My University course finished for the year before Easter. I’ve now completed the first half of ‘second year’, although in elapsed time it’s my third year of six because I’m part time. So, it also marks my halfway point to the BA (Hons) degree in Glass & Ceramics.
All my young classmates are busy and a bit stressed. The full-time cohort that I started with are graduating in a few months – they’re all finishing up work for their Degree Show. The second years (the group I’m currently with) are working on their Dry Run exhibition. The first year full-timers, who will be my classmates next year, are madly trying to assimilate the lessons and produce test pieces for the 101 new hands-0n techniques they’ve been trying to learn online during lockdown.
Lockdown has had a detrimental impact on the full timers. On all of us, really. One of the best parts of the course in our first year was the camaraderie and inspiration we get from mingling with the ‘older’ students. It’s so helpful to be able to talk to like-minded, supportive people about our work. 2020 threw a lot of that out the window. Our tutors have tried so hard to be helpful, as much as they could in the circumstances. This year, unlike the more academic subjects, our artist group has at least managed to get back into the studio for a good part of the year, albeit in small group bubbles.
For me personally, having time with access to the facilities and no assigned work feels OK. I’ve lost my own studio for at least another month, probably more. I was quite stressed about having to pack up my studio and the worry of finding a new place. I made a point of going into Uni on our assigned days anyway. Using this time to work on two basic skills: simple flameworking and hand-building small bonsai plant pots has been worthwhile.
I do get to see some of my classmates, so it’s not entirely me working all alone. It is eerie for it to be so quiet. And we do miss the mentoring aspects of being around people who are further on the journey. But the simple act of being able to practice making the same things again and again is soothing. I have no expectations, just the zen of making. And, as a side benefit, it’s been profoundly satisfying to have tangible proof that I can improve.