This is photograph of my big mug, my over-sized tea cup. It occurred to me this evening as I rediscovered it hiding at the back of the cupboard where it’s been for most of the last few years, that this is one of the few objects to have moved with me to most of the places I have lived. And I’ve moved around quite a lot. I am a rolling stone as my mother tells me.
I remember when I got it – there were two of them. My parents bought them at Christmas – one for me and one for my then boyfriend Andy – my first real boyfriend. I was 19 and living between Harrow and my parents house in Kent.
This mug has moved EVERYWHERE with me since then. I think that’s about 8 different houses and a lot of mileage. Wow, that’s a lot of water under the bridge. It also means I have now owned this flimsy bit of china just short of 20 years. I shudder at that realisation. Why, I’m not sure.
I’ve been looking a lot lately, at how fast time has been adding up. What with finishing three years at Uni and the discovery that I’ve now signed up to my fifth year in Lincoln with the same landlord (that’s my only landlord in Lincoln I hasten to add) it’s getting a little scary.
And since I first left home this is the second longest place I’ve lived anywhere (my record is 8 years). That’s not bad for me. I don’t have any real connections north of the Watford Gap and I’m not a home bird, I don’t have many sentimental roots and I don’t have any particular desire to live in any particular place. I just go where fate, work and relationships take me. It’s always been the way. It’s a survival tactic that seems to have served me well up to now.
Who knows where I will end up next or how long Lincoln will continue to hold me. As I said, I have no sentimental roots north of the Watford Gap. I could quite literally end up anywhere. And wherever I go next, that mug will no doubt be carefully packed into one of the many boxes I take with me.
I should, in hindsight, consider myself quite lucky. Being self taught in my chosen field for most of my working life I have never been governed or guided by someone else’s creative limitations. But if there is one thing being at University has taught me, it is the difference between learning to be a creative, being taught creativity and being allowed to grow creatively and express myself in my own unique way.
The difficulty with teaching art subjects is that your teacher will instinctively try to push their creative styles or limitations on you. I guess it’s inevitable. We all have our own opinions on what art is and how to express ourselves within our chosen medium whether it be painting, writing, sewing, photography or landscape gardening (amongst many others).
Creatives are notoriously temperamental. And rightly so. We have the right to defend our skills regardless of criticism. We are drawing from within, expressing ourselves, being who we are and more fool anyone who tries to tell us how to do our own job. That’s not to say I haven’t found a return to education a useful experience. I’ve learned to do the same thing in a new direction – realised a whole new approach and this has been a good thing.
But teaching the skills (in my case how to sew on a button, grade a pattern or the best way to lay a fabric) is one thing. Critiquing and down grading a piece because it does not fit within the hosts creative abilities or to satisfy a curriculum’s check list is not in my mind how creativity and design should be taught or developed within students of any age.
It is a problem I have seen in a variety of creative mediums, not just in fashion and it has been a recurring theme in the last few weeks as final third year projects are handed in and assessed and students are not necessarily seeing eye to eye with their mentors on their final outcomes. It has made for a lack lustre ending to the academic year and to be frank, has kind of knocked the wind out of my sails.
I have been advised (and I think there is something in this) that you should just keep your head down, tick the boxes and get the grades. Once your out and on your own there is noone to tell you what to do. But that isn’t how creativity works. You can’t cage a lion and expect him to flourish. You can’t tell a creative how to be creative within someone else’s terms and expect them to produce beautiful or highly individual work.
And this is frustrating because ticking all the right boxes, learning by rote and ‘fitting the mould’ might be fine for grades but it does not encourage creativity and it is not inspiring those people to go out into the world feeling comfortable in their own style and letting them be who they want to be.