Being an Artist

I didn’t realise that I was avoiding being ‘an artist’. Read more to find out why, and how I got to grips with promoting my work (with some help from my Mum!)

That Envious Feeling 

Quietly chipping away in my workshop is a very happy place for me to be. Having said that I also love a private view or exhibition opening, chatting with lots of different people and of course selling my work where possible.

A number of my piers were starting to win awards and be selected for exhibitions, which I aspired to being part of. I started to wonder why that wasn’t happening to me. I started to feel a little envious of their successes.

At the same time we moved into lockdown and suddenly the social side of promoting my work and business completely vanished over night. 

Zoe standing in front of her carvings at a Private view

Standing with my carvings representing the Queen Elizabeth Scholaship trust at the Mall Galleries, Society of Designer Craftsmen exhibition

How To Adapt

This caused me to pause and consider how I was going to adapt. Whilst I love my workshop, I obviously realised that no one was ever going to know about my work or buy anything if they didn’t know about me. 

So with some extra lock down hours on my hands, I started to research competitions, awards, and exhibitions. I quickly realised there was an undiscovered world out there!

two people dressed smartly talking to each other at an evening event with slightly purple lighting

Speaking with guests at a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust fund raising event at the V&A

Wait, I’m an Artist?!

This might all sound like an obvious thing for artists to be doing all the time, but I didn’t regard myself as an artist until this point. To me I had come through the building trade and therefore work was commission based. You built relationships with other companies and built your own reputation and work came your way. 

I was really quite new to the idea of not making work for commissions but making my own work independently and then promoting it. Essentially I was new to being an Artist. 

Now I should mention at this point that I do have a degree in fine Art, which would maybe make you think that I naturally felt like an artist inside. It turned out it was quite the opposite!

I really really disliked my time at Uni when I was 18. So much so, that I remember I adamantly vowing never to be an artist. It was my complete frustration with the subject which actually lead me to craft.

What I hadn’t realised until this point was that whilst trying so hard to avoid being an artist I had been slowly moving towards it the whole time and it was actually exactly what I wanted to be! 

Like it or not I WAS an artist!!

You Have To Be In It To Win It!

Anyway, back to me starting to notice my peers were winning awards. I asked one friend how they had been selected, her answer was simple, ‘I applied’

The National Lottery game of ‘In it to win it’ rang in my ears and suddenly the penny dropped! (thanks Dale Winton)

So then I started researching what I could enter, and it turned out there was a lot!!! 

My Amazing Mum!

I may have mentioned before that I have hugely supportive parents, my mum is a retired teacher and loves a good bit of reading and research. She’s always so keen to help when she can too.

I asked if she might be able to help research opportunities and maybe make a note of upcoming deadlines for applications. 

Fast forward two years and you’d laugh if you saw our excel spreadsheet! It’s an extensive list of awards, exhibitions, open calls, funding, you name it, if I can apply for it, it’s on there. With dates, costs, notes for applying, arranged in chronological order and colour coded to of course!!

I should really have realised when I asked for help that my mum was going to approach it as a full subject and do it to the absolute best of her abilities! (and no before you ask I wouldn’t dream of sharing the file!!)

Zoe and her mum eating ice cream and smiling

Turns out most of my photos of my mum and I are of us eating icecream! 

Orgnisation Is The Key

I too share the organisation gene, on my computer I have a folder with my CV, artist statement (300, 400 and 500 word variations). Artist biography, again with different options of word count. Images saved in folders for 1MB, 2MB and 3MB depending on the requirements. Theres also writing about why I like geometry, how I feel about my craft, what’s so important about stone….the list goes on. 

This is probably the biggest tip I would give to anyone who wants to apply to lots of things, be organised. Each application wants something slightly different, you save yourself so much time by having easy to access folders of information ready at your finger tips. 

I’ve had varying degrees of success, its definitely very worthwhile doing as long as you don’t take rejection too hard. Currently one of my pieces is a finalist in the Visual Arts Open with the online exhibition opening today. If you’d like to visit it please click this link

Invitation to the Visual Arts Open Online exhibition of finalists

Exhibtion of finalists of the Visual Arts Open 12th-24th November 2021

I’m definitely still slowly finding my way in the art world. Marketing yourself as a stone carving artist is not exactly a usual medium for wall art. I’m starting to feel like the hard work is beginning to pay off and hopefully the momentum continues to build.

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