my Waterloo.

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– A bad cell phone picture of me and my new studio. –

So I’ve arrived, safe and sound, after driving for a whole week, with everything I own in my car. Actually, I quite enjoyed the drive- got to see my family and a few old friends along the way, and listen to my music and see the country.  The car wasn’t so full that it was uncomfortable, and I packed it well- what I needed was where I needed and I used the space well. Anyway.

I’ve been here a few days now.  To be honest, this part has been the hardest part of the transition so far.  Saying goodbye wasn’t easy, but I could feel all the love from my family and friends, all the good wishes and support.  Now that I’m here, I feel really alone, and soooo far away from home.  I hardly know which way is north.  And I had a fiasco (and subsequent freak out) with my living arrangement, but don’t worry, I’ve got that sorted out now.

On a happier note, I moved into my studio today, and met a few people who I will be working with, including the graduate advisor, department administrator and one of my new studio mates.  It’s pretty quiet around the Fine Arts section of campus right now (although there is a surprising number of students around the rest of campus).  I spent some time moving into the studio today, sweeping up and getting things set up for myself, which I think is helping me feel more normal.  I can’t wait to start doing some work in there (although, with having to find an apartment at the last minute, I have less money than I anticipated, which means I have to wait for supply shopping).  In the meantime, I will spend some time working in my sketchbook, and using supplies I already have, and maybe even finish some things I’ve already been working on.  Because of the whole moving thing and everything else, I feel like I haven’t really been able to put in any decent studio time in the last few months at all, so I want to spend some time feeling out the space and getting settled in, both into the physical space and the right headspace.

Anyway.  Right now, I’m just trying to get used to a completely new place (not to mention the crazy muggy-ness – I now understand why people complain about Calgary being dry) and settle in.  I knew it would be a big change, but I don’t think I realized how BIG. It’s not a vacation where I can just go back home when I feel like it.  Home as I knew it is not there anymore. Right now, I’m really reminding myself why I’m here, why it is the right thing, and I need to do it, uncomfortable as it is right now, and telling myself that I will get used to it, and eventually, it will feel like home too.  Change sure as hell is not easy.

Goodbye, Calgary!

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Even though I am excited about what’s coming up in my life (MFA at the University of Waterloo), it is tough to say goodbye.  I’ve spent the last 8 years of my life in Calgary, and it’s become my home.  I grew up only a couple of hours from here, so my family is close by (but not too close by).  I did my undergrad here, and most of my friends live here (or lived here).  I cut my teeth as an artist here, and learned a lot of lessons here.

It’s tough leaving, saying goodbye to all my wonderful friends, B, and my life here.  I think the thing that’s making it most real right now is my empty studio- a far cry from what it was even a few months ago.  I’ve thrown out, given away or sold a lot, packed up what I want to keep into my car, and come Saturday, will be on my way.  I’m driving all the way to Waterloo.  (Crazy, my neighbour says.)  It will take me a week to get there, but I’ve done the distance on the bus, so am aware of how long of a trip it is.  I’ll be fine.  (Actually, I think it will be a crucial part of the transition.)

I think the trip out there scares me more than school, although maybe that’s only because I haven’t gotten there yet.  Maybe.  In addition to my classes, I will be TA’ing an undergraduate course.  There is also a fall field trip planned for the MFA’s, but more on that later.  (And then the internship!  Who knows where I will be next summer!)

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The studio now has nothing in it, even the table and chair is gone. All that remains are Brad’s things (the tv, the couch, and the DVD’s he’s moved downstairs) and the curtains.  Sad.

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Spending a few days in Hanna, my hometown.

Special area

Now that I’m done work, I, rather impulsively maybe, decided to come out to visit my parents for a few days, and maybe help out with some things around here.  The timing is maybe not ideal- they’re both working, Dad on night shifts.  Even normally, my parents have a lot going on in their lives, socially and otherwise, including yoga, golf, friends, and working out at “the Ranch,” a quarter section of land just south of town.  I think this visit is more for me than anything- I’m feeling a little restless and sentimental about leaving (already!).

