2016 was a year with many highs and lows, I found an amazing new studio which I love but I was struggling to find meaning in my work and I was finding it difficult to keep my business afloat; between July and September I hit a particularly low point. I wasn’t enjoying the work I was creating for my wonderful galleries and it made me sad that the work I was giving them to best represent myself wasn’t up to the standard I expected of myself.
So in September I took the month off from paid client work, and decided to do more things that would nourish my creativity: going for hikes with my friends, meditating, visiting galleries and exhibitions, and working in my sketchbooks again. The month was over all too soon but I knew it had been beneficial. I had found myself emerging from it with a sense that there was a lot more creativity within me that I’d not explored and I had found a better balance thanks to the meditation and the head space that had given me. However the business had suffered so it was back to work creating new pieces and working on collaborations.
Towards the end of September I found a residency that spoke to all of the areas I had been looking at; the Back to Basics Residency at the Arteles Creative Center in Finland.
From the application – “Back to Basics residency program gives artists an opportunity to stop the information overflow, clear their mind, get back to focus and (re)discover the very basis of their creative practice and being.”
There was an encouragement to not plan exactly what you wanted to do in order to negate the stress of having an end goal in mind. It was also about lessening the distractions by having no internet, no mobile phones, and encouraging focus on doing one thing at a time and daily meditation. I knew this was the kind of environment that would nourish me and I started my application straight away. I explained my creative rut and my desire to make jewellery that makes my heart sing. I felt my application probably wasn’t long enough, but I had done my best to explain why I thought it would be so beneficial to me, so I sent it off without a thought that I’d actually get in.
On the 18th of October I received an email from Arteles congratulating me on my successful application to the residency. I was delighted and completely stunned, I couldn’t believe that I’d actually gotten in, a spark ignited within me that day! I was one of 36 artists selected from 263 applications from around the world. The month they had picked was April and I was one of 12 artists, which later turned out to be 11 (and I often wonder who that other person was and how they would’ve changed the dynamic) that would be staying there that month.
As the months passed between October and April I had many other things to focus on, keeping the jewellery business going and thankfully a fair few Christmas commissions to design and make along with a number of craft fairs around Edinburgh to exhibit at. I also had a new range of jewellery that I’d created during my month off in September that I wanted to share with galleries.
At the beginning of 2017 I knew I had to start organising for Finland. I had to think about how I would survive there; I wasn’t taking my jewellery making tools, because I wanted to focus on the areas I felt I was lacking in, which were all before the making process. Therefore I wouldn’t be able to fulfil customer orders, and with no way to make an income I turned to funding. I applied to Creative Scotland’s Open Project Funding to cover my expenses whilst I was there as well as some time once I had returned and I spent a large part of January and February working on my application.
I thought I wanted to create jewellery based on the landscapes and inspiration I found in Finland. However the more I thought about it, and the more time I spent talking to my sister (who’s excellent at questioning people in just the right way to bring out a solution) the more I realised that I actually wanted to research and really understand my creative process, the journey between my inspiration of landscapes and the finished pieces of jewellery. What happens along that path, and why could I easily work out what my customers wanted even if they didn’t know, but I couldn’t for myself?!
After planning and submitting my application for funding, I almost immediately started looking for books, blog posts and information I could download that I thought would be interesting to research and read during my time offline in Finland. The end of March came around and with only a few days until my trip I received an email from Creative Scotland stating that I had received my funding, I was delighted and in a few days I was off to Finland!