As we head towards the one-year mark Claire Heminsley of Incahoots considers what has changed since her Voices of Makers blog last year, the trickiness of lockdown, and the enormous amount of learning which led to changes and challenges in the nature of her work that have been unsettling and liberating.
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In my first blog post in July last year I referred to some words of wisdom from Aisha S. Ahmad…. ‘Understand that this is a marathon. If you sprint at the beginning, you will vomit on your shoes by the end of the month‘ and as we stagger towards the one-year mark this feels even more pertinent. This is a link to her full article.
I know that I really have nothing to winge about; I do not have to work on the front line, teach remotely, juggle home schooling or live in a confined space. However I have found this winter lockdown more tricky, not just because it is winter and I definitely prefer spring and summertime but it is the continued uncertainty…. who knows what is in store for us all next. I have stopped making plans (too many cancellations) however I do have faith that things will improve. At the end of Aisha’s article she said ‘Because calamity is a great teacher’ and without doubt this has been a year of enormous learning!
So in this blog I am updating some of my lists and adding a new one. Things that have changed, Things I have learned and Things I am looking forward to.
Things that have changed
• Many of the changes I described in July have stayed in place i.e. Shopping locally, daily Pilates by Zoom, staying calm and not panicking.
• The biggest change and challenge has been in the nature of my work. I spent a couple of months writing a Creative Scotland Open Project funding application and in September heard that it had been successful which was a wonderful surprise. The project is called ‘Almost a word Almost a map’ exploring the language and representation of borders, of pain and trauma, resilience and recovery. The grant has allowed me to slow my practice down and focus purely on research. Without any other distractions – (in other words there isn’t anything else to do) I have been working continuously and have become totally absorbed!
Things I have learned
• The purpose of the ‘Almost a word Almost a map’ project is to explore the impact on my creative work, devoting more time to research. The theme has developed from a number of different sources. Visually, maps and words are powerful forms of communication and narrative. They are multi-layered, conveying meaning, making sense of the world, but both are also sources of conflict, manipulation, distortion and division. As such, they connect directly to the the unsettling nature of current affairs as well as to my own personal experience. Over the last few years I had begun to explore my upbringing near Belfast during the Troubles – a time of great trauma and pain for many. After years of fragile peace, the border is a source of conflict again in relation to Brexit, which itself has fostered division and manipulation. Researching these issues has been enlightening. I am horrified at my lack of knowledge or engagement with this history. ‘The Troubles’ is a euphemism for a ‘War Zone’ that hadn’t even occurred to me. This disconnection may have been a coping mechanisim to protect me from a buried childhood trauma.
• It is safe to say I have been learning a huge amount. Not only about the conflict in N.I and other war zones but:- studying old rural and urban maps of Scotland and Ireland; the legacy of British Imperialism; inequality, trauma and pain; the impact of intergenerational trauma; Peace groups, the history of typefaces their designers and the impact within the world; neurological pathways……..The learning keeps on going.
• My natural inclination is to avoid negative information so it has been a challenge to keep researching the horrific, grim stories. I have also made myself delve deeper into the reading.
• Research without knowing where it will go is unsettling but gradually it has become liberating.
• I love working with gouache. I have always known this but I have been working with it a lot and I find it almost soothing, particularly helpful with the hefty subject matter.
• Like many of us my world has become much smaller, I haven’t been out of Fife for months. This has made me appreciate all the little things in life:- e.g. looking out of the windows and seeing our 4 resident red squirrels, proper snow that squeaks as you walk in it, the bulbs peeking up ready for spring, blue skies.
Things I am looking forward to
• Hugging friends and family.
• Having good long face-to-face chats.
• Staying overnight in a different place.
• Eating food that we haven’t prepared.
• Preparing food for other people.
• Getting my hair cut.
• Being spontaneous.
• Screenprinting at Print Clan.
• Going to the National map library in Edinburgh.
• Having people round our dining room table.
• Working at Off the Rails Arthouse again.
• In person Pilates.
• Going to an exhibition.
• Going to the cinema.
• Celebrating all those missed birthdays.
• Travelling to Ireland with a new perspective.
• Popping into a café or bar.
• Hugging friends and family.
It has been rather uplifting writing these lists, particularly the looking forward one…. There is light at the end of the tunnel!!
Thank you to all the people who work so hard to keep us all going, safe and sane.
Here’s to the next phase of learning!
Top image: Words, Claire Heminsley
Read the experiences of other makers: Voices of Makers #1: Carol Sinclair, Voices of Makers #2: Fiona Thompson, Janet Hughes & Kathryn Williamson, Voices of Makers #3: Jo Garner, Voices of Makers #4 :James Donald, Voices of Makers #5: Clare Waddle of Yellow Broom, Voices of Makers #6: Lorna Brown, Voices of Makers #7 Claire Heminsley, Voices of Makers #8 Olive Pearson and Voices of Makers #9 Ann Marie Shillito.
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We have also created an online page where you can talk about your experiences and share what matters to you. We give you the option to be anonymous or to provide your name and you can also let us know if we can share it with other makers in our new ‘Voices of Makers’ blogs. We can’t answer specific questions but if we can offer any suggestions about something we will try and do so.