- Click to read About Sarah, and About Iris
- Click here to read Gabriel Craig’s recent interview of Iris.
Preparation for Handshake 6
This is an excerpt from an update email I sent to Iris:
Look, No Hands: A creative retreat. As benefactor of a fictitious residency award, I spent four weeks as Artist-in-residence at The See Here (a window-gallery in central Wellington).
In contrast to Free Time, which acknowledged the breadth of roles in my life, Look, No Hands gave me permission to simply be an artist. The last time I had this luxury was Cranbrook, and this residency was a continuation of my modest 2-night occupation of Cranbrook Metals (so modest it may have passed you by). The backdrop text in all the images is from the book Art School, Propositions for the 21st Century that I discovered in Metals, and the title relates directly to a question you asked me: “Can you begin a process without knowing where it goes?”
The retreat was my attempt to be open to my situation and follow wherever it led me; the challenge was doing this under the public gaze. My starting point was realising that I need to change the way I work – two years after graduation, I’m living the dream, with exhibitions and exciting ongoing projects, but actually it’s mostly lonely, expensive and stressful – not really a sustainable long-term lifestyle. I need to re-discover the joy and light.
It took me a week before I could bring myself to occupy the windowspace (daunted by the feeling of exposure and by the oppressive parking building opposite), but once installed, with the basics (books, mostly; a few tools), I loved being there. I spent my time reading, thinking, working at my benchpeg, interacting with passers-by, receiving visitors. I was sad when the month finished and I had to leave.
Again the project was warmly received, and it’s had some great real-life effects – it was seen by the organisers of Urban Dream Brokerage, a local initiative to persuade landlords of unleased buildings to allow artists to utilise the space, and on their invitation I’ve applied – with three kindred spirits – for a city centre studio – free, social etc – through their scheme. We should find out later in Jan whether we have secured a place; if not, I think we’ll try elsewhere, as we’re all excited to end our respective isolation and explore the creative possibilities of sharing studio space. So, 2013 is looking infinitely brighter and more joyous already…
Also, I researched residencies around the world, and am very motivated to get out there. There are very few opportunities here in NZ, and hardly any funding to get overseas, so i am going to need to be inventive (which is where the Idea for Munich comes in).
October 2012: Another 2 months just flew by… So, not such great progress on slowing down my life, then…
Anyhoo. I have another upcoming exhibition (at TheSeeHere window gallery, in Central Wellington, in November). I am looking to use it as a chance to pull together threads of an idea that first came to me at Cranbrook. Although it’s been a year since my massive month at Cranbrook Metals it has been a busy one, and I haven’t been able to properly reflect on my experiences there.
One of the first things that struck me when I arrived was the sheer intensity of the student experience. The course is deeply immersive and highly social. Most students live on campus, just a few yards from the studios. The accommodation does not have cooking facilities and living spaces are small. In contrast, the heart of the studio building is a communal kitchen and long dining/meeting table, and the generous individual studio spaces are partitioned off a vast common area featuring shared resources, such as soldering spaces etc.
(more to come)
Handshake 5: The Free Time Project
25th August 2012: The 5th Handshake show opened at The National in Christchurch last night. It was a wonderful event, attended by 7 of the 12 Handshake mentees; the mulled wine and fondue (thanks Kristen x) flowed, and we were supported by many art lovers, most of whom came early, talked long, and stayed late. Many, many thanks to gallerist Caroline Billing for a great install and of course to project parents Peter and Hilda for your ongoing support; we are a lucky lucky bunch.
For context, here’s the inside of the gallery:
and here is the outside:
The gallery is in the NG building, which is the black end of the block…. unbelievable, huh. So, this is Christchurch, 18 months on from the Feb 2011 quake.
The work I have developed for this show is a project called Free Time. I have created a blog freetime2012.wordpress.com , where you can read all about it:
Here’s the project introduction:
Welcome to the Free Time blog. My name is Sarah Read and I am a Wellington-based artist.
For two weeks I am engaged in my Free Time project, which means living in Christchurch and volunteering my services free to anyone who needs a little help.
Free Time looks at how we value time and how we choose to use it.
Like most artists, I wear several hats in the course of making my living, and I’m pretty handy. The opportunity to exhibit my art at The National in Christchurch set me wondering if my non-artist roles might also be useful to the people of this City, who are now well into a second winter of broken houses and uncertainty.
- I currently have a part-time caregiving job and also freelance as a technical writer.
