Sunday 25 March 2018

Farting About

Weaving Ghosts at An Lanntair
According to the Oxford English Dictionary ‘farting about’ seems the best way to describe the current post-exhibition phase of my work cycle. It’s always hard getting back into it when I have been away from the studio for a few weeks.

It wasn’t possible to be at An Lanntair in Stornoway to set up Weaving Ghosts so I was keen to go and see if my written instructions had enabled Roddy Murray and the gallery staff at An Lanntair to install it as I wanted. Barring problems to do with lighting (which meant the shadows on The Ossuary were not as intended) and the very high ceilings that prevented the installation of Hoose, (hopefully I will get another chance to install it somewhere else) the exhibition looked good in the space. I was particularly happy with North Atlantic Drift because the spacing between the individual baskets was perfect (not easy with 70 plus baskets all different shapes and sizes), so my thanks to Roddy Murray for that.
North Atlantic Drift and There Were 15 To Feed At Midbrake 
The 8 schools workshops for children aged between 5 and 13 were full on but I had very generous help from two members of the Scottish Basketmakers Circle, Dawn Susan and Angela Price along with JJ plus staff from the schools and An Lanntair, for which I am very grateful. Thanks are particularly owing to Moira for her organisation and communication skills and to Joe for his knowledgeable and willing practical aid. A gallery talk and an interview on BBC Radio Scotland were also packed into 4 days.
Unravelling with Joe!

Exhibitions are really important for me, without them I don’t do much in the studio. I love the whole process involved in creating, curating and organising an exhibition, but this post-exhibition phase is always the hardest bit.

Weaving Ghosts has had 5 showings so far (2 Scotland and 3 Norway) and there is at least one more venue planned in England but not until next year, so at the moment I am trying to find more galleries to fill the gap or continue the tour, but it’s a pretty thankless task.

On the evidence of my experience the only way to get venues to give you a show is if you actually know someone who works there, or have some link to the venue. Sending unsolicited proposals has seldom been successful for me. It doesn’t take much to just acknowledge receipt of a proposal but it’s obviously too much effort for a lot of the people responsible for planning exhibitions. Many of the bigger and better known galleries also specifically say that they do not accept unsolicited submissions so unless you know someone working there you haven’t a hope in hell. Smaller regional museums and Art Centres in Britain are easier to get a show in than the big galleries, so that is where I concentrate my efforts though even with them it’s also often hard to get a response. Just a ‘thank you’ would do. So far I have sent out 4 detailed proposals tailored to individual venues in the last couple of months and not had a single response. I am an artist, not a salesperson, so I am not going to cold call or doorstep people, I try to find a more sympathetic way of doing things, but even after 30 plus years at it I still don’t really know what is the right way to get results!

Meanwhile I have plenty more ideas I want to explore for Weaving Ghosts but without a confirmed date for its next showing I am finding it difficult to focus so today have spent my studio time flitting from one thing to the next.

Here is a typical unfocused day in the studio…..ironing some plastic lids, I really like the resulting flat brightly coloured disks with the vestiges of their ribbed edges and screw mechanism. Making willow frames for the planned Southport Boat Basket. No kinks today, possibly because I had soaked the white willow for much longer and had altered the former I made with some concave shaping on the corners and an inner tube to cushion it. Cutting up heavy duty polyethylene bottles, possibly for the SBB but not sure and cutting up inner tube for tying the frames. Playing with gladioli leaves to see if I can remember how to start a continuous, non-stitched, coiled, plait, like the one Carlos Fontales briefly showed me how to do with esparto. Gave up after a while, as it wasn’t working and was just making me cross. In principle it seems very simple, I am just having difficulty with the rhythm of it and the hand positioning at the moment.

Took some photos of work in progress on the Southport, responded to some emails and social media, edited the Weaving Ghosts proposal for galleries and looked on line for some regional museums. Sorted some willows and put them to soak in the pond. Started writing this blog post. Shaved some skeins of willow, for the SBB, and watched an astonishing amount of large hailstones come out of the sky and cover the ground outside the studio in a few seconds. 

I hope this phase doesn’t go on too long, because it feels a bit tedious and uncreative, but I know it’s the only way I am going to get back into it, it’s essential to be in the studio just ‘farting about’.

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