Thursday, November 26, 2009

Getting there

There's a whole dialogue I have with myself when making anything, complete with sniffy asides, rhetorical questions and, if things are going badly, hand gestures. A lot of it concerns unfathomable questions about things like, "Is this any good?", "Why am I doing this?", and, "Is it finished yet?" which is relateded on its mother's side to, "Are we there yet?".

My creative processes might be described as stages:

Stage One: light-hearted failure to appreciate the deadline, coupled with a hopeful presumption that everything will be different this time around.

Stage Two: agonising. Non-stop. Usually involves a critique of my life so far, highlighting failures, minimising successes and feeling very gloomy.

Stage Three: half-hearted attempts to 'start', because I know that if I start 'something' I'll be a few inches closer to finishing.

Step Four: backing myself into a complete corner by allowing everything to pile up around me, literally and metaphorically, until I chase myself into the studio in order to avoid the mayhem on my desk.

Step Five: make something, re-make it and remake it again until I just can't take any more and then feel a small amount of relief. Usually this will be accompanied by technical failures and a realisation that I don't have the necessary equipment or materials and several frantic visits to the shops.

Step Six: deconstruct everything up to this point and slump. Start going round in circles and, after a while, profer whatever it is I've come up with on an outstretched hand to the audience whilst covering my eyes and feeling a bit sick.

I'd like to think that every time I end up with something I'm really, really certain about, but that doesn't often happen. This time for example I have ended up with something, but I haven't got enough distance from it yet to be able to look at it properly.

So what do I have? Well, it's about my mother's death. The shape - a rotating tetrahedron* - evokes for me the sense of loss in 3 dimensions, as it rotates around itself and a central space. The substrate is koshi handmade Japanese paper which has a rough side and a smooth side, and I've printed on both. I very rarely venture into digital, partly out of sheer technical ignorance and partly through a bloody-minded insistence on autographic mark-making but this time I've used text. At the moment I just don't have the wherewithall to etch text onto copper and so I've finally made use of my lovely Epson Stylus 2100 A3 inkjet printer which has been languishing in a corner, and it's done a good job for me. The paper is printed on the back and the front with the text of Rosemary Dobson's poem and a catalogue of words evoking loss and associated emotions, over a photograph of my mother taken in her early 20's, I think, on holiday in Norway.

I wasn't even a twinkle in her eye when the photo was taken but it's how I like to remember her: happy, smiling, young, beautiful. She died suddenly, 4 weeks before my daughter (her first grandchild)was born, just before Christmas 2001. It's not as raw now as it once was, but I find her death and my daughter's birth difficult to process, and this time of the year can be hard.

Despite the fact that I am rarely autobiographical in my work this piece does have an antecedant: I first made a rotating tetrahedron in 2002, printed with photographs of the woodland where we scattered her ashes. So in many ways this piece isn't an aberration, it's just had a long gestation. I'm not sure if it is fully resolved yet, but I need to stop working on it now and say "this is what I've got". I still need to design a box ("slipcase") for it, but the form of the 'book' is finished. I just need to make 9 more of them!

* developed by Tomoko Fuse and illustrated on p16 of "Origami for the Connoisseur" by Kunihiko Kasahara and Toshie Takahama, published by Japan Publications Inc, 1987. ISBN 4-8170-9002-2.


ronnie said...

I've got one word for the work in progress and the tender report...


or maybe


was a better word....

Carol said...

Beautifully written, something I'm sure we can all relate to. The work in progress (which seems to be very well progressed) looks wonderful. Very inspiring, SCB.

Angela said...

Wow! The photo and text look gorgeous as a print and even more intriguing in 3D. Thanks for sharing this, I am sure it wasn't easy.

Its great to see others methodologies, and how they go through the process. So glad I joined this book club!

Ampersand Duck said...

It's so nice to see someone else goes into deep fugs in the 'gestation' stage. I added it to the list of why I'm so glum these days, and I think I have to get to actual making to lift me out of it. This looks absolutely gorgeous, and I'm very excited about being on the recipient end of it, which is really the best bit about this project, don't you all think? We get to be jealous observers, and then OWNERS.

Amanda said...

This looks great! Your process sounds so tortured - I thought I was bad! It seems to work well for you though - you pull it all together so well. I had a vision of a magician, who uses his bumbling as misdirection, and then voila, in a puff of smoke reveals the prize!

I didn't know you had an Epson 2100. It is a wonderful printer - I love the results with Hahnemuhle Photo Rag.

Ida said...

Thanks for this Sara. Beautiful images and a wonderful folded book.

Peta said...

Inspiringly beautiful Sara....thank you for sharing your thought process and making process. I have just become a follower of 'Book Art Object', I have a feeling it will become a favourite!