We started our meetings by discussing what artist support means to each of us. I’ve created both these mind maps and the following reflections on what artist support means to me and what challenges there are to artists feeling supported. Ruth’s thoughts are below.
Why is artist support so important to you? How has it helped you?
The most powerful support I have had for my creative practice has been mentoring and talking with peers. In the early part of my career I worked in shared studios and spent a lot of time travelling to craft fairs and trade shows and built up a great network of other craft makers who were my artist support for years. Now I work alone most of the time, in my home studio and don’t meet up with people anything like so often.I’ve come to realise just how vital it is for me (and others) to have peers who can support and encourage me, as well as commiserate and vent when things don’t go well. I’ve worked with mentors, coaches, business support and more informal conversations with other creatives like curators or project managers as well as artist peers.
Artist support is absolutely vital to making this really challenging and soul-searching art-making work. I need connection, I need to learn and to share, to develop and to made to think. To feel supported is one of the most important things in any aspect of life. To make a creative practice into a sustainable working life the creativity itself needs nurturing. I’ve learned the hard way that not nourishing or having help to nourish my creative practice leads to a kind of emptiness where it doesn’t feel worthwhile to keep on making.
When have you felt a lack of support in your artist practice?
Early in my career when I was working as a designer maker creating products for retail I was really flailing around. Over a few years I started to move more towards art-based making which is where I always wanted to be. But I continued to do all the other ‘commercial’ things alongside my practice as I didn’t have the confidence to really properly explore my work as an art practice. Conversations with a curator, quite informally, really kickstarted me in thinking about my work more deeply but I would have really benefited from peers or mentoring around art textiles practice so I could better understand how to move my work forward and also make a living from or around this kind of work.
What do you wish others understood about artist support?
Artist support isn’t business support. It’s not about looking at ways to make money that are vaguely related to what you like to create. Artist support is about understanding the artist and what their creative needs and desires are, and finding ways to help you be more you. No one else has the answers, it’s all there inside you. Artist support can help you draw it out of yourself. This might be through training, artist talks, informal conversations, supported reflection, mentoring or coaching, working alongside someone else as a collaborator or assistant and figuring out what it is about them that you admire or aspire to.
Where could artist support take you in future?
Artist support is becoming a huge part of my work so in some ways I could best answer this by talking about artist support providing part of my income. In fact being the artist support is incredibly valuable to me in many other ways. I learn constantly when I am asking others to reflect and I find mentoring and group conversations so inspiring. But for my own practice, I feel that artist support can encourage me to feel confident to explore what I want to explore, not focus on what is commercial and what is useful to others. And it gives me accountability and focus to keep working on my own practice which is a very small part, time-wise in my working week.