Make because something needs making.

As I write this I’m on holiday in Barcelona at the moment. It’s an exciting city to see if you are of an artistic persuasion. The city had been changed through decades of different fashions and architectural styles, so that buildings that are very old, very new and very bold may sit within walking distance of each other. The city is famous for the sweeping curves of the Guadi archetecture, but the city also houses many hidden artistic gems. I’ve stumbled upon a number of really nice pieces of street art like the piece above. It’s the ideal place for a Magpie to be inspired.

In the airport on the way here I saw a magazine called ‘Origami therapy’. A very quick flick through revealed that the magazine was a series of origami projects, which were all challenging and looked nice to do. But it wasn’t therapy. I’m quite bothered by the new trend of packaging up a few artistic projects and calling them therapy. Yesterday while I was walking around the city I was trying to work out why that was, given that many of the posts on this blog concern the relationship between art and psychology or wellbeing. The first reason I think is that therapy, including art therapy, is a delicate process that requires the skill of a trained therapist. Buying a magazine at the airport will not do for you what a therapist will. It just won’t.

The second is a bit more abstract, but bare with me. Walking around Barcelona yesterday I got the sense of a city where art is part of everyday life. There are many little shops selling creative products, and sculpture in every park. I get the sense here that art could be for everyone. In the UK we used to have a great tradition of making things. Clothing, food, furniture, ships, cars, trains, bridges, art and steel, energy – you name it, we made it. I think over the last thirty years we got sold the idea that the average person’s role in society was to buy things. To be a consumer. At the same time there has been a shameful neglect of investment in our manufacturing industries. We effectively sold our Makers down the river. I can’t help but feel like the UK as a nation is suffering a kind of spiritual malaise at the loss of our identity as Makers. I feel that art, and making should be part of normal everyday life. By packaging it up as something that you do for therapy makes, symbolically it becomes less a routine part of a rich and productive life and more something you do only because something is wrong. I frequently Make because something is right.

Make in the bad times, yes. Make in the good times too. Make because something needs Making.

Making and mental health: slowing down

A few weeks ago I posted a piece about my making and mindfulness. I’ve had the day off work today and have been thinking a bit more about why making things seem to work so well for me in bringing my stress levels down. I think in part it’s because I’m experimenting at the moment with collage, paper and glue. I’m in the process of working on a few designs for decorative pieces and because I’m a bit of a scanner obviously I seem to feel the need to work a bit in all of them at once. It may sound hectic, but moving between projects seems to ensure that I give each stage on each project a little time to mentally marinade. 

I’ve been trying techniques that enforce a slowing down. Even given a good run it can take days to get from an idea in my head to something that looks like an actual piece of work. I’ve been soaking card to mould it into various shapes and building up works through layers of paper of different thickness and texture. At each stage things have to be left to dry out and set before I can move onto the next thing, which removes the need for urgency. Indeed rushing around on these projects tends to ruin them, so slow craft is definitely the best approach here. I think as a consequence my mind also moves a bit slower, but is still very much occupied with the design details, which reduces the likelihood of anxiety creeping up on me. 

The Magpie at Midnight

Over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot more creative ‘stuff’ and have at the same time been pondering what it is I actually do. What would I describe my stuff as? What would I describe my self, as a creative type, as? My life has taken a pretty academic path up until now, so these questions caused me more difficulties that I would have expected. I come from a family full of creative people so in suddenly cranking up my own creative output in the context of all these people who have worked so hard at it for so long, I felt I may be in for a visit from the fraud police.

I finally came to rest on the idea of collage. I think that’s pretty much what I do – I bring together shiny things and ideas, bits of paper, both specially sourced from art suppliers and recycled, bits of wool and cloth, old jewellery and copper wire to create things. I’ve been dabbling with numerous ways of doing things without ever feeling I could say I have mastery over any of them, to create things that I really end up liking. Knitting, crochet, Decopage, drawing, animation, writing and storytelling have all been eye openers for me, and greatly enriched my practice from the place at which I started, which was cutting. In the headers for this blog there is a photo of a blanket I made for my sister. It took my almost 7 years, on and off, to finish, with very limited knitting and crochet skills, but it was pretty satisfying to hand over the final product, with all its imperfections.

I started this blog with the idea of creating a kind of online collage, a place for late night ramblings, ideas and new adventures in making all collected together. I hope that anyone reading will find something to enjoy.