Monday, May 31, 2010

Where to find me: Recent Publishing

I’ve been lucky enough to have my have my work published twice recently. Doug Spowart re-worked his article from Imprint and it was accepted for the online journal, Bonefolder. The article is a review of the Southern Cross University exhibition last year, where my book Like Weather was selected for acquisition. It includes a lovely shot of my book, taken by Doug. It’s fantastic to have my work included in Bonefolder, as it’s part of the US Book Arts Web, and has an international readership.

The extra benefit of the article being in Bonefolder is that you can access it to read for free online, if you didn’t catch it in Imprint.

I’ve also had some of my ceramic work included in the recently published book by Jeffery B. Snyder, Ceramics Today.

ceramics today cover

They accepted five images, including the installation work, Wraith, and my porcelain book, Self (States of Change), which has just been in Mackay at the Libris Awards. Unfortunately I haven’t received my copy of the book yet, so I can’t be positive they all made the final cut, but I’m told it’s on page 240.

 

Finally, in case you haven’t noticed the widget in the side-bar, I’ve started Twittering.

I’ve thought a lot about whether or not to join in this silent cacophony, and despite initially despising the idea, in the end I decided that Twitter would be a useful tool for me.

I was convinced by the artists stories I read in The Unconventional Guide to Art and Money. It’s for artists who choose to conduct their careers primarily in the context of the internet, rather than going the traditional gallery route. It explains how to pull together all your online content, get your work out there and (for some, at least) make a living. It seems especially well-suited to the shy, the rebellious and the control-freak. And of course, by default, those who are too tired by 6pm to make it to all those openings in order to “network”.

So… I signed on to Twitter a couple of weeks ago, and began sharing stuff I thought might interest people. As well as providing another means of knowing within seconds when a new blog post hits the ether, I have found it’s a nice way to share the best of those links you come across in the course of your day but which don’t really qualify for a blog post.  I’ve mostly been posting links to inspiring art, art events or opportunities, as well as some about zen and de-stressing. If you’re interested in following you can sign up for Twitter here and find me as amandaw_w . Or not. I won’t offended at all.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Twenty Year Review

You might be wondering what has been taking all the time with putting the edition of Judy and the Jacaranda together. Most days I’ve been spending one or two hours tearing and cutting pages. I’ve found that is as much as my neck will tolerate, any more and my shoulder muscles tense up too much and I don’t recover for the next day’s work. This, despite dusting off my best skills as an occupational therapist, and setting up things as ergonomically as possible. I guess some limitations are real. The activity is quite meditative, and it has given me a chance to do some thinking.

Last month I wrote about what makes me happy, and that little question prompted a lot of reflection. The two things I have always admired in other people are a sense of peace, and an ability to live in a balanced way. And since my twenties, I have aspired and worked to develop those characteristics in myself.

I guess, for me, the balance is key to the peace. The need for balance between work, rest and play is a founding assumption of occupational therapy, and I do believe in it. I’ve always thought that I became an OT because its philosophy was mine, rather than the professional training altering the way I thought.

When you have CFS, balance becomes even more tricky to achieve. But when I look around my friends, juggling work, children, home, aging parents…well it seems their situation is hardly much easier. I wonder what the balance is like in your life? How have you managed to get things working for you? I’d love to learn from your experience.

Anyway, things are a little easier in my life now. For the first time, I have a pretty clear schedule. I spent from 2004-2008 doing my masters, and from 2005- 2009 looking after my frail mother, but now I am free to build my life and my routine in a way that really suits me, according to my strengths, weaknesses, needs and desires.

This re-assessment is going to be wide-reaching. It will incorporate what I do, when I do it and how I do it, and it will be an holistic look at how I work, rest and play. Finally, at forty-whatever, I feel as if I can be me.

It may seem odd, to be talking in this way when there is no change in my health or energy, but I feel that is a limitation or perhaps better, an attribute that lies within me, like not being great at maths or something. In November, CFS will have been part of my life for 20 years, so for me, it just is. It goes in the weakness column and I just work around and with it.

So a Twenty Year Review it is, and the point is, I’m thinking very differently now – so watch this space!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Trouble finishing?

There’s something I find excruciating about bringing a complex or long-term project to completion. I don’t think this is one of the many cognitive effects of CFS, but perhaps it does get extended by the additional fatigue. Even when there is a specific deadline, once the light appears at the end of the tunnel, each step seems so much more challenging than the last. Without a deadline, it is even worse.
I suspect I make this challenge even greater for myself by choosing to go about things in a way that is fairly involved, rather than taking the simple option (not sure I even see there is one).
Of course I am referring to the work I am preparing for the Book*Art*Object project, Learning Absences, which you can read more about here and on the associated blog here.
Although I first started working on ideas for this in July(!) and had certainly settled on the final direction in September, I am still struggling valiantly to actually produce the books. All the pages are printed and believe it or not, the hold up now is trimming them to size for binding. This seems to be taking me ages!
I am resisting the urge to allow myself to start any of the new ideas that dance enticingly across my imagination, but I am starting to notice a pattern in my behaviour. I recall writing a similar post while trying to battle through the final stages of making my flag book, Like Weather. Back then, nearly 3 years ago, Azirca wrote in the comments:
“Creativity takes time you know, you can't rush these things ;)”
Her wise words were very helpful back then, and did make me stop and appreciate what I was doing. I’m sharing them now as much to remind myself as for anyone else’s benefit.
Nevertheless, I am going to look at my ways of working and see if I can’t simplify things a bit. You know, work smarter, not harder. If I can refine my projects perhaps I’ll be able to produce a bit more. I can’t help feeling that looking back over a 12 month period and being able to see a number of finished works would be more satisfying than one larger work. Of course, I may be wrong or may not be able to work in any other way – it may be that I need complex work to communicate what I need to say.
Another consideration is the release you feel when you finish a work. When a project stretches on for months, I find it easy to turn it into a bit of a burden, a commitment, rather than being fun and being able to be flexible. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I love experimenting, and a long project does tend to demand that I remain focused and put spontaneity aside.
Just a few of the thoughts running through my mind as I wield my art knife and steel rule.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pigment prints on Hahnemuhle

