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Hello 2019

Starting the year as I intend to go on: Producing the Goods. So here is an artwork I started today, featuring the feathery-light architecture that I love so much. When asked what Santa got me for Christmas, I received a look of confusion as I displayed (with glee) my Atlas Of Brutalist Architecture. How are there still nonbelievers? Look at the shapes. The space. The movement. The form. What’s not to like?

As always, a new year starts with new plans. My year has been planned, broken down into months and action for each. However, plan as I might, things have a way of revealing interesting diversions so I’m sure this time next year, I’ll be on a completely different flight of stairs from where I began my new batch of months.


A jumpstart with Kickstarter

A few months ago, as I was popping into a local shop to chat to briefly with my friend at the till, I found a lovely little squirrel pin sitting on a display table. A neat little design and a sweet little accessory for my cardi. This was the gateway pin leading the upward (being positive here) spiral to my current addiction.

What is it about these little guys that makes them so wonderful? Maybe it’s as simple as wearing your personality on your sleeve that appeals. Or adding a bit of flair to your wardrobe (not in a prescriptive way a la Office Space, of course).

I had an idea to take my love of architecture, specifically my fascination with tenements, and create a little pin of homes. Since then this idea has blossomed into creating four tenement pins, one for each season.

Rolling all this out in one go, or at least in quick succession, has a big appeal. So, I’ve decided to Kickstart this project in hopes of having all four seasons ready to shine by the time summer rolls around.

I’ve added my Kickstarter link here if you want to read what it’s all about. You can also pre-order the new pins as these are part of the rewards scheme. Thanks for readin’!

Calling ‘Bullshirt’ on the over-curated life

This year I have decided to join in the fun of March Meet The Maker (over there on Instaspace it’s found using #marchmeetthemaker).

Basically, if you’re a creating type with a social media account, March is the month for you to tell the world about yourself, what you do, what inspires you, what your beautiful creative space looks like, etc, etc, etc. I’ve never joined in as a) I don’t have the time to set up pretty scenes that show my life as wonderful, photogenic, sticky-free (what food was that from?!), ideal, as if I have a team of cleaners/bakers/scented candle makers following my daisy strewn path. And b)… there is no b. Just a.

Yesterday’s prompt was to show our work space. Cue dozens of photos of workspaces worthy of page space in Elle Decor. No stray toy in place or unwashed mug. After seeing all of these, I heaved a heavy sigh and blurted out “What a bunch of Bullshirt.” (I thank The Good Life for that one). Because it is. And this is when I decided to get involved.

Photo above: Not my work space. My workspace goes up near the window where all the natural light streams in, then gets packed away in the evening when other parts of my life take over. The above is my daughter’s messy art table.

Today’s prompt: Routine

I had to laugh my silly little head off at this. My routine is that it changes every few weeks. I divide my work time between my own art hustle and planning and delivering art lessons for primary schools. All of this is woven around my four year old and taking her here, there and everywhere. I do secretly love it that my weeks are a mix of activities and would probably find it boring to live another way. I seem to thrive in the land of mild chaos.

I get that March Meet The Maker is about seeing the faces and spaces behind all that lovely artwork, clothing, jewellery, cards we see in shops and online. The idea is a good one. What I’m tired of seeing, though, is the lack of reality in these overly-curated feeds. It’s nice to see pretty but it’s also good for the soul to see the mess behind the scenes. I want to meet the REAL maker behind all that creativity. Without seeing that real part of the story, everything turns into a blur of the same.

ALL the advice you need…

Recently, I underwent an experiment to see how far I could push my pain threshold. I did this for several days and eventually buckled under the pressure. The stress of running from one subject to the next hour after hour started to wear me out. Feeling the hate-swell of my audience was enough to make even a cactus wilt. Supply teaching, right now, is NOT for me. High schoolers can be a tough crowd.

This experience has certainly been the catalyst to tie a rocket around my dawdling little business and hopefully aim it to some much needed growth.

I haven’t been that gung-ho about it since my daughter arrived on the scene 4 years ago. I’ve been working but also enjoying being with her and going on our weekly adventures. Next year she starts school and that will certainly curb our fun outings. I’ve been content enough to make my monthly sales, draw in commissions here and there and also experiment a little with different art materials.

Now, I am ready to take some steps to grow this baby. So, how to step forward? The universe must’ve heard as I’ve been inundated with advice.

I put a call out on Facebuik (sorry Mary, I’ve used your word) asking for suggestions of local people working towards helping artists and small businesses. The Cultural Enterprise Office was excellent and responded to my request super quick. I’ve now lined up an hour-long Skype chat with an advisor. I highly suggest contacting them if you have some great ideas you want to realise or want advice on how to approach galleries. They offer much more than what I’ve mentioned so be sure to check them out here CEO.

There is also Business Gateway. They offer different workshops from Business Marketing to how to work your accounts. I’ve signed up to a one-off evening session covering marketing and look forward to meeting people in the same boat and also learning a few strategies.

Going back to Facebuik, loads of sponsored content has started popping up onto my wall. These are from entities offering rather conflicting advice on how to be awesome. I won’t be committing to any of the programmes on offer, but have picked up some tips on the links they use to lure you in.

My quick list of advice (free and without links to help you part from your hard earned cash):-

1) Know your audience. Who is buying your work or who would you like to buy your work? Write your website content aimed at that person.

2) Be interesting. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not, just present a person to the world. What’s your story? Why do you make the art that you make? Don’t become bland and blend in. People like to know who they are taking to. They like to hear a good story and you, my friend, have a good story.

3) Connect. I’ve spent far too long working in isolation. The idea of going to a (gulp) networking event used to make me cringe. They seemed so fake. People seemed inauthentic or pushy. I may have been going to the wrong events, eh? I’ve decided to take a brave step and have signed up to attend one of these. After reading the reviews and informing myself of the schedule, it actually looks worthwhile, interesting and I dare say, I’m a bit excited to go.

