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Arsing Around With Words.

Updated: Apr 2

Detail of 'Pillowman' by Paula Rego. A pertinent ladder for raising others.

Several weeks ago I received a message from the wonderful Eddie. As someone who is brand new to making creative work, she wanted to know more about my creative practice and what it means to me. I was equally as interested in what that new impulse feels like and I loved her description.

“Currently I feel like I'm walking around with this new weird thing which I recognise as a creative impulse but it's like a gawky toddler not toilet trained and just crapping all over the place whilst looking very pleased with itself.”

Eddie’s questions for Jill

When did you first realise you were a creative person/ had creative skills?

Uuum I think I always was. I don’t remember ever having a realisation, I just was in one way or another. I started to think of it in terms of a job in high school, I was very single minded about wanting to go to art college and being the whole arty package, including painty dungarees and Dr Martins. 

What does the word 'creative' mean to you?

A way of living.

Ooh, say more about what you mean by this please.

My creativity is bound up in who I am, this was no more clearer than in the first few weeks of lockdown when all work was cancelled. That work had nothing to do with me being creative it was all teaching other people how to do what I do. As soon as all the money making jobs were stripped away and I had time to get back to my core, the first thing I did was open a bag of clay and start making. When you commit to creativity as a career it becomes more than just a job choice it's a lifestyle choice.

What does creativity feel like in your body?

Twitchy and impatient until I’m creating, then soothing and absorbing. 

It might be the same question - but if not, what does a new idea for 

work feel like?

Exciting, a low hum, unstoppable and eager to get out.

When you have an idea - what do you do with it? (as in, do you carry 

it around in your head, does it occupy your thoughts, do you start 

working on it straight away)

Depends where I am when I have it, if i’m out and about i’ll either keep it in my head or note the idea in my phone if I want to capture the freshness of it. If I’m at home I’ll more than likely get cracking as soon as it’s possible. I rarely use a sketchbook to note ideas, I prefer getting stuck straight in to making the thing. 

What is your creative discipline/ practice - how do you keep/ 

nurture/ encourage your creativity?

I have a few creative strings to my bow; I have a degree in Interior and environmental design and a Masters in Fine Art; I work in theatre painting scenery, making and designing costumes; I facilitate workshops; I’m technician at Dundee Ceramics Workshop. As far as my actual life passion creative endeavours go - over the last few years I’ve mainly been working in clay but I also use textiles including crochet to make sculptural forms or additions to found objects and ceramics; I use drawing within these forms and have translated some work into etchings for printing. My hands like to be busy.

I nurture my creativity by protecting my making time, this can be hard when there's a few money jobs on the go but I always find the time if there's an exciting idea brewing. I also pretty much trade off cleaning my house for making art.

Have you had to sacrifice/ say no to things in order to pursue a 

creative life? (Have you had to suffer for your art?)

I’ve had to say no to financial stability to pursue my creative life. I wouldn’t say I’ve suffered for my art, I’ve been irritated and stressed for my art. My work is about the suffering that happens in regular life not because of art but just from living life; like a traumatic birth; a premature and sick baby; motherhood; the death of my baby sister when i was 14; self criticism; body issues; lockdown. I use the making of art as therapy.

I'm interested in hearing more about the therapeutic side. Do you mean your art helps you process things you would not otherwise be able to? I'm finding I can write my way through a feeling and see what it is once its out on paper in a way I can't just think myself into. 

Yes, totally that! Making my work helps process feelings and ideas around an issue. Once I've made a body of work on a subject I rarely feel the need to revisit that issue in the future, it feels very much like it's been put to bed.

What inspires you and your work? Where do your ideas come from?

I physically and mentally have to make work, if I don’t I get withdrawals, become jittery and really grumpy. Ideas come from anywhere at any time, sometimes it’s a conversation with friends, a book I've been reading, something I saw, other times it just drops in seemingly from nowhere. I have books I regularly refer back to that I know will trigger something if i’m feeling creatively empty but honestly that hasn't happened for a long time, I’m pretty charged up at the moment and can’t see me running out of anything to say for a while. 

A wise, spunky, cheeky, sweary, old lady in fabulous clothing, with gnarly fingers from all the making. AKA me when I’m 100. 

Do you get blocks/ periods where you do not feel creative? What do 

you do with that?

As mentioned before I’ll read some of my go to books (Of Woman Born by Adrienne Rich and Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés) and something will trigger. The only time I had a proper block period it turned out to be the medication I was on for depression, I was really questioning my worth as an artist and the point of making art altogether, wondering what I should do instead. I was in a pretty bad place but the meds got sorted and art has been my bestie ever since. 

What blocks or has blocked your creativity?

Depression aside, anger, being pissed off and frustrated at life situations can block my creativity. I will usually revisit the anger later when I’m calm and make work out of whatever was going on. 

What advice would you have for someone starting out in any field of 

art/ creativity?