- Back in the day I co-founded and -managed a small company, and also worked in a not-for-profit organisation.
- And of course there is (always) the house.
So, here’s the plan:
- For two weeks I offer my time and various skills to anyone in Christchurch who needs me. I’ll advertise this via newspaper ads, word of mouth, and posters around the City.
- The contact details in the ads include this blog, where you can view my CVs and references for each of the five roles on offer.
- Bookings are made by phone on a first come, first served basis.
- If I am unable to do a job (i.e. I don’t have the skills or a time-slot that suits) I will, with permission, pass it on to one of Christchurch’s established volunteering organisations.
- I’ll tally the number of hours worked in each role; (see the Bookings page).
- If I have unbooked time-slots, I’ll offer my services to one of the volunteering organisations; if they can’t use me I’ll default to the Artist role (these hours won’t be added to the tally)
- For identification I’ll wear an official Free Time name badge at all times
So for more, see the Free Time blog: freetime2012.wordpress.com. Thanks.
Preparation for Handshake 5
August 2012: Christchurch location visit, The Box of Wonders
(to come: The National/activating the streets/name badges). (The object. Contemplating making some; Torres et al, then Chagall. Also Stella’s speech. Box of wonders.)
July 2012: It’s good to be back
July: ABOUT TIME: Research for Free Time
So, months have passed. The instant I get back into the studio, I am consumed with intense time pressure. So much to do, so little….
I realise I spend much of my life in this state. It has definitely intensified since I began to be active as an artist; the other things in life do not obligingly recede to make that space (not should they; they ARE my LIFE, after all) – so it is necessary to somehow squeeze in a whole extra role. This makes for some late nights, many missed social opportunities, and an automatic reply to How’s it going: “Busy” always said in a special kind of blocking way, as if to forestall any invitation for catching up/hanging out.
Is this really how I want to live, moving forward? Long term, it’s neither sustainable, nor desirable.
Iris:” Look at what’s in front of you – embrace it and work with it and you have the show..the things which are here and you care for are relevant”.
So: work about time, then. Here are some readings from my research (turns out I have been saving relevant articles for some time ):
1. Article I found in April:
There was no mention of more sex or bungee jumps. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives. And among the top, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”
Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”
2. Article I found at Cranbrook last October
(From Art School – to follow)
3. Notes from my flight to the States
21 October – on the journey. Reading Clive Hamilton’s The Freedom Paradox:
- A pleasant life: consumer (20s to mid-30s)
- A good life: maker, self-actualised, ‘in flow’ (mid-30s to mid 40s)
- A meaningful life: the wider good (now and moving forward)
4. Quote from Saska Mackert: (from Liesbeth den Besten’s ‘The joy of making the invisible visual by utilising the hand’ – klimt02 forum (click here for the link):
LdB: One of your recent works is a work on the wall, called ‘Ce souvenir sera toujours mon guide’. The letters of the text are covered by a sort of a cloud of hundreds of small metal medallions, all sawed and treated by hand. We, in Holland, call this labour-intensive process a ‘monk’s labour’, why did you do it like that?
SM: First I tried to do it mechanically, by punching them. But it wasn’t right. I think the metaphor is that you need time to create the image. The thinking process and the making process are slow and that gives the image its power.
April, May, June 2012: Making a living Keeping my head down, no time for making art, or really thinking about art. In June though I see this:
Since hearing Manon speak at Jemposium, I have had a kind of jeweller’s crush – my first reaction was to want to be her pupil. I grab my chance and book my place: the dates dovetail with the end of my writing contract. Finally: things are moving :-).
March: Plan for 2012
March already, and the Big Picture for 2012 is still tbd. November’s adventure at Cranbrook with Iris and the crew left me brimming with new initiatives, but the (luxurious) lineup of exhibitions since then (Handshake 3 in December, Retrospect, Joyaviva and Handshake 4 (opening night images by Sandy Connon) in Jan/Feb) has kept my focus on the next thing rather than the broader plan. So.
- The pull of collaboration, third-party participation or social practice became stronger through 2011 and I’m keen to start some proper research. (During Jemposium the wonderful Fabrizio conjured for me the term relational aesthetics - which somehow had passed me by – so that’s a good start).
- And the US trip, with all I saw, debated, read and experienced, started me thinking about site-specificity. HandShake shows in Christchurch in August, and I want to visit the City before starting to develop work to show there
- And in complete contrast… I am experiencing recurring urges to just make stuff – things that I never got round to / new things. Jemposium again, Karl this time: Get these things out of your system.
