This is another post in a series I’m doing exploring drawing, and fear, and particularly the way drawing something that’s troubling or scary can affect the way I feel about it.
There are things that scare me, like spiders, and things that scare other people, like crows, and it’s fairly straightforward to confront and investigate these fears by drawing. But the most problematic anxieties I have are not so immediately sketchable. One of these is the fear of letting go.
I used to make jewellery and I still have pieces from these collections. They were part textile, part graphic art combined with a bit of silversmithing, put together with a compilation of techniques I’d accumulated over a lifetime, and I still feel fond of them because of that. I have to say that they are not easy things to draw, being small and sparkly in places (I used gold and silver leaf on a lot of them, as well as silver thread and wire, and silver for all the mountings and clasps and so on) so it’s technically a bit of a challenge. And I find it hard to be spontaneous and searching – perhaps because I know them too well.
But my reason for drawing them is because it’s time for me to stop hoarding, and let them go. There’s no reason for me to keep them; they’re doing no good wrapped up in a shoe box and they’re going to be liberated to raise funds for charity.
I’m not really a hoarder (though it’s possible that some people in my family might think differently) – I’m not bad at clearing-out, though the things I find hardest to part with are materials or tools that will one day be useful again. (Probably). But the other thing that tends to get stuck in drawers and shoe-boxes is artwork of all kinds. During my working life when I sold what I made, parting with these things was never a problem, but now I don’t have this outflow in place I know I should continue to let things go, and de-clutter.
It was Liz Steel who gave me the idea of sketching something to celebrate it, memorise it and then let it go. Last summer I remember reading a post of hers where she drew a chandelier (now broken) that had been in her family for decades and needed to be thrown out, but knowing this was going to be a painful parting she sketched it before saying goodbye. I was particularly impressed by the fact that she held it in one oustretched hand whilst sketching it with the other which must have been really hard, but it was a good idea as the sketch was (typically for Liz) fresh and spontaneous with no trace of over-working through nostalgia or any other sentiment (- and perhaps I should have tried this with the jewellery – a lot easier to hold in the hand than a chandelier). Anyway, she found once she’d sketched it that she’d formed an emotional attachment to the sketch, and consequently didn’t need to hang on to the chandalier.
I find the same thing has happened with me and the jewellery.
Of course what I’d really like to do is to shed attachment altogether, so the fact that my feelings have been transferred from the jewellery to the sketches is far from ideal but it’s perhaps one more step towards enlightenment. And – foolishly! – as I’m writing this I’ve realised for the first time how appropriate that word is, enlightenment; it feels like just that, the shedding of a load, becoming lighter for having let go of attachments.
So once again drawing has mysteriously helped me to do something I couldn’t have done otherwise. Not dispelled a fear exactly, and certainly not enabled me to acheive enlightenment! – but helped me to let go of something and feel lighter and happier in the process.
What next, I wonder?
A note on the jewellery:
For anyone wanting to know a bit about the background to these pieces – technical and otherwise – I can tell you they were mostly made from hand-dyed greaseproof paper which when dry becomes more like leather than paper so you can stitch and mould it. They were finished with a kind of polyvinyl glaze that protected them without making them brittle or totally hard, so they kept their slightly soft, warm, tactile quality. It took me months of experimenting with different pigments and papers, and I did a lot of two dimensional works combining the results with other materials and stitching them together. I was also using a lot of handwritten text in my textile work at that time so introducing that into jewellery seemed like a logical thing to do. I especially liked the mysterious quality that writing has when it’s difficult to read and sometimes completely illegible and I wrote out a lot of quotations that were very meaningful to me at the time and used them, though they were easy for me to read then. These have since become impossible even for me to make out and so ironically they’ve now acheived the state of ambiguity that I wanted when I wrote them. I liked the strange play of emotions between the need to know, the frustration of not being able to unlock the mystery behind the words, and a sense of calm at the fact that it was impossible.
If you want to see photographs of them you can see them here.