getting a drink/food/post/affection from a cat, is a constant distraction – so where I work, ideally needs to be in the house. The garage is not attached to my house and this is about as far as I can get before the need to be in the house becomes overwhelming (I have to lock the garage each time I want the loo/drink/food) and this is a barrier to flow. In the house, I just do what I need and carry on. (I have made and eaten lunch in the middle of writing this paragraph – it has not stopped me in any way…)

I have music on whilst I am working (or the radio or even TV if the process is prolonged and mundane) to keep the ‘chattering monkey’ side of my brain occupied while the rest concentrates on my work.

What stimulates ideas and your imagination?
Anything and everything. My head is a melting pot of elements which coalesce into ideas. Sometimes an idea is there, but I have no way of manifesting it until I see something that may be totally unrelated, but can be applied to create a physical piece. Music, literature, photography and personal experiences all play a part.

How do you keep track of projects?
I have now developed the habit of photographing work at least at completion, if not during the process and blogging helps create a chronology. This means I can reflect and review online, even if work is in storage or sent elsewhere.

Is it too messy and chaotic or too neat and tidy?
It is harder to have mood boards around when research is stored electronically, but far easier to look at online that posted around the house. My studio space in the garage could be utilised better for this.

I’m generally not bothered by mess and find that more acceptable that too neat and tidy.

Do you feel at home and relaxed?
Mostly because I am! I am freer in the house than the garage.

It’s my house and I can use it how I see fit for whatever I want to do in it.

Can you play there?
Absolutely. At home or in the garage are environments where I can have no inhibitions or concerns about failure because there is no-one else to see.

Can you refine and finish work there?
Yes. I find unresolved work a distraction, so I tend to do this.

Is there enough storage?
Yes.

Do you have a comfortable chair to sit in to contemplate work?
Yes.

Is the light adequate?
In the house, yes. In the garage less so. But I mostly have the door open and use the daylight when I am in there. Otherwise I would invest in an uplighter.

Are there enough electrical sockets?
Yes.

Is there a good enough internet connection?
In the house, yes. In the garage, none. So I either have to use my phone or carry out research before going into the garage. Either way, this has not been an issue so far.

Where else do you make work or think about work or carry out research?
I only make work at home or in the garage that relates to my art practice. However, I could make work anywhere.

I think about work all the time – anytime, anyplace. Ideas are always stewing away in my head like a cooking pot, bubbling to the surface for attention and sinking back down until they are ready. Eureka moments often come in bed or in the bathroom!

I often conduct research on the train to Guildford.

What do you do in these places?
I make the epic journey to Guildford once a week and have started to schedule this time to reading research which I would not wish to do during my ‘downtime’. This is often the required reading for the course, which does not interest me as much as normal research (which I read in bed).

I often read art journals on the train too.

I flag any points of interest from the reading/mags as I go and look them up either on the train (if phone signal allows) or when I get home and mail myself links to research more fully and blog at a later time when convenient.

Do you need to make any changes?
I should probably try to integrate these all into more cohesive writing and reflection. They all feed in to one in my head, but I should probably record these better.

If something needs changing – that I can control – I generally try to do so.

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