I began my residency, The Thread of Life, with Bank Street Arts in October 2014 when I launched my crowdfunding campaign. The residency was unpaid, but after applying for other residencies in the past and never getting anywhere, I decided to work with Bank Street Arts to create my own. My plan was to work hard and put together a good CV to help me to find work in the future.
Crowdfunding was incredibly time consuming and a little soul destroying. I believe that working as a group on a crowdfunding project is much easier, but the £650 I wanted to raise seemed achievable for one person. Nothing could have prepared me for how much work it involved. If I wasn’t pushing the project then money wasn’t being donated, but by pushing it felt as though I was annoying people. I really appreciate all of the help and support that I got from everyone, even those who didn’t donate but gave their time to help promote the project.
However, the crowdfunding really helped to promote the cross-stitch project in general, getting me into newspapers and on local BBC radio.
Once the crowdfunding had finished, and I had reached my target, I was completely drained from pushing the project. There was no let up though! I was straight into the next phase of the project: leaflet printing, managing rewards from the crowdfunding, buying materials, arranging workshops etc. I was also applying for Art Council Funding, which I didn’t particularly expect to get. When I got the letter from the Arts Council saying that they were funding the project I cried. I also managed to secure some free materials from DMC Creative World, who were extremely generous.
So many people have become interested in both the project and the idea of contemporary art cross-stitch. I found lots of places happy to give me a free space to carry out a contemporary cross-stitch workshop and even started to be contacted by places I hadn’t approached myself. I originally planned to hold about one workshop a month, but as the project gathered pace and more people wanted to get involved it became roughly two workshops a month. I loved travelling around and meeting new people. There were even a few strange incidents where I was recognised, or told about my own project as something I might be interested in! In general I feel that it was too much workload for one person, when coupled with trying to finish my own large scale cross-stitch.
I was blown away by the variety and quality of the DNA strand pieces of work that people sent in. I currently have around 80 pieces of work and am still expecting a few more to arrive before the next showing. Many people also included letters and there are some amazing and moving stories behind some the works. Thank you to everyone who shared their stories with me.
A selection of DNA strands
Although I am happy with my own work, I also kind of hate it now, because I feel like it stole a year of my life and I’m just sick of seeing it. It became a conceptual piece in ways I couldn’t have foreseen, which I may talk about further in a future blog. However, it is what I wanted it to be, so I suppose I’m satisfied with it.
Large Cross-stitch as it looked in late September
The end of the residency at Bank Street Arts was unfortunately a bit of a compromise, due to the awkward space I had to make use of. The exhibition was hung in the atrium and couldn’t be hung in the way that the exhibition had originally been conceived because of the walls there. Instead, everything had to hang from wires and fit onto just one wall space, which was difficult with so much work and lead to some works being hung higher than I would have liked. These compromises lead to it being an interim exhibition, where people could take a look at the work received, rather than as the first official showing of the exhibition. It was a shame to end the residency in such an understated way, although I have been told that there may be opportunities to exhibit in a gallery space during 2016. The Interim Exhibition was really well attended, with lots of people and groups coming along to see the work, and some great feedback from it too. Thank you to everyone who has been to see the work so far.
Section of the Interim Exhibition at Bank Street Arts
I’m now looking forward to the first official showing at Cromford Mills, Derbyshire in April, with a Private View on 1st April. Everyone welcome! I’d love to meet and chat with people more about the exhibition in person. There will also be workshops at Cromford Mills on 2nd and 3rd April. (keep an eye on my events page or Cromford Mills’ website for more details).
I feel that, above all else, this experience has taught me just how far you can go by doing things for yourself. Pushing yourself forward, organising things, asking for help, making new contacts and just generally putting yourself out there is invaluable. Yes, it’s been the hardest I have ever worked in my life, ruling almost every moment of every day for a year, but when I look back I feel that I’ve achieved so much.
If you’d like to find out more about The Thread of Life or what the project has been about, please visit the Thread of Life Section of my website.