- This too shall pass and Pass it on are bubbling away, and it’s a priority to see them through, which will take a while.
Handshake 4: This too shall pass and Pass it on
February 2012, Toi Poneke, Wellington: Wow. The luxury of space, and the electricity of a primed and buzzing audience. Handshake at Toi Poneke was timed to coincide with Jemposium, Wellington’s very own jewellery symposium, and the opening night was a star-studded affair.
I showed This too shall pass:
(images to come)
and hosted a Pass it on sewing day in the gallery:
January 2012: Pass it on in Retrospect, Wallace Trust, Auckland
Handshake 3: This too shall pass
December 2011, at Masterworks, Auckland
Visiting Cranbrook Academy: Oct/Nov 2011
This too shall pass at SOFA Chicago
The people: the culture is unfailingly welcoming and inclusive: Iris, students (esp Steph my lovely roommate), alumni, visiting artists…
One on ones: discussions about my current project (This too shall pass), with Iris, Damian Skinner, Gemma Draper, Reka Fekete
Engaging with my work…
October 2011: Travel plans!
So, my big news is that I am heading over to spend 4 weeks at Cranbrook Academy (check it out: http://www.cranbrookart.edu/Pages/Metalsmithing.html), so I will get to meet Iris in person, hang out with the students… It’s a thrilling prospect. From Iris: the students are great and very supportive . it is a monastery ..people work ..and work.
and from the student who has made it possible by offering to share her home: I am trying to get in the habit of being at the studio at 6am and leaving at 6pm just an fyi on my schedule…
A month of immersion / focus – what incredible luxury. My plan (tho I need to check this w Iris) is to take no materials and no plan – go there and be a sponge and try new things and engage in whatever is going on. Iris again: i have so much i would like to show to you, you would be part of a discourse which you could take home .
Crikey. I still can’t believe this is happening.
Preparation for Handshake 3
So, busy busy. I leave in under two weeks (21 Oct) and there’s a lot to do before then, including sending work for our Masterworks show at the start of December. I am planning to launch This too shall pass (see April and May below for the genesis of this work), which is resolving itself into a large project. Still working with healing and protection….
… but instead of alluding to those things, attempting to devise something that will go some way to effect them in real life. Little agents of change.
I am piloting elements and collating text and images for a possible online component; for a preview, see http://sarahread.wordpress.com/2011-this-too-shall-pass/.
More later x
Handshake 2: Advice for young artists* and Object of Desire #2
(* we are all young artists)
September 2011: National Jewellery Show, Wellington For this second showing of HandShake, I wanted to feature a different slice of my year’s work to date – partly because I could install the work myself, so had fewer constraints than for Sydney, and partly to push myself to resolve work in progress (something that I struggle to do without a deadline).
Advice for young artists has been my ‘stealth’ project for the year. I realised early in my student days that only being able to progress my work in ‘ideal’ circumstances (ie uninterrupted, with great tools/materials, at my bench) would be limiting and frustrating, so I try always to have some work that involves no mess or noise or special equipment, that I can do outside of the studio – while the family is watching tv, for instance. I also realised, at the start of this year, that I would need to surround myself with positive thoughts and encouragement to fortify myself against the downside of artistic practice, especially the isolation and the constant juggling of the time/money dilemma. So, I have been researching, collecting and embroidering encouraging sayings and advice; some from the public domain:
some from direct contacts with tutors, colleagues and of course Iris:
some from friends and family:
and some phrases that I use to comfort and encourage myself when feeling unsure:
Each phrase takes around a day to embroider; I find the activity meditative, comforting, rewarding.
The relative monetary value society accords to our time, depending on the status of our profession (and other factors such as gender, location, etc) is something that interests me greatly, as I switch between my different roles; from my well-paid old job (author of technical texts that no-one ever read), through my coolest-ever day job (immeasurably enriching, terrible pay), to the hours of unpaid domestic motherstuff, and the negative $ returns of art-making. I am reading about the wonderful Wolfgang Laib, who made his name in the 80s with pollen work: “Time is unbelievably relative. Collecting pollen is a very special activity, challenging everything in our society that has to do with time, what you do in a day, what you do in a week, in a month, why you do a thing, and the way you do it… And a cosmic world is also involved, in which a human life is like a spark and no longer plays any role at all because it is so short in relation to cosmic time relationships.”
