Balnacra Arts & Pottery by Vicky Stonebridge

When the Past demands attention.

I’m not a fan of the Past, for various reasons. Nostalgia is just so retro, dusty,  mouldy and decayed. I like to live now, in the present. I’m still the same core person I was back in those previous past 5 decades, or am I? Maybe i’ve learnt a few lessons? maybe I’ve learnt nothing & forgotten everything? Does my art get any better, or worse? Does it change much or do the same themes just keep recycling? hitting against the constraints or time, materials, the need to earn a living from it, the need to express, to communicate, to just create.

The above image was a felt pen doodle at christmas time 1992, pregnant with my third child. I’d had an ‘artistic block’ for a while. The chips on the shoulder from art college weighed heavier then that perhaps they do now. An art degree taught me how to judge and critique everything, mostly my own creative endeavors, It stripped out the “art for art’s sake”. But when we reach the bottom, it is finally possible to shake off all the baggage, so i picked up the children’s felt pens & started doodling. They ticked no boxes except mine, it was something to do. They felt right to be, like the start of something, like part of a story.
Why am I rummaging through the past If it makes me so uncomfortable? casts up so many ghosts, makes my life’s work look like piles of worthless jumbled dusty bits of paper? When do I reach my prime? when does it all come together or did I miss that boat? i remember by 15 having the sense of missing out, not fitting in, not being part of things, being left aside. Why put myself through this again now?

Well i’m stuck, treading water, I don’t feel i can job hunt until i find out more about on-going health problems. On waiting lists for medical procedures & appointments, maybe a diagnosis, some indication of whether i could feasibly return to firefighting duties or do I have to start from scratch & find some other means of earning a living. My right arm is still out of action, the latest treatment is a wrist splint which severely limits my movement. typing this is very difficult, so is holding a brush or pencil. This waiting time could be a great opportunity to just art-play or relax, but I’m happier being active, having a purpose, a plan, a direction. The daily discomfort or downright pain, along with all the uncertainty, and that my Fire service sick pay isn’t enough to pay the rent, has left me pretty frustrated & desperate for things to click into place so I can crack on with something I believe is a worthwhile use of my time. ” maybe i should paint more highland cows? maybe I should sell all my old books or clothes? maybe… ” actually i’ve tried all these things before.

So plodding onwards, trying not to think myself into knots, or worry about it all. I’m decluttering the house. I was trying to just get into the studio, but the clutter has been bothering me. 30 years of notes, reference pictures, artwork, poems, writings, journals, accounts, notebooks, photos, postcards, press cuttings, hopes, dreams, photocopies, music, folders, files, books, clothes, materials, pottery equipment, fabric, tools- the kids stuff, other peoples stuff, boxes, junk, ghosts. It’s all getting sifted through.



This is the Gatehouse where i lived with my three children between 1993 and 2000. It was demolished by the Railway company who owned it in 2001.

Enough is enough, i want the past to be gone. Those journals of introspective nonsense, the teenage delusion that it all might amount to some biographical evidence, that somehow any of it was important, that it would compile to make sense of a life. No, they’re repetitive cyclical rubbish. Do i really expect my kids to wade through that drivel when i die? No its time I sorted through it all & jettison anything that is cringe worthy now. I blame our consumer/ capitalist society for telling us all that we have to aspire to be something special, something important, check your TV adverts, how many of them are telling you right now to be better, different, stand above the crowd. Its all rubbish, then when we turn out to just be plodding along like everyone else, comes depression and delusion. Why haven’t I emerged yet? or reached my prime, or peaked, or achieved, been discovered, created my magnum opus, been head hunted.  Have I missed that boat too? Or were we all lied to? there was no boat. We get our 15 minutes of fame, maybe more than once, and really it means nothing.  Those spam cold callers phoning about being mis-sold ppi by the banks, i might get onto them to complain about being mis-sold a perspective about my own potential as an artist.

Meanwhile, Its too stormy today for more bonfires, so I’ve scanned in some old photos .

scanoldphoto036scanoldphoto035this was the shop front of the first pottery, in the shed at Balnacra. It was made of railway sleepers. at first, around 1995, i sold pottery bits displayed on hay bales & had an honesty box.

scanoldphoto037Then I got more organised, started to learn about running a business and filled up shelves. I remember building those was a logistical feat by myself. Like most things really.

scanoldphoto041scanoldphoto042this was when i started doing circles and towers of wee people.  These have recently re-emerged as site specific works up in the hills and wild places.scanoldphoto043scanoldphoto045
I also have recently revisited the pottery buttons I used to make, they’re available for sale on my SHOP page. scanoldphoto044Larger items like these gargoyles aren’t possible at the moment because I had to sell off the big kiln when i closed down the pottery studio at the Smithy in 2005.

I’ve nearly cleared out and been through most things now, have sorted out photos, scraps, references and sketches into files, I nearly have enough space to get into the studio with a clean slate.  Strangely enough I have recently bumped into a few separate friends from long ago, as If stirring up these old boxes evoked them? Perhaps when we get bogged down with everything and can’t find a way forward, the only way is to back track and pick up the trail somewhere on the path behind us ?

some artworks from the mid 90’s.  two small and one 8 x 4 ft. I think the smaller ones sold, the big one probably got torn  & damaged in various upheavals and eventually burnt.scanoldphoto040Onwards.

One comment on “When the Past demands attention.

  1. Pingback: Moving Maps & summer scenes. | Balnacra Arts by Vicky Stonebridge

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This entry was posted on July 2, 2014 by in Blog and tagged , , , , , .

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