This will be one of the last trips I make out here, for who knows how long.  I have a trip planned early next month with a couple of good friends to go through to Manitou Beach, a unique mineral-rich, unusually buoyant lake in the middle of Saskatchewan.  It is not far from the towns where my parents grew up, and a little-known Saskatchewan treasure.  I have dreams about this place occasionally, and it occupies a special place in my heart.  It is also the reason, I suspect, that my mother can’t swim.

The last time I will be through here (Hanna) will be July 26th, as the first stop of my trip out to Waterloo.  I feel like I should be out here to document as much as I can – and filter my experience through my camera (as Mark does in Rent), something I’ve been thinking about lately.  Ever the documentor, I am, although I am not really sure why I feel compelled to do that.  Am I more sentimental than most people? I’m not sure.  The only thing I know for sure is that I am a savour-er, always have been and always will be. To that end, I stopped on my way out here to take a photo of a particular road sign which marks the edge of Special Area #2, where Hanna is located.  I always keep an eye out for this particular sign, and it always strikes me as amusing- What makes this area “special,” other than (to me) that I grew up here?  Why is it number 2, why not number 1?  I know why this actually is, but before I actually was aware of that, it held a lot of intrigue.  Also amusing to me now is that there is no Special Area #1, in Alberta, at least not anymore.

Anyway.  I brought my nice camera out here, will have to take some photos. Maybe I’ll post some later.

MFA at the University of Waterloo!

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 – Like snow sliding of the roof of the Gushul Studio, I am in transition. –

I haven’t mentioned it here yet for a few reasons, but I am moving to Ontario very soon- Waterloo, actually, to pursue my MFA at the University of Waterloo!  I am incredibly excited about it, yet, at the same time, it is very bittersweet.  There’s a lot of lasts happening right now, as I am committing to the move.  I will miss my wonderful life here, but know deep down inside that this is right, this is the next step.  I’ve gotta go, to see what’s in store for me yet.

Now that the initial excitement has worn off, I am getting nervous.  Not so much about being there (well, maybe a little), but about the big changes that are happening in my life.  I don’t know hardly anyone in Ontario, nevermind Waterloo.  I am nervous about getting everything arranged, so that I (hopefully!) don’t run into any big problems.  I’m nervous about packing up what I want to keep, take with me, and sell or give away.  I’m nervous about how I’m going to get rid of all my stuff.  (There’s nothing like moving across the country to realize how much stuff you have that you probably don’t need.)  And I’m in a weird place with my work right now- I will be just finishing up the animatronics project for the IMR before I go, and I’ve started on some new work, but at this point, I really don’t know what I’m doing yet.  (Which, I keep telling myself, is part of the journey of grad school- my work will change no matter what I’m doing now- I don’t have to have it all figured out.  In fact, it’s probably better if I don’t, although it’s really uncomfortable and against my nature for me to feel unprepared.)

The new MFA’s are ‘strongly encouraged’ to take advantage of the school studios when they become available in August, which I plan to do.  So I will have some time to get settled, and even make some work before the semester even begins.  I will be staying in a residence building just for graduate students, which I have already lined up for the beginning of August.  The time feels like too short and too fast all at once – this is actually happening!

Downsizing.

Week 1 - 3693

I want to make a change in my life.  A big change.

A friend of mine from school is getting rid of everything she owns and leaving on a big travel adventure.  I find myself so jealous.  And not even for the adventure- well, maybe a little.  In thinking about leaving to go to school in the fall, I realize how much stuff I have, most of which means little or nothing to me.  It’s weighing me down, even just thinking about getting rid of all these things.  Some things I’ve been holding on to for years, and I couldn’t even tell you why.  Is it precious to me in some way? No.  Is it unique? No.  Would it be expensive or difficult to replace? No.  And scarier- have I used it lately? No.  Scarier still- Have I ever used it? No.  Why do I have these things?