As a companion piece, I showed the thematically related (but otherwise separate) Object of Desire #2: Here I give thanks for Elliot Collins, from my Loved and Lost series:
(shown here where it belongs – in the window of my studio) . More of this later….
Handshake 1: A year of silk
August 2011, at Gallery 20/17, Sydney
Breastplate (cotton, silk)
Mask (cotton face mask, silk, wool)
Preparation for Handshake 1:
August 5 and 6 2011: Two days, two skype sessions, two recast pieces….
It’s difficult to summarise this final intense (and ultimately exhilarating) weekend. Secretly I’d hoped that Iris would give feedback on the pieces I presented and come up with a magic tweak that would somehow meld them into something that worked. Instead, her suggestions involved trying fresh approaches, including drawing. Inwardly I was aghast (Really? at this stage?), but once I went with it, things started to shift and come alive for me again:
- The process of pinpricking and drawing onto the thin baking paper took me full circle, linking back to the Slowest-ever stop motion movie (see the image at the very bottom of this page) and also looking towards the animation experiments I want to begin next. (The drawing itself was excluded from the parcel for Sydney – ironing accident buckled the surface)
- The mask (which I stitched earlier in the year) was pulled into the curation mix by a conversation about chaos in the landscape/environment and the inadequacy of our domestic protection measures/devices.
- Starching the embroidered fabric transformed it from being a backdrop for brooches to a resolved piece in its own right. This was a big moment for me, and I am keen to develop the possibilities of breastplate/shield forms moving forward.
I finished the weekend (and therefore phase 1 of this project) on a definite high; I feel that my practice is definitely being rolled forward by the interchanges with Iris and the new perspective she brings. Her input sparks me to new thinking, and she constantly challenges me to step outside what is comfortable and safe. She asked “Can you begin a process without knowing where it is going?” and this seems to be at the crux of the matter for me. It is a delicate balance, to genuinely explore and experiment, knowing that there is an upcoming exhibition for which finished pieces are required.
Update to 4 August: Preparation for curation sessions with Iris
So, I spent July making many small brooches, working in hand-gentle fashion, building onto my wire (no-saw) broochbacks, and using a range of materials. My hands were fine and I could put in some solid hours, which was amazing, and the relief and joy in this carried me for a while.
As the deadline for Sydney drew nearer though I became progressively less satisfied with what I was doing and why. The brooches seemed related only by their size (which in itself was problematic for me – it’s hard not to be cute when you are that little, and cute isn’t what I am about…). Way out of my happy place, I trialled presentation options that fully reveal my uber-control-freak response to stress…. (So much for being open to relinquishing control…).
By the time Iris was back from her trip I had culled the collection down to a dozen tiny clay and silk brooches, and reunited them with the embroidery piece that had informed them.
I felt the piece had no cohesion or underlying rigor; no amount of title-changing or rearranging helped.
This then was the starting point for the curation sessions…. two days to go and everything to do.
Sarah Read: Advice to young artists, July 2011
14 July: Trying for this:
2 July: The beginning at (almost) the end..
It’s taken a while to process our last conversation (June15th below). We didn’t manage to skype again before Iris left for Europe, with one or other of us away from our studio during the brief daily timeslot, and also, to tell the truth, I have been stalled. I had a fixed idea of how my work would progress towards the Sydney show, and it has been difficult for me to let go of that.
I realise that til now the biggest benefit for me of this project has been the wonderful ‘Handshake effect’; being a part of this lucky group, feeling observed and lifting my act accordingly (prioritising art, sorting out my workspace, putting in the hours, being more professional in general). But to a large extent I have been working as if on my own, informing Iris of what I am doing but responding quite indirectly to her input and sometimes not even inviting comment. I realise that unless I change this, I am in danger of missing the point and the unique opportunities of this project. It feels necessary to properly open up to the mentoring process. The ideas I already have in place will still be there to go back to if I wish, but this chance to engage with Iris is absolutely a one-off. So, I have taken time out to revisit our exchanges to date and think about a fresh point of departure.
Iris has asked what is the biggest hangup or boycott factor in my making, and what would it be like if I embraced this and turned it around. Two of the things that block my making are overthinking, and the feeling that This has to be good. Another is the question Why am I making this? It is a long time since the purpose of my work was straightforward adornment, and I work at other things for my income specifically so I don’t have to ‘make to sell’. I have complicated feelings about the commidification of art, the gallery system, the art/jewellery distinction and where my work sits in relation to all of this.
