Saturday, 5 April 2014

studio practice, performativity and the public gaze

Truth be told there has been some printmaking happening around here recently, but not a whole lot. I finally got to the studio last weekend to print some new drypoint etchings. But I'm not overly happy with the results (I messed up quite a few in my hurried attempt to do a lot in a short time) so will take a slightly different approach and print again from the same plates soon.

While the printmaking has been slow, there has been quite a bit of post-PhD-thesis-submission brain tinkering though. I've been thinking (and writing) a lot about the notion of creative practice and performativity, and how this becomes enhanced through the use of virtual tools such as blogs and Instagram to reveal studio practice. I am fascinated with the idea of the public gaze and what this might mean for how artists and designers think about their artist/designer identities.

More soon once I've finished the writing and (hopefully) get it published.

In the meantime, I'd be happy to hear any thoughts you have on this topic.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

things done




It is done. I submitted my PhD thesis for examination 2 weeks ago. I can hardly believe it, but slowly as the days pass my body and mind are beginning to process this fact. I am starting to uncoil the tightly wound spring of tension that I have become over the last 12 months of thesis writing. But what an experience! And I loved almost every single second of it.

So that means a little more time for printmaking - I have not been in the studio since April. It will be super lovely to get my hands dirty again. I feel quite rusty but also eager to get started. In the meantime though, a bit of rest is in order with some beach and mountain time in the company of family and friends. Bliss. See you in 2014!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Mapuru weavers coming to Melbourne


Two and half years ago I travelled to Mapuru, a small indigenous community in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, where I sat the women weavers and learned the basics of their beautiful, highly skilled craft. I blogged about it here and here. The image above is of a basket woven by Mapuru weaver, Margaret Bambalarra. After buying the basket from Margaret I carried it all the way back to Melbourne. It's now hanging on my wall at home. Each time I walk by it I drink in the colours of the top end and think about that wonderful community of women weavers.

If you live in Mebourne (or even if you don't but are prepared to travel here) Friends of Mapuru are bringing some of the Mapuru weavers to Melbourne in late January 2014 to participate in a cultural exchange. Part of that time will be spent sharing their weaving skills. If you'd like to take part in the weaving workshop check out the information on the Friends of Mapuru website and sign up. It will be a blast! Believe me, you will learn so much more than weaving skills from these amazing women.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

hearing feedback: crits and creative process

Work of Art (Season 1) contestant Abdi (left) during a work in progress studio crit with Simon de Pury.

How do you respond to feedback on your work?

It's a curly question that one, most probably generating even curlier responses depending on your view.

Let me give you some context. I've been engrossed in watching Work of Art: the Next Great Artist on SBS, a reality series from the US about artists and their creative work in a competition environment. You can read more about the series here on wikipedia. Spoiler alert: do not go to the official Bravo site to read about this series if you want to keep the mystery of who wins alive to the end. They have winner information plastered all over their front page at the moment (for season 2).

Have you been watching Work of Art too? If so, I'd be really keen to hear your take on it. There's so much that can be said about this show from many different angles - the competition, the participants, the judges, the studio environment, the nature of the briefs, the personalities (!!!), the made for TV formula, but...I'd like to dwell on the crits for a moment in this post if I may. Because boy, are they lively!

Crits (or critiques), as many people familiar with art or design school environments will know, are one of the most important places that an artist (or designer) receives feedback on their creative work, either the work in progress or the finished work. For a very thorough run down on crits and their role and place in art school education you might like to read this post by Kurt Ralske. A fellow tweeter and colleague, Megan McPherson (@meganjmcpherson) is doing her PhD on the student experience of the crit in the art school studio. She will no doubt have much to say on this topic as her study finishes so stay tuned!

If you haven't seen them, the crits on Work of Art are brutal. They're honest and hard hitting and the whole time I watch that part of the show I sit on the edge of my seat and my heart beats faster. I swear. This may sound odd but I feel some of the pain for the participants. Why? Because feedback is hard. It's hard to hear especially when the feedback is critical or negative and you've been working like a demon to produce something you feel is worthwhile. It's hard to hear feedback in the most normal of crit environments but on tv in a reality show with cameras and viewers all over the world, well that is something else! Sure, it could be argued that the partipants knew that this would be the case, that their crits would be uber public and that's the 'game' they entered into when they agreed to be part of the show. Yes. But all the same, they're creating work in very short time frames while being filmed. And then on top of it all they endure very public feedback on their work via a gallery show and then the crits. To actually hear the feedback, own it, take it in and process it, and then act on it takes a great deal of openness for artists, and I would suggest especially in the kind of environment on Work of Art. 

But I'm keen to hear what you think. Go watch the show. Come back and leave comments. Or just tell me what you think from your own experience of crits. Is feedback hard for you? Do you have any special ways of dealing with it?

