A weekend of tidiness, tea and cake in my studio yielded quite a few sales, which definitely means I’ll have some cash to spend when I’m in America. So that’s a relief.

It also started and continued a few conversations about art and practice. The continuity of ideas, the continuity of just keeping it all going. I also had a discussion about the artist’s relationship with the studio: how it is like home, but not home. It is a solitary space (well mine is, I don’t share) so the door is shut until I decide to open it. It is only when I decide, when I have rearranged it, and hidden all that needs hiding, that the public come in. Certain friends and colleagues are allowed in when it’s not got the Sunday Clothes on… but only a few.

It is the one room where there is no compromise, no give and take. I do realise I am very fortunate in this. I think I would find sharing a difficult prospect now. I’m sure I would do it if I had to, but would only do that if absolutely necessary.

I do as I please. I don’t have regular working hours. Sometimes I’m there for half an hour, sometimes for ten hours, doing what needs to be done. I don’t have an hourly pay rate and I barely earn any money at all from what happens in the studio. 

This weekend then was a rare event. Saturday was quite busy, lots of visitors and patrons, Sunday less so. I think this is the most I have ever sold at an open studio, for which I am very grateful, thank you to all who came and talked and bought. I really appreciate you supporting my practice.

So this week, I get to put it all away again, there’s slightly less stuff, what with the sale and the fact that quite a lot is in Jamestown at the moment – exhibition opening imminent! But I am wondering if I will actually put it all away, or whether I will throw it out? Some of it at least?

I will definitely cut more up to make books, the larger unframed drawings for sure. I think I might give some stuff away… 

I do intend to re assign some space at home for storage, but I have promised myself and my husband that it won’t just be a dumping ground, but that the work stored at home will be work that I definitely want to keep for posterity, if not further exhibition. The remaining items in the studio I will ask questions of it:

Do I like it?

Does it represent me?

Is it of any further use as it stands, or if I manipulate it?

Can the materials be reused?

Does anyone want it?

I think there has definitely been a mind-shift here. I am in a good place to make these decisions and act on them. I already have mental “piles” of reuse/recycle/rehome/refuse. 

What I am thinking about most clearly is the space I will have when all that is done.

Maybe I should consider working in miniature next?

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There are other ways of letting go…

I sent work representing a decade over to Debra and Colin in Jamestown NY… this act in itself requires guts. What to choose? How to send it? Will it get there?

Well it got there, and I thought that would be the end of the stress, but all that happened is it changed focus. I am not there to install it. I trust Debra, and although I don’t know Colin yet, Debra trusts him, and our email communications have been good.

I hadn’t anticipated the emotional territory I would tread in letting go of my work to allow someone else to curate a show. Part of me thinks this is great, and I will see the work afresh through someone else’s eyes. At the moment though, a bigger part of me is worried. Worried that my bras won’t be shown in a way that allows them to communicate… or the babies won’t look like they are playing, or that people can communicate with them in the way I had originally conceived. I also find myself thinking “Exactly HOW IMPORTANT is this?” I had all of this work hanging in groups when it was first hung… and it worked. I liked it, it did what I wanted it to. But how important is it that the work is hung in exactly the same way this time round? It is in a new space, with a new audience, with the rest of my work surrounding it to give it a context. Maybe a new view of it is a good thing… but I still find myself torn. I have had discussions about it all with Debra, and there have definitely been compromises on both sides I know. And they are doing all the hard work, and it’s their gallery, so once I have had my say, I do need to trust it will be ok. Debra is posting tantalising (but cautious) shots of the installation, not to give too much away. But I am now desperate to see it all! I should be over there in just under a month, so will be able to see it in all its glory. She is telling me it will be beautiful. I trust her, so it will be I’m sure.

The last thing I want to do is be that artist who insists that the fork lift truck comes back into the gallery so the pile of rocks can be moved an inch to the right. That’s really not who I am… but I do want my babies to play with each other, and my girls to talk to each other…

(You can do whatever you want with the drawings, they’re not real people)

PS Deb I love that blue so much I may change my mind about showing the twigs on black for the solo show in May back here

(Installation in progress photos from Debra Eck)

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Having taken all my work off the top shelves, and from under the table and the previously neatly stacked corner, I now have an untidy studio again. I’ve sent lots of work off to America for the show, and have the “reject” pile scattered everywhere. It’s been taken out and sorted and put on one side, NOT going to America. So what do I do with it now? If I have decided it is not worthy of that, then what is it all worthy of? The paper based stuff I already have started a programme of chopping and book making. But there are other things, previously exhibited, dry mounted or in frames… what do I do with those? I also have quite a big pile of textile items. Some I want to keep, but lots are left overs from previous projects. I may have a fondness for, but really I no longer need them. Some of these I think I can’t reuse in any way, and may put in a basket at my open studio event for people to just take away if they like the look of them… maybe ask for donations? Other things I want to put prices on, albeit small numbers, in the hope that they will go, some of them at least and I will get a bit of cash for them, to be reinvested on materials, or maybe the gas bill.

But then after the Open Studio, what then? Give them away? Throw them out? Burn them? I am in a mood to dispose of things… space has become the thing I crave most, so in order to gain space I must just say goodbye to things that serve me no further purpose… however pretty the fabric, no matter how expensive the paper was ten years ago, no matter how much time I spent making it… they have done their job. They are redundant.

Tomorrow I shall lay the things out and take some photos… if any of my blog readers fancy anything, call in and collect it, or let me know your address and you can have it for the price of the postage.

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(I should have kept my mouth firmly closed! One of the parcels got lost along the way… fortunately it was found. It arrived safely in Jamestown NC, rather than Jamestown NY. I’ve been informed that is, at last, in a van on the way to Debra’s house and will be in the gallery very soon. So now I have the task of figuring out how I get myself there! But that is a task for another day.)

I had a lovely chat with Stuart Mayes yesterday, zooming from my Stourbridge studio to his Uppsala studio. Both of us wrapping/stitching while we did so. Most convivial! We find ourselves in a similar position in many ways. Our work is comparable, the stage of our practice also, he is a few years younger than me, but neither of us spring chickens… we know a thing or two! We have similar attitudes about the sort of places we “should” (I use that word cautiously) be showing our work, and how it should be shown and seen. We have stopped mucking about and now see the need to pick carefully where we put things. We both surround ourselves with good people and are having a good time making our work however the hell we want.

Currently I feel confident. I feel the work stands up well, I can speak about it articulately. Also, I feel confident about saying that I don’t have all the answers. I’m still working. My practice is exactly that – Practice! It is a moving, evolving, building and collapsing thing. Sometimes I know exactly what it’s all about. Sometimes, at the beginning of new work, I really really don’t. BUT I now trust my processes. I trust in myself that if I keep exploring, playing, making, writing, at some point a connection will be made. All of this happens inside my own small brain, so none of it happens in isolation… there are connections. Sometimes I don’t see them for ages, sometimes I don’t see them at all. Until other people point things out.

Already, even before I actually see this Elena Thomas Retrospective called “Full Circle”, I see connections I didn’t see before. It’s called Full Circle because it starts with me wrapping wood in fabric, and now I’m wrapping a different sort of wood in a different sort of fabric, twelve years later.

If an artist has subjects that interest them, and they keep on reading, listening, writing, making about those interesting things, things connect. If they have a particular fondness for certain materials and methods, things will connect there too. What you have to do is stay on the bus and keep doing it. Then, when you are 62 and have a retrospective show in NY, you have a coherent body of work that tells all your secrets.

PS I’m having an Open Studio weekend soon… hoping to raise a bit of cash so I can take Debra Eck out to dinner while I’m in NY

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