‘Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has ever known’ – Oscar Wilde.
‘Emerging Artist’: a phrase conjuring up images of an oil-paint splattered student tearing her way out of an embroidery-thread chrysalis, wielding a portfolio in one hand and desperately updating social media in the other. But what does it actually mean in practical terms? To be carving out a niche in the established art world with little more than a pair of embroidery scissors and a yearning for self-exposure rivalling that of a stripper’s?
Several long years in higher education – a year’s Foundation, a three-year BA and an extra year of Masters thrown in for good measure – and am I emerging the radiant and world-ready butterfly from my five-year cocoon of sheltered study? After all, this is the plan our parents expect of us. Finish school, go to uni, get a job. Yes – as if ‘get a job’ was as simple in not just the turbulent economic times we find ourselves in but also my chosen artistic profession.
‘Normal’ jobs are simply non-existent within our profession. The thought of a salaried 9-5 job, as abhorrent as my nonconformist 15-year old self would have found it, now seems a holy grail of employment opportunity. The chance to have all my bills balanced and monthly finances settled without worrying whether I’ll make the rent from one month to the next. Such is the freedom freelancers face: the price we pay for our flexible working hours, self-directed schedules and non-contractualised independence is, at times, financially-fraught sleepless nights.
An emerging artists’ job is by no means an easy one. Making art, essentially the heart of my existence, occupies a disproportionately small portion of my working time. Alongside my embroidery, I must personify all sorts of roles: personal accountant, PR specialist, social media updater, publisher, website maintainer, researcher, performance analyst, timekeeper, negotiator, networker, to name but a few. The myriad of roles and accompanying tasks are so extensive one might wonder how I, the artist, actually find any time to ‘do’ art itself. Mindfulness of this madness I must somehow tame can only go so far as to prepare me for a profession as unconventional as it is unpredictable.
And yet here I am, the personification of ‘Hanging By A Thread Embroidery’: socialising, self-publicizing, kicking and screaming my way towards the recognition I believe my work deserves. Desperately trying to make my skills ‘work’ for me in the wide world of work and navigating the confusion and chaos that inevitably accompanies a largely self-directed career. Because despite the pressure of being a freelance professional, I wouldn’t swap it. Embroidery needs a little more rock ‘n’ roll….