Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Coming out the other end

5 months later.

Unpacking on the other side. And yes it has taken quite a while. Downsizing is a tough process, we found it paralysing at some stages of the process. Where to go, what to do, is this still the right choice, what are we going to do with all this stuff. Where did it come from, what does it mean?

In the meantime I started a new contract role in Queensland, let that go after two months as I felt that I was just a ghost Project Manager hired to remediate a gap in an audit report and I had no autonomy to actually do the job, started running, ran a race, drove halfway accross the country with a car full of boxes.

Unpacking. I found a secure place for all the content, funny enough. Of course the torch and kiln didn't come and I actually decided to sell my old workhorse kiln and start saving for a new one. But in the meantime, I will focus on seed beading and maybe some textile and fibre work.

My new bead studio - much smaller
I am teaching a few classes again this year, I am still finding my feet in Queensland but if there are beadshop owners out there who would like to offer some classes - please contact me. I will be teaching at the annual Bead Society's Winter Workshops on July 26.

I am also confirmed to teach a class at the Bead Expo in November.

We got a bit stuck with renting out the house, the state government decided to introduce new pool safety standards this year that force people to retrofit existing pools. Even though ours was built to the standards of the time, we need to put more and more fencing in. Costly and time consuming.

None to do but ride it out.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Packing up a bead studio - The Reality Check and a Sale

In November last year, I travelled to the  Bead Society of Victoria's Bead Expo, where I taught two classes. I had two cases with me on the flight over; one checked in with class materials, handouts, kits and spares and a carry-on with clothes and personal items. Guess which one was the heaviest? Indeed, the one laden with beads, fibre, cord, tools and class samples. It was a hard slog getting that through the city of Melbourne, to the Expo.

It made me think about transportable projects and storing materials in such a way that it is efficient and out of the way. Reality check here - I cannot continue on the boat with the way I had things stored in my studio - stashed away in several places, stuff all over the place, no method. Just a creative mess. I find it difficult to restrain myself in my purchasing habits, it is just too much fun and joy to try out new colours, or new bead shapes. I figure also that I still can, I have the money to do it now, who knows what might happen in the next few years.

But lets get back to the topic. Transporting and storing. Packing and sorting. Purging and keeping. The Great Reality Check. What are the basic tools and materials of my creative trade that I can't do without?

I just finished 4 weeks of studio cleaning, which was no mean feat. I sorted in detail through 13 years of bead hoarding, every baggie, vial, tube, leftover, box and envelope was checked, sorted, consolidated and transferred to tubes. I found things I had not seen in years. Beads, silver, half finished pieces, competition pieces, samples, stuff still in envelopes, yarn, leather, thread, fibre, fabrics, tools - what didn't I find? It was quite challenging, not just to decide what to keep but also how to let go of the materials and bits that I just had grown out of.

Some of it I sold to fellow addicts - sterling and fine silver prices have soared since my last shopping spree and I let go of a significant amount of wire, findings and beads, even silver sheet. I am happy with that, at least I know it goes to people who appreciate the materials for what they can be. Books and magazines were given away; I transitioned to electronic publications a while ago.

And that leaves the finished pieces, some of which are quite nice and provided an almost archeological dig through my creative past. I am offering them for sale here, unique pieces that include handmade glass beads, quality sterling and fine silver components and stones sourced in my many travels over the past decade. Where I remembered, I have added a date to the piece.

And now my creative life is compartmentalised in 11 plastic containers. It was an interesting process, one that was confronting (what am I losing) and liberating (what breathing space am I gaining) at the same time.

13 years of creative life in 10 tupperware boxes

Now on to the next stage - the garage, where the glass and ceramic workshop is waiting to be packed and stored. I had my last day at work yesterday, and have 2 weeks to pack up this house to the point where it can be shipped.

Shore to ship, ship to ship, shore to ship.

Have a look at my sales page to see if there is anything you like! It will fund some boat creations. 

Yours in packing madness

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Experimenting with creative tension

As part of my creative preparation for life on "the boat" I've been experimenting with smaller pieces, tiny components that are relatively easy to create in a short period of time and can be combined or stand on their own or be created without the need for a workshop. Small things that I can make in a small space. It is easy for me to get distracted in creating massive works, it is almost like binging - hours and hours of being bent over the work table. I sometimes feel something that is akin to anxiety when I am preparing for a big piece, there is a lot at stake, I have a lot of skin in the game, it can be a bit frightening too. It is creative tension, which is healthy, but you got to be careful to ensure that does not turn into creating-stress. With smaller components I can engage with the building blocks without getting sucked into an anxiety vortex, I can disengage from the outcome as the outcome does not mean 4 months worth of work. It may be 4 minutes or 4 hours, and that is manageable - I can start it without procrastination.

