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Catching Fireworks

Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching


Take Five with Laura Hepworth

Posted on 19 June, 2019 at 4:00 Comments comments (1)

Laura Hepworth is a Conceptual Artist whose work explores process through themes of creativity and connection utilising drawings, painting, printmaking, large scale sculpture and installation as a means to transform the familiarity of the everyday into what is perceived as uncanny. 

Laura graduated in 2015 from University for Creative Arts, Canterbury with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art. Since then, she has been very proactive in organising exhibitions to promote her work and build her reputation, often in collaboration with others.

Laura is also an advocate for creativity for wellness, "contemplating and looking closely at the ways we utilize our own ability to be creative, in order for us to cope and manage ourselves through self-caring strategies."

Laura's next exhibition is 'Land Over Sea' with guest ceramic artist Katie Iacovou (my Take Five guest for next month). It will run from 31 July-14 August at the Jeannie Avent Gallery in North Cross Road, East Dulwich, London. Laura and Katie will be taking influence from the natural beauty of the Cornish coast combining new canvases from Laura complimented by Katie's beautifully crafted ceramic bowls and sculptural pieces.

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

The connections people make and discover within my paintings provoke a shared experience that explores new ways of seeing the world around us through my eyes. In result of that, the story telling of each piece is paramount, as it is a moment in which the process and energy of the paintings become fully exposed to the presence of energy that is channelled by our surroundings and the people present in the moment of visualisation.

Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

This one was a hard one to crack; however, I’ve managed to narrow my list down to three artists who have played a major influence in my own creative journey and you’ll notice a pattern. These three artists have one thing in common and that is their intuition to recreate the way we envisage the natural world. In their own unique ways, redefining our own understanding of the relationships we have with the mothership, that is the natural world.

Throughout my childhood Barbara Hepworth was one of the first big names which influenced my love of doing absolutely anything creative from a very young age! Then throughout the years of studying Fine Art at university, an interdisciplinary installation artist, Tomas Saraceno blew my mind with his installation ’14 Billion’, an installation that seeps inspiration from a spider’s web and places the entire universe within a web made from 14 billion rubber bands. And finally my current heroine is Heather Day, an American abstract artist based in California, an artist whose practice consistently pushes the boundaries of the way we look at the natural world, through her sensory interpretations of what is seen and how it is felt through shape and colour.

What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

Don’t get attached to your work. I’m still learning to tackle this one, as each piece I make I envisage as an extension of myself and it can be sad sometimes to see a particular work you love go off to live in a new home. Having said that, seeing a work go to a new home and making an impression on a person is a very special thing to witness as an artist. And each new year brings new exhibitions, so there’s lots of time and room to practice!

If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

Having experienced my lengthiest block recently, I’ve learnt how important it is to give myself time to actually recover. Physically and mentally, for me, it’s about finding a balance between what goes on within the studio and outside of it once we leave. In the moments where I experienced a block, I looked to reconnect myself with the natural world by taking a walk to give myself a place to think, where my mind wasn’t overrun by the number of jobs I would have to get done the following day at work, or the shape or colour I wasn’t sure on using next for a piece of work.

So my top tip would be to take yourself away from whatever you’re doing, take a step back and look at your blockage, as if it’s inside a box and you’re looking at it from the outside. Give your mind the space and air to breathe. And revisit your practice when the mind is refreshed and not overthinking everything you look at. Then, and only when you’re ready, go and ask yourself all of the questions you asked yourself at the beginning of the making process. What if? When? How? But most importantly, WHY are you doing that.

And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

Converse Trainers, are my favourite shoe in the world! Ease and unlimited comfort throughout every wear, suitable to wear with most outfits and perfect for those moments you need to run for the bus!


Take Five with Charlotte Zalepa

Posted on 22 November, 2018 at 9:55 Comments comments (0)

Charlotte Zalepa is the award winning jeweller behind Chalk Designs. Much of her work is inspired by nature, both in subject and in the slow and unhurried process of the wax carving which is the starting point for creating her beautiful pieces. Also inspired by her commitment to the world around us, Charlotte uses recycled silver as her material of choice. She has also joined forces with ethical fashion designer Gung Ho to handcraft three of Britain's most endangered insects, the Stag Beetle, Tiger Moth and Bumble Bee. Each sale of these insects gives a £5 donation to Friends of the Earth.

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

It is going to sound pretty cliché, but the best thing for me is being my own boss. In simple terms this gives me freedom and responsibility, and this authority over my life is the path to happiness. For most of us we work more hours than we don’t, and so it’s really important that if you have the opportunity to choose the work that suits your needs, then surely it is a no brainer. At the beginning I found that working for others was a way for me to learn, meet people in my industry, and get paid at the same time, and so it was a very important stepping stone to get me where I am today. However, during my previous jobs after a certain amount of time I would loose interest in the repetitiveness of my role, feel generally unfulfilled day to day, and having learnt what I felt I needed to I would search for the next step in my career. It’s worth mentioning that of course this isn’t the easy route, especially in terms of making money it can be quite a strain working for yourself. After years of grafting I am starting to see my hard work paying off, and it just makes me so much happier to know that I have achieved even this much off my own back. Frankly you can’t buy happiness, you make it.

Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

I am quite in awe of most creatives I meet who work for themselves, I know how difficult it is, and when they give off this excited energy about their work I can’t help but feed off it. There is one person who stands out for me personally and has influenced my more recent endeavours, which I would describe as ‘more me’. Charlotte De Syllas is a renowned Artist Jeweller who works with gemstone, carving it into beautiful fluid forms. I actually took a week gemstone carving class with her in 2014, (gosh I can’t believe it was that long ago), in which I persuaded her to take this class, and I am so glad I did. From when I have met her, read about her as a person and her work, seen her work in the flesh, I have always taken away this sense of contentment and passion she has for what she does. She may say I’ve got that totally wrong and it may have taken her years to feel that way, but for me it is an ongoing reminder that I don’t need to constantly be on top of everything and should take a step back from time to time and enjoy myself, otherwise what is the point of it all. Not only this, I find her work to be magnificent, it oozes this simplistic skilful manipulation of a material I hope I too can one day achieve in my own work. Check her work out at the link below.

What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

Set out your goals every year, month, week and day, if I’m totally honest I was probably told this but only now have started to get to grips with what it actually entails. This is something I have slowly learnt to do over the years out of necessity, and I think will carry on developing as my life inevitably changes. The years before this realisation look like a complete shambles to me. I would rely on my brain to remember everything, with the odd little list here and there but nothing substantial. So now at the end of the day, week, month, and year, I can look back on my goals and see what I have achieved, what can be changed and what still needs to be done. It sounds so simple but my goals and interests can develop so frequently that the only way to keep up is to write it down!

My advice to anyone working for themselves would be to set aside a few hours or a whole day (if you can spare it), and try to get to grips with all your goals for the rest of the year, then break it into your current priorities and anything that has a deadline. I promise you, even if it doesn’t sit right with you at first, you will develop a strategy for goal keeping all of your own. In time you should find that this will deduce the crazed moments of overwhelming, help you take the wheel, and give you a better overall understanding of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it?

In that moment I find the best way to work through the block is by creating a massive diagram on A2 paper (or bigger if you can), then scribbling down everything on my mind, work and personal. It helps me to get to grips with what it is that is stopping me and what my goals and priorities are, getting me back on track. I don’t tend to have moments where I have nothing to do and twiddle my thumbs, but I can have moments where I don’t know which thing on my list to do and can procrastinate on tasks that should take minutes but end up taking hours, or focusing on tasks that I don’t need to do. I talk to other creatives about this problem and it is surprising how many of us suffer with this overload = procrastination block. For me this creative block is usually caused by a ‘crazed moment of overwhelming’ (as mentioned in my previous answer), and so this diagram is actually an important goal strategising moment where you often readjust or recall your goals.

And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why?

I’d probably be a Dr Martens boot; well worn (of course), practical, and chunky, all the things I like in a shoe. The history of the Dr Marten boot speaks of a creative self expression that challenges society, and I might not be the most out spoken person, but my values and creative expression is becoming more and more driven by this need have a say in conversations that really matter to me.


Who was your Favourite Teacher?

Posted on 4 October, 2018 at 4:50 Comments comments (0)

Most people have a favourite teacher, that person who lit a spark, opened up new possibilities and has remained an influence.  Mine was Miss Teagle, tall, slim, in sensible shoes and tailored suits in safe colours with discreetly patterned blouses.  Her accessories were neat and her only concession to ornament was sparkling brooches.  She had white hair in a Queen hairstyle (I’m talking British monarch, not Freddie Mercury, you understand).  She was somewhere in her late 50s, or early sixties. 

Miss Teagle taught English and at 10 years old, I was a poet manqué writing ditties about birds and dew drops and daffodils – you know the kind of thing.  It was dismissed as a phase by most teachers, or even completely ignored, but not by Miss Teagle.  She delighted in words; the sound of words, the look of words, the power of words, words which made you laugh, learn and think.  She didn’t worry about how bad the spelling, punctuation or grammar was because what she wanted most was your imagination.  We did learn how to write properly with her, but I’m not sure when it happened as she had a skill of disguising serious matters with a veneer of fun.  For me, this was a huge gift because I am dyslexic, although, as this was many years ago, it wasn’t diagnosed as such.  I was just someone who couldn’t learn to spell and got told off for getting my letters round the wrong way to the extent that I became frightened to write.  Miss Teagle freed me from this fear, encouraging me to write with abandon and sorting out the spelling later.

