Professional Platforms – Week 6

Assessment began today and it runs for the next two weeks up until Christmas. The bus strikes effected the attendance again today but you recognise the same faces who make it in regardless. Today was a brilliant opportunity for me to catch up with the students and see their body of work. I was hugely impressed with their level of commitment, their willingness to experiment and their genuine interest in their chosen issues, as well as the social environment around them. I could constantly hear discussions going on with the group engaging in talks about the news and the Scandinavian way of life and their attitude to equality. I also had to opportunity to be shown the work of students on other elective projects such as Textiles and Fine Art. I am overall impressed with the amount of work produced. As you can expect, there was the odd student who didn’t turn up with all of their work or students who talk about what they are going to do next, but obviously they can not be marked for this. I found it invaluable to experience how the tutors deal with different students. There are some who experience difficulties with communication and have different ways of processing information. The students were made aware of the support that was available to them such as help with dyslexia and mental health support. They were also notified that there are other ways of documenting if writing is proving difficult. If it is more effective for them to document by recording themselves speak either by recording or by filming, that is acceptable. It is better than having it all stored up in their heads but not having anything to produce for the tutors and eventually, the external examiner.

I found it challenging to engage with a couple of the students, possibly down to my inexperience. One never really wants to show me anything and doesn’t really speak much. I can tell by the sketchbook evaluations that this student is very intelligent but I find it difficult to read the student. I am unsure whether they know they are intelligent and know what is expected of them so they give enough to demonstrate this but there is a lack of enthusiasm, or even interest. This also could be down to the fact they are shy and introverted and I am misinterpreting them. Another was finding it extremely difficult to cope with being told they had not done enough. They struggled to break down what has just been asked of them to compose an action plan of what was needed from them over the next two weeks. All the student could focus on was that they had not done enough and they had missed so much out. I’m not sure why they did not engage with the process that we had walked them through during the Monday sessions but now they were finding it difficult to go back and fill in the gaps. They had not done any artist research or evaluations and when I suggested going and sourcing some artists to look at or artists that work with the same materials they had used, they were reluctant to. They said it didn’t feel genuine. They wanted to use the time to collate a list of things they needed to do and that was all they could focus on at the moment.

I spoke with a couple of the students who were very open and honest about their life experience and their dealing with anxiety and the support they needed, and also how some were dealing with mental health issues within their work and how they were finding it therapeutic while they hoped to help people deal with their own issues through their work. I found their openness very positive and hopefully as each generation comes through, the stigma will lessen and it will be as accepted to talk about these issues as it is physical health issues and health care will be just easy to access.

 

I spoke with Jason and Jennie about being involved with the course throughout the year and beyond my expected time-frame. I will either come in throughout the middle of the course and again at the end or possibly a week every month, we will work it round the timetable of the next few projects and their FMP. It is mutually beneficial to me and the students and I would like to experience the change in the students as they settle into specialism and their confidence grows. I would also like to be involved in the proposal for their FMP and the end of year show.

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Tutorial with Clinton

I signed up for a tutorial with Clinton as I have not spoken to him about my work in a while. I was wanting to speak to him about my concerns with my negotiated professional platform and make sure I am hitting the points I need to as well as asking him if it is OK to use some of my MA time to deviate away from the context of gender and test whether I can illustrate with clay and deliver to an editorial or publishing context.

