Art at the Kitchen Table

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

July 2020 Soul Notes

Artist, Antony Gormley was the inspiration for this month’s Soul Notes. In his article Lockdown reminded us that we’re all makers – and that could change everything.”, written for the Royal Academy Artists In Isolation series, he reflects on the innate creativity in all of us, how it has been revealed at this time, and the hope that that gives him for the future. He writes:

Despite the daily pressures people have faced during lockdown, for me the most wonderful thing that has come out of this period is to see so clearly that everybody makes things. In so many homes, the family kitchen has become a studio – people have been sitting at their tables drawing and painting and making stuff. There’s been a realisation that actually, everyone enjoys that sensation of messing about with a box of paints or a lump of clay.”

I can personally identify with his characterisation. I am one of those engrossed at my kitchen table as you can see from the picture above. Last week, I designed my first mandala, after many months of promising myself that I would set aside some time for it. I got lost in the creative process, tongue between my teeth, trying to perfect the arcs of the mandala wheel and discovering myself the other side of Sunday afternoon with no dinner ready. This week, I started work on a painting inspired by my dreams of the night before.

The week before that, I had spent early mornings propped up in bed, designing a new garden area to open up the space left by my daughter’s trampoline, recently departed and signalling yet another transition in our ever changing lives. The result is a stone, plant and sofa filled oasis, in which I have since spent many daydreaming hours, coming up with my next project.

For me, these creative moments have been vital to bring me into a three dimensional domain as a counter to the two dimensional world that many of us spend much of our working time. I currently spend 5 days a week having intimate and meaningful conversations with people across the world, through a screen. I am truly loving my work in a way that I wouldn’t have thought possible online. However, I notice how disembodied I feel at the end of a day. I need to walk. I need to feel the grass. I need to bathe. All to remind myself of this body. When I make something, I feel like I land in myself – like there’s a union of my inner world, with the outer world.

To create is to bring into life something that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. That can be in the grand artistic scheme of writing of a novel, the painting of a canvas, the producing of a play. It can also be seen in the tending of a relationship; the arranging of a garden; creating a beautiful physical space; throwing a party; playing a game. Where there is love, care, imagination and a flow, there is creativity.

Many people live creative lives but would not say so. They don’t imagine that their fun quiz nights or thoughtful family dining experiences to be serious creativity. But it clearly is. However, when it comes to nourishing that creative energy and devoting time and space to it, to create for themselves, most people I know struggle.

Poet, Mary Oliver writes in her essay “Of Power and Time” (Upstream: Selected Essays):

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

They see it as a self-indulgence. There is always something else to tend to; someone else to care for and so the writing pad, the easel, the musical instruments, the dance shoes gather dust in the corner, waiting to be lovingly handled once again and shown the care and attention proffered liberally to everyone else.

I personally know this struggle. Raised in a working class family, creativity was present but never played a major part. My grandad loved opera but this joy was saved for Sunday mornings as a special treat. Pavarotti and the Three Tenors serenading the Sabbath. Glorious and incongruous respite from a week packing shelves in the furniture factory. My grandma was a supreme baker and maker of clothes. She could sew, knit and crochet and make all manner of beautiful garments from the ghostly tracing paper patterns. However, this was an economic, not a creative exercise.

We never spoke of a life with creativity as an underpinning for a life’s work. We were expected to go out and work hard; be productive; find something that paid, no matter what the joy factor, as an escape from the struggle that our grandparents had experienced. This set me on a path to law. A path that was never mine but that I trod solidly nonetheless, taking a huge detour away from my passions and my self.

Dr Estes writes: “The creative force flows over the terrain of our psyches looking for the natural hollows”.

I know for a large chunk of my life, I blocked up a number of the natural hollows. Too full of deadlines and responsibilities and pressures, I didn’t dare let anything in that didn’t serve the cause of progressing my career. Painting at the kitchen table would have felt ridiculous not so many years ago. I feel blessed that I discovered coaching, and then therapy, and people who had a different relationship with their creative lives and allowed me to reconsider my own. It’s been a gradual process of softening into my artistic longings and of valuing the process of creation, much more than the product. Now I know that this “indulgence” is life itself. In these moments, I am present, whole, in flow, woven into the fabric of the world much more completely than at those times when I am in pursuit of something.

I delight in working with people who long to open up those spaces in themselves; who want to engage with the creative energy that abounds in this world, in nature, in children, in writing, painting, the kitchen, wherever, and allow it to flow through.

I wonder what the creative forces are within you looking for an outlet? I wonder how you might be blocking them right now? What would it be like to sit at your kitchen table and imagine something new and then to bring it to life? A picture? A poem? A clay model? Or to head outside and build a den, a camp fire; to photograph the sky? You may already be enjoying these new freedoms and resting into your creativity? Or you may be toying with the idea of how to “fit it in”. How might you embrace this time and bring some of that life energy into your day to day?

Wishing you flow and light for the summer months ahead.

With love,

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