If you're moved to create then do it, don’t deny the urge to express yourself creatively. You don’t have to show anyone, it can be just for you.

I agree, I think this is a massive misconception, that the impulse is only valuable if what you create is fit for public consumption. It's taken me over 40 years to learn that this is nonsense. 

Do you think everyone is creative? Why do you think that?

I do think everyone is creative to varying degrees and in varying ways. I think it is a natural state for humans to be in, like dancing before we can walk but whether someone should quit work to pursue it is something else. In his book Hegarty On Creativity There Are No Rules, Sir John Hegarty says ‘Yes, we’re all artists. But some of us shouldn’t exhibit.’

I love this saying. 

If your creativity was a living tangible thing outside your body - 

tell us what that would be.

A wise, spunky, cheeky, sweary, old lady in fabulous clothing, with gnarly fingers from all the making. AKA me when I’m 100. 

What do you think everyone should know about creativity?

It makes the world a better place and the more we do it the better this world would be. All Schools Should Be Art Schools.

What question would you like to answer that I haven't asked?

I'd like to finish by talking about writing and how our (mine and Eddie's) experience on the Upfront course has changed our feelings about writing. I didn't know how much I’d enjoy writing this blog or thinking up things to write about and there doesn't seem to be a shortage of subjects. I’m coming from a place where I hated writing, I hated English lessons and I failed my Higher first time. I loved reading but the way school taught English made it all feel like a chore and for whatever reason I thought I was rubbish at it. I was a slow reader and thought this made me look thick, I found reading out loud incredibly painful, I was shy and if I read something wrong I would again class myself as a dumbo. It wasn’t until I did my Masters in 2006-07 that I learned to enjoy the writing process, our tutor had a very different strategy than I’d been shown before and was encouraging of my writing. Being part of Upfront has given me the power to use my words freely and confidently, with little jots given to what anyone else thinks.

Jill’s questions for Eddie

What was your experience of writing at school?

I don't actually remember writing at school even though I must have done! I studied English literature at college which drilled a love of books and reading right out of me for several years. I felt like the aim of the game was to figure out what the 'right' thing to think about each book was and I never really could so it was a case of parroting back the lecturers views into essays and exams and not ever working out how to trust or even think my own thoughts. 

Totally agree, I was the same when it came to interpreting artwork.

When did you first write something creative? 

I've had a couple of one night stands with writing. I wrote a love story to the city I live in about 20 years ago and sent it off to an editor who was asking for submissions. (They wrote back and said thanks but no thanks.) And then about 10 years later I had a step out of reality weekend at a festival and turned it into a weird fairy story afterwards. I shared it with a couple of people and we laughed and that was that. This time I stayed the night and writing and I are now going steady. Love it!

I can remember the bewilderment even now, like looking into a internal cupboard and there literally being nothing on my brain shelves.

Were you creative in other ways before realising your impulse to write? (music, baking or crafts for example)

I don't think so. I play a couple of musical instruments but always need music to follow. One of my teachers at junior school was a jazz trumpeter and he once tried to encourage me to improvise. I can remember the bewilderment even now, like looking into a internal cupboard and there literally being nothing on my brain shelves.

I come from a arty crafty family, but I have no patience, skill or inclination for anything like that. Up until very recently I was absolutely convinced that some people are creative and some people are just not. 

What triggered the impulse?

I was outside my comfort zone from the minute I signed up to the Upfront confidence course. A few months ago I got a diagnosis of autism which shifted the plates of my earth. It gave me a more compassionate filter to look at myself with. This nugget of self compassion propelled me onto the course we met on (edited). By the time I had filmed my course intro video and posted it I was in a different galaxy to my comfort zone and from that point on, I felt like anything could happen. Add to that the sudden realisation that all these other women (who seemed to me to have all of their shit so totally together and are phenomenal) were struggling with confidence too which just cracked my brain right open, along with what I was learning from the course material. Top that up with the supportive atmosphere of the group and I think that was it, my creative impulse felt safe enough to emerge, grab the mic and has refused to let go. This is amazing.

Was there a specific thought or action or was it gradual?

It was an electric shock kind of feeling. Once the images for the story were in my head, I couldn't really focus on anything else until they were down on paper. It was like a brain itch. It took me a while to recognise this wierd new feeling as creativity. I'm still getting used to it. 

What gave you the courage to share your new found creativity?

The course atmosphere, for sure. I felt that people would be kind, (I was right) and I really needed that as I wasn't bold enough without it. I'm quite timid by nature, even though I'm trying to be less so these days. I'm so very very grateful to everyone who has encouraged me. 

Thanks to Eddie for bringing her curiosity to my blog, it's been brilliant to have a reason to collaborate and work in the open with her. Hopefully we'll team up again soon! You can read Eddie's work by following her on Instagram (@whatshesaidnext). Crushed it.

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