We began by talking about the Tittymama army and how he felt that I was having an interesting discussion around my Pecha Kucha. After going through the issues mentioned on the day, it became apparent that the experience was not as negative as I came away feeling. I can use the suggestions to defend and determine my work and own it. We spoke about how I felt I was not delivering the Tittymamas to an audience but giving the women they represented a space deliberately not considering the audience. If the piece is responding to how we are seen, it is contradictory to design the piece around the people who are looking at it. The event of coming together, of collaborating, of giving people a voice and the space they are entitled to is what it is about. I am being put in touch with Sarah Lawton whose practice is based around collaboration ans Helen Felcey who is helping preserve ceramic workshop spaces and working to bring people to the institutions that still have workshops in use. I mentioned how I felt like I had hit a wall with the project as I was reaching out to people and asking for people to come together or share experience and was not really getting anyone latch on to the idea apart from white women. I said I felt that this was not the way I wanted to go with the project. He suggested that the project has to start somewhere even if I can not get anyone to physically turn up and join in. He also mentioned maybe not focussing on the project as an art or craft project as people may feel that there had to be a certain level of skill involved. Or maybe I could test homemade playdough recipes that people could make their models out of and photograph them and send them to me so I have an archive, a record of dialogue. I had not originally thought that this could be a barrier to interaction, if people do not feel they are artists, why would they feel they were able to contribute? It was also mentioned how I could test different patterns and uses of colour of different ethnicities and religions to represent a part of the community to put onto the figures. When discussing the possibility of offending people by asking to speak to people, Clinton thought that it might be beneficial to speak with different communities but acknowledge that it could provoke difficult reactions and discussions but progress can’t be made by having no dialogue at all. I will contact some of the societies and communities within the university and try. It seems that there is some possibility with the project yet and all options haven’t been exhausted.

 

I addressed the worries I am having about employability after I leave and how I don’t want to be making work just to tick boxes for my MA. I told him I was worried after my pecha kucha and after the AOI talk that my work, and myself, could be interpreted as negative and therefore I will put off many commissioners. He said he finds the work humourous and it illustrated people and the absurdity of gender expectations and if I concentrate on my visual language, including my image making before branching out to clay, clients will source me out. People who want my work purely for aesthetic reasons and can see the work in a different context, and those who are looking for that deeper, more investigative work rather than work purely for decoration. I could also find funding to work with communities and within the cultural sector. If I have something to say, I should not really sacrifice that to work for anyone; I should keep my integrity and people will value that. I asked whether it would be OK for me to take time away and experiment with clay to see if I can use it for other areas of illustration that I am interested in working with and he said definitely. I should see it as a drawing tool. My work will have to be seen in 2D form. Illustration is largely about being able to reproduce an image and disseminate. My work will only be viewed by a handful of people if it is always in a gallery setting. Where that is an option, it would be good to play with how the images look after photographing them, drawing over them, making prints of them, drawing from them; pushing them as far as they can go.

 

For professional platforms, I need to fill out the negotiated option form and send it over to him. I need to document everything I can and keep up with the blog. Use what I have got to show I could produce a lesson plan on my own due to the experience I have gained and the professional insight and reality of working in an educational institution. It would be beneficial if I could have visual evidence but there will be some ethical issues. I will have to receive parental consent to take photos of workshops or ask for the tutor to take the images for me and cover this my getting his consent. I could also take photographs of the students work with their permission and credit them. It seems there will be enough for me to go on.

Professional Platforms- Week 5.

This week saw the launch of the final brief of Protest and Survive where the students had to choose an issue that was local to them and define what they saw as local. We decided to give them a structure to work to throughout the day as this week they have three days to deliver their final outcome and last week they took linger to arrive at being fully prepared to make their work. They were directed to choose their issue, which some already had over the weekend, to then spend half an hour researching, and then they were asked to again consider their feelings, the mode, the audience, type and text, colour, and imagery.

Some similar issues such as homelessness, and animal cruelty, arose again where some issues relating to the issues addressed in previous work were being investigated; such as fracking on Hilbre, recycling, loss of green space, and the farming industry and animal husbandry. The same students seem to be the ones who are willing to battle with their work, talk to me about it, and consider different approaches to their pieces based on what they have done before. You can see the ideas being frantically written down and the debates going on with themselves and the evaluating of their previous protests. Some deliberately wanted to try something different, like a more subtle campaign or an awareness campaign rather than an angry piece. One student wanted to celebrate the green space that was about to be lost due to a road being proposed to access the new football stadium on King’s Dock, however, the more she thought about how she felt and when she evaluated her word and image associations, she noticed that her tone of voice was angry. What I have found inspirational is just how many of the students genuinely care about the current issues in society and how well connected they are. They don’t all live in a bubble which I think is sometimes expected of them. I am also delighted with how most are really considering what visual language and media will be best suited to the message, not sticking to what they know and what has previously worked for them.

