When I returned to university in September 2017 as a mature student to study for my Master’s Degree, it was a complete change of direction and what I initially thought would be a year out – turned out to be so much more. A year later, September 2018, and within the space of a week I went from being a student to an Artist in Residence at the School of Jewellery. The downtime over the Christmas period seemed like a perfect opportunity to reflect on this transition and review my first few months working as a full-time artist.
Only days after setting up my degree show, September began with being selected for Craftspace In:Site Festival. In:Site commissions recent graduates to transform the outdoor space in and around Birmingham Cathedral with craft-based interventions, instillations and participatory work. I focussed on the heritage of the site and key periodical historic images of the Cathedral, working within a participatory context to explore contemporary uses of the Cathedral area in enamel. The outcome was exhibited during the festival within the Cathedral. The experience was brilliant early career education in beginning to develop the necessary skills to be able to sustain a career as an artist.
With the freedom from looming deadlines and academia, I suddenly felt like I had a lot of time on my hands. I was aware that I needed to give myself a little bit of space after finishing my MA and enjoyed using the time to get out and about to see exhibitions. I travelled down to London to see some fantastic new work from Bettina Speckner’s exhibition True at Gallery SO. I also headed up to Manchester Art Gallery to see ReFrame from mother and daughter, Caroline and Maisie Broadhead.
The artists interrogate how the pictorial conventions of historic paintings and their elaborate frames affect our perceptions of the women depicted. By blurring, transgressing and stretching the frames and edges of images, the artists disrupt the relationship between the picture and its surrounding. These interventions raise questions about how the women have been represented and create dialogues between the past and the present.
The residency at the School of Jewellery offers full use of facilities as well as technical support in exchange for student support one day per week. Working with the MA cohort, I have really enjoyed getting stuck into my new role. With the addition of being able to formalise the teaching undertaken during the residency and work towards becoming a Higher Education Academy Associate Fellow, I have really enjoyed taking the teaching side of the residency a little bit more seriously. I will be interested to explore how this skill exchange in the months ahead could impact my own studio practice.
Although I feel like I have made a great start during my Master’s studies, with only a year’s development under my belt, so much of the trajectory of my own practice feels foggy. As well as seeing the residency as an opportunity to technically develop my skills, I also want to use the year ahead to work towards really firming up the context and sustainability of my practice moving forward. I am focussed on drawing on my historical field knowledge gained during 10 years working in the auction industry and have begun looking for opportunities to link this with contemporary art and craft-centered possibilities within community and heritage engagement.