Can you introduce yourself and what you do?
I’m self-employed and work freelance doing a variety of things that mostly come under the umbrella of creative & cultural education. This involves some project management and consultancy work and I'm also a trainer and facilitator. I do a fair amount of work with Arts Award – training advisers and moderating assessed portfolios. My original degree was in printed textile design (feels like a long time ago now but I have happy memories of being up to my elbows in dye on a regular basis) and following a PGCE I've also taught art in schools. Immediately prior to going freelance nearly 5 years ago I was working with Creative Partnerships, a national programme which was all about bringing arts practitioners and schools together to design bespoke projects to explore ideas and support creative change – but sadly the funding was cut with the change of government (don't get me started…!).
I sometimes feel a bit of an imposter being in the Sketchbook Circle surrounded by all you wonderful teachers as it is very rare that I'm actually in a classroom teaching art directly to young people these days – my work tends to be more about facilitating the people who work with young people. But I admire and appreciate how very hard you work and recognise the struggle to maintain your own creativity and wellbeing in the face of this.
Freelancing can be tough - juggling different jobs, constant worry about cashflow and where the next piece of work is coming from and distinct lack of paid holiday time – but, on the whole, I enjoy the variety and also the connections I make across the cultural and education sectors…and I definitely don't miss the marking!
Can you describe what a typical working day is like for you?
That’s a tricky one as there’s not really any such thing! This can be both a blessing and a curse....sometimes I crave more routine and a defined place of work but I also love not being tied to a timetable and being able to take advantage of a sunny day to take the dog out for a long walk.
It can be easy to slip into bad habits when you're working from home… spending the day at your laptop in your pyjamas may sound luxurious but it is not a good thing for your sanity and motivation, believe me!
Days when I'm working out and about usually involve a fair amount of travel – all the more so now that I live in rural Norfolk. As I write this I'm on a train down to East Croydon to do an Arts Award Explore postal moderation at Trinity College London which is a trip I tend to make once a month at the moment. It's a long, intensive day with an early start and a late finish by the time I've got there and back but I find the train journey can be good thinking and reading time which makes it a bit less onerous.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m just taking on some new work with the Norwich and Norfolk Festival Bridge which is all about supporting schools in the area to engage with the arts, heritage and outdoor learning opportunities around them in order to tell their collective and individual stories. I'm also about to take on a role in Peterborough that involves growing and embedding Arts Award activity across the city.
As part of a personal goal to try to reignite my own creative practice I took the bold move to sign up to Norfolk Open Studios this year – it starts at the end of May so I'm currently having palpitations over that and feeling nowhere near ready for it! But I'd like to be doing a bit more of my own making so it has been a good thing to challenge myself with.
How would you describe your style as an artist in a few words?
Eclectic; intuitive; sometimes illustrative; sometimes graphic; sometimes abstract; sometimes craft-y.
The influence of my printed textile background still seems to reveal itself quite strongly - my work tends to be 2D, in mixed media, with a propensity for mark-making, pattern, surface and colour.
How does your creative process work?
For me it’s about trying to find the sweet spot of ‘flow’ and striking the right balance between quieting all the surrounding noise and busyness whilst not being too exhausted and ‘out of juice’. Feeling relaxed enough to just play and see what emerges without pressure – concentrating but not over-thinking – and then making decisions off the back of that. I’m not always brilliant at coming to a definitive conclusion though – too many possibilities!
Where do you enjoy searching for your creative inspirations?
A cliché I know, but I do find a lot of inspiration in the natural world – sometimes as source material and sometimes simply as a means for creative refreshment/re-energising. Also in noticing the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made especially where the first has started to encroach on the latter – weathered surfaces, derelict buildings etc. I take a lot of photos, just on my phone, of things that catch my eye. I also love looking for images and ideas in books and magazines and on Instagram and Pinterest.
I get particularly inspired through exploring the links and connections between things, the layers of
meaning – so I often find myself delving into the etymology, symbolism, history of something.
Which books and magazines are on your bedside table?
I have far more books than I’ll ever manage to find the time to read! But I do love getting lost in a good story...I’m currently reading ‘The Lie Tree’ which is technically for young adults but has a deliciously eerie edge. I’m a big fan of Alan Garner’s writing and have just received a copy of a newly published celebration of his work to which loads of interesting people have contributed so I’m looking forward to dipping into that.
Bit addicted to magazines like ‘The Simple Things’ and ‘Mollie Makes’ I’m afraid – I find them very appealing and inspirational/aspirational but I’m equally under no illusion about how attainable that kind of serene, creative lifestyle is in reality! Still...I can but dream!