This blog documents my process this year of researching and developing new, live work based on two pilot projects; ‘The Loom; from Text to Textile’ (2005) a live, textile installation and ‘Mother to Mother’ (2006), a participative online Garden of Values. I am funded this year by Arts Council, South East. The Loom is supported by New Work Network and Goldsmiths University and Mother to Mother, by Independent Photography.
It’s been quiet on this blog, but there as been a lot going on in the world outside, so much that time has been short to catch up on it all. I have been busy with my new commission for The Shape of Things, which I am also blogging.
However, in terms of this R+D, Saj and I have just reached the end of a series of workshops with Woven, a group of BME women we met through Eleanor, brought together through some history of depression and also a a love and use of textiles. So really the perfect match for us! It has been a real privilege to work with these women. They are a very powerful and vibrant group of humans beings and we both felt so at home with them. We used weave, (individual and communal), writing and a lot of discussion and sharing to open up dialogue around intercultural identity issues and the connection with well-being and emotional transformation.
Today was the last session for now (I a coming to the end of my GFA period) but it was very clear on both sides that it feels just like a beginning and we do not want to part. We produced a gorgeous communal weave and the dialogue we wove covered so many areas, like a dance, personal narratives of great range and intensity, much laughter and some painful tenderness , a lot of insight and self-reflection , often referencing the intercultural self as a resource and a rich struggle.
There is so much to explore and I only got through half of the material I had planned as there was a lot to talk about out of the creative activities we did so. I am confident that we will find a way to continue, when there is such a strong connection the universe has a way of finding the means. If I do start a PHD this autumn this will be the perfect platform for developing further ideas around meaningful engagement using woven and emotional structures and deepening what has been a striking and intimate conversation so far.
I am off on holiday now and will have a chance to reflect and evaluate what happened,(in preparation for my GFA final report) and to see how to take it forward. I will be meeting with Saj and Eleanor in August and plan to start something up again in late September. For now, my head and heart are in need of a re this has been the most intense 6 months of my working life, wonderful and often on the verge of overwhelming. Motherhood has made it so, even though it is often the root of my drive and focus.
I have been extremely busy with a whole range of things, all which interrelate like some delicate weave…
I am happy to say that finally we will begin working with a group on the final workshop stage of my R+D. It is a journey we will take with the (very fittingly named) BME Womens Group called Woven. The timing is perfect and I feel I have a lot of tools to use during the sessions which will run until mid july.
I probably won't write much about the specifics of what happens, as it is a delicate line to draw re sharing and disclosing , but I will write about the kind of activities we do, using text, textile, poetry etc to transform our perception of what we feel is possible within ourselves in relation to our emotional and creative processes. It begins on June 15th in Brighton and I am feeling good about at last doing something in my local area..!
In the meantime, the ‘weave’ is; working on The Shape of Things Commissionfor Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, a Creative Partnerships installation project at Limes Farm School in Essex, an article for Textile:The Journal of Cloth and Culture, and preparing my PHD proposal for Goldsmiths (more on that later as this new step has grown out of this R+D process). Also of course trying to make time for my small-scale studio practice and my children.. who are my greatest creative project to date.
Art and parenthood..
My experience of continuing my practice since becoming a parent has been opposite to that which I was socially conditioned to expect. I feel much more driven and focused than before – now I know why we need our multi-tasking skills..
I feel more committed yet less attached to ‘success’ as having a child brings an enormous perspective to everything else I do. I have never had so much funding or opportunity to make my work come my way as since I first got pregnant. This may be simply my time-arc as an artist but it could be the new emotional energy children bring or the sleep-deprived lateral thinking that seems to manifest the ideas I need within this new expanded sense of who I am as an artist and mother in the world.
I worked hard to give up feelings of guilt about being away when my son was so little (I started Crafting Space when he was 7 months old). To me it was very clear that the opportunity to make my work through this commission was connected to the birth of my son – that both he and my daughter have somehow brought me the drive to be play out my part in the world in a fuller way. The fact that my mother died suddenly just after Delia was born, is also connected to this – a strong sense of the finite nature of my life here and a deeper sense of my creative purpose.
Having said all this, I am in the fortunate position of having a partner who is also a creative and understands where I need to go with my work. He is a ‘natural born parent’ – so when I have been away for several nights installing work it hasn’t been the huge issue it might be.
The intense adrenalin state I get into when I am on a project deadline is not, I realize, always compatible with being around my children (Delia, 4 and Moses, 18 months) and my partner often prefers it when I stay away completely rather than come home and am still obsessing….
One thing I had as a child was the example of my mother as a working creative person. I think my daughter Delia seeing me as a fulfilled creative person helps her to grow up with a more comprehensive image of what a woman can be as well as respect the fact that I have a need for personal space which I must meet in order to be a balanced human being.
So -following on from the last post, here is what i wrote re my proposed methodology for my project;
' 1. Locate an organization/partner in the female mental health / BME sector to work with in providing access to relevant groups and individuals. Saj Fareed is working with me on this and we now have Eleanor Hope on board, BMECP Community Development Worker for the area.
2. Run text/textile workshops in the region/s using book weaves, writing/drawing and other methods. Try out a series of core questions to see which resonate with participants and feel relevant to the form of the work.
3. Create a network of participating venues that then link into specific target groups to participate in the project. Plan the nomadic path of the weave itself and its development in one/series of large venues within the next 2-3 years.
4. Collaborate with an architectural/structural consultant to consider ways in which this final space could be created. I am considering collaboration with an architect and software designer, as what I need to develop is really a large scale piece of soft architecture which will need its own budget and longer timeframe.
I am very open to developing an intermediary stage experimental work that works more site –specifically with the textile-text wrapping of existing architecture in some way.
5. Take a ‘Mother Spool’ around with me to workshops and other situations and invite people to add to it. Use existing content from Mother to Mother site to begin the spool. Develop an online access point for adding text to the spool. Other spools could be sent out around the world and then be sewn to the mother spool once we are ready to weave the space.
The creation of these Child spools could be done not only online but by participating venues on the final trail independently. There would needto be an overall context to the participatory framework prior to final exhibition, i.e. through the venues, to guarantee a meaningful outcome and also to open up a publicised channel for the work as it develops, both online and in-venue'.
I have had some vital conversations and thoughts since writing this which i will detail here soon.Time for rest now.
So now back to Unwrapping the Gift of my own R+D. The Arts Council have been very patient, with the vital interruptions of my son's birth and two large commissions in the last 6 months. Finally the space and also practical support – through Saj Fareed who is working with me on the participatory side – to move on with putting my long-germinating ideas into practice.
Where do i pick up? Maybe a quote from my Summary of Intention which is my rough blueprint for the next 2 -3 years:
' I intend to create a large scale woven structure, woven and written into existence with the participation of thousands of people. The space will consist of woven textile texts on some kind of flexible frame. I envisage this being a very portable work somehow.
The walls/ceilings will articulate that which can be expressed in words via the incremental inscription on a single spool of ribbon which is taken my myself I to interactions with groups and individuals who will write on it in response to questions posed on their experience of displacement.
The final work will be placed in a public space for a fixed period with a % of an existing weave done through workshopping/online input and the rest to be written/woven by the public during the installation period. The space would be comfortable enough for people to ‘occupy’ for long periods of time, in the way that nomads use tents when they settle'.
The next part- my methodology- is to follow in the next entry.