The Swedish tax system requires that all companies complete regular VAT returns. In the UK I was self-employed rather than a company and had an income well below the VAT threshold. Where as here I am an ‘Enskild firma’ – sole proprietor of a one person company and there is no VAT threshold – I pay it and claim it back just the same as IKEA, Volvo, Electrolux, or at least just the same as any company which is still Swedish. The one ‘concession’ that I am afforded is doing my return once a year – though I wonder if it might not better to do a quarter of it every three months rather allowing a years worth of receipts to build up – filed but ‘unprocessed’. The book keeping necessary to complete an accurate VAT return is somehow both annoyingly time consuming and pedantically satisfying.
Every receipt needs to be account for and given a verification code. Receipts also need to be categorised according to a four-digit number broken down in eight classes each with numerous sub-classes. I downloaded the pdf version of the class list, it extends over 41 A4 pages and we are not talking large print. It is interesting to review one’s year through these classes: my outgoings on non-fiction literature far exceed my expenditure on ‘materials and goods for the production of saleable goods’ which I take to mean artworks.
Actually I have somewhat over simplified things. A receipt may contain items that belong in different classes, and in such cases the receipt needs to be split amongst the different classes. For example a trip to the hardware store might give me some materials that will be used in making an artwork as well as some washing-up liquid – which is classed as a disposable item – and a screwdriver – which is a tool and therefore has another class and number. The pedant in me loves defining each outgoing and findings its perfect class number, the free-spirit in me would rather be messing about with glitter, dreaming up impossible installations, and fantasising about fantastic new work.
I have a little way to go before I am ready with year’s figures but it will be done on time. The slightly curious thing is that my VAT return is done several months prior to my personal ‘tax declaration’, and should I accidentally over pay my VAT I get it back after my personal declaration has been submitted.
Spending days at the computer reminds me of that terrible 80:20 ratio that artists work – administration:artwork, or office:studio, or computer:material – whatever words I choose the general understanding today is that artists spend 80% of their time doing the stuff around producing art and only 20% actually producing it. Can this really be true? I heard this in a British (if not Scottish) context so perhaps it does not hold true here.
Today is the mid-point of Tim’s five-week holiday in South Africa. Before he left I imagined that despite having a few tasks to complete in his absence I would have empty days and weeks stretching ahead of me waiting to be filled with creative play.
Last week I attended a very enjoyable workshop – learning to make bead flowers! Do I even need to mention that I was the only man there? The workshop at the Thielska Gallery was the third one offered by the wonderful Anna Lindell (any bead artists may well recognise her name from any of the British bead publications that she writes and produces patterns for,) to accompany an exhibition of one man’s collection of these remarkable ‘eternal flowers’. They are truly great creations conjured from modest (if not exactly inexpensive) materials. The ability to produce things that closely resemble snowdrops, orchids, lilies, ferns, tulips and even forget-me-nots and gypsofilia with nothing more than glass beads, copper wire and some florist’s tape is amazing. It was great to learn a little of the history of the craft too, and I was perhaps most struck by the use of bead funeral wreaths which seemed to me to be particularly poignant and beautiful. I went to the workshop thinking that I might pick up some skills and tips for my work with Tim, however I am now wondering if I might not try making some pieces myself – as artworks.
Of course I bought the book – which is far more than an exhibition catalogue – and was happy to see that the photographer is someone I know from the studios in Stockholm – Edvard Koinberg. He is a great photographer, and also helped me source aluminium sheets for mounting my jigsaw puzzle pieces, and I am considering asking him for a quote to (re-)photograph some of my work. He is very skilled at capturing detail, which I think would be good for several of my works. The light reflecting qualities of the glass beads are, perhaps, not so different from those of glitter.
Edvard was second ‘wip artist’ of my day – I went in to Stockholm early so that I had time to see some of the commercial galleries before the beading workshop as I have not been around them since the new year. I particularly wanted to see Hannah Ljungh’s show at the Annaella Gallery. Hannah also has a studio at wip:sthlm but it has been a while since I have seen her work and what I remember of it from shows in the konsthall was that it was not at all commercial. It was very interesting to see her work in a commercial context. I really should pluck up the courage to ask galleries about the art they show and who buys it, or rather how they sell it and to whom. Hannah’s work is quite academic – the work in this show investigated how one might come to know a landscape and a mountain in particular. I should also point out that each piece was very well made and had that certain Scandinavian cool aesthetic (there were certainly some pieces that I could imagine having)! I have always found Hannah to be very approachable and open, she is someone who perhaps I should ask to give feedback on my work. Seeing her show, and the others too, reminded me why I need to keep going to galleries and seeing what is out there.
Tomorrow I am working at Tim’s studio again. It feels as though I am getting back into my own rhythm of working. One of the things that I find most challenging about being an assistant/apprentice is not having authority over my work schedule. This is not a criticism of Tim, it more a recognition that 1, when working on my own art I direct where and how I tackle each piece and 2, I am embarking on a professional world which although often similar to the art world actually operates very differently.