I think it’s a feeling of security.  My parents (and their parents before them) worked hard for what they have- they still do.  And there is value in that, earning something.  Saving for something of quality.  But my generation, we have everything we need, and too much more.  Things are so plentiful and so easy to attain that we all own way more than we need. Sure, most things I own are really cheap, or hand-me-downs – there’s nothing wrong with that, but I rarely say no when someone offers to give me something.  And I take it home, put it on a shelf somewhere, and there it stays.  Of all the things I own (excluding artwork/things I’ve made), very few are things that I feel I’ve worked hard for, earned, or value in a real way.  It’s been about accumulating, or getting a leg up, so to speak.  Or saving broken umbrellas for a rainy day.

And I think it’s costing me something.  How much more money would we have, if we didn’t feel the need to go shopping for more clothes, or my biggest weakness, books?  How much more freedom would we have? How much more would we value and take care of the things we do own? As I think about leaving to go back to school, I am amazed at how much crap I own.

I’ve realized that I do it with things like art supplies and groceries too. I buy more material than I anticipate needing to build a certain project, even taking into account the possibilities of mis-measurement and errors.  For instance, I bought four yards of burlap a few months ago, and for what?  I don’t know.  I still haven’t used it, and don’t know if I will.

B and I always buy certain things at the grocery store that we never seem to eat at home.  I don’t know how many bags of dry noodles and spaghetti sauce are in our cupboards, or cans of soup. Or frozen vegetables, perogies, or burritos. How much food do we throw out of the fridge because there’s been too many “better choices” to eat, or even that we’ve forgotten it’s there?  I think on some level I am afraid that at some point in time, there won’t be enough, or we will run out, and so I have got to collect and hoard as much as I can while I’m here.  Do you see how much of a problem this is?  How fear, even unarticulated, could cause so many problems which, if I could just change my point of view, might be fairly easily avoided?  And the reality is, I’ve never been in need of anything that wasn’t somehow attainable to me.

Wow.  We are priviledged, to be able to afford to be so spoiled.

So, it’s time to make a change, for me, at least.   I want to be more conscious of what I spend my money on, what I actually need and use, versus what I think I need and use.  I want to clean the “garbage” and unused supplies out of my studio and my life, the things I’ve been saving for God-knows-what reason.  The clothes that I don’t like, or that don’t fit. The ratty towels that never get used.  I want to start to buy groceries so much more consciously, keeping in mind what I can and will eat before food goes rotten or gets forgotten about.  I want to spend my money that much more consciously, not doing what is convenient all the time, but what might have the most value in it for me.  I want to have enough – enough food, enough things, enough money, enough experiences, and enough freedom – to enjoy my life and what it could be, but not so much that I am limiting myself with too many possessions (which could be related to bills), too many responsibilities (working to pay for the things), too much food, etc, etc. etc.

Time to make a change.

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So here’s my experiment.  The photo at the top of the post is $36.93 worth of groceries (yes, Cracker Barrel was on sale).  You can see that I was trying to eat healthy, although there are a few treats in there.  I am planning to track how I eat this week, where exactly this $36.93 goes and how far it lasts, with one exception- I had some hamburger meat and taco shells set out for dinner before I went to the store, so they’ll be part of that too.  B will not be included in this, as 1) He and I don’t have similar eating habits- he won’t eat most of this anyway, and 2) his schedule is so busy with running his Taekwondo club that he’s not home for meals anyway.

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PS> As the next few months pass, up until August, I will be giving away/ selling a lot of things, those of you in Calgary stay tuned if there’s anything of interest.

2014 Goals

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Short and sweet:

1. Develop something of a new body of work.

2. Work on my practice every day.

3. Take care of myself, and say no when I need to.

4. Get rid of things that don’t serve me.  Physically, and metaphorically.

Oh, and maybe learn to french braid my hair.

Year 2013 Recap

I even managed to take a vacation this year- Jessica and I went to Kelowna in May, had the whole place to ourselves!
I even managed to take a vacation this year- Jessica and I went to Kelowna in May, we had the whole place to ourselves!  I love travelling/vacationing in the off-season.