So, a new start. Embrace my issues and turn them around. Welcome the opportunity to participate in the 20/17 show, with the various parameters that apply. Work small, as per Iris’s suggestion for group shows in small spaces. Close my workbook and put aside notions of participation and social conscience. Back to basics; let the materials talk to eachother and see what unfolds. Surrender to the process and be open to relinquishing control.
Some quick sketches:
With hand protection in mind, I make many low-impact (ie no sawing required) brooch backs:
and start playing:
My next step is to make more, holding the playful mood, and developing relationships / tension between the pieces.
18th July: Summarising where I am at:
- Austerity range (for Sydney 20/17, August)
- This too .. (possibly pilot at Wellington National Jewellery Show, Sept)
- Loved and lost (just for me, for now)
- Advice to young artists (for all of us)
June 15th: Skype conversation with Iris; our second.
We are both mindful of deadlines; Iris leaves for Europe on 30 June, so, we have only two weeks of possible contact. We agree that moving forward we will talk little and often. So, this time we talk about:
- My experience in Auckland, the launch of Loved and Lost at theseehere’s show at Masterworks
- Silk as a material; its strength (‘nature’s kevlar’ – it can stop a bullet), its durability; ways to test this (through time, wear and tear), ways to transform it, avoid the cliches, give it something different. Iris: “Think of contradiction, tension… a volume which has to be filled, rather than cuddling round an existing form, creating an expectation of what would be in that form”.
- the latest earthquakes in Christchurch, which have unsettled me disproportionately. I am back to February, preoccupied with survival, portability, where is safe? Coming from England, where every place has been there for centuries, it is unfathomable to me that a city could cease to function/become unlivable, be abandoned. I have set my roots deep in Wellington. Love this city
- participatory art; the transformative powers of jewellery, ceremony, ritual, how things are given
- group shows in small galleries – working small and quiet to draw viewers closer (I like this)
- where next for me in this project? The difficult state of not knowing/being in transition, between the ideas you just had and the ones not yet here…
Iris: “To bear with being half way is sometimes more profitable than racing for the finish line.”
- I’m obviously finding it hard here, outside the comfort zone of knowing what I am doing next. The Sydney show looms rather than beckons…
Iris:“ Look at what’s in front of you – embrace it and work with it and you have the show..the things which are here and you care for are relevant”.
June 2011: Loved and lost at Masterworks, Auckland
9 June: Here be the words: Harrell Fletcher: Towards a tender society of thoughtful questions and answers (2002). HF is my latest research find. Reviewing my work over the years, I realise my strongest projects have had a participatory or gifting element. It was great to meet the lovely Kristin in Auckland; we share this interest. She’s known of HF for a while, has heard him speak.
2 June: A printing accident, frustrating when it happened (hence crumpled, sorry), but quite lovely when you take the time to read some of the two texts…
Multi-tasking; NOT my strong suit.
May: Charms development. Looking for ways to save my hands, less time-consuming methods of making.
(to come: All Sorted, Hanging out with Iris in the library, The List, and Back to square one…)
Before: garage and dumping ground
I can’t believe I put this off for so long – after two and a half years, it took two and a half days…
After: ta dah!
The things we do to support the art habit/free us from having to make to sell. I am back in my suit, temporarily. Thinking of near-misses, the soldier’s life saved by the bible in his pocket. I make myself a staid little brooch:
with a subversive twist that to shield me from the corporate world:
The cotton is too coarse to hold the script, but silk works well:
Musing on our first conversation: Just make your work. Long conversations with Iris in my head; they go like this.
Sarah: I am quite tired
Iris: Just make your work
Sarah: I’m not sure where this is going
Iris: Just make your work
Just (as in ‘Just do it’, as in ‘only’, as in ‘whatever else is going on’, as in ‘don’t give me those excuses, get on with it’, as in ‘always’, as in ‘to the exclusion of Other Stuff’)
Make (as in ‘be active with your hands’, as in ‘stop thinking and make’)
Your (as in ‘the most singular response you come up with’, the thing that is the most you (regardless of commercial considerations), listen to your gut. As in ‘you might as well make your work; no-one else is going to’ )
Work (as in, ‘serious play’, as in ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it’, as in ‘put in your 10,000 hours’, as in ‘this is your job now’, as in ‘enough with the kitchen table; sort out a workspace so you can go to work’)
Above: from Capture: Amelia Pascoe’s Pinhole camera and case
First meeting with Iris: 29 March 2011, via Skype
We get to meet via skype in the early afternoon (my time) late evening (hers). I am at my kitchen table; jittery, star-struck and caught off balance (I just nipped home from work to hang out the laundry). Iris is poised, with wine, in her studio. As a starting point I have been sending Iris copies of the ideas I write down – images, things to remember – unedited, because at this point it’s impossible to tell what is important.
