In Sheffield, Inova Consultancy hosted the first piloting phase of the Global FemART Artist Circles™ from December 2019 to January 2020. Over the course of four sessions, seven amazing and inspiring ladies came together to discuss their experiences and challenges in developing their creative business and how they would like to go international.
These sessions were attended by a diverse group of women, all working in the creative field. Among the ladies were painters, a writer, a light installation artist, community artists, art teachers, a bespoke textile artist and a mixed media artist. During the sessions, each of the women developed their own International Action Plan, to help guide their journey to internationalise their business.
All of the women were very positive about this experience and expressed how the Artist Circles™ had helped them personally and with their business plans:
“The exercises and support have helped me to develop my business plan and ideas” – One of the main aims of the Circles methodology is to provide participants with support in their development, both personally and professionally.
“Good to feel less isolated as an artist”;
“It was good to meet other artists and connect over similar fears/confidences”;
“Talking with other artists and sharing ideas in a safe space was really helpful and inspiring” – these sessions bring together ladies with a similar background (artists and creatives) to network and support each other in their development.
“Taking random thoughts and dreams and guiding them into achievable, practical steps”;
“Encouraged me to think BIG and not limit myself” – Once the sessions have been completed, participants should feel more confident in pursuing their goals in a manageable, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) way.
Overall, the first piloting of the Global FemART Artist Circles™ in the UK has been a huge success! The UK, Poland, Italy and Spain will be hosting a second round of the Artist Circles™ in 2020, so like the Global FemART Facebook Page to keep updated!
As a creative entrepreneur, I draw on my maternal and paternal grandmother’s lines who collectively migrated to different countries for work, spanning China, Africa, Malaysia and the U.K. I was born in London. At 7, I won a scholarship to a local arts school but with regular school work my creative writing took a backseat. My secondary school acknowledged my Art School attendance but firmly guided me into the vocation of social work. Four years later I graduated as a Qualified Social Worker with a B.A. in Applied Social Studies and was straight into a job.
Maternity leave gave rise to the space to reconnect with my love of art, taking various arts courses including a Mature Access course in Art. My portfolio gained me a place on an Art degree, which I juggled whilst being a single parent. My dining room and floor became my studio. Whilst working on my final project, based on ancient China, my Chinese grandparents died within weeks of one another.
When I graduated my art degree I knew I had to make a major shift in my life to keep creativity at the centre. Earning some extra cash at a community environmental charity, I saw the potential to combine my people skills with my artistic skills. My creativity flourished running arts environment clubs for children. In 1999, I met an arts co-ordinator of women’s art exhibitions in Malaysia who invited me to exhibit in Thailand, along with three Thai Princesses! 3 years later I organised an international women’s art exhibition and conference in Sheffield, with artists from 9 countries.
Persuaded by a random meeting with a fellow conference delegate, I applied to do the MA Art as Environment at university, where they instantly understood my live art practice from the inception of my idea/vision to the engagement of others to the event. This was very helpful to me as an artist as by now I had initiated a Multicultural Festival that thousands attended annually.
In 2004 I was granted a bursary place on a PhD in Art and Design at Manchester Metropolitan University. Initially, I had the fun of interviewing other British Chinese artists, lots of reading and writing and still had time to lead workshops, paint and exhibit. It is fair to say though that in the last year of my PhD I had to withdraw to craft and shape my doctoral thesis as well as a Live Art exhibition-East-West, Spirit, Earth funded by the Arts Council England. In the spring of 2010 I was awarded my doctorate and had exhibited in Australia, South Korea, China, Malaysia and India.
Graduating from my doctorate, I knew I must paint more so after completing an arts project with refugees in Barnsley I exhibited the group piece, film and my own art in the U.S.A. which I mailed the work to, but didn’t attend as my mother became seriously ill and later passed over. The sad death of my mother gave me a greater need for reflection and on the strength of submitted creative writing I’d had as a break from my thesis, I got a place on the MA Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University.
The following years I was invited to exhibit in Vietnam, Russia, Mongolia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and have just come back from exhibiting in Malaysia as part of a Thai-Malaysia collaboration that I was invited to exhibit in in 2017. I’ve also continued to write and in 2019 had a short story in an anthology published by University of Bradford entitled The Living and The Dead.
I have found a symbiotic relationship between painting and writing and I can cross train my skills such as in 2018 holding a live art event-A Seat at The Table –afternoon tea the Sheffield way in my current part time role as Co-ordinator for Cohesion Sheffield.
