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UNI - Developing Professional Practice

I returned to my MA studies this semester after taking a year out for my mental health. It was quite overwhelming returning to university, and trying to get use to the new world of digital lectures proved difficult (I cannot understand Microsoft Teams, even now - I missed so many seminars because of this!!!)

The first module was Developing Professional Practice - a module we had been encouraged to push ourselves as far away from what we would usually do and really challenge out creative personal practice. The requirements for the module were to a) collaborate with someone / an organisation outside of your own practice (i.e. no Illustrators) and b) this about the ethics of what you are creating.

I decided to reach out to people I know and ask if creatives in my contacts were willing to share their time and energy with me to create 'something' for my uni work - at this point, there was no real direction (which is encouraged in an art degree, for those not doing one!!) so I was delighted when an array of creatives responded - an aerialist, musicians, a poet, a tufter, a ceramicist, a writer, a textiles maker to name just a few.

Due to the nature of my personal practice, my main starting point for the project was to base it around the discussions and conversations about mental health. I sent each volunteer collaborator a survey asking six questions about their connection to their work, how it makes them feel whilst creating and the impacts that this can have on their mental health. I had a wonderful outcome from this - so many lovely responses and helpful insights into how we, as creatives, respond and deal with our low mood and creative outputs.

The next stage was to get the creatives to do a small task and answer 4 short questions about their response to what they created during the 30 mins (+) time limit. However, I didn't get as many responses to this request - only four in all. The two musicians produced two lovely pieces of work, a mixed media artist smashed a book with a hammer (!!!! so good!) and the textile maker created a reclaimed material embroidery piece inspired by winter walks.

Alongside this, I was in conversation with the ceramicist, the lovely Lucy Baxendale. Lucy is an illustrator and ceramicist, and makes absolutely gorgeous clay creations, so I was most pleased that she had some time to spend working together. We video-called to discuss some possibilities - coming up with ideas such as

-using natural material and resources to create

-using decals on the clay to get an illustrative element

-changing roles (she do digital work and I do clay work)

It was a really great start to somewhere the project could go. I started by mark making with things I found outside the house - such as a twig, leaf, weeds and a rock!

I did these on paper...

...and with clay!

This was a really fun process for me as usually I sketch ideas in my sketchbook and then digitally produce my work, as working tactilely and messily proved to be a really satisfying way of experimenting. With art courses (and creativity in general), experimentation is an important aspect to getting to a final outcome. I sometimes bypass this stage as I have a clear idea in my head of how I want something to look even before I've started! So it was nice to challenge my creative process and throw myself into something different.

Further experimentations came from digital collages from my mark making.

I also did this with some fabric samples Sandra, the textile maker (and my mum!) had given me from her lovely task piece.

This is Sandra's piece...

...and these are some experiments I did - scanning to make digital collages and painting onto the fabric.

I hadn't worked with fabric in a really long time, so took advantage of the fact I had the opportunity and decided to experiment further. I created a small fabric 'vase' with an air dry clay base, which I was actually really pleased with!

Experimenting and creating something you never knew you were going to make is really fun! I added some paintwork to some of my clay experiments too and was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved the outcomes.

The ideas of reclaiming and reusing materials had crept up, regarding the ethical approach to the project. It goes me thinking about Kintsugi and how repairing pottery might be an interesting approach, along with our relationship with the natural world and how that can affect our mental wellbeing. I had a broken pot at home so I patched in together with air dry clay, stitched a patch of fabric into it and painted/printed it in the same way I had experimented with in my mark making. I've called it The Ugly Pot (but I secretly love it!)

I started imagining what possible outcomes would be - the module was moving quickly towards deadline and, with my terrible time management, I was running out of time to get anything finalised (also, Lockdown made it impossible to meet up with the two other collaborating creatives!)

This is, obviously, just a small snippet of the whole project showing some of the experimental design processes. It was a really beneficial module for me as, after the next semester, I am on to my FINAL MAJOR PROJECT and having the freedom of experimenting with mixed media for this project really reminded me how much I love art and working with a variety of different tools and media.

I get my results mid-February but I am happy with the work I achieved and thankful that I had such lovely people to collaborate with.

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