The plan had been to spend another afternoon and evening in the studio.
When I woke up, the slight snuffle I had assumed to be allergy related turned out to be a cold. I ache all over, but that is more likely due to the upheaval of decorating the kitchen.
I have a performance on September 8th. My voice is not strong at the best of times. So I’ve come over all diva, and I’m staying at home in the hope that someone will look after me (I know, pathetic!)
I decided, now all the painting was finished, and the cleaning up done, I could start to reassemble the kitchen.
It came as a bit of a revelation during my MA studies: “ The Practice of Everyday Life” by Michel de Certeau… and it took me quite a while to understand and believe it: That my adjustment of the world around me, my acceptance or rejection of certain practices and principles was as much a part of my practice as the choices I make about the garments I work with, the sounds I record, the stitches I stitch.
My work is obviously in the domestic, feminine realm. I tried to fight that for a while too. Mostly through a lack of mindful reflection, and understanding, and also a lack of any sort of intellectual rigour of thinking through why I was doing anything. It all, over two years of reading, talking, writing, working, discussing and blustery arguing, gradually seeped in.
I can’t deny who I am. I’m a middle aged woman with a husband and grown up children. White, vaguely middle class, in the middle of England, with a low to middling sort of income. I’m not cutting edge really. I’m soft and cuddly (on the outside at least).
But my everyday life is my practice. Definitely. So, instead of working in the studio, today I have worked in my kitchen. I have been making decisions about what goes back into this clean fresh space. What is used, and how often, and what is not? What do I love, and what do I tolerate because of its usefulness? I have curated my kitchen. There’s a big box of assorted bric a brac for the charity shop, and a pile of stuff for my sons to plunder first, if they want it. Practices are reviewed: where is the best place for the microwave really? Probably next to the hob, but that spoils the aesthetic, so it has gone to the other side, so the eye sweeps across clear surfaces in this narrow space. I put up with slight inconvenience for the look of the thing! Every item returned undergoes such scrutiny. But my decisions are not so simple as the useful/beautiful argument of William Morris et al… Did William Morris have two plates painted by his sons for their father when they were children? Were they garish and lumpy? And actually the wrong size to be useful for much at all? Did he have a drawing of sunflowers inspired by Van Gogh done by a four year old in his first term at school? Probably not. Did William Morris have trouble finding a space for his ironing board? I doubt it!
My current thinking in my studio is about all of this. All this nostalgia, affection, love, attachment to things and people. I don’t have knick-knacks as such. I prefer wooden boxes to useless wooden carvings. I much prefer a jug or a tea-pot to a useless figurine. The things remind of the doing previously done – my mum making tea and doling out big slices of cake. The bowls used for christmas puddings. The plates used for a few weeks every year for mince pies… items that contain memory, tradition and ritual, kept and held close. The used item is able to hold more than the item just looked at. The kinaesthetic stronger than the merely visual memory. I am pretty low-maintenance (I keep telling my family) in that I am loyal to things and don’t want them replaced. I am not really into fashion and trend.
When I get back into the studio later this week, I intend to look at what I have been making with similar rigour: What am I keeping and why? What am I looking at? What am I working with?
I can also be, in addition to the soft and cuddly, I’m told, rather sinister. (There’s a sharp skewer in the back of the cutlery drawer…) People have told me sometimes my work can be macabre, spooky, and that lying very close to the soft textile surface with loving careful stitches, is a sharp edge, an ugliness disguised. “Domestic” is often used as a synonym for “cosy”. In my experience, it is more, less, different. Domestic cosiness hides the dark underbelly of domestic discomfort. I am currently finding myself a little dissatisfied with the work I am thinking about, and I think it is because I have not yet found the part where I am teetering on the edge of something. At the moment it is all a little safe and nice – god forbid! (comfort blanket! comfort blanket!)
So… prompted by thoughts engendered by curating my kitchen, I go back into the studio, prepared to push myself much more… leap off something… crash… dive headlong… do something vile and disgusting… repellant and violent and ugly… play with it…. and then….
…back off very very slightly so people can get up really close to the pretty, before encountering the nastiness within…