As an entrepreneur, one has to have passion but to be innovative, resourceful and learn to take risks. Most of all, one has to be persistent which bring success through overcoming challenges and brings resilience which helps in one’s life overall. To end this part of my story I thank my mother and grandmothers before me.
by Anna Ochmann
We were holding our keys in our hands. Some of them were single, others were in whole bundles. One could see keys for a flat or a studio, the tiny ones were associated with mailboxes, padlocks or keys to bicycle locks. There were classic keys, flat keys, but also unusual, round keys with strange grooves – the so-called ‘anti-burglary’ keys. The golden and silver ones dominated, only one of them was distinguished by metallic greenery. Some were “professionally” marked with colourful plastic tags on the “heads”, others were “artistically” painted with nail polish to be easily plucked out of the bundle. Sometimes they were all attached to one ring, sometimes a few rings with keys attached to them formed a “bunch of grapes”. Some of them were distinguished by key rings, which allowed us to guess the passions and interests of the owners. Among us there was a pussycat lover with a funny cat attached to the keys, a practical amateur of drinks in bottles with an bottle opener attached as a key ring. A souvenir tag evoking memories of holiday days somewhere in Asia stood out with its shiny colours. A few people instead of keys showed hotel room cards (the meeting was organized within the framework of the meeting of international partners of the project) certifying the “nomadic” lifestyle of their owners….
The host of the meeting invited us to take part in an ice-breaker game – we were supposed to say a few words about ourselves through the prism of our keys.
My bunch of keys was the biggest. It had a lot of “subsections”, with even smaller “subsections” attached. In my bunch there were keys to the house, to the studio, to the office, to my husband’s office, to the gate, to the garden shed. To mailboxes (professional and private), and even the main power switchboards in the house and in the office, to the gas meter box, and to a water meter box… For the first time in my life I’d counted them… I had 22 keys on me. And no pendants, no sentimental accessories. Practicality in crystal clear form.
I was holding them in my hand and my first thought, in the context of describing myself through these keys, was: “I think something is wrong with my work-life balance.”
It was just a fun game, but it inspired me to write these few words. About the lack of work-life balance and the need to take good care of the balance between one’ s private life and one’s professional life, especially when working in the cultural and creative sector.
The decision to choose an artistic career path is usually accompanied by a great passion, love for art, a need to express oneself artistically. And there comes a day when this passion becomes the basis for making a living. And because art is most important, inspirations endlessly keep coming from everywhere, it is very easy to lose yourself in this work, to lose the sense of time, and never leave it. The thoughts in our minds about our own work keep appearing, which is also part of this job. More and more ideas, improvements, corrections. Changes. Next inspirations, emotions, and, suddenly… 16 in the studio have just gone by.
Neither is there a superior who would congratulate you on a job well done or give you a bonus….
And then there are days when these inspirations are hard to find. Emptiness, a sense of infertility, and the thought that maybe this talent has already been exhausted. Nothing becomes an inspiration, and the optimistic date agreed with the client is approaching suspiciously fast. It takes long hours to persuade the muses to come with help once again. You can either procrastinate a little (because nothing sensible comes to mind anyway) or clean up (because nothing sensible comes to mind anyway). And then suddenly… 16 hours in the studio have gone by.
In addition, due to the specificity of the sector (mainly freelancers and micro-enterprises), the artists work mostly alone, so no boss is going to say “go home, no more work for today” or any colleague is going to say “let’s go for a pint”. There is no check-in or out machine at the door. There is also no coffee break in the office kitchen with colleagues, which would allow thoughts to float away towards the latest gossip from the HR department or even serious political disputes.
Neither is there a manager who would congratulate you on a job well done or give you a bonus….
Passion and love for art are more and more often replaced by lack of self-motivation and sense of hopelessness, uneven fight against bureaucracy and ‘paperwork’, searching for clients, making cost estimates, begging for a bank transfer. Instead of creating ‘works of art’, one has to think about marketing, accounting, and subsequent taxes to be paid. And another day passes unnoticeably, and it seems that those 16 hours in the studio were just a blink of an eye….
And when there comes a dream about having a rest or holidays, it turns out that if you don’t work, you don’t earn money. And the guilt you feel when you don’t work makes you work all the time. And so it goes….
Luckily, I have a job that still gives me a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction, and, thanks to which I can earn a living. And because I still have this passion in me, it’s easier for me to forget about myself and my life outside of work. This is also because the people I work with are often also my friends. So even in private situations professional topics come up somehow automatically – and then… I keep the keys to everything in one bunch, I never separate them.
Therefore, I decided to separate these two worlds in a symbolic way… For a few days now I have had two sets of keys. Keys for my private life. And keys for my professional life. Separately. I have detached a few keys for good. And although I have to run twice as often up and down the stairs now when I go out to the studio and forget my “professional” keys, or when I come home and remember that the “private” keys are left in the desk drawer, I believe that I will manage to control it someday.