THE ARTIST by The Artist
When did I become an artist? Maybe it was when I read the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and was excited by the idea that everyone is creative.
At the time (and for a long time after) I was filling my home with paint, paper, paint brushes, glue and lots more supplies but doing nothing with them. Then each spring and September I would literally be compelled to make something but before it was finished I’d get disillusioned by its imperfection and lay it aside with the previous year’s unfinished thing. This went on for many years; in fact until I was fifty. That’s when my friend told me about Bray Institute of Further Education (BIFE) where I discovered work in progress. All those pieces I had laid aside as imperfect were only incomplete and with just a little more patience they might have gone on to become finished! All those years I had missed creating a finished piece by giving up too soon, by becoming disillusioned, by distrusting imperfection.
While in BIFE I taught myself to look at my unfinished pieces as I would look at a toddler learning to walk – with patience and encouragement. I searched for the positives amid the mess, for snippets of beauty in the ugly and found ways to strengthen that beauty. And my patience was rewarded – for the first time in my life I began to like some of my own work. Now my cupboards of art supplies come in very handy as I run open weekly creativity mornings where anyone can drop in and create in this patient, encouraging way.
This mixed media piece is called Apron Strings. I was inspired/angered/ saddened by the stories of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland and began making aprons while I was on an art course at Bray Institute of Further Education. In the black and white pictures I saw of the Laundries the young women wore aprons to protect their clothes. I wanted to make aprons to protect these women’s essence. I made them mainly in white porcelain ceramics. In this mixed media piece I wanted to make something grubby, old, worn, rusty, blackened and pregnant (hard to see in this picture but the apron has a pregnant bump.) The idea being that on the outside all looks ugly but inside there is a glorious truth, a beauty, a new life.
This still evokes an emotional response in me because as a child of 1960s Catholic Ireland I have deep reservoirs of guilt and not just about sex. About everything, to the extent that an air of not good enough often hangs over me. This piece reminds me that human beauty and “good enough”-ness is hidden deep inside and is not tarnished.
This piece is called The Button Shop. I love buttons. I love how small they are. I love how easy they are to collect and I love making them from clay. In The Button Shop, I’ve combined my ceramic buttons with snippets of dyed felted blankets.
This mixed media piece is called Hidden Treasure. I always thought I should know what to do with my life but I didn’t. I wandered from one thing to the next in a seemingly haphazard fashion, wondering if I’d ever grow up and settle down to a perfect occupation. Then one day as I was searching for a plastic fork I found a treasure trove of little snippets from my wanderings. There was a box of mini safety pins, a heart made of copper wire, two broken seashells, the plastic fork (success!), one blue tile, four wooden blocks and a beer bottle cap. Maybe this is what I should do with my life – treasure and love simple things.
Beatrice Wood (1893 – 1998) ceramist.
It’s actually her philosophy that I am inspired by. She is quoted as saying, “I owe it all to art books, chocolate and young men.” She was still producing art at 105 year of age. As I started so late I want to continue making things I love well into my 100s!
Fettstuhl 1964 by Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986)
A performance artist, sculptor, visual artist, social philosopher, Beuys was an aircraft radio operator in the German air force in the Second World War when his plane was shot down in the Crimea. The pilot of the plane was killed and Beuys was badly burned. Years after he told a story of how nomadic tribespeople found him and used fat to eases his burns. Then they kept him comfortable by wrapping him in felt. The piece above is a lump of fat on a chair… the idea being that after the war it might be possible to heal the world in the manner he was healed by the tribespeople.
Sean Scully (1945 – )
I used to make patchwork quilts so when I first saw Sean Scully’s paintings a few years ago it was like coming home. Rectangular and square shapes are very pleasing to me and whether he uses bright or muted tones I’m hooked. I’ve never met him but I feel like he might be very normal, someone you might bump into on a Sunday evening at Centra getting petrol and paying with his visa debit. Of course he lives in New York now and probably has a driver but, hey ho…
You can find out all about Mairead’s Creative Calm course right here.
Well done Mairead – great stuff and very interesting points you make. J.