We talk about so many things my notes become garbled, then peter out, but here’s the gist:
- Emerging; the short shelf-life of being ‘fresh out of school’, the requirement of having new ‘product’, of exhibiting, being noticed, versus my desire to consolidate and deepen my work. Iris is warm, certain; “Just make your work”; if it’s good, sure put it out there, but for now, just be making it
- My injured hands, the time-intensive work I undertake nevertheless. Ways to involve others, eg local craftspeople in my making, perhaps to make 10 starting points, that I then develop.
- Tricks for repeats (Time is always a factor for Iris too)
- Subtlety and ambiguity: the allure of the things that at first sight seem stable and fixed but are really not; finding tricks to make this happen; (eg the backs of things; if I gave something, the same thing, to 10 people to embroider, then all the backs would be different, and this would be wonderful. Yes)
- Working from home – the pros and cons. Sharing tools and resources, having like-minded company, vs the convenience (and economy) of being based at home. Iris’s studio is at work – she talks about taking pieces home with her, for a change of scene, to see how they look/act in the real world
- Travel (a good thing)
- Iris’s upcoming show (Us, in flux - testing the borders of jewellery; her struggles with scale, function etc)
- Maker/wearer/viewer; the target of my work last year was primarily the viewer; I want to move back to catering for the wearer, or rather, the person who experiences the work at first hand…I am not sure about actual wearability (I am not sure that I am necessarily making jewellery)
- 2-d trickery: How the translation of our work to 2-d images lets us control the viewer’s experience – lets us present separate components with implied connections as if they are resolved pieces. We both admit to doing this - I want to move away from it.
(I realise I have never seen any of Iris’s work in the flesh – I know it only by images)
We take a webcam tour of the studio, which seems vast, with high windows. Iris has recently packed away some 260 pieces, rounded up for a show – she couldn’t work with them around. But she has many things on the go “20 things happening at the same time”, and I do get to see:
- piles of fabric (soooo much) , recently acquired
- work in progress; pearls, and a huge hank of pantyhose
- a collection of African jewellery
- a pile of hearts – THE knitted ones; just heaped there
- a separate office area – v organised
- indistinct forms (we are moving fast here), which Iris describes variously as embroidery, fimo, horse, Easter Bunny, left-over sushi, sculpey, porcelain (with a reference which I don’t quite catch to a Detroit gallery and a tile factory)
I have to leave; time to get back to work.
February, March 2011: Before we start - research, preparation for first meeting with Iris:
The end of the summer holidays. Everyone is back at school/work, I have the house to myself. Now to begin: Being an Artist. Ha.
Having decided to make my year’s work about protection and healing, I am stunned by the devastation served up in the first few short weeks of my research; the monster earthquake-earthquake-tsunami-nuclearmeltdown quadruple whammy. The news is unwatchable, but I can’t tear myself away. The satellite photos are chilling; before and after images show entire villages wiped out: http://www.abc.net.au/news/events/japan-quake-2011/beforeafter.htm
I make tiny felt vessels: to comfort myself.
I research armour and physical protection, I look at physical healing. I remember from science that our cells are renewed every 7 years; I look at traditional wedding anniversary gifts for the first 7 years:
4. Linen, silk
7. Wool, copper
All of these were also used in armour (also: velvet, whalebone, satin, straw, sheepskin, brass, canvas, gold and jewels). This seems a fine palette for this year; exciting.
I visit my mother, who has had a bad reaction to some medication and is rendered vulnerable and afraid. Her shopping list breaks my heart (she was once a calligrapher, I remember her inscribing the names on high school award certificates). I have an enduring love of the printed word, the character of fonts, handwriting. I begin to embroider the list onto silk:
the shaky writing is revealing, but it’s the back that really speaks, the chaos behind the facade:
We need charms against ageing, against memory loss, against bewilderment.
I look at attrition, obliteration.
I buy toile fabric and embroider obsessively to engulf the scene, first with white silk, then black will follow. I have no idea what I am doing (but if does feel good to be doing it).