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Someone asked me or maybe they told me, I can’t now quite remember how it was phrased…

“Funding makes you lazy”

First off, that made me a bit cross…. Anyone who has completed an ACE application form, successfully or otherwise certainly isn’t lazy. They are damn hard work. Mine took about a month to do, including the research, the meeting people and discussing the contribution of others, then getting other people to read it and suggest improvements. It is not the sort of thing lazy people do.

Secondly, when ACE say yes, and the big wodge of cash arrives in your bank account, you are so overwhelmed with responsibility for it, laziness in accounting for every penny certainly isn’t an option!

Thirdly, and I think most importantly, it has changed the way I look at prospective work offers.
To the outsider, perhaps, me turning down a school workshop is lazy, now I don’t need the money. A glance back at another post tells you I am very conscious of maintaining relationships with the people who offer me work!
No… Saying no is an option now open to me now I have funding. I have a year in which to establish a different stance. It has given me the opportunity to be a woman of principle.
(I am however, fully aware that stating all this here could well come back and bite me in a year’s time when I’ve run out of money)
I am very proud of what I did over the last ten years in schools. But, on reflection, some of it could be seen as short sighted. By only working with the children, they had a great time, so did I, but in the long term, when I left, there were teachers who had not even thought about art for ten years, let alone taught it. So I turn down work now, where it is just me and thirty children… or even fifteen children. Unless the class teacher and the teaching assistant are in there learning with the rest of us, I’m saying no. I’m saying yes to art sessions with teachers and assorted other adults, and yes to teacher or parent or volunteer training. Getting a load of children to get their fingers stuck in clay is fantastic, but unless it becomes a regular occurrence, it hasn’t changed anything much. The negative experience of my job changing beyond recognition made me reconsider my philosophy of education, and art. I have finely tuned my thoughts on the matter. These thoughts might be considered political. Whatever they are, they are mine.
I’m not being lazy and accepting all work offered. I’m doing it the hard way and turning work down.


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Sonia Boué and I have both recently blogged about the cycles of work and thought, the state of flow, the state of staring into the middle distance and the state I previously have referred to as a slump, but is actually an intense period of reflection, review and recuperation, as valid and valuable a part of the cycle as actually “doing” the work.

This morning I have put a name to another phase:

“Anti-Social Miserable Selfish Bitch Phase” I name it this, so that others can recognise it. Because actually I am not miserable at all, in fact often quite the opposite. I am entering this at the moment. I have identified the need to perhaps wear a hat to warn others of this state. Perhaps a large brimmed affair I can hide under, with ASMSB embroidered around the crown?

 

I don’t want kind acts from others, I don’t want to be offered cups of tea when I look as if I’m taking a break, because what looks like taking a break, isn’t in fact that at all! This is when I need to get myself to the studio for as many hours as possible, lock myself in and hide. I will buy my lunch from Tesco so I can use the express till and not have to smile at anyone. (I bloody hate Tesco, so this shows the strength of feeling)

It is also identifiable by prolific amounts of stitching, obsessiveness, multiples, repetition. An outward sign might be the playing of just one song over and over again… the current top five would be:

Elliot Smith’s Waltz #2;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WL1ly1GMwwc

Elbow’s The Loneliness of A Tower Crane Driver; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_5aypcf_Yw

Jesca Hoop’s Born To
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bxpLcNod80

Doves’ Sea Song;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZRgMaKi3Ko

David Lynch’s Wishin’ Well…..
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_0Y0ii0VdU

Or at the moment, it might be one of my own, one that has an issue to be addressed that I can’t quite see a resolution for. By playing on repeat, I lose the end and the beginning, it washes over me, it can be ignored, or sung along to. After an exceedingly long time, after many many repeats… it slips under my skin, becomes more passive, part of the air, the landscape, and only then, the answer appears… I can identify which part causes irritation, and can then start to listen more actively, seeking out the solution.

 

It is the aural equivalent of looking at a drawing in the mirror, or upside down… or living with something right in front of me, until it becomes obvious what is wrong, or I become so used to it it no longer matters…

 

Anyway, sometimes ASMSBP can arrive at inconvenient moments…. I sense its approach, but have organised my Open Studio Event for the end of this month. Maybe I can dive into it and be out of the other side by then? or maybe try to hold back until after?… I find it is not totally under my control… so let’s just hope for the best eh?

 


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Damn it!

I might have to go and read a book or two.

I have discovered myself twice in the last few weeks, assuming the role of teacher again. That snuck up on me. That whole questioning thing… Prompting thought and debate. “For goodness sake what’s the matter with me?” I thought.

Then a small but increasingly invading thought occurred and poked at my brain “Who was it that said that all artists are teachers?”

A question posed on Facebook, and a poke about Wikipedia has given me two names, either Josef Albers or Joseph Beuys. Both of them seem to have said things that skirt about the question. Maybe in my not very clearly defined academic haze, I have confused the two and invented my own quotation to fit the circumstances. I’m sure someone will correct me. I will go and read, but for the moment, it doesn’t matter, as it has started my own train of thought that isn’t going away.

I have spent a while out of the formal environment of the school now. So the thought of being a teacher doesn’t send me into a spiral of resentment any more. It is a noble profession. But I find I am loosening my own definitions of what it means to be a teacher. And also what it means to be an artist.

If we examine a spectrum of people, plotted along a line between teacher and artist: those who deliver the prescribed curriculum in the prescribed manner, would be at one end; the artist who is self obsessed, isolated and introverted at the other. In between are the really interesting people. Those who inspire and question and provoke and revolt and upturn and upset. Those who prod things with sticks. Those who start the argument just for the sake of it, watching the fun unfurl (my Dad). Those who wake you up as a small child in the middle of the night to watch the storm and the stars or the snow (my Mum). Those two would never have described themselves as either teachers or artists, and yet because of them, I am both.

So I will read a bit of Albers and a bit of Beuys, to see where this has come from. And examine it a little more perhaps.

Meanwhile, I know that Beuys said that everyone is an artist. I would like to say everyone is a teacher too.

I am an eternal optimist. I am naive perhaps and believe that almost all of the people are pretty amazing almost all of the time. I love to imagine a future when eventually we will get to the point where it is appreciated that we are all teachers and all artists, and instead of trying to belittle and devalue these qualities and inclinations, our society will encourage their development, and treasure those who have them.


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