Anyway. That’s all I got for now. And thankfully, I’ve also lined up a few days of art teaching Littles. Another string to my bow and I’m looking forward to this creative outlet as well.

A super fast, super flash (not really) update

Lots happening here chez Harrison and Little. It’s been an age since I’ve updated so update I shall.

Brag: I’ve finally been invited to show an artwork in an exhibition. Rejected twice this year for RSA and RA (Why do you not love me?) so needed something to pick me up. It’s a good thing I’m a balanced enough individual to know that one shouldn’t place their self worth or creative value on these things. Which of course means I didn’t cry or swear at receiving aforementioned rejections. Ehem. 

Thanks be to the fine people of DOK Art Space of the Steel Shed for accepting my textile work of Edinburgh Mortuary for the ‘Locality’ exhibition. I don’t have a photo of the piece but I do have the scribbled page of my artist statement:

I have also recently ventured into the world of the Artobotic. Artobotic?! What is this? Follow this link for all the info you need to fully grasp the greatness of this idea. Basically, it’s a machine that vends small art works for 5 £2 coins. John Byrne has involved himself with this as have many other artists. 

This is the piece that I was dispensed when I put my coins into the Birthlink Charity shop Artobotic machine in Tollcross.

And finally, I have become one half of a duo interested in Edinburgh places, spaces, squares and streets. Dead Ringers Shop was created out of, uhm, huh, can’t remember exactly how it all began but we are a humming with the activity of screen printing t-shirts and totes. 

Dead Ringers Shop can be found on Twitter @DeadRingersShop and Instagram @deadringersshop and etsy Dead Ringers Shop

This year I’ve been lucky to have commissions ongoing since January. My current project is an A3 print and textile piece to be the main artwork in a domestic living space. So far so good.

I want to give a shout out to my peeps….no wait. Even that makes me want to vomit. Let’s start again… I’d like to thank my friends for stepping in to help over the past few months. Childcare was not happening for many weeks, yet work was still needing to be done. Thanks to teams Corin, Dylan, Rosie, Bella and MJ for your care, conversation and chocolate biscuits. 

Under the influence 

It has been an age since I’ve written in this space. My lapse isn’t down to not much going on. There is in fact, rather a lot going on and, Le sigh, not enough hours in my work day to make it all happen what needs to be happening.

Let me just dish out some gratitude here. I couldn’t have done it without you. I wouldn’t be doing this without you. If it weren’t for your interest, I could not do this thing that I love. So here is my Thanks to my friends and family that have cheered me on and to the fine people that like my artwork enough to buy it and commission more. And of course, thank you to the shops that stock my prints and also work with me on various projects.

My current project has me working with a local cafe to create something of a keepsake poster. More on that later as it’s still in the making. I’m excited about this project as I like the person I’m working with and this project will stretch me in the creative process. 

A fun side project involving a different kind of textiles is currently rolling around in the land of ideas. This isn’t a solo venture but something created out of collaboration.

Back to the poster idea. There is something I wanted to say here, something that many artists struggle with so thought I’d give it a mention. When I first started sketching ideas for the poster, a fabulous idea came to mind and I drew it out. I was getting that fizzy feeling when you know it’s good, the thing that you are making. Even a ‘this is so awesome, I can’t believe it came from my mind!’ And then I realised, it didn’t. This idea was someone else’s idea.

So I trashed it.

Although I hadn’t ripped off a drawing line for line, I could see where my influence had come from. I could have easily gotten away with it, but it would have always bothered me that this was not fully mine. 

It is true that in regards to art, there is hardly anything new out there. And in some way all the art that I have seen and experienced has trickled into my subconscious and might eventually find its way back out again in something I create.

There have been a couple instances over the past few years when I’ve seen someone else’s artwork and thought there were small hints in it of something I had done. Perhaps we had reached the same conclusions in practice, following our own individual paths. You can always follow the progression of an artist’s journey by looking at their past work. 

In this field, there only needs to be a 10% difference between your work and their work for them to deem it their own. 10% is not a lot. Where is the honesty in working like that, where all you’re aiming for is to be slightly different from so-and-so? Instead of trying to see what you can get away with, it should be about working in integrity.  It’s hard enough making a living, living this way. It would be a wonderful thing if artists could feel safe to share their vision without others taking their hard earned ideas for a spin themselves.

Working it (single parent style)

Yesterday I took an original artwork to Copyshop for scanning. I had to spill my pocket contents onto the table as I couldn’t find my memory stick. An artist once told me that you’re not a real artist unless you’re drawing everyday. His pockets were full of art materials. So, what does this make me then?

This week I’ve had a few conversations with other single parents. Theme: How to make work work. One friend has applied for jobs and made it to interview stage only to find the impossibility of the hours. Hours that extend either side of school, before school and after school activities included. One job that seemed ideal had to be dropped due to impossible hours.

Another single mother friend, parent to twins, is having to consider quitting her job as they are unwilling to give her the flexibility she needs to work and parent. This is a job she’s had for over ten years, good track record and clearly highly competent.

As for me, not only do I work as an artist, I’ve also signed up to supply teaching. Next week I have worked out a rather crazy schedule for myself and have had to make special arrangements with her dad, nursery and additional childminder just so I can rock up at the required time and be available all the hours needed. It made me realise I can’t keep that up thereafter so need to rethink this dual job thing. It has to be done, but how? And in between the parenting and supply work, I need to carve out time to print prints and work on next commission.

All these dilemmas.

We want to work. We have much enthusiasm and skill to offer. So how can we make life work? Because to be honest, we would rather not sit on our asses collecting benefits.