I wish you all a happy and creative 2019. I wish for you to have a wealth of experiences, many joyful ones, and that you may grow from those which are challenging, unpleasant, and sad. It is customary to wish for a happy year (and I did so in the title), and I do hope 2019 will be a good year for you all. For all for who this won’t come true, I wish we will recover from whatever will make it a hard year, and come out at the end as better, wiser, stronger, and hopefully we’ll be able to turn all of it, the good and the bad into great art.
Five years ago I talked to a grandmother of a three year old with brain cancer while we were both waiting for a MRI brain scan for the kids. That three year old had a life expectancy of another two years. And what that gran said, still rings in my ears: “It is just impossible to be sad all the time. He is still growing and learning things, he’s curious, he’s laughing. And what good would it be to be sad all the time? And so we laugh with him, and show him that life is good, and there are some days in which we really believe it.”
The year past has been a tough year for us as a family, and I felt unable to do write my usual wrap-up before Christmas because looking back felt too hard a task. There is this saying “you are only ever as happy as your unhappiest child”. I have quoted this line a lot for the past six months or so. But of course this is ultimately not true, it’s too general a statement to begin with. I think I was much happier than my child since her surgery in the summer. But to make up for it, other than she, I worried the whole year approaching it. So as a rough guideline, I do believe in that piece of wisdom.
The surgery she had in early August was meant to maintain her motor function and hopefully, ultimately it will do that. Her surgeon tells us it’s still early days. But as things are now, it has brought her from independent walking to being a full time wheelchair user who hardly can weightbear. With it her care needs and thus my workload (and M’s) increased. But graver than the physical scars and effects has been the psychological impact this has had on her and us. Although since August as many as four (or was it five?) people have written letters asking for psychological support, some of them twice, as far as I know she still is not even on even on a waiting list for the children’s mental health service. For the first time I feel like we have been let down by the system.
I don’t want to burden you with my children’s troubles, and to be honest, I don’t really want to talk in publicy about their specific health issues. I mention it here because it did have a major impact on my work: I felt unable to respond to calls for art, and was awful at keeping deadlines. When I found the time to work, I really just wanted to be alone in my studio, rather than putting my work out there.
But my memory often fails me, so let me take a walk through the year:
In January I was mostly occupied with shop care for Büchertiger Supplies: I added jute twine and cotton twine to my range of threads, and started to scout for silk threads I wanted to add. I also worked on completing the scrolls for my long term project 346.
Technically I started my instagram account and photostream December 31st 2017, but I really started in Febuary when I drew my daily maps. I love instagram, and with the maps-project, I started a “picture a day” stream which – although I am less strict with myself by now – I still try to maintain: One picture a day which best summarizes what I did that day. So if you don’t already, you may want to follow me there for a glimpse behind the scene and in-process pictures.
Making a map a day, adding illegible and often asemic writing, lead me to discovering asemic art in a broader sense. I read and thought a lot about usage of text in art, and about asemic art and writing. It also resulted in three little books with fantastical maps and drawings. (The first of them is in a photo above.)
In March I finally added silk thread to my stock for Büchertiger Supplies after testing it on headbands. I learned to bind books in limp parchment technique. I also started investigating screenprinting more and especially in combination with lino prints. The first version of my Nottingham prints came to life, very much inspired by my daily map drawing which at that point I still maintained.
End of March, beginning of April I started to cut up a slice of a Nottingham street map. I then continue to make photos and sunprints from the cut-paper. But somehow this never amounted to much. But I still have all those photographs and prints, and maybe I’ll make soemthing of it yet.
I also started to learn Japanese in April: Inspired by my writing / map experiments, and thinking about how to encode language and information in marks on paper, I became interested in the Japanese way of using three different “alphabets” (if you want to call them that) to encode language.
I had some more fun printing in April, most of it in preparation of my first open studio event. I printed my first set of business cards completely by hand: fish in a jar on a water-colour background.
I first dyed my hair blue in April.
Then in May, finally, the open studio itself. It didn’t seem like much of a success at the time, with only a handful of visitors, but I had some very insightful discussions, which changed my view on my own work. Which is always interesting and helpful. All in all May was a good month for me:
In May I finished my Nottingham print, finally finished the edition of 346, my long term project, worked on eggshell panels (and published a skillshare class on it), and (re-)started work on my project about miscarriages. (But didn’t get to finish it yet.)
End of May I participated in Backlit’s Open Studios as a guest, and in early June we spent a weekend at the seaside to celebrate the twin’s 7th birthday. There on the beach I found a painted rock from #nottsrocks which then let me to paint and hide a lot of rocks myself during June and July.
