I’ve never had an Artist studio for a number of reasons: - it is an expense that I cannot really afford, I live a 4-mile cycle ride from town so to get to a studio and back is a chore, and in the summer, it felt odd to call myself an Artist. One miserable, wet, dark, raining night in August, I did look at a studio at Kelham Island, but it wasn’t right. I couldn’t find the right place, at the right price.
In the end, I did buy a desk and was delighted how that desk, in my home, made me feel and instantly became my work space. It was enough. It is enough. My flat became exactly how I wanted it - a live/work space at any time of the day.
Then, in November, when I was accepted on to the AA2A Artist residency programme at Sheffield Hallam University, I moved old papers and prints into the MA studio at Sheffield Institute of Arts (The Old Head Post Office) It is a small space with a perfect wall area to overlap things, put things up, leave things, remove things, reflect. So, until the end of June ‘19, that is exactly where you will find me every Monday and Tuesday. Take this as an open invite to come visit.
There is nothing not to like about this gorgeous, strong building which was, for many years, The Old Head Post Office in Sheffield. The floors in the large exhibition space are mosaiced, the walls are still tiled in dark rich brown and cream and everywhere is conducive to creative thought with old remnants of a by gone postal service in town which litters the walls, floors and views. The technical resources are second to none. Space is limited.
The AA2A residency came at exactly the right time. I applied 2 days after the closing date, the submission was accepted, I was interviewed and proceeded to naïvely cover the interview table with examples of processes and work. It was a shamble of words and lace knit and photographs and, of course, laser cuts. I was over the moon when I was accepted.
Now, is a new phase - a progressive time to learn, experiment and develop by using the resources available to me. In return, I will show work to the current students, do presentations and workshops, be around in the space, ask and answer questions. I’m also mentoring a little. Alongside that, there are countless students doing their thing, and we share information. They’ve got used to seeing me and I look forward to seeing them. In the new year, I’ll offer workshops and add information to their notice boards of competitions and residencies.
I did not want repeat my creative practice, therefore, I expose myself to a very creative environment as what can be called ‘A Young Artist’ and I will add - at an older age because I’m not young but I feel it. But, to repeat is out of the question – where do I start?
I could only start the residency at SHU, where I had left off at Nottingham Trent Uni but I had never used a laser cutting machine myself as this is done by the technician at NTU. At Sheffield Hallam, the students use the laser cutting machines themselves. They’re shown how to use them and off they / I go. I collected all of my files from NTU but they are not compatible with the software at SHU. So the learning curve of preparing files started.
Initially this seemed daunting but, only 3 weeks in, daunting is a memory. I’m learning by trial and error but the errors are mine and I continue to learn from them, build a new portfolio and a new-found confidence as a practicing ‘Artist in Residence’. Silly mistakes during the process of live tracing an image and digitally cutting it open up steps to understanding what I can try next and how to overcome errors. When I fail, I try again and again until, after I feel that I have some small grasp of the technique. Students come into the laser cutting room, we discuss our practice and technique, we share learning experiences and own it. Every student fully owns their own work when they create and cut it. After two successful (ish) laser cuts, I needed a location to place the work in order to really see it.
I could hear a voice in my head asking myself why I thought that laser cuts of lace knitting which were inspired by Shetland could ever fit into Sheffield. There were no links between lace and Yorkshire. Did it need a link? Could I create a link? Was it becoming inauthentic or decorative? Or, was I repeating myself. And, that would never do.
Showing my work has previously been an easy act to do as I chose remote extreme outdoor locations to place laser cuts or lace knitting and Only I saw it. In Shetland, the work merged with the landscape and each relied on the other to give meaning. Pure Symbiosis
Today, I do not have access to Shetland to continue to place laser cuts into abandoned croft house windows but I have done that already, photographed it, shown it and understood it.
Now, I only have digital files that stem from my original lace knitting CAD patterns. And I am placing them into Sheffield Institute of Art (SIA)
I looked around the SIA building, the stair wells, and corners at the working windows – mostly sash, and mostly aesthetically pleasing. I even used a measure and made diagrams. In Shetland there was no time for a measure of any sorts – not of windows or of place – I came across places and the site-specific work was entirely intuitive. It was placed quickly, in wind and gales and rain or snow. Here lies a clear difference, I have the luxury of choice and measurement – though this may remove the rawness of the work.
At SIA, location can be more considered than in Shetland. The work can be left in situ at SIA and not blow away. Consciously, I knew I wanted a window of great beauty, subconsciously, I wanted a window in a location with great foot fall. I also considered the view that would be seen through the laser cuts. I wanted people to walk past and either look or not, to stop or not, to think about the laser cuts or not but I did want the work have ‘the option to be looked at’. I didn’t want it hidden.
I chose this window on the half floor at Sheffield Institute of Art, between floors -2 and -1 from the reception to the studios and laser cutting rooms. A stair well of much foot fall.
I must admit, I put laser cut 1 and 2 up quickly because I had no permission and I felt nervous. Nervous if I could be stopped, or asked what I was doing or, and this was the biggest thing, – was the work interesting enough and would it ‘work’ into this location. Laser cut 3 went up – doing it felt good and I didn’t hide it but I could no longer reach to place the next row. At this point, I tried to enlist the support of Jim, a technician, who was obviously going to ask the question I had been avoiding – Who gave me permission to place this work in this window and had I had it covered by H&S?
So, now after the work has been checked and cleared by H&S, Jim placed 3 more panels and I am thinking of placing renegade work across the city and then in galleries. New Goals. But for now, this window is my canvas.
Happy Christmas. Here’s to 2019 and new things that I don’t know exist yet.