I don't want to come across as a neurotic freak, the crazy artist with superstitions and neurosis, that is not how it is. It is actually a sign, a compass needled that I may be able to negotiate that path between vision and reality. Peter Senge in his classic The Fifth Discipline wrote about this tension as a rubber band that is stretched across the chasm between our current reality and our vision and that resonates with me. It is a forward motion, like those catapults you made as a kid by using your thumb and index finger and a large rubber band. Contracting, stretching and then releasing energy - just at the right time to shoot the pea meters forward. Visualising and giving your vision energy and motion. That is creative tension.

Often I know a piece will be good by the amount of creative butterflies I feel in my stomach, but not always. There is however, very often a series of sparks in the brain, like fireworks. It is a deliberate strategy when I plan a work project - start with bite sized pieces and work forward along a line - from A to B. I tell this to my creative buddies who are stuck in inner criticism - celebrate all your achievements, no matter how small you may think they are as they are the bread crumbs that show you the way. Small, many small, fun small, abundant small, small process, grateful - for the small.

I have found this to be possible in knitting lately. Projects can be small, they can be made in a short and small space of time and place and they do not need a workshop or a large work table. And yarns may be easier to get and store whilst one is sailing around the world. The past few months since my last blog update have been filled with preparations - getting the house ready, cleaning up clothes and books, putting feelers out for a job that I can do from my boat home. And I found knitting to be a soothing activity during all that time. Although it is Spring in Australia, there are still cold days and nights and so I have knitted a few wraps. In my favorite sea colours, the sea greens and golds of dunes and seagrass and the blues of the ocean.

The green wrap was very liberating to knit, there was no real pattern, just a rough sizing and shape and big needles and different yarns - merino, silks/wool blends, viscose tape yarn and linen blends. I enjoyed seeing it grow in such a short period of time. Tension is important in knitting as it affects size and fit but for this wrap, I threw all of that out the door and it flowed freely. No anxiety, although I still knew in my creative gut that this was good. Not technically good, but good for the soul - free range.

The blue capelet was a piece I knitted during my daily bus commutes, not a lot of counting needed, markers showing me where I needed to increase every other row. Easy, so I could focus on the flow of the movement and the rhythm. Smaller components, one row, two rows, nothing more or less and I can put it away.

As the days grow longer and it gets closer to the time of actually moving out of the house, I can find some solace in my knitting outings.

And celebrate where this road is taking me.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle or Release

I've lived small before, in Europe, where I am originally from, space comes at a premium. I've lived in a small apartment for years, in 4 story housing where every box looks the same and you are forced to put your couch in the same spot as your neighbour. And where you can hear everything, music, people walking on the floor above you, arguments and laughter. Yes, I have lived small but not for a while now. Living in a small space requires special skills - skills of storage maximisation, control of viral outbreaks of books, clothes, shoes and other items that typically appear in multiples. But living in a small space also requires tolerance and perhaps a period of letting go.

In thinking about how it would be to live on a boat, I have had to work through a few things that I may have to let go - there just is not enough space for everything you amass when living in a house. In the past week, I have questioned myself constantly - can I do without this? What does it mean to me to have this? Can I let it go if I have to. And if the answer to that is positive, what do I do with it. Do I reuse it, do I recycle it into something else or to I release it to the world. In preparation for the Big Move to the boat, I am going to have to reduce some of my possessions. Let go of clothes, resist the sales (I am a good buyer, I never pay full price), reduce my consumption of books, purchase of wine, furniture and decorative items. But most of all, it has dawned on me that I need to do something with all my art materials.

I have a glass workshop with a kiln, I have a studio room with lots of storage full of materials and I have clay all over the place. From a practicality and safety perspective it is not possible to have a glass workshop on a yacht, nor a kiln. So that makes the decision easier. I need to let that go. The piles of magazines are not a real issue, I have transitioned to digital magazines and this has reduced the space I am occupying already. Some technique books can come, the ones I use the most I suppose. But the beads, and the threads, and the sculpts, and the leathers, and yarns. What am I going to do with that? The obvious answer is create more than I buy and start selling the work.

Pondering these issues bring with it very interesting questions about identity and personal values.  If you strip away all these things, what is left of me? How can I keep true to what is most important to me (creativity and I didn't say who is most important to me as that would be a trick question) and do that in a space constrained environment? Are other people doing this? Are there things that are non-negotiable for me? What are the practicalities of an art practice on board? Should I keep working, can I keep working? Many questions that I do not have the answer to right now.

There is some time.  And one of the benefits of starting this process early is a form of simplification of life. We drown in things, literally, our planet is drowning in the stuff we make, transport and discard. I feel a huge sense of mind space when I remove clutter, except in my studio where I seem to need some - I actually cleaned up the workbench today and it is feeling rather strange and empty. But the removal of complexity and possessions is I believe a very liberating act.

Space. The Final Frontier.