Saturday, 28 September 2013

on rabbit holes and creative process

Inside a Japanese woodblock print studio. Total immersion in the process. Photo by Kylie Budge (circa 2003)

 A fellow researcher, Melonie Fullick (@qui_oui) and I have been chatting about rabbit holes and the PhD process on Twitter lately. This is because we both feel like we travel down somewhere deep in apsects of our research work, and it feels like a solo place where we can't think about other things. We just have to tunnel down like a rabbit and do our thing there for a while until we're ready to come back up. Melonie even wrote a blog post about it yesterday. She describes the process and feeling well, I think.

As I read her post this morning over breakfast it got me thinking about the creative process and how it has similar rabbit hole qualities. You know that feeling, when things are going well with a project and you forget to eat and can't bear to stop. Hours and hours can pass by without you noticing. Psychologists call this 'flow', the idea where immersion in creating is so deep that time seems to stop for the person involved. They also talk about it being a single-minded immersion. Which led me to the rabbit hole analogy. It's a similar idea.

I was thinking about this quality of single-mindedness the other night as I watched Jennifer Byrne interview Elizabeth Gilbert on the ABC. Elizabeth was talking about the process of writing and creating her new work of fiction, The Signature of all Things, a massive 512 page story set in the early 1800s. When she spoke about writing this book and bringing the story to life I was struck by the details, the collecting and sorting and researching and weaving of all the tiny minutiae that make up a fantastic story (and if Jennifer's reading of it is anything to go by, it will be great. The book will be released next week). Surely creating something like this requires at least one rabbit hole? Maybe more?

And yesterday I read Lucy Feagins interview with the Sydney artist Cressida Campbell on The Design Files. I've always admired Cressida's prints so was really excited to see this interview. In it she talks about her process. One thing that struck me is she said that while a small work can take her 2 weeks to make, a larger work can take up to 4 months. And Cressida admitted she usually only works on creating one print at a time. A great example of the rabbit hole! Check out the article with Sean Fennessy's beauitful photography showcasing Cressida's studio.

I wonder, do you experience the rabbit hole feeling when creating? Or something else entirely?

Friday, 20 September 2013

happiness is...




I've been really enjoying catching up on some of the Creative Mornings Melbourne video series, so I thought I'd mention another recent one that provided me with quite a bit of food for thought. Designer/Illustrator and 'multi-disciplinary' maestro, Beci Orpin, spoke about happiness and creativity in this lovely video.

Beci speaks with lots of examples from her life about what keeps her happy, and links this all very closely to her ability to maintain a work life driven by design. She mentions the following happiness points important to her:

+ her sketchbooks
+ making mistakes
+ riding her bike
+ breaking the rules
+ having her cats around
+ diversity
+ finding inspiration
+ community
+ running your own race

Two things I found quite wonderful to hear her speak about were 1. making mistakes, and 2. running your own race. Beci shares a very honest tale of what she feels was probably a business 'mistake' earlier on in her designer career. I found it refreshing to hear how she viewed this and the learning she drew from it. It would be easy to write something like this off as a failure and dwell on it unproductively for ages. Instead, she used the experience to figure out what she is better at and used this to propel her forward into other design adventures.

The second point, about running your own race, was communicated simply, but holds a powerful message. Beci talks about not getting caught up in what your creative peers are doing and measuring your progress against this. Feeling envious, jaded or ripped off 'is a really big waste of energy', she says. Which is so true when you think about it. And turning your thinking around to see it like this totally changes your perspective from being a negative one to being positive. So run your own race is her main message here.

What brings you happiness in your creative world? Enjoy the video!

Friday, 13 September 2013

documenting the lives of creatives

Studio of Aysen Bayram. Photos by Paul Barbera from Whey They Create.

Something else that jumped out of me from Lucy's talk on image making and the new image economy (see previous post) is the beautiful documenting of creative work spaces that some are undertaking. One such person is Paul Barbera who produces Where They Create, a gorgeous image folio of people in their creative work environments from all over the world. Swoon!

Another production of a similar ilk is that of fvf who collect stories and images of creative folk in their work spaces from different parts of the globe in their series, workplaces. Ooo la la! Through their beautiful photography and text we can see the creative environments of people like artist, Jeongmoon Choi in Berlin or graphic designer, Etienne "Akroe" Bardelli in Paris. This particular collection tends to produce quite a bit from Europe giving those of us far, far away some insight into the creative working environments generated in that part of the world. I love this series and have been following it for a while. I also like the fvf series, interviews, which includes one of my favourites with 100 year old publisher and artist, Gisele d'Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht (an impressive name, non?) in Amsterdam.

What amazing and important projects! This documenting of artists, designers and makers in their work spaces and homes, along with interviews about their creative lives is a goldmine of inspiration and insight. Mine that gold, absorb it and share it around, I say.