The reluctant extrovert

There’s no question that when it comes to expressing myself, I find it so much easier to do through a physical object than through words. But that is far from the only reason why this is my first blog in almost two years. I have naively believed that my work should do all the talking and in a push to expand my portfolio over the last few years, communicating with the public has been neglected. But avoidance rather than neglect is probably a more honest view of things. Talking about myself in front of an audience (on a page / screen or in person) is something that fills me with dread. When teaching languages or woodwork, talking in front of a group of people is straightforward. However I prefer to share aspects of myself only with a close circle. Much to my shame, I was reminded of the paucity of my blogs by the editor of Living Edge magazine who recently interviewed me and it led to some more introspection. This isn’t the first time I have been forced to ask questions of myself.

At a spring exhibition last year a back-handed compliment also made me stop and think; “With work like that, no wonder you are so smug!” I have always preferred to treat people who come onto my stand in the same way I would like to be treated when I enter a shop. I generally know what I like and don’t want someone else to try to persuade me to buy something that I may not want.  As soon as I feel the sales assistant hovering, I’m out of the door quicker than Usain Bolt. Therefore I was surprised that someone could view my wish to allow them thinking space as self-satisfaction.  I am by nature a self-critical person so her assessment felt very far from the truth. It is so easy to incorrectly read a book by its cover, but perhaps that was mostly what people were getting to see – the cover but not the content so much?

Society has changed over the last 15 years. Reality TV has introduced the idea that anyone can be a celebrity and being famous is now more of an aspiration than ever. This is particularly relevant when a lot of today’s youth feel that their prospects aren’t great and that fame is the only way to get ahead. Despite not being a fan of these shows, nor of the idea of fame, I have to confess that I almost succumbed to the pull myself. The desire to be a bit more open and more visible led me to throw caution to the wind and apply to take part in the recent  BBC series, The Victorian House of Arts and Crafts. After the initial phone interview followed by a recorded Skype call there was a four week wait before hearing back from the casting department. Plenty of time to ask myself, do I really want to expose my weaknesses, limitations and be potentially be revealed as ”an imposter”? Objectively, I can stand back and assess that after twenty years of doing what I do I have accrued a lot of skills and knowledge and also developed my own style. However I am acutely aware of the fact there will always be people out there who are better than me in all these aspects and this is what has inhibited my sharing process. By the time the email arrived to say that I was still in the running, I had convinced myself that it was bad idea and politely made my excuses and withdrew.

A client recently wrote a lovely email thanking me for her Genie shelf. She also commented that she’d love to know more about what goes on behind the scenes both from a making perspective but also my thought process behind the work . This felt like another reminder that people are interested not just in the product but also the creative process and it was time to remedy this.


A benefit of this introspection

Self-reflection is a positive thing providing it doesn’t stray too far into the realms of navel gazing. It gives us an opportunity to see how our personality and patterns of behaviour can be an obstacle to moving forward. A combination of avoidance, introversion and possibly imposter syndrome had caused me to reveal  little content and show primarily the cover of my book. So by starting to write about my approach (I have a few themes I have started and then put on hold when the introvert took control again) I have had a chance to put into words my own internal process which I had so far taken for granted. Opening this dialogue with myself has helped me recognise more easily how ideas are born and what ties my work together, things that have been happening on a very subconscious level previously. This knowledge is helpful in informing future decisions about my work and therefore something so crucial in my development as an artist.

So, with all this in mind I am looking to do things a little differently. I am about to publish an e-newsletter which will go to subscribers, most of whom I have met in person. This contains more information about the making and thought process behind my work. Some of the content will be exclusive or will be published well in advance of social media / my blog. If you’d like to be added to my subscriber list please email me with the subject “Subscribe to newsletter”. Please be assured that I won’t be sharing your email address with anyone or over filling your inbox with news about what I had for breakfast (a bowl of bran and a cup of tea if you must know).

I still won’t be pouncing on people at exhibitions, but intend to deny my naturally introverted self from running the show. However, please feel free to approach me if you’d like to know more about my work. Despite valuing the time I spend working on my own I always come away from shows reflecting on how much I enjoyed the interaction with the public!