We had time today to ask them to go and find two pieces of protest work that they believed were successful and evaluate them and determine what made them communicate well. They were encouraged to look through books I had brought it (on the Guerilla Girls work and their experience, Guerilla Art considering placement and context, and Poster Masters, demonstrating strong compositions, colour choice and a variety of purposes), and other books regarding protest, social commentary, and brief responses. I feel they found this useful to open up their ideas even further and to be able to validate their ideas as possibilities.

The next two weeks are for assessment. I will be allowed to sit in on some of the assessments with the tutors, see how the different tutors deliver their assessments and to also help prepare they students, making sure they have everything they need in their portfolio to date and give them a nudge on what they need to complete or include in time. After the assessment will be the start of the specialism. The students who select the Visual Communication specialism will be given three weeks to compose a zine to submit to Nexus cafe in Manchester. The skills they will acquire will be thinking about type, the layout and accessibility of a zine, the editing and composing process of putting a zine together including making mock-ups and digitally putting their zine together and simple bookbinding.

Glaze Experiments

I picked up my Tittymamas from the glaze and oxide induction and they are hideous! Ha! As I first thought, the colour of the natural oxides isn’t suitable for the work I am trying to produce and the shine to the glaze is something I want to avoid. I will experiment further with under-glazes and stained slip. I feel way out of my depth at the moment, I have no idea what I am mixing, if I am using enough under-glaze, etc, etc; but I guess this is part of the process. For these I used red iron oxide then covered with a shiny transparent glaze. This still alters the colour of the oxide. You can see the colour of the oxide slightly where the glaze didn’t touch. I am actually surprised how much the glaze balanced out the colour of the oxide. I had deliberately applied more to certain areas, I didn’t want it all one colour. This is something to bear in mind in the future. On the other I used black nicol and only  applied the glaze to parts of the figure. I like the way the depth of the colour on the oxide varies depending on how much was applied or wiped off or watered down. I think the matt finish is more suitable to what I am doing. There is a matt glaze I will try before ruling it out completely.

After a talk with Lou Bones from the AOI, I think I need to see how I can make editorial and publishing work with the clay so that I can correctly identify clients who may be interested in my work. I do feel like the kind of work and subject matter I am dealing with at the moment is not going to be commissioned work and rather more personal projects/ gallery targeted work. I am arranging a tutorial with Ian from BA Illustration to talk more about professional practice.

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Professional Platforms- Week 3

Today we launched the new brief Protest and Survive. It is a series of week-long briefs spanning three weeks illustrating awareness or a protest around a global issue, a national issue, and a local issue.

Today’s session was composed of giving the students the tools they needed to produce and consider their work. We asked the students to produce a mind map a number of issues they are concerned about  and after forming groups of three and four they were to discus the issues for ten minutes. The issues that arose were war, poverty, climate change, deforestation, sexual harassment, terrorism, the refugee crisis, and animal cruelty. They were given an hour to research in more detail two of their issues and asked to produce five facts each to deliver to their peer groups. Some naturally noted the statistics and were considering making their imagery around these and another had noted that he had found there were more than one issue at play surrounding his chosen cause that he had not originally considered. This took us up to lunch time and without yet without giving the students any visual references, the group continued to be engaged and energetic with their ideas.

The afternoon began with my presentation on Hannah Hoch as a way of suggesting other ways of producing protest art. If I am honest, I should have prepared it more thoroughly to make sure the links and information were coherent and the point would be communicated but I was a bit wary spending so much time on this again for the work to not be used.  the presentation led to other visual examples such as stitch, posters, banners, badges, t-shirts, satire,  performance and fashion, and collaboration with other disciplines. I had a could have conversations afterwards regarding her work and how they never originally considered collage but a student felt it may be appropriate for her work. Throughout the session we prompted the students to consider colour, what they represent, how they can be used as semiotics, how they make people feel. Some still wanted to use black and white… and portraiture. Other conversations were considering how their chosen subject made them feel, were they angry, or sad? Some were confused and scared. Ready for tomorrow they need to equip their toolbox with visual referencing, words, and slogans. Earlier in the afternoon they were given ten minutes to produce ten ideas. Towards the end of the days we asked them to re-order their ideas after our discussions on colour, mode and approach, and evaluate how these effect how successful they now see them being.

