In this blog post I will be drawing to your attention and discussing the work of Textiles 3: Advanced student Jill Hodgkins. Jill has recently completed this unit and as part of the course she exhibited her work in a local gallery. It is becoming more common for textiles students to put on a show towards the end of their studies partly because it is a way of bringing the degree to a conclusion but also it is an excellent way to step into professional practice. In our new final unit Textiles 3: Sustaining Your Practice it is a requirement to present work either virtually or as Jill has done by having an exhibition.
I have chosen to review Jill’s experience of exhibiting for two reasons, firstly the work itself is at a good level, with examples of sensitive and inventive use of materials and an understanding of composition. She also describes the journey of the exhibition articulately on her online learning log, where she says “it was an enlightening and useful experience”. As her tutor I feel that through well practiced reflective thinking and developed critical awareness she has learnt a great deal about her work and how to approach to presentation. The way you present your work will be individual to you and your creative output but I think there are some common elements all students can learn from here.
Jill’s textile practice during this unit investigated her feelings towards body image using a mixed media approach. She examined and experimented with packaging and boxes, playing with ways to texture and embellish the surfaces. This included print techniques like mono and collograph but also experimenting with graphite powder, shoe polish and stitch. The resulting surfaces are distorted and irregular with an overall engaging effect.
With tutor support Jill made the decision to exhibit her work right at the beginning of her final unit, we decided this would give focus to the end of her degree and test the public’s reaction to her work. Because her work investigates her experience of mental illness her aim also became a desire to increase the awareness of mental health issues.
Making the decision early on gave Jill plenty of time to think about how the work would be displayed and make arrangements. These arrangements were:
- Contacting a number of galleries, thinking about how to word emails and which images to include.
- Building a relationship with the gallery manager to negotiate dates including install and take down.
- Planning and executing promotional material; leaflets, posters and images for social media.
- Making decisions about what work to show and then how best to display it including lighting.
- Creating labels with the correct and appropriate amount of information.
- Getting the work to and from the space.
In her reflections Jill notes she learnt many valuable lessons during the process, these were practical and emotional but having an exhibition also taught her new things about the work she had been living with for so long.
The practical things learnt were:
- How to plan and execute an event.
- Ways of working with others (framers, printers and gallery staff).
- Looking at how to best use a space.
- Picture hanging systems.
- That putting on an exhibition is time consuming and hard work.
- How to advertise and promote an event https://www.facebook.com/openartscollege/posts/1744067352270544 https://www.instagram.com/p/BbUBpvSD1j8/?taken-by=wests41
The more emotional lessons were:
- Overcoming rejection when several galleries turned her down.
- How to deal with anxiety and negative thoughts (will anybody come and will they like it?).
- Coping with the stress of organising an event.
- Confronting concerns about sharing sensitive areas of her life.
The exhibition gave Jill the opportunity to learn new things about her work, these included:
- Understanding it differently because it was in a new space, in particular how being in a larger space affected its impact and changed the importance of colour.
- She saw it for the first time through the eyes of others by hearing what visitors had to say and receiving messages on social media.
- How her worked changed in her eyes when it sat alongside the work of others.
In Jill’s final reflection she expresses quiet relief when the whole event was concluded, it had been busy and stressful but very worthwhile, leading to both personal and creative growth. I think Jill should be very proud of her creative approach to textile practice and her skill in presenting it in an accessible and professional way.
Jill is hoping to continue her studies with an MA in Art Psychotherapy Practice