With the help of my assistant (read: minion (Hi Katie!)), I packed up half of my studio and drove it across the Island, to ensconce myself in the Douglas Market Hall as MakeMarket Potter-in-Residence for a week. Like many ambitious ideas, it sounded awesome seven months earlier and then as 'moving' day approached, I seriously questioned my sanity. Why did I offer to do it? What possessed me to think that relocating my workspace for five days at the time of year when I should be making for the Food Festival, and drawing up serious Christmas stock plans, was an inspired idea?! Thankfully the residency worked out beautifully enough to placate that whiny voice in my head.
I'd never thrown in public before, let alone tried talking to someone (coherently) whilst throwing. Anxiety reigned before starting work on the first morning - heightened by the presence of two videographers, ready to document me messing up, of course - but thankfully eased as I began throwing. Though I consider throwing to be my weakest skill in the making process (ironic huh), focussing on the task and not screwing up proved that I'm far more able than I gave myself credit for. A steady flow of visitors kept me happily occupied throughout the five days whilst I threw, trimmed and decorated 40 pots. You'll be pleased to know that I can officially talk and throw proficiently at the same time!
Lovely things happened. Small children were totally enthralled by my throwing. It was magic to them. On Saturday morning I spotted a bloke with a camera walk to the Hall doorway, kneel down, take a photo then walk away. Two days later an email from Chris Jackson landed in my inbox with the black and white photo below attached.
Running a full-time business is notorious for stifling creativity, and naturally I want to avoid that. Residencies give creatives the opportunity to temporarily work in a location other than their own studios, which often allows for more intense periods of work and can be an escape from repetitive tasks.
The Market Hall is a very public building; not only does it house a cafe and a butcher, there are also very popular public toilets! Regardless of specific events, the Hall has regular footfall. As I made and decorated pots, dozens of people walked past. Some were intrigued; they might slow down or stop to take a closer look. Some wanted to talk, not necessarily about pots. Lots said 'oh I did that in school years ago!' or 'I'd love to have a go at that'. Plenty of people ignored me. Or asked where to find the toilets...!
That social interaction was a significant challenge for me. I work alone, and I LOVE that. Solitude is a happy place for me. But I'm aware that, like too much of anything, it can be limiting. Somewhat perversely, I've discovered that working outside of my comfort zone sparks great stuff in my head. I'm certainly not alone in that experience and it's by no means an original concept, but I still don't much like it.
I have a whole new appreciation for the UCM art students and staff who work in the building during term time. Creating and exhibiting artwork, particularly as a student, in a public place is a vulnerable experience. I can't think of a better way to learn how to embrace that discomfort, and learn how to use it one's advantage. Working in the Market Hall for five days undoubtedly boosted my confidence, and I sincerely hope that the students benefit similarly in their years of study.
I'd like to extend HUGE thanks to Helen Fox of University College Isle of Man, Kate + Sam from Revel, Suzy from Coburg Communications, and Louisa the intern for all of their help, promotion and encouragement (plus massive kudos to them all for pulling MakeMarket together!).
More thanks to my assistant Katie for helping with the relocation, the tech boys for the fab video (they had only good intentions and I'm sure would have deleted the footage had I actually messed up), Deb Turk for popping in on THREE days to take a stack of beautiful photos, and to ALL the lovely visitors - you were SO enthusiastic! And many of you brought food and coffee, kudos.
Creative Industries have a bright future on this Island.