back in the saddle?

12 Jun

Over the past year or so there has been a lot of change in the studio, much of it reflecting life changes in the last few years.
My major foci reflect my life – family, learning and making art – and as you read though this long time coming post you will feel as though this is a mission statement.
It is….

Our five little ones have certainly changed our lives drastically of the last five years. Spending as much time as possible with them is very important for all. From a minimum of the Sunday Night family dinner to the max – time spent with each family at our ‘little house’  – we know we are very lucky to have them all so close in every regard.

The completion of the ‘Girls Shed’ has been the game changer at our little house this year. I spent three solo nights down there not so long ago to concentrate on making, thinking, planning and simply being.…the bloke was on a golf trip so my time was my own.
The few days there have sustained me since.

My daughter now regularly stitches up a storm down there and the kids are also able to get into creative mode without distractions in this gentle space – which is separate from the house.

Each family this year is also making big house changes – one selling/buying, one extending/ renovating, the other working through a demolition/rebuild. There is a whole lot of moving and the associated ins and outs of ‘stuff’. Old things are boomeranging back here constantly – many to make the journey down south.
With the two big ones in Kindy and the other three growing fast, being a big part of their life is precious. It is chaotic, it is time consuming and we are very lucky to be in the very messy mix of it.

Family care takes time.

The second focus, one that has to be satisfied to enable me to relax and enjoy the first focus of family, is looking after myself.

There is health and physical activity aspect and I have been mostly diligent with of late as I approach the next numerical milestone of sixty.
There is also the flexing of my noggin with a very strong need to be continually learning and analyzing.
Increasingly though, it is the strong need to express myself through artwork that is driving me.

Interesting to me is that I am changing the way I learn, as I delve deeper/return to my artistic desires. Books and research online are the go to, as normal, but I am constantly diving into easy and difficult reads, and…and this is big for me…I am reading slowlyrereading constantly…making sure that I take everything in and not simply glide over and ‘get the gist’.

I now stop and think, spilling thoughts out on paper, or simply underlining phrases, before rereading and moving on. 
Fascinating to me that it has taken me so long to slow down…and I still have to force myself to do it every time I start to read!
But it feels solid? I find that I am no longer rushing to get to the next gem in the pile.
No longer trying to keep up with my plans… the pile only fills again anyway.

My research/my learning, is primarily to inform my artwork – it is studying to aid self-expression. I feel the need for fast and constant growth and I want to challenge myself much much more. Taking in information to my new level of satisfaction is making me confident in presenting my artwork. It has to say what I want otherwise it’s existence is merely decorative. Decorative is fine but is not what will sustain me.

I am becoming more open about my, (self-perceived), failings and I am readying myself for failure by pushing, (albeit gently and with self-care), into zones that I would have not ventured into before.
Making a new series of artworks – from the first, (the always brilliant) conception, through the slog and the worries and failures to the, (hopefully) resolved finished pieces – is fraught.
I love the puzzle of it, the constant learning and research needed, the introduction of new skills or upkeep of old, the trialing, the analyzing.
At the same time I also want to jump in quickly, intuitively/ blind and get started…
Instead…I take a breath, walk away, and come back with a new gently-confident demeanor when the time is right. I want to work in a no panic zone.

Once a series is underway it is comparatively easy…tweaking, re-thinking, incorporating various other thought-lines. Still a lot of work, likely a lot of over/re-thinking but it can be blissful.
It can also be fraught with failure and despondence.
It can be annoying as the vision grows into a bigger series with side-shoots…. or are they really distractions? Hmmm.

Hopefully, eventually, in getting to know a new piece, there will be appreciation – from me that is – I cannot anticipate how anything I do will work for others. I care what people think but I cannot let my work be defined, for me, by the thoughts of others.

I need quiet time, plenty of it, to commune with these processes.
Time alone, especially in the studio, simply put, is self preservation.

Self care takes time.

Until last year, my art practice had been very low on my life’s priorities list. I had made, almost exclusively, quilt-based artworks. They were my ease….the techniques, formats, rules that I corrupted, and especially the materials, were a big part of it. The network of groups that promote quilt-based artwork and the multitude of groups, exhibitions, and opportunities also created an ease.
I usually forced myself to make at least ONE artwork each year.
Obviously I was not fully committed.

With a different self-made focus I have now chosen to prioritise exhibiting because my ‘exhibiting dream’ – that I hid even from myself – meant working on themes and in series to push progression. Very importantly it meant showing these works together as a series.

Exhibiting also means to invite criticism…I had to be sure about my work enough to ‘defend it’ or at least to be proud of it no matter whether there are ‘likes’ or red dots.
All of a sudden the critiques and applause please me almost equally. I see this as a really big step in confidence and self-knowledge.

The December Gallery is my enabler. I have to work big hours to try to bring the art forth – and I have no complaints about that – except that more days in a week would be good if that can be arranged?

There is now an enormous amount of self-made pressure to bring forth a cohesive body of work to show at the end of each year but right now TDG is the perfect solution for my needs AND each year I get to share the space with another artist.
A win for me – I certainly don’t hanker for a solo – I’d prefer to share.

The December Gallery 2017 is now online. A wonderful first share with Annie Shelley!
The December Gallery 2018 will open on December 1, 2018.
Please ask to be put on the invitation list….

Family, learning and making art.
Without concentrating on my life week-to-week as I was, I have been able to step back to view the bigger picture of what form/what hue I would like my future life to be.
I choose a ‘full’ life, not a ‘retired’ future, with the current foci (hopefully) underpinning my life for many many more years.

Meantime I hope to be back in your inbox soonish – I have much I’d like to talk about…

Jan Mullen

B. Ed. Art/Craft (Textiles/Sculpture) Living in Perth, Western Australia Artist, Fabric Designer, Author, Teacher, Mentor.