On Saturday I had my first home residency check-in with Helen Sargeant and her son Naoise that started with a lovingly made lunch, which we sat around the table together and ate. Eating and talking over a meal has been regularly coming up in the development of this project for example at Islington Mill they regularly put on a Pot Luck Dinner on a Wednesday evening and it continues to provide an informal way for anyone to get to know the Mill. It was good to see Helen and Naoise in their everyday environment where it felt a more natural way of getting to know each other. I was aware that Naoise had to go to a party later in the afternoon and soon after lunch Helen and myself got caught up in a conversation when Naoise sweetly interrupted us to get on and use the fun weekly planner for the residency. To make the planning session more visual we put on our special researcher glasses and I used a whiteboard, different shaped magnets, colour pens and stickers for the family to create a loose activity structure. This plan helped me to find out what else I needed to do to support their residency. Once Helen and Naoise started marking out there activity over the two-week period it soon became filled up and it was a good way to get more of a realistic idea of what could be achieved within the time frame.
We talked about visiting or maybe even attending a Finnish school, which both Helen and Naoise commented that it could be a bit daunting to go to a new school for a full day. I have been thinking about this a lot in relation to this project and when I have seen residency opportunities that mention day care for the child, would I trust leaving my child in that instance during a short term residency, answer probably not. Although part of this residency was to allow for a partner to go with the artist to provide additional childcare support. However Helen and Naoise are making and playing together which is the focus of their residency. Organising school contact will take time to develop although a tour and maybe an afternoon at a Finnish school would be a meaningful way of engaging with other children of Naoise age and for Helen to see the difference or similarities in the schooling environment. Naoise raised an interesting question: ‘why do we have to go away to make art?’ This would be a really good question to reflect on as part of the evaluation.
It feels like the residency programme is writing itself with all of the artists’ involved holding the pen at the same time. All three artist mothers Helen, Saara and myself taking part in this project have very different practices although we are all negotiating our work whilst being a parent. What conversations and questions will come from spending time together? This has got me thinking that a group informal crit of our work at Islington Mill would be a good opportunity to see the commonalities of our everyday and differences between our work. Would other artist parents be interested in attending?
Naoise stayed back a bit later even though he had planned to leave for the party and he signed the residency agreement in a special gold pen.