I am a woman of a certain age. That means peri-menopause, HRT and eventual menopause, high blood pressure, the threat of statins if I don’t stop eating cake, a teenage daughter leaving home in September and husband with a long term health problem. At the age of 56 I now describe my livelihood as ARTIST. Wow, what a breakthrough. I want to throw my thoughts out there and have a discussion about what being a creative person means to me.
It is done. It is over. The daughter is safely delivered to Edinburgh and I am back at home. I am exhausted. I have cried and cried and cried. Why? My clever wonderful child has gone onto the next stage of her life. She’ll be singing along to folk songs in the bars of Edinburgh and has already met some vets who told her how to rejuvenate a hamster. Why am I crying? Because this is an ending and a beginning for all of us. I too get the chance to have a life mostly dedicated to developing my artistic practice. I’m already planning how to take over her bedroom to make extra work space for myself. I bravely went in there when I got home and had a tidy up. Folding the clothes away she hadn’t taken and wondering why she hadn’t taken the new denim skirt she loves? Chucking all the dead face wipes away and wondering if I can squeeze another small wardrobe in to accommodate some of her skirts so they don’t get creased. I’m keeping busy, I’m probably going to get drunk….again.
I am thinking about what I want to do, and that’s why I’m re-organising the whole house and having a super massive clear out. It feels appropriate to welcome this new phase with a mass chuck out of things I no longer want or need.
I just hope that I can concentrate on art and creativity and not be taken over by a massive mummy fear. Time will tell…..tick tock.
We are on holiday again. This is the last girls only week we’ll probably have. This week mum was 82 and we celebrated her birthday by drinking champagne and eating good food. Present were me and my sister and our daughters, my niece and her two children, who are my great nieces…..I am a GREAT aunt and all that implies. I bought my brand new sketchbook and went and sat on the beach to christen it. I’ve made images up here for many years and just enjoy the act of doing. Of putting colours and lines down on paper, just for the hell of it. But as I sat there watching the world go by and noting down little scenarios on the beach, I begin to think I’m getting to the essence of how my work will evolve. Despite tinkering with stitched textiles and rust dying and natural dying and many other things, the one thing that truly fascinates me is people and what they do. I make up little stories about them based on a momentary glimpse of something they say or do. I call this “observing” and was taught the art of people watching by my mum and her friend while on holiday in Tenerife many years ago. Now I can’t stop it and have little scraps of paper all over the place with scenarios I have witnessed. The question is do I want to take these forward? How do I want to take them forward? I need to begin a series of experimentation with ideas. I’ve started to look at past works I’ve done and analyse what I’ve done and do I like it and want to repeat it?
So, you see, I do have something to do after the great Edinburgh university drop off. I have a plan to keep me functioning. Well, I’m hoping I do.
Oooooooooooooooooooo, it’s getting nearer. The daughter leaving home thing. About 3 weeks to go. Don’t really want to think about the exact time left to get everything sorted. At the moment I’m having an epic battle of my own, with fleas. They’ve been on steroids and have taken over the girl’s bedroom. This makes me believe that my world is normal place and once the fleas have gone (everything crossed), she can just go back in there and scatter her stuff all over the floor as usual. But this won’t be the case will it? We’ve been having conversations all year about the garden and what we’ll plant but then saying “Oh but you won’t be here. I’ll send some pictures” Now that time is almost upon us. I had this belief that once she’d gone I would be up in my attic space happily creating and sorting out my artistic practice with a passion and a focus. And I believed this. But now I’m not so sure. I managed to complete a sketchbook that’s been on the go since 2015. We were on holiday and I’d look at this mountain opposite and just respond to whatever was going on with the weather or the sounds. It was brilliant. And I began to experiment with a textile piece. (Slight pause here to investigate strange flea shaped object on the keyboard) But right here at this moment I can’t imagine what the hell I’m going to do with this work or how I might want to take it forward or actually, I don’t even want to think about arty stuff. I’m obsessing about the fleas because it gives me a focus and a clear purpose to my existence. As with the wasps in Germany, the girl expects the mother to sort her out and make her safe from fleas. But what am I going to do when she’s up in Edinburgh? What if she gets wasp and flea infestations? What if what if what if?????? I don’t know do I? None of us do. Just going to have to wait a bit longer to find out.
