Wow, how is it already December!?
Apologies to my sadly neglected blog but this year has been a heck of a ride.
In looking back over all the things I’ve done and struggled with this year, I suddenly had a (mildly incensed) urge to write it all down and make sense of it before another year rolls around.
Let me paint a picture of the hectic year just gone.
→ I dyed a commissioned noren (split curtain) for an Australian Tea-master who lives up in Newcastle with his own tatami-floored tea-room. It’s a homage to spring with magpies, which also happen to be the emblem of the area where he studied Tea.
|privately commissioned Noren featuring Australian magpies|
→ I started making textile jewellery that I’ve called tameshi, using trial dye samples and un-used edges from dyed works. These have been proving popular and I feel good about the fact that they are mini artworks in themselves and re-use fabrics that I would have thrown away or put in a box somewhere.
|Tameshi jewellery – tameshi means sample or test. Available through stockists in Canberra and on my etsy store https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/someru|
→ I sent work to a group show by dyeing artists in New York. As the only artist out of the group who wasn’t Japanese, apparently people said mine looked the most Japanese! With all the deadlines for later in the year, I didn’t manage to get to go the US to see the show but still, it felt like an achievement.
|My series of 6 yuzen/katazome dyed works on display as part of “Wafting II” at Medialia Gallery in New York, June-July 2017|
→ I participated in a four-day residency out at Tidbinbilla nature reserve thanks to Craft ACT. Four of us selected artists got to stay in a newly renovated cottage inside the reserve and spent four lovely sunny days at the tail-end of winter hiking in the bush, sketching, writing and sharing tales over cheese and wine.
|The delights of early spring at Tidbinbilla – Gibraltar Peak, Early Nancy, Flame Robin.|
→ I travelled to Japan and held a solo exhibition in Galerie H20 in Kyoto. My first solo show there in 4 and a half years, always a joy to be there and to catch up with so many friends and new connections.
|entryway and Japanese garden at Galerie H20 in downtown Kyoto|
|view of solo show at Galerie h20, October 2017|
→ Whilst in Japan I made time to visit and interview a bunch of great humans, friends new and old who are doing innovative and interesting dye-work. The plan is to write up a series of interviews from all the meetings and I’ve created a new project Somé 20:20 to house them and to move forward with. It’s a reference to being able to see clearly – without acknowledging tradition how do we move forward? and how will dyeing art survive into the future, 2020 is just around the corner. A work in progress, my new website for the project is over at some-20-20.com
|the wonderful people who agreed to be interviewed for my Somé 20:20 project.|
→ I came back and setup another solo show at ANCA gallery in Canberra! The theme of my works this year have been “beautiful weeds”, and I managed to create some new works that are really where I’ve been wanting to head for a while now; layered and sheer works that are a new form of collaged landscape.
|Solo Exhibition “Naturescapes” at ANCA Gallery & Studios, Canberra, Oct-Nov 2017|
|detail of “The Beautiful Weeds of Canberra” series, on show at ANCA Gallery, Canberra|
→ I ran workshops and demonstrations in dyeing at the 2017 Canberra-Nara Candle Festival. For the demonstrations, I dyed a massive 9 metre length of resist-printed cotton in one go while a crowd watched and revealed pattern and birds and text as I went. The workshops saw nearly 100 people dye their own kata-yuzen bookmark using pigments and stencils.
|Kata-yuzen workshops and Hikizome demonstration at the Canberra Nara Candle Festival, October 28, 2017|
→ I ran another afternoon of workshops on the last day of my exhibition, dyeing katazome postcards. Participants could dye pre-printed washi and wash away the paste to reveal the patterns. We had great warm weather and it was a lovely bunch of enthusiastic people who came along.
|wonderful postcards dyed by participants, drying on the outside windows at ANCA|
→ I even had an article published in the Kyoto Journal, on katagami stencils.
|Kyoto Journal, a volunteer-run publication, making a return to print from this issue.
It’s great! you can get your hands on a copy here
What this run-sheet doesn’t show is the sleep-deprivation, self-doubt, expenses, rejection letters, missed deadlines, extensive preparations, hours spent at a day-job and the constant juggle.
On paper, (or in digital text, I suppose) this looks like a hugely successful year. In a sense it was.
But it was also really, really hard.
I don’t think this level of productivity is sustainable, or even very enjoyable.
I also didn’t really sell much art. Not through exhibitions.
Where I really made progress and, to some extent, a profit, was through connecting with like-minded people, through making custom pieces, through sharing affordable things, and through trying to promote the unique genre of Somé.
Which has me re-thinking my approach to all of this.
Given that my work places me in a sort of odd position in between ART, CRAFT & RESEARCH, (odd in the sense that I don’t fall neatly into funding categories or job titles) I’m thinking that instead of struggling against that and trying to slot myself into prescribed categories, why not embrace it?
Can I be a CRAFTISAN?
Can I be a RESEARCHIST?
Can I be a CRAFTIST?
I’m tired of feeling like my specialties (being able to dye pictorial textiles, being interested in craft, being knowledgeable about tradition, having Japanese abilities -though not bilingual by any means, being interested in smaller, affordable art) are a liability, or something I need to adjust so I can be in the same game as everyone else. And of feeling like my particular set of skills don’t add up to anything. When in fact they do! and they are a killer combination despite what the grants categories, arts bodies, or professional membership organisations would have me think.
So consider this my personal passion project for 2018; finding a way to be my own kind of craftisan, pursuing research and researching through making.