Late 2013, on a quick trip to London, I finally visit Tate. A great admirer of David Hockney, particularly his Yorkshire paintings, I've only seen his earlier works in books and not been entirely convinced by them. 'A Bigger Splash' seems somewhat 'flat' on the page but up close, personal and 'live', I see the layering and detail of the brushstrokes and understand the whole piece in a deeper way.
The milestone moment really comes when I see 'Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy'. Not that interesting on the pages of a book (who cares about these people?), the reality is a large canvas containing a huge variety of texture and stroke and, most significantly for me, what could have been regarded as an error. I realise I've always thought true artists didn't make these. That this was what marked them out as true artists, truly gifted. Something to which I could never hope to aspire. But there, where the woman's hand meets her hip, you can tell Hockney changed his mind about the way it was shaped or proportioned. You can tell he has filled in his 'mistake' in colours that don't quite match. And yet he is (for me) the God 'Hockney'. His work hangs in Tate. And if he can change his mind about something and still allow his development, process and improvements to be visible, then what am I afraid of?
The same visit to London. Quick breakfast at Giraffe with my sister and brother-in-law before returning home. My brother-in-law takes issue with my mealy-mouthed timidity in declaring my artist status.'Of course you're an artist,' he says, 'you do it, you create, you don't just talk about doing it.' And my sister added 'What makes someone an artist, I think, is when they constantly explore and try to develop and improve and question. And you do all that.'
Though I still refer to myself as a librarian, I also talk about being 'in transition', being more open about having taken redundancy and accepted a part time role to allow myself to explore my potential. I admit to being self taught for two years before allowing myself to commit to (paying for) an industry based course. My self-concept is changing. I talk about my 'design colleagues'. I refer to 'my work' (meaning my design work, my style, what I'm hoping to achieve - not my paid employment as a librarian).
Needing more more pointed feedback and sensing a trust in the opinions of my design colleague, Whitney-Anne Baker (from the course) I bravely pick up the phone. Going through my work she points out to me that designs I think are terrible or hideous are not in fact so. They just are not my own personal taste. They are useable and probably saleable - it's just that I am not yet satisfied by them (see my sister's comments in Milestone 2).
The response from fellow guests and the owners at La Grande Maison.
Conclusions? I think my personal dissatisfactions with my work can serve to indicate the paths I should be following next. I don't think I want to be a designer of stationery for example (though I love a beautifully covered notebook or sketchbook).
I am tempted by the idea of wallpaper having learnt to do mock ups and I think I will explore this avenue. And fabric, of course, has long been a temptation. The need inside me to perfect the most beautiful patterns and designs for my scarves is so strong, though, I start to feel I don't want to be a designer of high street patterns. My style (still developing, a lifelong journey) is not, I think, a quick flash in the pan - this season - next season - have it now, reject it next week thing. I want my work to stand the test of longer time than that. It is seeping through me that I want to create a brand. I have not launched my scarves after all this autumn - for several reasons, a main one being that my personal sewing & finishing skills have proved inadequate to the task. Which requires re-costing and finding people who can do it and do it properly.
Which is fine, actually. Despite the title of this blog (I'm beginning to feel it's a bit misnamed), I realise it is a designer that I most want to be - not a maker. And my passion for perfecting the scarf designs is so strong that honestly, if the manufacturing quality and the total package and experience of buying receiving, owning and wearing them is not going to match up to the design quality, there is little point. I want people to love these scarves.
I'd feel the same about the wallpaper.... Can you have a brand that mixes wallpaper with silk scarves? (Insert winking smiley here!)
And talking wallpaper and to counteract the lack of visual stimulus in this post please, please pay a visit to Ellie Cashman Design. I've never met Ellie; I'm not paid to promote her. I've followed her blog (see link to the right) and been inspired by her journey for several years now and I am a total fan. I'd love to interview her for this blog one day.