Last Thursday was the Designer Maker West Midlands (DMWM) & Craftnet seminar, Leading through making, at which I gave a presentation. The event drew together makers and craft proffessionals from both the East and West midlands to explore “the different interpretations of leadership, focusing on makers and looking at the different ways makers lead.”
My presentation was about my experiences of being a mentee on the DMWM Future Forward mentoring programme. The mentoring programme has run for two years giving six mid-career makers, three each year, opportunity to work with a mentor to develop their work and practice, engaging in critical discussion and exploring new markets.
The mentoring has proved to be of great benefit to me. With a focus on earning and maintaining an income, it sometimes feels as though you can become caught in a cycle of making and selling that influences your work and it can be difficult to find the time to re-energize your creativity with new challenges and fresh inspiration.
I felt not only that I wanted to evaluate my work more critically and evaluate where I would like it to be placed in the wider jewellery context; I also had interests in making work that might not be jewellery. I had, and have, desires to explore mediums for engaging my ideas and work on a larger scale than jewellery. The mentoring gave me the opportunity to engage in discussion with my mentor about ideas and possibilities, and work together to find a way for my practice to move forward. As a result I have taken the time to evolve a new strand of research and source material for my work, I have received a much greater understanding of public art and how my work could be placed within this arena, we have explored how my future work may evolve as jewellery and also as non-jewellery pieces and generally I feel enriched and revitalised by the experience.
Other speakers were my fellow mentees for the year Anna Lorenz and Rajesh Gogna, with Tracey Rowledge and David Gates also talking through other projects. Tracey spoke about her experience on the Cape Farewell expedition to the Disko Bay are of West Greenland (which was to instigate a cultural response to climate change) and how it has imapcted on her work and practice. David talked us through a series of projects that he has been involved with, working both independantly and in collaboration, exploring the reasons and ideas for engaging and also a critical review.
I find it incredibly inspiring to hear other makers talk about their work and experiences and it proved to be a really interesting afternoon. There is much to be gained from sharing our knowledge and experiences, it instigates ideas for new ways of working and fuels ones passion, the way we all work and the experiences we have can be very different.
Whether individually or collectively we see ourselves as leaders was uncertain. As a maker you lead yourself, a profession where motivation and commitment is key ultimately only you can move your practice forward instigating new ideas and solutions. Considering yourself as a leader with your practice, I felt it is important to aim to produce work of both quality and innovation, sharing your experiences and imaprting knowledge to emerging makers as a way of leading.
One question that arose for me several times was how have you found the time to do this and still maintain your current work? well, I believe if you really want to do something somehow you find the time, its about acheiving a balance and time management, something I’m sure I could still be better at! I’m also not in a rush, I’m taking time to devolop new jewellery and ‘other pieces’, ideas for which have come through my work on the programme, for me it is about the longevity of how I will work and what I will be making.