This was my second OCA study visit, and the first time I’ve been to a student-organised event with a crit session. It was incredibly positive and left me feeling both cheered and clear about my own studies. I didn’t have work for presentation at this session but will certainly take my work in progress to the next. I was struck by how cross-disciplinary discussion allowed us to tackle key issues of creativity and practice; we talked a lot about drawing and exploration and shared tips and reading recommendations. The crit session was really buzzing with ideas and positivity – photos by Rob Townsend:
I learned so much – rather than try to write it all up here, I’m going to let it filter through my work and focus here on the main things that resonated with me and my current reflections on where I stand with my own creative development.
- Rebecca Fairly gave a presentation on her own work; what I took particularly from this was the phrase ’emotional connection’ which she used to describe the moment when you find something speaks to you/works for you – when you ‘know you’re onto something’. In Rebecca’s case, she applied this to working with concrete for her degree show. This led me to reflect on the times I’ve felt an emotional connection to my own work – more on this in the next post. Rebecca also described her materials-led approach to this body of work – exploring, with ‘no aim’ or end point in mind. It feels like a long time since I experienced that feeling (MMT5, to be exact) and I need to get back to it; I’ve let the demands of a brief or assessment constrain my practice.
- In talking about her current work, Rebecca led a discussion of how we express ourselves subconsciously through our work – the idea that if we ‘keep making’ and exploring the things that engage us, then our own feelings (not using the term ‘personal voice’) would emerge. ‘Dead ends‘ are necessary – think what you’ve learned and keep moving forwards, was Rebecca’s advice.
- We discussed how our work tended to tighten up towards assessment so of particular interest to me was Rebecca’s assertion that everything we submit until ‘Sustaining Practice’ (ie end of the course) is work in progress – this is liberating.
- Rebecca described the ‘language’ of materials – how working with a material is a conversation which will always turn out differently from someone else’s conversation with that same material. This really helps me to understand why certain materials and processes – casting, sculpting, ceramics – speak to me and excite me.
- Another student, Rob (Photography) mentioned a talk by Steve Jobs where Jobs refers to looking back on his career and ‘joining the dots’ to see how he got where he is – this really resonated with me, the fact that we can’t necessarily see the whole journey mapped out as we go, but when we look back, things start to make sense. The ‘journey’ metaphors are irresistible. I have felt I’ve been down a series of ‘dead ends’ recently with IAP and now CC2, but if I zoom out to the bigger picture, I can see these as explorations from which I can retreat and learn and re-commence my journey. This is really empowering.
All of this connects with a question from a complete stranger last week when I mentioned my Textiles degree in passing – she asked ‘what are you specialising in?’ I couldn’t answer this. But I went away and wrote a list of the areas of textiles I could be specialising in (those that are sometimes the title of a whole degree, for example) and realised I can cross a lot of things off that list now that I don’t want to specialise in. That still leaves a lot of possible ‘specialisms’ on the list, which is a good stage to be at as I go into Level 2. I’ve been feeling that my interests are rather disparate – 3D, casting, printing, installations, ceramics – but in fact this is a list of processes and materials; my potential ‘specialism’ is fine art textiles. The reason all of these areas excite me – draw me into a conversation – is that they allow me to express myself in ways that, say, surface pattern design or knit, don’t. Rebecca made the point that in her own work she is trying to ‘express how it feels’ (particularly in relation to the body at the moment), not necessarily communicate this to someone else. And that helps me to identify what I want to be doing in my own practice; working to a design brief or a surface pattern do not tap into this need to express myself whereas exploring three dimensional textiles and processes do. That gives me 100% more clarity and confidence than I felt before Saturday.
There were lots of other inspiring conversations and references that I’ll feed into my work over the coming weeks. My exploration of my own ’emotional connection’ to my work is in the next post.