I’m looking forward to hearing about the work that was produced. One of the girls was thinking about using herself as a performance to demonstrate against sexual abuse carried out by the church, another was thinking of using plastic to make a piece on climate change. This already shows they are thinking of the best medium to communicate rather than automatically working 2D or in their usual aesthetic.

Professional Platforms – week 2

I was left feeling disheartened after this weeks PP.  I had spent the day on the previous Thursday preparing a presentation for the class covering my work, my experience on Foundation, BA, and MA, and I was to give examples of briefs and advice on selecting Universities. The presentation had been valuable for me as it allowed me to look over work I had forgotten about and realise just how far my work had come, but I would have appreciated being given the time to show this. It would have also been beneficial to the students as they would have seen how I am working on issues they have raised within their own Body projects.

I was asked if I would like to prepare a presentation on Hannah Hoch as part of the new brief for next week, called Protest and Survive, as I wrote my dissertation on her. I have done this but I have made sure that I have not spent too much time on it this week. I have also put together some artist research covering images taken of the Women’s March on Washington and Black Lives Matter protests, some of the posters and t-shirts designed for the marches, some of the pieces and events in The People’s Museum in Manchester, and also Helen Storey’s Dress For Our Time and In Praise of Air by Simon Armitage.

 

I spoke to the tutors about working in FE and it appears that I do need a PGCE. I did not know this and it seems it is hard to get into otherwise. I spoke to the careers adviser today and she said there are pathways into FE and the PGCE can be specifically for FE and not for all teaching. This makes it less intense and is possibly available as a separate student loan. The route to HE, which I would prefer, is different again. The way of getting in is more based on experience and there is a Graduate Training Assistant role. I am going to look into this and apply. I have spoken to Elle the Outreach co-ordinator about being interested in workshops and gaining some teaching experience and she has given me the email of the person who is working as a GTA now so I can see how she is finding it. I am also going to speak to Clinton again and John about any opportunities to shadow or volunteer. The careers advisor said to be careful of this, only offer a set amount of days and to make sure the experience and help is recognised, do not allow myself to be exploited.

 

I have booked a sign up tutorial with Clinton to speak about how I go about getting the most out of the placement and making sure I am ticking the boxes for the evidence. I know it would not look good on me to pull out of the agreement, especially if I am looking to be hired, but I need to be getting something out of it. I feel a little bit like a TA, but I’m not sure what I expected. Maybe a little more involvement when I came away feeling like I would not be eligible to do this role so there’s not really any point in training me for it. It also has made me think is it even worth going into more debt for a PGCE when the tutors believe the Foundation Diploma will be getting phased out in the end. Perhaps I am better off keeping my eye on MFA and getting my foot in the door to be involved with the University. I will suggest putting together a workshop with the students to help them speak about their work, especially as they will need to do this at interview for University. I will come up with a pitch over the weekend.

Pecha Kucha Practice 3

Pecha Kucha Nov 2017

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I came to the Pecha Kucha with a fair idea of my plan for the year. I did feel there was a chance the Tittymama Army might come to a halt as I seem to be hitting walls when it comes to  the engagement and research. I am trying to connect with women of colour and disabled women to communicate their experiences correctly and potentially stir up some engagement and organise workshops for women to make their own figures. Unfortunately, so far, my emails have not been responded to.

There were a number of suggestions for my work such as adding fabric to the sculptures. I think this could be something to play with, especially since I would mostly wear football kits and would hide my bra under my pillow rather than put it in the washing basket. Also, I was questioned about why I worked to conceal the cracks in the clay. I had not really thought about this beyond wanting the sculpture to survive the kiln and how they would be a sign of my inexperience with the material. They could have, however, shown the cracks of the stereotype, the imperfect notion of the ideal, the fragility of the masculinity, and if I am honest, the cracks in my relationship with this person. Maybe next time I will consider leaving them valuable to the narrative.