 

2013 was actually a fairly quiet year for me, in terms of my practice.  It was a year of taking a step back, re-grouping, and learning.  After my show at AGC was taken down, I was racking up the rejections (36+, until I stopped counting), and I was really busy with working a high-responsibility day job, and so I got really burnt out.  So, I stopped counting rejections, quit my day job, and started working for a temp agency (which is not very stimulating, but it allows me to leave work at work, and focus on my real work- my practice).  I miss that job a little, but it was the right decision.  Soon after making the switch, I injured my foot- actually, my Achilles heel (there’s a reason the legend exists!) which laid me up and slowed me down for a while, forcing me to take some time out.  I couldn’t walk or stand for any extended period of time, and then carried a cane for a while, so things such as going to openings and social events were near impossible.  And the flood happened. (We were fine, but the poor city…. but I’ve never been prouder to be a Calgarian!) Oh, and I’m in the process of closing up the IMR, which means I need to figure out what comes next in terms of my artwork.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining, I’m just pointing out that there were a lot of things going on this year, some of which directly affected my plans and my work.  I was forced to slow down, re-couperate, and focus on what was important.  I’ve focused on a few larger projects- preparing for my exhibition at Visual Arts Alberta, putting together my grad school applications, and I’ve been developing some new work (which I’m not quite ready to share).  I’ve got a few things coming up, in particular two which will help develop my next body of work – the Puppet Intensive at the Banff Centre (leaving this week- eek!) and my second visit to the Gushul Studio Residency in the Crownest Pass.  (Artists, I encourage you to apply for this- a self-directed residency in one of my favorite places in the world.)  One more exhibition, at the Harris-Warke Gallery in Red Deer, will likely be the end of the IMR, at least in that incarnation.  (I do think I will possibly have a wind up event, such as an Adopt-A-Morphoid program, details in the works.)  I think this project has been fun, but it’s run it’s course, and it’s time to move on.  To what, I’m still figuring that out.

Anyway, let’s see how I did with my goals (directly from this post):

1. Get one more rejection letter in 2013, than I did in 2012.  – Definitely achieved.  I needed 22, I ended up with more than 36 when I stopped counting.  I don’t think I will set this goal in this manner again, it was pretty tough watching the rejections pile up, especially with a concrete number.

2. Apply to grad school. Done!  Applied to York, Guelph, Windsor, Waterloo, and Concordia, all for MFA programs. Now, I cross my fingers and wait.

3. Attend a minimum of 20 openings, not counting my own. Failed. Miserably.  (See note about Achilles heel.)  I made it to maybe 4 or 5, all year.

4. Send out 4 newsletters. Hmm…. well… I sent one.  Fail.

5. Spend more time working on my arts practice than I spend at work.  This was a possibility, and I was doing it for a while while I was working for ASA.  I was able to determine my own schedule a lot of the time, and work from home, so there were a few months there where I did do it.  After I started temping, though, I changed this for myself, to working on my practice at least a little, in some form, every day.  For that, I would give myself a 85%, a passing grade, as there’s been times where it didn’t happen, but for the most part, I did pretty well.  Temping, while it does take up a lot of my time, doesn’t take up as much of my energy, so it’s been a good fit.

6. Expose my work to more/different audiences.  Umm… honestly, this one is a fail.

7. Quit working by 9:30PM every night.  This one I adjusted again, with my new work schedule.  I stopped working by 10 or 10:30 every night, so, Pass.

So, did I pass or fail?  Does it matter?  I did better than I would have done, had I not set any goals.  Goals are just guidelines, to get (and keep) you moving in the right direction.  And I’m going in the right direction.

Acceptance!

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So, if you’ve been following me on Facebook at all, you might know that one of my goals this year was to get more rejection letters than last year, which I passed in early summer- June-ish.  Currently, I’m at more than 30 rejections, and until last week, ZERO acceptances.  I have two exhibitions coming up this year, but knew of both before January.  I haven’t posted many details about them yet, because I don’t like to post too much about any new projects until they’re confirmed, so as not to jinx them.  When I hit 30 rejections, without any acceptances, I decided that it was time to stop counting, as it was starting to undermine my confidence.

