My long train journeys from North London to Chichester have become more regular this month as we move closer to the opening of the Outside In Step Up exhibition in the studio at Pallant House Gallery and the launch of the Outside In Step Up trail, both of which conclude the research project I have been running at the gallery for the past three years.
Since starting work on this challenging, yet deeply rewarding project, I have had the pleasure of working with a wonderful group of artists who have delved deep into the collections at Pallant House to discover artists whose works and stories resonate with their own lives and experiences. Through a process of research and development of their own work, a variety of personal responses are almost ready to be shared in the form of workshop packs, written work, poetry, audio descriptions and photography. It has been a big learning curve for me to run a project so very different to anything I have done before, but that offered me the opportunity to use my existing skills and develop new ones whilst supporting others to explore and grow.
I have not yet found the opportunity to do such fulfilling work close to home, so my work at Pallant House Gallery involves a 3 hour commute each way. The journey is less than weekly, but even so, it is a big chunk of the day and I have long been seeking the best way to pass the time. I have tried a number of things: preparation, relaxation, reading, writing, sleeping, talking to strangers, but few felt as satisfying as my journey home yesterday.
Whilst setting up the studio show, I went through lots of photographs of people taking part in workshops and number of original artworks as well. Seeing all of these pictures of people engaged in creative activity and holding the results of these art workshops in my hands, I was desperate to make something on my journey home. I borrowed some lino cutting tools; acquired a piece of soap and spent my journey from Chichester to London Victoria carving a bar of soap into a little sculpture. I am not yet sure if it is finished, but I am certain that this is an activity I will take up again. The pleasure of doing something creative at the end of my working day; the joy of using that often-wasted time to make a work of art made me feel happy and relaxed.
It also made me think of how I used to spend my long commutes from Arnos Grove to Hammersmith some 15 years ago. Some days I would draw; others I would embroider. The journey was an hour, from my home to my place of work and I regularly found a way to inject some creativity into the beginning and end of each working day. Whilst at Uni, I used to draw… big black marker portraits of underground passengers, attempting to create some sort of cartoon-likeness without them noticing that I had one eye on their face, another on my paper. And notice they did from time to time, but nobody minded and I took great pleasure in making art on the move; being creative in what would otherwise have been dead-time. I filled my workspace with them… my fellow passengers. They inspired some of my ceramics and paintings.
So I resolve, once again, to use those windows of time to get creative. I will draw, make, sew, carve, create.
It only takes a moment to give your creativity a BIG boost.
Have you ever used your commute to create? What did you make?
What are the moments in your day that could be spent creating? How will you spend them?
Keep a little sketchbook and pen in your handbag and create a small sketch whilst waiting for friends to arrive at the café.
Half an hour spent embroidering each way on your commute each day = 5 hours in a week alone.
What will you do?
Carved Soap Sculpture