Thursday 28 May 2009

Hard times are times to get creative

No matter what the specialism, we artists are suffering along with all small businesses right now, in these economically challenging times.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. We might be worried about banks, slow markets or cash flow problems, but as this unpredictability is also good for focusing the mind, it’s worth taking the time to think creatively and explore new opportunities.
What better time, for instance, than to get involved in educational workshops or apply for residencies within primary and secondary schools.
It was after my experience gained in a residency at the Glasgow School of Art I knew that in addition to setting up my business as a studio jeweller, I also wanted to work with students and young people.
Seven years on and I am still continuing to develop my experience in the two separate but complimentary areas.
Residencies provide an invaluable experience for everyone involved.
Working with young people, from primary age through to secondary school and on to student level, has not only been enormously enjoyable but it has also given me a new perspective on my work and how I run my business.
Young people keep your ideas fresh, they question your work, which is hugely valuable, as it can help you reasses your work and develop new ideas.
Throughout each residency I have undertaken, the ultimate aim I had set myself was to promote the crafts. I wanted to change the notion that many young people have, that art means painting - and craft means a tacky object in a tourist shop.
I wanted to modernise the view of artists, by demonstrating the diversity of their work, their roles in the community and their contribution to society in general.
Once they see how a professional artist works, hopefully young people will not only develop a greater appreciation but also consider a career in the art, design and craft world.
What they will definitely have gained however, is an eye to look at objects, everyday life, and the world in general, differently.
Being involved in residencies also provides a great opportunity to produce a new body of work, or introduce and develop new techniques and materials. Through this route, I have been able to have my own solo show, in addition to other exhibitions, and also to work with 18ct gold alongside my plastics.
Of course, working for local authorities or other organisations in this way, also helps to provide you with a regular income. Although it is mainly seasonal, this income can help to support your studio work in quiter times, such as over the summer.

If you are interested in getting involved, my advice would be to look on the Scottish Arts Council and Craft Scotland websites, where residencies are advertised. Also approach your local council education departments, where you will find cultural co-ordinators and Arts Link Officers who are always looking for new artists to provide workshops, projects and residencies. Many councils have a bank of artists - where your details are kept on record for future projects.

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