I have a problem with categories. Basically, I’m just not very good at them. I find it difficult to choose tags for blog posts. I have too many sets on my Flickr account. I have too many email folders. I struggle with organising my filing cabinet. I desperately need to go through and rationalise all these things but it doesn’t come easily to me.
In terms of organisation, this is obviously A Very Bad Thing. I constantly lose things and I sometimes avoid tidying up because I simply can’t decide where stuff should go. And then I end up with this sort of thing!
[I've tidied my desk since this was taken because the photo appalled me so much. If you have problems keeping your desk clear, check out Inspired Home Office for resources that may give you the push you need. Since tidying up this disaster zone, I've been noticeably more motivated and I'm feeling more on top of things.]
I do have systems but things still stump me. I’ve got a box that’s been sitting in my study unsorted and neglected for 6 months because it’s full of the sort of random objects that I find almost impossible to categorise. The pile of papers to be sorted into my filing cabinet is so large that it’s developed geographical layers and may actually have started to fossilise down at the bottom.
Since I’m so visual, I sometimes wonder if I should simply file things by colour – but I know that I’d just end up spending ages trying to decide if objects were blue or green instead because having trouble with categories is a global failure in my brain.
TIME TO LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE…
However, while it’s a problem in terms of organisation, being bad at categories can be a distinct advantage for an artist because you can see across boundaries to make associative leaps than non-artists often don’t. Leaps of logic that make perfect sense in KirstyLand often seem innovative and original to others.
For example, this piece called Lost was made for an exhibition in a church. To make the piece, I carefully broke an unglazed bowl, then mended it with glue, leaving deliberate holes. For the exhibition, the bowl was placed on linen and filled with salt water, which gradually evaporated through the porous clay.
Lot’s Wife was the inspiration for the piece and I combined her familiar story with the Japanese tradition of mending broken bowl with gold to make them more valuable than when they were whole. I’d read about this several years before and had been utterly captivated by the idea of regarding a mended object as beautiful and powerful instead of flawed and damaged. Somehow in my head, this linked with my sympathy for Lot’s Wife, who was forced to leave not only her home but two of her adult children. In that situation, what mother wouldn’t turn back to see what had happened? Isn’t it interesting that she’s usually held up as an example of female disobedience but if you turn it around, her story can just as easily be interpreted as being about the power of maternal love.
As artists, we need to turn things around. We have to learn to look at our problems and disadvantages to see if they also contain power and wisdom for us. It’s time to recognise that the things that make us bad at fitting into the ‘real world’ are sometimes the exact same things that keep us making our art.