It was also suggested that I maybe experimented with other media. Maybe paper mache, silicone, padded materials and also how this could be performative. I’m really struggling with how to see all of this, maybe once this sinks in some ideas will arise. I could possibly encounter a creative block as I’ll be too worried about the Tittymamas not living up to their potential. As they are now, I need to think about where they are going to go. I was asked who my audience was and if I’m honest, I have not thought too much about the audience apart from how to bring people in by making them initially see the figures as small, funny, and soft until they get up close. When creating them I have thought more about the women that they represent and giving these people space.

I was asked about how men would see my work as they are who I need to engage to encourage change as women already ‘get it’. I’m not sure that I do need to bring it back to how men see them. Is that the point of what I am saying? It is not always about what men think and see? Can it not just be for the women it is representing? Creating a community and taking up space? It was also mentioned that not all men are like this, and I obviously know this and my work is not meant to be taking aim at all men. I know from the men who have engaged with the work that they have not felt the need to be defensive. I feel there was a clash of opinions, as there will be with this kind of work. It was suggested that being a mother and a mother of boys will make you see things differently. I’m not willing to quieten my experience because I am not mother. It was also mentioned that my peer used to feel as I do but now she is 30 years older and you change as you grow as a woman and you feel differently. I can’t help but feel that these issues might still concern me in 30 years time.

Another suggestion was to perhaps include other experiences to help connect with men, for example, a sculpture of a boy crying. I won’t be doing this for this project as this then opens up my research again and going down the route of personal experience was a way of narrowing it all down. In the future, definitely, I’ve thought about this and also about making pieces to highlight homelessness and animal cruelty.

The last Pecha Kucha helped a lot! I’ve even called meetings with my peers to hold them as a way of trying to see if there is something in my work I am missing, but this time, I feel completely stumped. I’m not sure if this will be the end of the Tittymamas as I know it, which is quite a turnaround as I felt so positive about trying to engage with people; I believed this idea had legs. I know that I am definitely enjoying working with clay and I do want to pursue this route. The Tittymamas could be used to create an animation or maybe even make a giant suit to go walking round the shops, I’m not sure. I could definitely make the models for the animation  but I would not have a clue where to start with the technical aspect of putting it all together. I could see it working as a sort of Jan Svankmajer Dialogue animation where I am tearing away at my changing body. I’m not sure… having ideas as I’m typing.

Busy week!

I spent a lot of time in the ceramics room last week. Most of my work has survived the kiln, luckily. I have tried to amend the cracks I found on my two heads but it’s got to the point where I just need to fire them now, see what happens and learn from it. After speaking to the technician, she thinks it could be down to either applying slip to clay that has dried too much or uneven drying.

The Almington clay I have began to use turns a very light pink tone and I wondered how this would affect the paint. I tested it and luckily it doesn’t distort it too much at all, I just have to check next to some of the others that the colour isn’t slightly enhanced by this in comparison to the unfired air-dry clay. I was going to test one of the other Tittymamas that I have already painted but I was advised that the paint will just burn off in the kiln. I have moved onto working with Ivory Stoneware which is a lovely texture. It feels somewhere between Almington and Polymer clay. It hardens up slightly allowing for you to build upon your base quite easily without the figure collapsing under the weight of the head and arms. I have began to make my army hollow now as advised so this should lead to more predictable drying and firing. I noticed the air holes had shrunk a fair amount in a couple of pieces and I had to put them in again before going into the kiln. It may be better to add these when the sculptures are leatherhard rather than as I am building them.  My name is down for a glaze and oxide induction now too which is exciting. I think oxides will work best for the work I am trying to produce as when looking through sample pieces of work in the kiln room I felt the glaze appeared to overpower any detail. Oxides produced a more illustrative and matte quality although I am interested in Underglazes. They seemed less glue like and I have noticed many of the artists I have researched use this as well as oxides.

