Experience not superstition

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I liked this post by ceramicist Shannon Garson on her blog, Strange Fragments.

This is a lesson I learn time and time again, if I have misgivings about a project it is not superstition, it is because I am experienced. Those misgivings are all my years of experience telling me “This project is not right. Stay Away!”

Isn’t that great! I absolutely love that line about it being experience not superstition. It’s so true, yet unfortunately it’s a lesson that I also seem to have trouble learning and I bet I’m not the only one. Why do we second guess ourselves in this way? Is it lack of confidence in our abilities or blind optimism that hey, things will turn out just fine if we ignore that little niggling voice?

Shannon goes on to say:

I think it’s important for artists who speak about their practice to tell emerging artists and their peers about their frustrations as well as successes.

I totally agree and it’s one of the reasons that I’m very open on this blog about the times when I mess up. I hope that people can learn from my mistakes. I also hope that if I publicly confess them then maybe I might learn from them!

I am slowly learning though. For example, I’ve learnt to ask myself “is this a gesso moment?” in the run up to an exhibition: this is my personal code for ‘am I about to stress myself out by attempting something monumentally stupid right before a deadline?” This comes from an experience I had last year when I tried to learn proper old fashioned gesso (the sort you make with plaster and rabbit skin glue) a month before my solo show with the crazy idea that I would make a series of brand new drawings on gessoed boards – a medium, let me repeat, that I had never used before. I’m sure you can imagine how well that went… I still have a bunch of gessoed boards sitting in my studio, waiting to be sanded and then drawn on. Goodness only knows what I was thinking but it’s quite a frequent trap for me – my optimism always seems to outweigh my sanity in these situations and I get carried away with a ‘good idea’. The trouble is that it often really is a good idea – if I’d had it six months earlier!

I am an artist & purveyor of obsessive projects based in Hebden Bridge, England. My work involves the accretion of large numbers of small objects - pins in fabric, knots in string or hundreds of envelopes - to make sculptures that deal with fragility, loss, repetition, obsession and time.

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