In May I also started working on finishing my second model for 346, and as a part of it I made miniature kidney bowls. This lead me to experimenting more with papier mache. I made a whole variety of different things, including cups, something like an asemic/fantasy globe, starting a new project that consisted of hiding filled paper mache things in libraries (this is ongoing, I think, but has been put on hold for the time being; I still have a good number of eggs here at home that wait to be placed.)
I layered coloured paper and cut into it, and made pictures like that. The sphere I made is finished. I also tried some planar images with the same technique. The building up of layers is time intensive, as you can only do a couple of layers per day, and then it has to dry. My first outcome was not very satisfying, but I still have some more experiments to do in that regard!
I also made three “talking” heads, and another paper mache sculpture: “sailing”. I have not properly photographed all these, although they have been finished for a while now. They are my most political work so far. – Brexit, the general climate it has generated in the UK, the evil it has come from and will lead to, this all got me deeply worried and although I don’t usually work politically, I poured all my worries into these pieces.
In July the school term ends, and thus – mostly – my work time until August. August then turned out difficult due to hospital stay and subsequent coping – or not – with the new situation. I had long before decided to dedicate the second half of the year to my writing: – As you might know, I am currently working on a novel (I hope I’ll eventually finish it!). All of this took me well into October, when I took a couple of days off my care load at home and instead resettled for three nights (five days) to a hotel in Sheffield where I indeed got a good chunk of writing done, and also posted a number of messages in bottles.
End of October then was the next open studio event at Backlit where I again had a chance to participate as a guest. I showed my “talking heads” as well as 346, but had the most interesting conversations and interactions about the heads.
The two heads each “spit out” part of a scroll, and by superimposing the two images, you can read a declaration of human rights. At the end I left space for people to sign, and indeed did gather some signatures from visitors.
In November I started my robot a day challenge, made books and prints and prepared for the small Christmas events at Backlit and the German Academy. I tried my screenprinting for real, I experimented with suminagashi, I made some books, and I bought myself my very first letterpress.
And then – it was already Christmas!
So, in summary: It was a year of firsts and a year of learning. I worked with eggshells, my work got more politised, I printed more, I used my screens for screenprinting, I learned to work with papier mache, I started to learn Japanese, I started to experience suminagashi and papercuts. I learned about asemic art, thought a lot, about language and writing and politics, and the medical system. And I thought and wrote about what makes a person, about the connection of memory and identity, because that is the content of the novel I am working on.
I also started a new blog on the a-n website (with only one post so far) where I want to write about artists I meet. Although not a first in a strict sense, as I have been writing interviews for a long time, I still feel that this is a another first step into the world of art writing
What I didn’t do was promote myself enough to get into any exhibition, which I feel really bad about. I did not even manage to get one of my postcards into an postcard show which will open this Friday, and I feel especially regretful about that.
I know I should be out there, finding ways to show 346, my papier mache, maybe even my maps. – I just felt too much drained of energy. And with the lack of exhibiting came a lot of doubt: Am I really an artist? What am I doing, spending years on trying to write a novel? Can I really be writer? What am I doing and why? Does this all make sense?
And less philosophically: Maybe I should concentrate fully on Büchertiger Supplies. It could do with more attention, it brings in real money, and maybe should be my main professional focus. But I do feel more like an artist than like a retailer! Also, who knows what Brexit will bring.
I also have been teaching German in 2018, and I blame this among other things for the lack of time, the chased feeling, and lack of energy in this past year. Thus I quit. In 2019 I won’t be teaching, at least not German. – A bookbinding workshop is already planned. (Sign up here. ) I hope this will make it easier to make art, and equally important, to get it out there.
And for my writing: My mentor (I am currently participating in a mentoring scheme) recommends I start making contacts in the publishing world now. I should research which kinds of publishers are interesting for me, who they are, and how to approach them, show up at networking events, talk to people… – All the kind of things I have failed to do for my art now come up for my writing. And thus it officially stops being the evasive thing it started out to be.
I have a lot of plans. Whenever I make anything, I come up with a thousand other things I want to do. Finding things to do is the easy part, and I won’t bore you with going on any further in this blog post which is already much too long. The challenge for me this year will be not just to learn things and to make things but to get them out there.
So this is my aim for 2019: For me to be more daring, to make an effort to get out there, meet people, put my work out there. I don’t know yet how I am going to do it, or where to find the strength to do so. But I want to make a real effort to get it done!
What are your plans and challenges?