Making Art and Feeling Better

Since the start of August we’ve been relying completely on sales of the zine and state benefits to keep the business and ourselves going. At the end of the month we got sanctioned for not arranging to make an appointment with the job centre or something (I’m sorting it out in person tomorrow) and things were looking rather bad. I posted about it on Facebook and received an outpouring of support. Too stressed to concentrate properly I set up a Go Fund Me and went to bed. It raised £300.

It’s difficult to emphasise how much of a difference it makes having a little bit of money. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my chest and I can breathe again – literally. I’m sure stress makes you sick and there’s few things more stressful than financial instability. I know I wouldn’t really go off-grid, but whenever something like this happens it re-awakens a yearning to be… free. No landlords. No supermarkets. No debts.

I’ve managed to secure a temporary art studio in Castlemilk in Glasgow for the next month and a half or so. I went down last week for a few days and have decided to make an installation, which I’m calling ‘Welcome To The Sisterhood’. It will have one or two customised tents, a crocheted vegetable patch and other decor to denote a hidden feminine commune. I’ve already nearly finished an entrance sign and, thanks to the support of the last few days, was able to order the first tent this evening. It’s still very early days with the project, but I’m feeling really excited about making larger scale artwork again.

I think a tree with fruit baring the names of the – hypothetical – children of the commune would be nice as a back wall piece. Maybe women could add their own names once they’ve viewed the exhibition – or it could be a donation thing, like if you contribute time or money to the work you get remembered. I don’t know. It’s hard to think about these things at all without feeling like an entitled floozy [I just looked up the spelling of ‘floozy’ and the definition of “a woman of loose moral character” isn’t exactly what I mean here… maybe ‘bimbo’ would be more appropriate…]. It feels low minded to keep coming back to the business or sales side of things, but I’m not making this artwork just for fun – it’s part of the larger aim of keeping the business going. But it feels vulgar and base. Selling fruit. Carved. Letting people carve their own names – for the price of the wooden fruit – and then hanging them on the tree. I don’t know. I’ll come back to that.

I do feel better though; both in myself and creatively. Six months ago I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be running my own business, driving all over the UK to distribute my own magazine and planning an art exhibition of my own work. Since the summer of 2013 I haven’t even thought of myself as a visual artist – let alone one who exhibits regularly. And yet, life is starting to grow in a healthier direction.

One of our favourite stockists – Madigan’s Cafe and Bookshop on Castle Street in Dundee – commissioned Alfie to design their new menu. They paid and he delivered. What do you think? Madigans

This is how I want our life to be; commissions and exhibitions, studio practice and always having enough toner in the printer to produce the next issue of the zine. We need about £1500 a month to live comfortably. It’s not an unattainable amount. We’re achieving about £350 give or take a month right now, so we just need to work twice as hard to hit £750 – our “literally scrapping by” budget. I don’t know how these figures will be read. Maybe we are fools to think we can be artists. Maybe we are conning our friends and families out of their hard-earned money. We only ate today because of the generosity of others. Who am I to think things will change?

But change they must, because the Go Fund Me was a one off. This business has to be sustainable and for it to become so I have to avoid letting myself be consumed by fear and doubt. I can make a single room installation piece with sellable parts and accessories. The tents will be easily transportable, so they can be taken to any exhibitions that I can possibly take them to. Everything else needs to be replaceable. Like the general items of our lives. I grew a tomato and then I ate it. True story. Now the tomato is no more. Did I do wrong? Steal from my tomato plant that was only alive by my hand – growing it from a seed and watering it? I feel guilty harvesting my garden, but the raspberries rot on the plant if they’re not picked.

I don’t know what I’m supposed to be learning. I seem to have regained my sanity after February’s nervous breakdown. I don’t want to talk about The Tele in my art. I want to talk about growing vegetables and sleeping under the stars – answering to no-one but your own conscience.

I’ll need to make postcards featuring the tent/s. Maybe I should also order stickers saying: “Artificial Womb Zine Sold Here” for the stockists? I need to make a poster for the craft fair on Sept 20. I’m charging for the tables, like a sick capitalist. And one of the Etsy orders is late.

Who am I? 24601.