I spoke to some of the 3D students about my project to see if there was anything I was missing or where they would take it. Most agreed that the material was the right media to use and suggested speaking to the Outreach team to see if they could help with putting together workshop. 3D printing was mentioned but the said it would cost a fortune and a fortune I don’t have…

I’ve been trying to reach out to people with regard to their experiences in society and how I can properly represent them through the Tittymamas. I posted on a couple of feminist groups to see if women of colour and disabled women would talk to me about how I can make their models. I have begun to render the disabled figures faceless as I feel this shows how my mum feels when she is in her wheelchair. I have noticed myself many of times that people talk to me when I am pushing her and not to her. She has said she feels like she is invisible and that people think she is stupid or infantile. I hoe this will convey the twice removed from privilege in society but I need to speak with people to know that I am being authentic to them and not interpreting their experience. I want the piece to be inclusive, not a white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, straight woman’s work. So far only white women have responded to the post. I need to figure out how to approach people to speak to them properly. Maybe print out arts of the project to show them along with the universities ethics form. I have arranged to speak with a friend to see how she felt when living in Cardiff and her experience in general. She said she will tell me about the comments on her hair and her Nigerian accent.

 

I have emailed a couple of people in Liverpool about locations for workshops and both Baltic Clay and News From Nowhere have responded with people and groups to contact. I will follow these up tomorrow.

On Monday I started a placement at Liverpool Community College with the Visual Communication/Illustration tutor on their Foundation diploma for ten weeks. I am hoping to come away with an idea of whether tutoring is for me or not. I am hopeful. In two weeks time we will be putting together three weeks worth of quick briefs for the students and I will be involved in writing and delivering them. For Monday I will be putting together a presentation going through my work but also my journey from my work on Foundation and where I saw myself to my work on MA. The idea is to give the students an insight to studying at university and to allow themselves to open up, experiment and deviate.

Oh! Laura Carlin came to give a talk today and it was great. She spoke of how your childhood influences your work whether you like it or not and also how you should not search for a ‘style’. Once you find your interest it will follow. I asked her about her use of colour as I see it as sophisticated and subtle. She said she feels scared of colour and she wishes she was more daring and bold. She began her BA only using black and white and then slowly introduced a third colour. She sticks to three colours or limited colour pallets as a comfort. Her illustrative ceramics exhibition is traveling around the UK next year. I will have to go to see it.

 

I think this is everything…

probably not.

 

On to practice 3!

Where to begin… back at the start of Practice 2? Well, I seem to have found exactly where my practice sits with myself. My own experience and my reaction to the blog post on feminism resulting in the death of femininity. I’ve gone with my instinct and begun to use clay to make my work. The army has led me to become more interested in illustrative ceramics. As well as digging my heels in and reaffirming that my broad scope of research in Practice 1 was necessary, I added artists to my research alongside keeping an eye on the necessary ongoing conversations surrounding gender and stereotyping. As I searched for artists it became apparent that it was a challenge to find illustrators that successfully challenged stereotypes beyond the surface (in my opinion). I found myself leaning towards fine artists communicating personal experience such as Louise Bourgeois and David Hockney, artists using a naive approach; Bob Traylor, Jonny Hannah, and literary creatives. Once I had decided to risk the outcome of MA and dive into the ceramic unknown, I began to source contemporary figurative ceramicists and illustrators using ceramics such as Claire Loder, Veronica Cay, Laura Bird, and Cathie Pilkington.

 

The plan is to continue making the Tittymama army. Ideally I will be connecting with women and collectively making the army. This could prove to be complicated. I will need to be able to afford to hire the location of the workshops and the materials, as well as secure participation. I need to research potential locations and participants and research how to run the workshops successfully. There would be a chance of engaging women from the university itself but it becomes complicated as if I were to hold the workshop it would have to take place in the ceramics room itself. I would have to get the approval of staff and also hope that people would stay late to make the figures. I need to work out exactly what I need to do.

