I have been putting this off for ages, mostly because I’ve been avoiding writing for so long that it’s now become a bigger deal than it would have been if I’d just kept this blog updated and ticking along in the first place. I miss writing. I really do, but it falls away when I get stressed, yet it’s always what makes me feel grounded and relaxed once I’ve got my thoughts down on paper.
So what’s been happening? An emotional cluster-fuck of a year to be quite honest, but the sun has come out now and I’m looking back wondering how the hell it all happened and how the hell I got through it, but here I am.
My work’s changed though.
It’s become darker and bigger and has taken on a bit of a life that I’m not quite making sense of yet.
I can be quite passive in terms of decision making about what I make and why I make it. I follow my intuition and instinct and flow with whatever comes to me as a piece comes to life. I’ve never been very good at deciding exactly what to do and then following through with intention until it’s finished. My process goes more like, “oh, here’s a beautiful piece of fabric, what shape does it want to be?, ok now follow what it wants, ok now it wants to be embroidered, let’s dip it into some dye to see what marks and patterns come out of that and where they want to go, oh now the dye needs some sanding, ok, let’s do that then draw a face, oh this face is taking on a life of it’s own, ok, let’s just let it be what it wants to be…..”
Creatively, I tend to respond and adapt to what comes along. This is not a bad thing, in fact, it can be a very good thing and it’s served me well. I trust that whatever wants to come out of me will do so in it’s own time and most often in a language that isn’t fully clear to me until I have enough time to look back and understand it. It’s as if my creative mind won’t speak directly to me, it only speaks in dream images, symbols and impulses. It whispers, I do as it tells me. It rarely steers me wrong.
Through most of last year, (and the aforementioned cluster-fuck) I worked on a large doll that had no name, no timescale, no intention, no expectation. I liked having her around the studio. I worked on her now and then, adding hair, layers of fabric, some embroidery, then lots of embroidery. She felt like more of a companion than a piece of work, and the process of making her felt quite different. Rather than my creative process whispering and nudging, while I respond and flow with what comes, while I was making this particular doll it felt more like…dare I say it….a conversation. We’d hang out and I’d decide what colour her stockings would be and she would decide that her face was detailed enough, and a lot of the time she would just sit next to my work table and simply be there while I worked on other things.
In the spring of this year, once things were gradually getting back to normal, I found myself in what I can only describe as an emotional hangover. After a year of emotional highs, lows and upheaval, my mind felt exhausted, and while the emotional chaos had settled, I felt grey, drained and depressed. It felt like I had run down every possible emotional resource I had, and now that my mind had a chance to rest, it shut down. Everything felt heavy. All I wanted to do was sleep. Going into the studio, the last thing I wanted to do or had the emotional resilience to do was to open up my intuition, and delve into myself to draw out new work.
I decided to make something that would bring some joy back, just for the sheer bloody hell of it. I decided to make a wee band of characters who’d bring a bit of fun to the studio – the sort of wee buggers who’d be knocking important things over and causing a bit of a ruckus whenever I tried to feel sorry for myself. I wanted some light and fun and cheekiness back in my life. What I ended up with were a wee band of tearaways who were far fiercer than I’d originally intended. My creative mind had responded to my demand by giving me what I asked for and then some. I called them Middens.
While making my Middens, there was still a sense of following my intuition, responding to the cloth and the dyes and the developing character of the doll, but as small as it sounds, consciously deciding to create something that would address and fulfil a need in me was a bit of a revelation.
I can’t say “I want.”
I was going to say I “struggle” to say “I want” but to be honest, it really does stick in my throat.
If I try to say “I want” I end up saying “I kind of want this, but to be honest, I’ll be grateful for whatever you have going, or even just whatever’s left over after you’ve taken what you want”.
Creatively this has led to me not always going after what I want and instead flowing with what comes to me. What the fuck am I saying, this applies to my whole blooming life, not just my creative one.
In terms of my work, this means that I am grateful for any inspiration that comes my way and that I respond to it as and when it comes and always worry that at some point it will run out and leave me empty. I worry that if I say “I want” the response from my muse will be “you can’t have”. What actually happened when I did make a clear demand was my muse stepped the hell up and said “YES, thank fuck you’ve actually shown up! I can serve you just as much as you can serve me, where have you been all this time?. Here, have what you want and have a whole load more inspiration from me on top for good measure.”
My default setting seems to be to take whatever comes to me, without demanding anything just in case the answer is no. If you can’t say what you want then it’s not a far fall to not being able to say what you need. If you can’t say what you need and want, what does that do to your sense of identity? In my case it has fed a sense of being a fluke and an imposter when it comes to any kind of success in my life.
I’ve always admired people who can own their success and stride into achievement. People who can stand in the centre of their success and say, “this is mine”.
I never seemed to manage it.
I think a lot of this comes down to me not believing in an identity that allowed me to go after what I actually want. Because I’m not used to asking for what I want, I’m not used to getting what I want so when anything resembling what I want shows up unbidden I think it must be some horrible mistake and that it’ll disappear into nothing as soon as I believe in it. When what I want shows up I try to ask as little as possible from it, and be as gentle as I can with it because I think that if I expect too much it will up and leave. Of course, this means that what I want never gets the full force of my energy, trust and intention, which leads to it not quite working out, which reinforces that same sense of it all being a fluke and not really mine in the first place.
My identity took a battering last year. My circumstances forced me to take a look at a lot of aspects of my life and my self that weren’t serving me. When it came to asking for what I wanted and needed, I couldn’t do it. I only managed it when I was at the point of complete emotional exhaustion. That was the point where I thought, “Fuck this shit, I’m making something that’s going to make me smile.”
This does seem like a very small thing to do, but it opened up a conversation between me and my muses that set me up as an equal rather than a servant to my work.
I’m tentatively asking for other things.
I wanted to make a piece that was about power. Not the corrupt, dominating kind that has become so normalised in today’s world, but a power that is nurturing and reviving. This is the sort of power I needed to claim for myself.
I made Ushas Rising. I didn’t feel like she arrived from some elusive spring of creativity that flowed through me, but from a clear intention and a conversation between my intuition and my drive. I bloody love her. She felt like the dawn after a stormy night, so once I’d finished her I named her after a Hindu Goddess of the dawn. Ushas isn’t the sort of dawn goddess who opens gently like a flower at first light. Out of the darkness, Ushas drives a shining chariot pulled by, get this…..golden cows! She brings truth and joy and light in the darkness. Hell yeah, that’s the kind of power I wanted to find in this piece.
Previously, I would have worked purely on intuition and months after completing Ushas I would have looked back, noticed a power in her and realised that what I needed from my work at that time was a sense of power.
Now I’m beginning to be able to acknowledge what I need and to ask for it.
Does it seem a bit tragic that this is something that I’m only learning to do at forty-one?
I’m going to carry this on in a separate post because I’ve got a bit of an announcement to make that’s connected to this whole personal revelation. I can’t actually make the announcement until the 4th of July so apologies for what started as getting back into the blogging saddle and ended on a cliff hanger, via a fair amount of rambling self reflection.
’Til the 4th.