SHIFT Creative Direction

It has been a long time since my last post at the beginning of the pandemic. April 2020 I was hoping to be emerging from 4 years of caring for my young son through his treatment for Leukaemia but what happened was the whole world was stopped in it’s tracks. It was strange that after we had essentially been in lockdown for so long, shielding my son before we knew what that meant, we had to carry on for a couple more years.

So what has been the effect creatively? I find myself writing this feeling like I don’t fit in one place or another, but then I have never felt like I’ve fitted. I straddle between creative and social worlds – my interests in art, nature, business, people, creativity, wellbeing, community, home, travel all keep me engaged, learning, fulfilled, happy, but I still couldn’t explain exactly where I fit. Maybe no-one truly fits but I am definitely searching for something and whilst it can sometimes feel close it is also elusive and tantalisingly out of reach.

Without wanting to be unbearably positive, our journey as a family over recent years has brought us through the hardest times and into a much better place. I’m not sure if it is to do with attitude or luck or hard work but somehow we have managed to steady the ship and find ourselves in a much calmer situation. All around the world can feel overwhelming but in our small part of the world daily life is currently a lot better than it has been.

My question is always, what is the effect of this on my creativity and output as an artist. I find myself in a strange place creatively and that’s part of the reason for writing this post as I try to work out a way through.

In April 2016 I started drawing tiny vessels; pots, bowls, vases, beakers, lots of shapes and simple patterned decoration for the surface. I remember so clearly when I started these drawings because it’s not something I have ever drawn before and I was sitting with my son and partner waiting for my son’s regularly check up and lumber puncture at Addenbrookes Hospital. The drawings kept me calm but I had no further thought about them and certainly wasn’t thinking that I would take them any further.

In July 2021 I installed a kiln and an electric wheel in my studio and threw my first clay pot on the wheel. I really don’t know how it all happened but I wasn’t finding my usual creative outlet of painting as urgent. I was trying not to panic and think about creative block but kept myself open to pursuing any creative urge. That urge was towards clay, ceramics, pottery and from the moment I touched the clay, threw my first pot and took it out of the kiln I have become obsessed. There is something about the calming touch of clay and water and the grounding sensation of sitting at the wheel that has not only helped me through the past couple of years but has become my new direction.

Inspired by the book ‘Art and Fear – observations on the perils and pleasures of art making’ and the idea of 10,000 hours of practice to reach some kind of mastery I set myself a creative challenge – the 1000 Vessel Project. My thought was that after producing 1000 vessels I would either love it or hate it and will have put the time in to learn the skills and developed my practice. To date I am up to 360/1000 and am still totally in love with the material, process and learning.

I have now set up a community pottery at my studio in Raveningham where I run the annual Raveningham Sculpture Trail. Each week I run sessions with people handbuilding, throwing, experimenting with glaze, decoration and generally having a lovely time. Alongside this I have been teaching students at the University of East Anglia as part of a wellbeing festival, giving one to one sessions to individuals including children from the local Children’s Home, young unaccompanied asylum seekers and supporting professional artists by sharing my studio space.

This has all been am amazing journey and I am happiest when I am in the pottery but I can feel another SHIFT coming. I have been so focused on making and learning and curating and teaching that I have slipped out of exhibiting. This year I will have my work in the Raveningham and Bayfield Sculpture Trails as well as the Post Room in Norwich, CraftCo in Southwold and Octagon gallery in Diss. I also have a solo exhibition planned for 2025 in North Norfolk where I plan to show my 1000 Vessel Project but I haven’t shown my work anywhere new for a while. It feels uncomfortable which is what makes me think I am now avoiding something, my thoughts are either chill in a hammock or push myself towards something new…. The hammock feels like the path of least resistance but I have this tickly feeling that won’t go away, I think it is another creative SHIFT – time to get the work out and about.

Thanks for reading and I hope to start posting more regularly with insights into my creative journey.

Published by Sarah Cannell - Artist

I am an Artist and Curator based in South Norfolk. I organise a number of exhibitions as well as producing paintings and prints for exhibitions in galleries across the UK.

2 thoughts on “SHIFT Creative Direction

  1. Dearest Sarah, I have really enjoyed reading your latest post. So inspiring! You are very busy indeed! I hope you will find answers to your questions.
    With much love ❤️, Ali xxx

  2. I enjoyed that thanks Sarah!… resistance is an interesting thing. Recomment Steven Pressfields book The War of Art…

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