I’m so surprised that it was February when I last posted. I meant to post more often. I wanted to be on a journey of self discovery with my stuff. Nothing happened. This is because I am a mother first and foremost. I am still an artist but not one who is yet earning some kind of living from it, by the I mean selling my own stuff. Hell, better get on with it I’m nearly 57. I do get paid to be an artist in my job with Pyramid of Arts, Leeds. Check out their web site. You may spot me dancing about, having a great time and getting paid for it. Part of my role as artist with the music group was to provide props and back drops to make our musicals more immersive. I mean, how can you sing about being at the seaside if there’s no donkey or full size cardboard ice cream van?
My husband has an interesting take on what I do….or actually in his mind, don’t do. He told me he’d waited 30 years for me to do something. A comment I found patronising and insulting and I told him so. He obviously hasn’t been listening to my discussions about how liberating it is to paint a role of paper as a cafe and a fish shop, or how making a shadow puppet show has freed up some deep corners of neat and tidiness that needed to be liberated. He just sees that I’m not selling anything I’ve made.
So why is that? Back to the mother thing. Well, the mother thing and all the other roles I fulfil on a daily basis. Carer for my husband, daughter to my mum who will be 84 this year and that may turn into carer. Sister and listener. Many many roles on daily basis. Yet the one that is all consuming is the mother role. Girl went inter railing recently. She’s back now, older and wiser and more grown up. Today, my dad’s birthday, we had a family argument. I was probably a bit stressed due to his passing last year. I lit a candle for him in a church in Berchtesgarden, and couldn’t stop sobbing. I miss him so much. And I felt that the child I have nurtured for 18 and a half years is leaving me. She no longer needs the mothering, the reminder to look for conditioner in a German supermarket, or to tell her to buy that necklace she keeps going back to and fondling. Because I know that she really likes it and wants to own it. Or that it’s OK to buy some advocat and we’ll get some lemonade and drink it, even though it’s Summer. She has an air about her that I feel is saying “look mum I was on my own for 2 whole weeks and I managed. Leave me alone”.
If that’s the case then, why was it me that had to shoo the wasps away from her food? She didn’t even realise she was doing it. It was just a thing that mothers do, saving their child from hungry wasps. One day she’ll hopefully realise the true value of a wasp beating mother.
I read the following blog post from the blog of textile artist Mirka Knaster http://exploringtheheartofit.weebly.com/blog/artists-as-hoarders and immediately felt like I’d met some long lost distant relatives.Of course not all people who create also hoard. But I do. I seem to have inherited this need to save things from my dads side of the family.
I have been an avid collector of kitsch and rejected objects for most of my life. I have a friend who gives me hideous gifts knowing I won’t be in the least bit offended but delighted. But in recent months I’ve started to look at all this stuff and just think ” what the hell am I going to do with all this stuff?” Maybe my daughter will want to take it away in years to come. She is the one who will have to deal with it when I’m old and infirm. A mild panic sometimes descends as I shuffle my stuff about. Rearranging it and making strange combinations of chicken ornaments and Indonesian shadow puppets. I’m just wondering what’s actually going on here.
Last year my dad died. This year my daughter is leaving home to go to university. Is this unease just symptomatic of the upheaval of the current stage of my life? From September, the third phase of my life will begin, the one where I don’t have to be an active mother figure everyday. I’ll have all the time in the world to myself. Am I just freaking out a little here in anticipation of something that I know is going to happen?
So, what shall I do? Well, I feel that I want and need to try to do something creative with some of my objects instead of gazing lovingly at them. Should I start with the ones I least like or go for the jugular and pile in to the things that feel precious to me. Because they are just objects. They’re not valuable. Many have been bought for the fun of it, and as I write this I can feel the insignificance of them. Until I take my cup of tea into my shed and gaze lovingly once again upon that monkey holding a banana ornament that somebody somewhere thought wonderful enough to buy as a souvenir from Gibraltar.