Monday, 27 October 2014

Wild Networking

Wild Networking is something that is organised and curated four times a year by artist Sophie Cullinan the Education Co-ordinator at Fermyn Wood Contemporary Gallery.  This is an opportunity for artists to meet up from different media and to come together, use the Lodge and the space around  it, experiment with new ideas and learn from each others skills, knowledge and experience.

The brief or central theme for the meeting was 'Rural Factory',  allowing artists to respond to what the countryside has to offer in the form of inspiration and materials.

If there's one thing I'm not so keen about being a freelance artist is network meetings.  The bringing together of complete strangers in the hope that there will be a melting pot of ideas, sharing and offering opportunities that you may have come across.  In reality, like most people, this is an uncomfortable situation to find yourself in.  Trying to gain eye contact, and then starting a conversation and being English, my first line might be relating to the weather or how far a person has travelled or simple, asking what they do often like drawing teeth.

I feel like a cross between a cold caller and a Rolodex, hoovering up useful information and future allies for my business toolbox.  Like in life, many of these people you will never meet again, some will be more memorable than others depending on how much they engaged you in that very first conversation.

I have noted (as in note to self) the Wild Networking before and was curious how I would fit in with these strangers whoever they might be.  I often feel as a designer/maker I don't quite fit into the art world, all very high brow and pompous, not designed for my lighthearted view.  I often feel like the child in the Emperors' New Clothes who points out the obvious.  So I have skirted this opportunity a few times before I finally decided to attend, "Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway" quoting the book of the same name.  Then panic started to set in, what was I going to do when I got there?

One thing that I have in my favour is that I really do enjoy adventures.  Every opportunity that comes my way, be it an exhibition, a trade or selling event, a workshop or attending a talk is always viewed as an adventure.  I don't know what will happen, who I will meet, what I will do but if viewed as an adventure it becomes more palatable and easy to handle.  One more thing, I knew there would be three familiar faces that were attending the day.

The journey to Sudborough Green Lodge is always one of pure pleasure and I am always left feeling how wonderful it would be to live in relative isolation.   To get to the lodge you have to come off the main drag and travel through the forest via dirt track, slowly, for about 10 minutes until you reach a wooden gate which takes you into a field with a double cottage in it.  The freedom that you are away from the noise of the everyday is the most joyous experience one can feel in a modern world of noise and technology.

The lodge has 3 bedrooms, which probably sleeps 5 or 6, so ideal for an artists retreat although on this occasion I would only be there for the day.  The most welcome site was the wood fire, which was in full burn and exuding a wonderful warmth into the room.  A few of the artists had already arrived so I said my hellos before I was given a hot mug of tea.

I had brought with me some threads, wire and a needle.  My thoughts were to take myself to the place I am most happiest and that is making.

I went into the kitchen and gathered up some tools I would need, cutting board, sharp knife and a plate, then I went outside and gathered some apples which a subsequently sliced up in readiness for the next part of the process.  Whilst I was outside I introduced myself to Sue who was collecting stones and apples.  It was quite cold and I wondered what had drawn her to be there.

As I busied myself at the table in the dining area, I noticed that one of the artist was weaving small branches together which looked interesting, I tried to strike up a conversation but I could feel that she wanted to be in her own creative bubble so I left her to her own devices.

Before I set about assembling my apple wreath, I thought I would see what others were up to.  Carole was in the other small room printing and another artist was taking photographs.  I chatted to him and he shared a little about his job and his need to get back to his art.  Then I had a look at how Sue was getting on.  She had quartered apples and had them arranged on the table in such a way that when the wind blew the apples wobbled together in unison, I found that both intriguing.  There were other mini installations she was testing which I was eager to revisit later.

The apple wreath was carefully assembled then hung on one of the apple trees.  It seemed fitting for it
to go on the one that had actually lost all it's apples, it was my act of homage to the tree to celebrate the abundance it had provided.  My wreath took pride of place but I decided to apple bomb the trunk and one branch to add fullness to my art installation.

All too soon it was time to have lunch and break bread with my fellow artists.  On entering the dining area I noticed that the other artist I had tried to talk to had finished her piece and had made an effigy using twigs and an apqple as a head. The meal consisted of orange and carrot soup, parsnip and apple soup, quiche, baked potatoes, cheese, nibbles and orange juice.  The atmosphere was very relaxed and natural and we all shared aspects of our practice from projects we were currently working on.

All in all I could take a sigh of relief knowing that it wasn't as bad as I first thought.  This is a relaxed opportunity to really self indulge yourself in art for you and no-one else.  I came away with more than I went with; apples which I will make into chutney, the knowledge that it is always good to challenge yourself and step into the unknown, a collection of shared experiences, and a mini exhibition invitation entitled "Size Matters".

No comments: