To broaden my contact with other artists and their practice, I will be interviewing creative folk over the next few months to see what makes them ‘tick’. Visiting their studio offers insight into their mode of creativity, thoughts on why they do what they do and an opportunity to glean wisdom and inspiration from their practice. Thank you to my first Artist Profile volunteer Kay Bazley for welcoming me into her space and sharing her thoughts on life as an artist.
Why do you do what you do?
Most of my work is sculptural, although I have dabbled in printmaking and photography. These days I tend to specialise in handbuilt ceramic sculptures and welded steel. I don’t really know how I ended up doing this sort of work. My art journey has often felt like a haphazard process where I might be inspired by a chance conversation with someone, courses or workshops I have done, or an image from an exhibition, the internet or wherever.
I love walking in the blue mountains wilderness where I live- so plant life, the way the light falls through trees, beads of sweat on my skin, even a glimpse of rusted steel by the side of the road – all these things seem to find their way into the forms I create, the ceramic glazes I make and the materials I use.
Can you talk about some of your recent work?
For the past few years I have been playing around with vertical forms in my sculptural work. I had been doing a lot of bushwalking (mainly to help me recover from some nerve damage and chronic pain I sustained a few years ago). Anyway, we would walk for hours and hours through the most amazing wilderness. I would catch glimpses of a waratah, or moss on rock, shadows, running water, bark, whatever. These visual fragments would all seem to stack up on each other, and began to come out in my ceramic work – like the totems on totem poles we associate with indigenous people from North America.
I started to learn how to weld steel so I could make vertical stands for these works, and then fell in love with steel and the danger and drama of welding. So now I am beginning to make sculptures out of welded steel – sometimes they incorporate ceramic pieces, sometimes not. I am very excited about this new direction. And my work seems to be getting bigger and bigger, which is surprising because for many years I worked on a smaller, more intimate scale.
What is your background?
I am a psychologist by trade, and have worked most of my life in community services as a counsellor, community worker or a teacher of those at TAFE. I have loved this work, although my artwork has been shunted to the side for way too long. I squeezed in courses where I could – at TAFE and National Art School mainly. But for the past few years I have been allowing my art life to grow and to claim more space in my life. This has been a ‘challenging joy’.
It is joyous because I love it. But it is immensely challenging because it is involving a shift in my identity (geez when will I ever be able to call myself an ‘artist’ without feeling a fraud?). It holds an uncertain future (what will I do for money if I don’t have a ‘real job’). And it endlessly challenges my confidence (what if my work is crap?). As I write this I can hear the builder outside my window - noisily building me a welding shed. Its part of my (expensive) commitment to my new life. Exciting and terrifying in equal measure.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
This is such an interesting question! I’ve found that art has brought me so many people. I am blessed with some really lovely people I would have only ever met through art. They inspire me. We do things together. We build community.
But certainly the artistic life can be an ‘alone’ life. Its so different to my other job where I go to work in the public domain and am surrounded by people all day. So for many years I welcomed my art life because it gave me respite from all that energy going outwards. But now the balance is tipping and I am spending more and more time in my art, and my solitary existence. I am becoming increasingly dishevelled in my appearance (an unexpected freedom). Sometimes its ‘lonely’, but sometimes it is blissfully ‘alone’.
I remember talking about this to an art friend recently, and she said that in those moments of feeling lonely and isolated she treats her art like it is a friend or companion. What a beautiful insight, and a great comfort.
Whats the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
To ‘stand by your work’ and not apologise for it (or be ashamed of it).