Anyway, my acceptance- I’ll be going back to the Gushul Studio in March!  I’m really looking forward to going back there, and wish I could leave next week!  I feel like I need the time to really focus on developing some new work.  I am finding that really difficult here in Calgary, working full time hours- by the time I get home from work, eat and maybe check my email, it’s almost 7:00, which means I’ll get two to 2 1/2 hours a night to work on my own stuff, if I’m lucky.  I am trying to get as much time in as I can, but it’s definitely a challenge to develop any momentum, making work, stepping back to contemplate it, adjusting, remaking. You know, the process.

Anyway, I’ll be going back to the Gushul Studio in March.  You might remember I was there before, in September of 2011, collaborating with a complete-stranger-turned-good-friend, Latifa Pelletier-Ahmed.  We were paired together, to work together, and through our experience made this piece, which we called Ephemeral Home.  While I wanted to go back together at some point, Latifa is not able to join me, as she is currently in England, pursuing a Master’s Degree in herbal medicine.  (Way to go, Latifa!)

My intention while I’m there is to really focus on two things: making work, and listening to myself.  I am going without a concrete plan, other than just to make things, and am really curious to see what happens.  I am intending to bring all kinds of materials, tools and supplies, whatever I can manage to fit into the Cruiser.  I will have no distractions there, no friends, no tv, no day job, so I’m hoping I will come out of it with some new-found wisdom.  We’ll see.

And, it’s one of my favorite places in the world.  And, the trains!!

Ogopogo!

This one took me a little longer than an evening, to work out the details of the mechanics, finding a way to do it so that they did what I wanted and didn’t interfere with each other.  I think the motion on this one is exactly as it should be!

I’m not sure exactly where this is going, as I’m not intending to make too many of these little toys.  I am finding learning about the mechanics interesting, and am now getting quite good at being able to make what I want in my little woodshop of a studio.  I’m looking at a few other kinds of things for methods of constructing things- weathervanes, marionettes, etc.  I’d love to get some sound in there as well- music box style.    I am envisioning this combining with other things in my repertoire, once I feel I’ve got some basic skills and knowledge of the material and process.  I think this is the beginnings of “post-IMR” (although I’m not quite done with that yet….).

Stay tuned for more!

Flying Pigs

Flying Pig (Jennifer Akkermans)

Here’s something I did just the other day (see the video). I wish I could manage to be this productive every day.  Or, more days than currently.  It’s been an uphill battle lately.  (I’m at 15 rejections, and my recent health problems have set me back a bit.) Maybe that’s why it’s a flying pig- everything I want to do seems so incredibly daunting right now.  That’s natural, I guess.  Fly, little pig!  Onward and upward!

Anyway, it’s not the most perfect thing I’ve ever made, and if I were to do it again, I’d definitely make some changes, but it did the trick of helping me learn about constructing these kinds of things.  It was a good idea to start simple and build on it, although my ideas are way more complicated than I think I’ll ever have the skill to make.  I’ve been doing a lot of sketching and drawing, trying to capture all the crazy ideas, some of which I hope come to fruition.  This is the time to be thinking ideas, before I know what my technical skill can and probably can’t make- before I design projects to fit my mechanics.  (I’m thinking large, and eventually my little skill saw just might not cut it… pun intended!  Best $35 I’ve ever spent!)

Filmed in my messy studio… of course.

Anyway, building things….. making a mess…. playing again!

My relationship with the studio…

Generally, I love my studio.  It’s the best place in the world.  It’s cool in the sweltering heat, and contains everything I need to work.  I can make a mess down here, and no one minds.  It has good light, is comfortable, and has lots of storage. I can work at my desk, the sewing station, or the long counter, and if I want to do some computer work, read, or sketch, I can sit on the loveseat in front of my main desk.  It is a happy place.

