Beginning my first Level Two course with the Open College of the Arts last year, I had confidence I would be just fine; happily settled after receiving a pleasing result at assessment for my last course at Level One. I flew through L2 Developing Creative Textiles, sure that I knew what my path and career specialisation would be. As far as I was concerned, I had developed my “style”… All I had to do was repeat it.
A stark shock came at assessment, when I got a much lower mark than expected. Why? I questioned; with my confidence in tatters.
Honestly, I didn’t understand at first; in fact it’s taken me most of the time through the second course at this level to comprehend and ascertain lessons while calming from the initial disappointment. However, reflecting back, I realise that this was actually the best thing to have happened at this stage. Let me explain why….
Especially as distance learners, we students may be dealing with many things at once….health, children, parents, maybe even pursuing a career for ourselves or already established. On a personal level, my tutor highlighted this to me, acknowledging that I was struggling: ‘You are teaching art, selling art already and then you are also a student. You need to allow yourself to become excited by textiles, become the explorer’. I was working binary lives.
This taught me a valuable lesson which I feel we can all learn from.
No, this second Level Two course – Contemporary Practice has not been easy. There were no student blogs for this course, thus nothing to compare myself to. I began one and I hope that this will become a resource for future students studying this course.
My tutor has been my biggest critic but also sugared me with hope. This has allowed me to grow and not just be content with what I already know and am “good at”. I look back as I approach assessment once again for the last course on this level; in the knowledge that it could all go wrong (at least in my perfectionist view) again. However, I have shaken my practice up and certainly taken my work down paths I would never have ventured, if I had not received that initial shock. Instead of feeling deflated, I have endeavoured to reflect and use his comments and feedback from each assignment. I notice that the WeAreOCA blog has very relevant posts. For example one weakness which has emerged from my own outcomes, is lack of scale and experimental pushing of an idea. Then surprise surprise, a post on the blog to help us use scale! This was comforting in a way, as I realised that other students must be finding this an issue too.
In line with this, I often find I can get so set into the “making” that I neglect the foundation we should all be building upon….drawing and sketching, the playing with concepts before the fruition of our sample making.
Remember at this stage, we are not directed to certain exercises as much, more must come from within us. Thus self directed learning is mandatory. At first, we may feel like we are floundering.. What path to choose? Where to take our work? Instead of this becoming a “fear point”, let’s view it as freedom… We can explore what we like, we are allowed to make mistakes and get it wrong. Instead of scrubbing them out, embrace them, they are our scars and what makes us who we are as developing artists/designers.
In summary here are a few helpful points which I have unearthed:
1. Listen to my tutor.
2. Accept criticism and actively learn from it.
3. Explore scale.
4. Take risks.
5. Take charge of own learning.
6. Keep reflecting over past mistakes and yes, learn from them. Don’t let them go to waste!
7. Convey a sense of clarity through each assignment.
8. Don’t let professional presentation of outcomes deflect from personal voice.
9. Draw, sketch, plan….dont forget to investigate styles and unusual methods!
10. As Karen Nicol (designer) told me when I interviewed her recently: Be “irreverent” with textiles, disrespect known uses for materials and use then to our whim, our way.
If you would like to visit my website or blog, here are the links:
Also published on Medium.