You might remember that a few posts back it was my 200th post and a I gave away three prints to celebrate. Now that they have safely arrived in their new homes, I thought I would share them with you all.

They were pigment prints on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag using the imagery I developed for my book, "Judy and the Jacaranda". Although many of the components appear in the book, these prints are unique in bringing the imagery together on a single surface, rather than layering it on translucent vellum. These compositions also differ to a lesser or greater degree from the book.

Spring1 Spring 1, 2009

Autumn1

Autumn 1, 2009

 

Autumn2

Autumn 2, 2009

I’m planning to sell these as a limited edition, printed on A4 Hahnemuhle Photo Rag. I’m working on a new website with paypal facilities, but if you can’t wait, just email me at potsrme at hotmail dot com.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

World CFS/ME Awareness Day

If you don’t have CFS, or even if you do, you may not know that today is International CFS (ME) Awareness Day.

I did a quick google blog search and found that the blogosphere is very aware of the day. Here’s the link to my search results. There is an abundance of bloggers sharing their experience of living with this chronic illness, and if you can make twenty minutes in your week to look around at some of these posts, I’m sure your understanding of the condition and some of the challenges it poses will be expanded.

It seems we are reasonably lucky in Australia, because in typical Aussie fashion, nobody is too bothered with us!  The disadvantage of this is that the funding available for research is next to non-existent, but the advantage is that we (PWCFS – people with CFS) are rarely pursued by service providers or the medical profession trying to withdraw support, or force some untested treatment regime on us.

There certainly are still medicos around who don’t believe in it, or think it’s psycho-somatic, but fortunately they are fairly rare in my experience, and basically my philosophy these days if I encounter someone like that, professional or otherwise, is to simply move on. My energy is far too valuable to waste trying to convince the “unconvincable”. 

As a former occupational therapist, my natural response to having CFS is a problem-solving one. I’m usually focussed on the present and the future, and only explore the past as a means to review and hopefully improve my strategies for managing the illness.  Both my husband and I have CFS, and this year in November will be our 20th anniversary – of being ill, not being married (that’s 23 years, for those interested). When people ask us “are we getting better?” or something similar, we both agree that the major factor has been in how we manage our energy and our daily life.

After nearly 20 years, I’d be pretty surprised, no make that shocked if we were cured. There have been medications which manage some of the effects of the illness and having tested my body both ways, I do seem to be a lot better taking a small trailer-load of medications each day, than when I went off them for 2 years.

This certainly doesn’t mean I stop seeking treatment and hoping for improvement, but I did stop putting my life on hold quite a while ago. CFS or not, I don’t know what the future holds, I only have today, and if I get to the end of my life and realize that I spent it waiting for “the right time” to do what is really important to me, I’ll be so angry with myself.

I know I don’t always have the balance quite right, but the whole thing is a process, which requires self-awareness and frequent tweeking.

It starts with being very honest with myself about the current situation, so I don’t set myself goals that are unattainable. That’s just self-punishing for no good reason. Oh, I’ve made myself miserable, spending many years with unrealistic hopes and dreams.  I found that I was only able to move forward and feel like my life was still on some sort of trajectory, by totally accepting what is, and starting from that place. And I found that I had to be brutal, to search the depths of my heart and dig out those  aspirations that lay way beyond by abilities at this time. I don’t allow myself to consider some wild future – I’ll work with whatever the future brings when it arrives.

Along the way, I spent large amounts of time grieving for what was and what might have been. For every person with CFS, this is a huge issue and I am no different. For me, this has included career, money, children, to name a few. But after a period of years, even though these were BIG, I really felt I should be able to move on. After all, grief is a process too, and even though you never fully recover from a major loss, it is reasonable to expect the pain will decrease and eventually remembering the person or thing you have lost can bring joy instead of heartache. I saw a grief counsellor eventually, and this work enabled me to move on from the sadness and anger where I had become stuck. It was an essential step which enabled me to fully embrace my life as it is.

I’ve gone on a bit more than I planned in this post, but I wanted to write about my experiences of the past twenty years living with CFS in this broad-picture way, instead of the small weekly details I usually post. This is just my experience, and if you meet someone with the illness, you may find they are a lot more ill or a lot less. We are individuals!

I started blogging in the hope that people would understand something of a life affected by CFS, but being so achievement-oriented, that is mostly what I share. CFS has become part of the framework that my life must work within, like being a woman of the age I am, living in Australia, and so on. Most of those things remain subconscious workings as I try to lead my life as well as I can.