As a professional artist,  I make deals with myself for studio time. I must be down there on work days. I am allowed upstairs to make lunch, and unless I am actually working on the computer, it is not downstairs with me, as it can be too distracting.  On studio days, which I try to schedule ahead of time, I try my hardest to let nothing interrupt.  No going for coffee with a friend in the middle of the day.  No supply runs during studio time. I find that these “flexibilities” are often just excuses when I feel stuck on something, or just plain don’t want to be there.  It happens.  Sticking with my 9:00-5:00 schedule helps me to take myself seriously.  I don’t always need to be doing serious work during this time, but I do need to be down there, not on the computer, and not reading books for pleasure (unless they’re directly related to research).  If nothing is coming, I doodle.  Or stare at the wall.  Or clean up.  Pull stuff out and look at it. Sketch.  Flip through older sketchbooks. Usually just spending some time in the space helps me to loosen up and let things percolate.  I have lots of things in various stages, or that I’m not sure if I’ve finished yet- they need time to sit with me for a while before I know what they need.  Just having things in my line of sight helps them stay in the forefront of my mind.

Sometimes it flows, and sometimes it’s the last place I want to be, if I’m feeling tired, or stuck on something. Sometimes I feel like I’m clawing at the walls, trying to get out. Even on these days, I have to be there until the end of the day.  If this means I need to pull out something completely different than what I’ve been doing, then so be it (like the paintings above). While I know that the common concept of an artist is that they must be “inspired” to work, I often find my best stuff comes out if I push it a little.  The pushing helps me to make work that I maybe wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t kept my rule, such as these drawings of Morphoid skin cells.  It also helps me to finish up things that maybe I haven’t finished yet, or that should be tweaked or altered.

I work in my sketchbook in this time, and on the train, and I make a lot of lists- things to do, supplies I need, etc.  I also use the time to work on writing proposals if I feel stuck, or behind on that.  That often reminds me about ideas I’ve had and gets me excited about things again, kickstarting the process.

They say that it takes 10,000 hours to be a master at something. And I believe that to be an artist, you have to make things.  Not just once, but every day, or almost every day.  It has to be always in your mind.  It’s so easy to slip out of the habit, and once you do, it’s much harder to get back into it.  The easiest way for me to keep things moving along is to simply put in the time, whether I feel like it or not.

Sometimes it’s an incredibly tough battle.

A Change.

JAkkermans_clusters_webA change is coming.

I’ve been pretty quiet on here lately, I’m aware.  I’ve been re-thinking, re-evaluating, and re-prioritizing my life.  I’ve decided to give up a big commitment in my life, which was very important to me, but was causing an imbalance in my life, taking too much of my energy away from other things.  I am cutting back to the bare bones, refocusing on what is most important- my health, and my practice.  It has not been an easy decision to make, and one that definitely has aspects that I will miss, but a necessary one.  I need to focus on my personal work, my plans and goals, and work to make those happen, keeping from getting bogged down in the details of life.

I am excited for the change, nervous, but a little bit reluctant.  Letting go of the old to make room for the new takes a bit of faith. It means giving up a lot the good things as well as the not-so-good.  I’m sad about that, but ready to move on to what’s next.

I don’t know exactly what will happen in the next few months, only that I needed to reposition myself, a slight redirection, as I wasn’t headed where I’d like to go.  I also need a break for my health.  In the next little while, I will spend some time allowing myself to relax, work, and hopefully find my spark again.  I will put no pressure on myself for a certain length of time.  Let it become fun again.  Be social.  Explore.  Take field trips.

This is a period of transition, of realignment.  I think I’ve learned something, and it’s a reminder for me to focus on what’s most important.  (If you don’t make a decision about what’s best for you, who will?)  Only I know what’s best for me, only I know what I want, and ultimately, I am responsible for my own life and my own choices.  The details are just details, but the larger pieces are ever so important to get right.  I’ve gotta decide for myself what my priorities are, and honour them.

I’m committing, universe.