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Wax and Waning Creative Energy

I've been creative my whole life- I was good at art through school, took to woodwork, graphic design and textiles and eventually went to the Bournemouth Arts University (then The Arts Institute) to study a wonderful degree called Model Making. I have worked in stone engraving, handmade manufacturing, special effects for film and to a lesser degree of creativity- marketing.


But...


Sometimes being creative just goes away. Gone.


Setting up my ceramics business was empowering, exciting- I was like a cat on hot coals- anxious but elated. This drove me on a daily basis to create for my business- pots, ceramics, a website, social media account, photography and so on. I felt in control and while certainly not achieving any financial success, I was proud of the hard work I put in, the late nights, early mornings, toddler nap time and weekends.


Then lockdown happened- well it had already happened but it sank in around the 3 month mark that this wasn't going away. I had initially loved the space, but it started to get a bit echo-ey in my head. I then received some incredibly sad news about a friend that absolutely floored me. I then received some good news too which grappled with my sadness. I felt overwhelmed and suddenly, I realised I hadn't created in over a week. That week turned into two and then three. I gave myself a stern, guilt ridden pep talk and dragged myself to the wheel to labour at throwing 8 mugs. Two were awful, two I failed to salvage and two I forgot to add handles on in time. I threw a plant pot successfully. I thought trying to gee myself along; I will be the plant pot lady- that's fine, I can live with that..


Then I decided to stop forcing the issue. I just let myself be, I didn't look at social media or other artist's work, I didn't think about what I should be making and I told myself I was on a break, mentally and physically. Two more weeks went by. And then one day I woke up and wanted to throw a plant pot. Not surprising really as it was my last successful throw. Mugs now terrorfied me! The bottom of the plant pot was too thin, but for once, I didn't care. I made it for joy and so I patched up the bottom and decided to keep this first one for myself.


Reflecting on the last few weeks.


Working in employment where deadlines and pace are set for you, where colleagues were there to support and even reignite when wavering, left me completely unprepared for the amount of sheer willpower needed to continue when feeling creatively low and completely alone. I wonder if it's a stamina I will build over time- or if I will find a flow that is sustainable. Perhaps I will work in these tidal waves of productivity and droughts of drive. I knew my heart still lay with pottery- it had been there, gently waiting.


I also wonder at the creating side of being creative. If you are constantly adding and giving to the world - bringing things to this life, isn't that exhausting by nature? I've still not fully formed this thought but I do feel there is something in needing space to just exist for a while before going on to create again.


One thing I have learnt for now, is that I can't force my stubborn brain. If it's on GO then little will distract me, but when its on HALT, it's dug in. Forcing the issue through guilting myself into working will only make things worse. So for the meantime, while I figure out my flow and a sustainable capacity, I'm going to take the breaks, relax into them and wait for GO to take over again. My daughter at least benefits- while on my last holiday from business, her mud kitchen has developed and a climbing frame been built. I just need to figure out how happy I am about being a cliche poor artist and hope Nick my partner doesn't let me starve.

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Helen Walker Ceramics

Southbourne, Dorset, UK.

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