 

Working with clay itself is proving challenging but satisfying. I was disappointed today to discover a piece I made last week has dried with cracks. I’m sure this is because there was too much moisture added to the slip I used for texture. I need to speak with the technician to see if I can rectify this or what I can do differently next time. I also (stupidly) knocked the head off a piece trying to ensure there was an air hole as the one I originally made shrunk as the piece dried out. It was brought to my attention that I could have made the piece without the bottom being closed. It all seems so obvious now. I’ve been told to start to make my Tittymamas hollow so they can be fired. Any moisture trapped deep inside will cause them to crack when they are fired. They do need to be put into the kiln as they are not strong enough to be transported; after every journey some part has broken off. This is taking a little extra time but not as much as I expected. I am also pressing type into the clay using stamps. I would like to tell some of the women’s stories, but not all. I want the type to be visible but not overpowering the figure.

 

All in all I feel that what I want to do is not viable for one year. well, six months really as I am part-time. To do one thing well would be better for my course. I need to discuss my ideas for the year with my tutor. My initial thoughts are to take the Tittymamas forward, still work on successfully making a 3D piece the has been fired and glazed so I have the knowledge and experience to take forward. I would like to work on my 2D idea to create a publication that looks like a children’s book but it is really reporting my

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experience with gender and gender stereotypes. I could work on this as a break from the clay. The outcome will be postponed until after the Tittymama piece.

draft 1- practice 2

Introduction.

After receiving my feedback for practice 1, I began to concentrate on my own personal experience of my gender and stereotyping and this changed the direction of my project.

I began to make work based on childhood memories and experiences throughout my life whilst searching for illustrators or designers who have tried to address gender issues with their work. As I struggled to find illustrators, I found my work resonated more with fine artists and authors who used personal experience, gender, feminism, childhood, the home/family, and naive aesthetics to create a network. I used a three-point mapping strategy to gain focus. As I worked through my memories and experience, I worked instinctively in a 2D aesthetic. The female body became prominent in my sketching and as I tried to understand my own feelings and instinct more, a blog post regarding a man’s expectation of femininity triggered me to work in 3D and I began to experiment with clay.

As a way of taking quick breaks from my practice, I have submitted some editorial pieces for an online creative newspaper and illustrated a music cover for a solo artist. During a housekeeping lecture there was a call out to join a collective called Other Grounds that are investigating ‘otherness’. I responded and met with the group during testing time.

Background.

Through questioning aspects of my upbringing and resurrecting my childhood memories I understand that my aversion to gender stereotyping through consumerism directly links to my own experience of feeling I did not fit within the expectations of my gender. For most of my life I have rebelled against it and also desperately tried to fit within it. I was aware of a difference and a hierarchy within my family unit from a very young age and began to question it. I felt my body almost betrayed me when it began to change at eight years old and it terrified me when I realised other people could see. I struggled between trying to be masculine and aggressive like my dad and as attractive and slim as my mother’s legend. I developed an eating disorder at the age of 13. I witness other children, such as my nephew, have these rigid expectations imposed on them and I am aware of the consequences. I want to promote acceptance with my work.

Research.

I began searching for artists and other creatives who have used personal experience and social commentary in regard to gender stereotypes to make their work. I found it difficult to find designers and illustrators whose work dug beneath the surface of the issue. I was unable to bounce from anything I found until I looked towards fine art and literary creatives. I noticed how the body reoccurred in my sketching and as I searched for artists who explored gender or feminism I found drawings by Louise Bourgeois that resonated with my own. Upon reading about Bourgeois, I discovered her work fundamentally concerns her experience, childhood, her family, and memories. I was also directed towards David Hockney’s early works when he explored his own feelings and sexuality as well as experimenting aesthetically. Out of the many 2D visual artists, I found myself returning to Bourgeois and Hockney.

My current aesthetic of digital collage is not appropriate for my project and I need to work on a more naive approach. Another branch to my research was to include illustrators and artists who work in a way that could be visually influential. Now that the work is about my experience, it has opened the subject matter to include navigating my gender and my body, as well as my experience of stereotyping.  Using a sketchbook and drawing is completely different to how I work but I began producing intuitive images to get the experiences out and onto the paper.

