Inspired by a recent mini task on the course I teach on where the students had to bring along a photograph and an object that holds meaning and has impact on their art practice.
The first image is a print I made a few years back, it is my Nans block of flats. At the time of making this piece, my Nan still lived there, and I was starting to think that one day, I would never visit there again. Over lockdown, my nan has become unable to live there alone and has moved into a care home.
As this is all happening over 200 miles away, she has turned 90 over lockdown with only socially distanced visits from family living nearby (thankfully most of the family live nearby) and filmed efforts and cards from the rest of us. It is now very unlikely that I will visit the flat again, however-as long as I can visit her eventually, what does that matter? I look forward to that day.
The second image is my object, it is a paperweight.
When my Grandad was alive, he was the caretaker of these flats and he had a workshop downstairs which was filled with things he was repairing and other paraphernalia. I loved visiting him down in this workshop and I can still remember the smell of it. I have had this paperweight for as long as I can remember, initially it was just special as my grandad gave it to me, for a long time I didn’t even know it was a paperweight it was just a fascinating colourful object-it had been thrown away by someone and he rescued it.
Later on, when I was older, I learned that the pattern I was so fascinated with had been created using a technique called Millefiori, which I taught myself with clay when I used to create dolls house food. The way it works is that you work carefully with a short fat cylinder, making it a long thin cylinder which you finally slice and somewhere inside, there is the perfect slice of orange, kiwi or hot cross bun. Thats how it works with clay anyway, I have less of an idea of how it is created with glass as in my paperweight.
I keep this paperweight on my desk, I see it every day while I’m working from home. I think of this technique as a metaphor for how art practice develops and therefore it helps me both in my art practice and my teaching practice.
As an artist, when you are developing ideas, you have all your thoughts, sketches and ideas rolled up within your fat cylinder of clay, then you carefully and thoughtfully work your way through all these ideas and sketches, teasing out the ideas but carefully preserving the whole idea which will eventually narrow down to one you will use. When you have your long thin piece, you slice away at it with care, then eventually, after much thought, somewhere inside that cylinder, you find your perfect slice of final piece which makes all the hard work worth it.
The point is, there is going to be lots of what could be considered waste at either end of the cylinder, but the final outcome would not be possible without the discarded bits that help you get there.
But also, it’s important to remember that no art is a waste and should not be discarded!