Miss Teagle made us write poems, book reviews and stories, and every week she would read one of them out, always from a different child so that no-one was left out.  It wasn’t until years later that we actually recognised how scrupulously fair she had been, making sure that everyone had their little moment in the limelight.  At the time, we just knew that we all wanted to be picked, to have her praise because as she read the story, she would always point out exactly what was right about it, even if only one tiny thing, that she could highlight to us all as a positive.  She used these positive points to teach us about styles and language, but probably more importantly, to encourage the writers.

We were not a class of prodigies, just normal 10 year olds who on the whole didn’t want to be at school and who were already getting used to a hierarchy where the clever ones got encouraged, the “stupid” ones got told off and the ones in the middle were overlooked.  But to Miss Teagle, we were all equal, with something valuable we could talk or write about – all we needed was someone to listen and to guide us.  We came out of her class with an understanding of the power of words, that if we read widely, we could learn anything we wanted and that we could open up new worlds for ourselves.

Of all the things she taught us, the most important was that she gave us the power to think and to dream, to realise that we all have potential to be creative in some shape or form and we just need some support and encouragement.  Her lasting influence on me is that this is what drives me in my work with my clients. 

Who was your favourite teacher?  What made them special?  And how might you tap into / emulate that to support your creative practice?

Put On Your Dancing Shoes

Posted on 13 September, 2018 at 11:40 Comments comments (0)

Public speaking hasn’t always been something I found comfortable. I could do it, but I had to work at it to control my nerves.

My natural habitats are the coaching room and the tango dance floor. Those are the two places where I feel most naturally and easily “in flow”. When I am dancing, I feel energised, confident, open to possibility, ready to improvise and able to respond to whatever happens. I am not saying by any stretch of any imagination that I know it all - far from it - but it (and coaching) are the places where I am most centred. I am sure that you also have places or situations where you feel most at ease and those where you are slightly less happy.

I have a neat little trick that I am going to confide to you. As well as the extensive preparation that I do, I have adopted the habit that when I am doing any public speaking or leading workshops, I change my street shoes for tango shoes. These are not highly decorated, sparkly, brightly coloured shoes. To observers, they are neutral and could be “any old” smart shoes. But I know they are the shoes I dance in, the ones I wear when I am doing something in which I feel accomplished. It is not discernible to my audiences, but the shoes make me move in a different way, a way that makes me feel confident and ready for anything. They literally ground me and have helped me to embrace public speaking!

So, what could you take from an area where you are confident and use to give you a boost where you might need it?

Why the arts matter to me

Posted on 9 August, 2018 at 6:40 Comments comments (0)

Photo: John Haynes

I was once at a conference looking at how the creative industries can deal with the cuts in arts funding, with a particular focus on theatre. We were put into small working groups and to break the ice, we were asked to tell each other about that moment, that experience which turned us on to the arts. There were some great stories about pantomimes, school dance groups, listening to music on the radio, visiting a gallery, but this was not just an idle question to get us talking. We were reminding ourselves why the arts matter.

My story was about theatre. As a child, I didn’t have a background of theatregoing, but when I moved to London as a 19 year old, this was one of the things I wanted to redress. Not having much money, I bought cheap seats in the Gods and chose musicals and comedies because I saw going to the theatre as being about enjoyment and having a good time. I still think these are pretty good reasons for going to the theatre.

One day, I decided I should branch out and go and see a drama, if only to say I had done it. I knew about and loved Shakespeare because I had studied him at school, but other than that, my dramatic knowledge was pretty scant. I didn’t quite stick a pin in the listings pages of Time Out, but I picked a play simply because I had heard of the two lead actors, the late, great Tom Bell and a pre-Gandalf Ian McKellen. The play was “Bent” by Martin Sherman at the Criterion Theatre.

“Bent” did not come in to the category of a play to enjoy. It was a harrowing piece about the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany with horrific acts of violence, including one which happened off stage but with screams the memory of which can still churn my stomach, and a second half set in Dachau concentration camp. As “just” a play, it was superb; great writing, perfectly staged and with two outstanding lead performances which became my benchmark for judging great acting.

And it was much more than that.

This play moved me beyond words, stunned to the point where I distinctly remember a kind woman helping out of my seat. The experience made me read about the history of the period, about the Holocaust, about gay persecution. It made me think about intolerance, inequality and the freedom that human imagination can find in the darkest of circumstances. It made me question my own attitudes, ignorance and character. It also made me realise that a piece of theatre can have a power way beyond the two or three hours spent directly engaged with it.

The arts can inspire us, fire our imagination and enable us to express ourselves. They can connect us to others, take us out of ourselves and make us feel better about ourselves. They can make us think, help us learn, move us and delight us. This is why the arts matter to me and this is why I am committed to supporting arts practitioners through my work.

What was your moment, when were you first fired up by the arts?

Why do the arts matter to you?