Creative Sabbatical …
Ever wondered how to invigorate your work or revitalise yourself as an Artist ? These are the things artist Trayci Tompkins ponders as she reflected on a recent creative Sabbatical…
A good friend retires this month from a long serving career as an accountant. I suggested she take a sabbatical in order to draw a line between what was, and what will be the start of something completely new. That way she would be refreshed to start her new chapter .
I’m fresh from a three month Sabbatical myself, and from experience I can honestly say, that it’s something we creatives should be doing as often as practically possible.
In the corporate world, there are many companies that embrace this ‘healthy time out’.. Realising that key leaders within their organisations come back invigorated and recharged to take their business to higher levels. Universities too embrace the idea of Sabbatical and often offer a six month in every 3 years to lecturing staff.
This is not to be confused with simply going on holiday… which a Sabbatical isn’t… in essence.
As an artist, a Sabbatical, in my opinion, should be seen as a time to completely recharge and kick-start a fresh creativity within you. It’s a time of gaining a new skill set. A time of reconnecting with your inner voice, educating yourself, stretching possibilities through experimentation without the pressure of producing anything of significant worth. It’s really an allowed play time… and boy is it beneficial to your art.
Austrian designer Stefan Sagmeister of Sagmeister&Walsh, a New York based Communication Design Firm has created some of the world’s most iconic imagery in branding, graphics and packaging for clients as diverse as the Guggenheim museum and Lou Reed. I recently watched a Ted Talk titled ‘The Power of Time off’ where Sagmeister explains how his company closes down for 1 year out of every 7.! This Twelve month’s sabbatical allows Sagmeister to think without pressure, get lost in a project, travel to new places and ultimately do more of the things he likes to do and less of the things he doesn’t. It’s a concept that has given rise to some of the best work in his industry and freed Sagmeister up to wholeheartedly enjoy his artistic career.
For me, Happiness in my chosen career is something I aspire to daily. I want to feel fulfilled after a productive day in the studio. Being a commercial ceramic artist and dependent on the income, I need to find a healthy balance between making work that is authentically true to me with something that someone will pay money to own. So keeping motivated and inspired is important to me and my work.
After selling part of our Art Business in late 2018, I was faced with a blank canvas of ‘starting over’ – the gift of being able to step back into the shoes of simply being an artist again. But instead of throwing open the studio doors, I froze! Completely overwhelmed by the prospect of failure and having had disappointing results with changing over to a commercial clay body, I had fallen completely and utterly out of love with clay. My medium of choice.
To be honest, I was burnt out.. I panicked ! Then I surrended… and reminded myself that it would be completely OK to take a few months off. To try something new. To retrain myself creatively. To travel. To de-clutter and recreate my studio space. In other words, to rediscover what it is that makes me excited about creating art, to find a ‘voice’ that felt real to me… and to rekindle the love I had for clay.
Stephen Covey in his ‘Seven habits of highly effective people’ talks about ‘Sharpening the Saw’ and it has always stuck with me. To be effective one must occasionally stop what one is doing and replenish: mind, body and spirit.
So it is that I took to sharpening my saw. I started to draw every morning.. Observing an almost emotive connection between eye and hand with my ink pen scribbles of mark making. I took a free online course in painting and through it learnt how I respond to colour. I’ve paged slowly through volumes of folio books absorbing perspective in Architecture, human anatomy, the Renaissance painters and the brilliance of Leonardo da Vinci, without any guilt that I should be ‘making’. I’ve indulged in hilarious play time with my cat, Mrs Wallis and researched techniques in lino cut and print making.
In these two months of indulgent, necessary ