After studying Fashion and Design part time at Bradford College and getting a Distinction and considerable praise from people I respect for my Final Collection, I decided it was time to nurture my creative side and finally made the decision to come out as an artist, thus fulfilling a lifelong dream. There is a paradox – a tension – in me that although I have a creative spirit, I am drawn to structure and rules. I am an untidy person who craves tidiness… Consequently I have chosen and worked hard at sensible careers in the Civil Service and later in social care, but at the expense of my imagination and creative spirit.
Previously while doing my City and Guilds in Creative Embroidery, I caught a glimpse of who my creative self could be and got a huge amount of praise and gained masses of confidence. I mistakenly channelled this confidence into another career change, for a career I loved, but again my creative side wasn’t nurtured and again it fizzled out. Albert Einstein reputedly said “Insanity is doing the same things again and again expecting different results” and after Bradford I was in danger of doing just that!
So here I am, a self employed artist and community facilitator with an alter ego called Nana Knitwit. Those sensible grown up jobs have given me a range of skills and experiences that I wouldn’t have had as an idealistic young artist. At a practical level I have a background and qualifications in administration and social care and have been a trustee and company director of a large charity. I have worked at a professional level with the unemployed, people who have dementia, and with people who have physical and/or learning disabilities. I have been involved in consultation and facilitation; I have written business plans and a swathe of policies including health and safety, financial, volunteering and equal opportunities. I can write Risk Assessments standing on my head while juggling fire and eating ice cream (actually that’s not quite true because I don’t know how to juggle with fire and my Risk Assessment said it wasn’t safe anyway, and I’m not sure I could stand on my head anymore)!
As a community artist/ facilitator I use these skills combined with a mix of graphic facilitation, group doodling and craft activities to work with community and disability groups. I facilitate meetings about complicated and important issues related to governance and also create ways to make meetings more accessible to people who don’t engage with the traditional meeting structure and whose opinions are consequently often missing from the debate. My methods are particularly suited to working with people who find it difficult to communicate, concentrate or who do not use written language. I also have a great deal of fun running community art projects that are celebrations and get-togethers as well as various art and craft classes.
I am still at the beginning of my creative journey and am making my own contemporary art pieces which have been exhibited locally. I design and make vessels, webs and wrapping cloths that protect the precious things we have already lost, repair things we have broken and store things we have found, particularly lost and precious memories. These stem from my fascination with memory and the way we remember things, something I can only approach as a mature individual who has experienced devastating loss and the fragility, joy and beauty that is transience. We strive so hard to keep hold of our memories, trying to keep them pure, yet we merge them together, perceive them differently with hindsight and attach them to objects and places. I am particularly intrigued by the way we lose the precious and irreplaceable and then use objects, often broken or useless, to attach memories of these losses to.
And then there’s Nana Knitwit…