Journey.

To help express my own rejection of my femininity I searched online for similar experiences where I came across a blog post written by a man regarding feminism causing the death of femininity. I began to construct a clay army of women as a reaction to the blog and it’s comments, my experience, expectations surrounding femininity, and being reduced down to a body. Other Grounds plan to hold a small testing exhibition in October and a larger one in January. The Tittymamas will run alongside my practice and I will include the work in my Professional Platforms. I have not worked with clay before but feel it is the best method for communicating my feelings concerning the focus on the female body as a collective rather than seeing individual people. The ugliness and imperfection of the Tittymamas is imperative. They are not to be polished, all unique, and they will be painted in the soft, pastel colours that render young femininity as a way of mocking the soft stereotype. I realise that this will involve more work than if I made moulds for the bodies but it goes against the meaning behind the work. How many I make and how I will position them will depend on the venue of the January exhibition but the effect does rely on the mass.

I have been too anxious until now to experiment with different clays, firing, and glazes. I have never worked in ceramics and was unsure if I needed to take my work so far away from my usual practice, but it has been constantly on my mind that this is the route to pursue. I had already been shown the sculptures of Caren Garfen and Cathie Pilkington but felt I may be too late to step into a completely new territory and produce something of quality in time for the end of my MA. During a family holiday we visited Erwood Station Gallery, Powys, which features artists working in ceramics in an illustrative way. I found the folk-like ceramic figures by Suzanne Lanchberry and Jean Tolkovsky endearing making the hunch to experiment with clay more prominent. I could create scenes out of clay that would communicate my experiences in a more interesting way; interesting for the viewer and myself as I am connecting with clay more than my 2D images. In Hay-on-Wye I found a book on contemporary ceramics showcasing how clay is being used by illustrators, such as Laura Bird, to tell a narrative. There would be some significance in taking a memory and turning it into an artifact that’s purpose you expect to be decorative, to be put on show, yet the subject matter is not what you expect to be shown off or really discussed. I would like the viewer to be intrigued by the work before fully understanding the narrative. I have started to create scenes by returning to me intuitive images and using them to pinpoint what parts I want to make in clay. Although there is obviously a technical element to handbuilding there is something about not having a pencil or paintbrush that allows me to loosen up and allow the material to work with my idea for the image. I don’t want to control it the way I automatically do when I work 2d.

Moving Forward.

I plan to experiment further with different clays and will take my induction in glazing and mould making next term. If it were possible for me to pursue my MFA, I would, as it would give me more time to become experiment with ceramics. Even though I am concerned about the time scale, I do believe it will be more beneficial to me to take the leap and learn a skill whilst on my MA rather than experiment only with my 2D aesthetic when I could do that any time. It makes more sense to take advantage of having access to facilities and technical advice and build on this further once the MA is over.

After discussing my direction in my final tutorial, I would like to keep my intention open and allow room for development throughout practice three. There is the possibility of composing images for publishing, pieces designed for an exhibition space, or even using my work for workshops. I intend to stay situated within design and I believe there is room for my practice as an illustrator. My illustrations in clay can be displayed or photographed and made into 2D compositions. My work is suitable for editorial illustration as gender issues are being highlighted more and working with empathy lends itself to reportage. Publishing could also be feasible either for the context or visual language. ***I attended the Picture Hooks conference at MMU where Tiffany Leeson, of Egmont Publishing, spoke of how they were keen to work with creators of picture books promoting emotional intelligence. This is something I would be enthusiastic to engage with in the future.*** My work is feminist art, but could also be used for public arts, and community arts.

Although my work has taken a different direction to how I imagined in practice one, my initial research is relevant. I feel more confident in my position, my subject matter, and understand more about my own aversion to the push on stereotypes through gendered consumerism. Researching artists has helped me situate myself and I was surprised at how difficult it was to find illustrators who are addressing gender issues.

I will begin practice three by allowing the work to evolve and leave the outcome open until direction becomes clear either through feedback or natural progression.