Sunday 4 December 2016

Slimbridge Art Exhibit

   A few months ago, I heard from Slimbridge's WWT centre asking if I'd be interested in exhibiting with them again. They said they were contacting some of their favourite artists that they've hosted - startlingly, I am one of them - to find out if there was any interest, but they couldn't offer anyone a place yet because they needed confirmation from new artists first.
   It was an exciting message, especially out of the blue, but I really wasn't so sure. I remember my grandad asking me shortly after my 3-month exhibit in 2015 had ended if I'd do it again if I had the opportunity, and I quite pointedly said 'no'. It was an exciting event, yes, but it was a lot of work and I can't say I enjoyed it that much. I also don't like being nervous or anxious on the run-up to things, so I remember very clearly feeling sick all throughout the journey to the gallery and the hour or so it took to set up.
   Sure, I managed to fill six plinths and my display looked good. The centre had just opened to the public for the day while Seeg and I were setting up and people were walking past, watching us put it together, and a few people made comments - some said my pieces were lovely and a pleasant change from the norm, while others took a moment to add that the fact I was placing them on various-sized pieces of untreated wood was far better than what most people did, which was just standing things in the plinths. That was why I made the decision to use wood, because any time I'd seen things in the plinths before, it looked awful. And while the work matters the most, the presentation certainly does, too.
   I also sold a great many things in the exhibit, and everything I didn't I sold in my Etsy shop instead. And because the exhibit ended mid-October it also meant that I had lots of lovely pre-made necklaces to list in time for Christmas, making 2015 my most successful Christmas to date, and yet the one with the least work, because all the pieces had been made gradually over a year and a half.

   But the pressure and nerves of the whole thing were intense. I've done worse - when I was a teenage I sang solo on stage in front of hundreds of people twice, but that was over in five minutes. This exhibit took months of work. I really didn't want that again.

   But I said 'yes' within five minutes of receiving the email, and last weekend I was offered a spot for June-September 2018, which I accepted immediately.
   I'm sending the contract off tomorrow and after I'd said yes to the preliminary email in September I started pulling a few pieces back. You've seen all the things I've been listing recently, all the new pieces, well I made about 4 or so of each but when the possibility of another exhibit was presented I took two of everything and put them away. At this point I have 18 animals and two of each, and I have a year and a half to make more. I filled six plinths last year with 54 different animals, two of each again (I was displaying on both sides of the gallery so I doubled up, mirroring the plinths so if one side was busy, everything could be seen on the other instead), so I know that that is about what I need this time around, too. So with a 15-piece head start, I need only make around 36 more in the next 19 months.

   I don't presently remember the stress, I only know it was there, but a year from now it will probably come back to me. But this time I know what to expect, I know that it's very doable, and with another summer slot, the gallery and conservation centre's busiest season, I stand to do well. And if I don't and end up bringing most of it home, my shop will be fuller for Christmas 2018.

   So this is exciting and quite surprising news, but above it all it's an honour to be invited back. I'm still buzzing from the fact that I have been featured in an art gallery - I failed art - but now I've been invited back. Suck it, Miss Lovell.


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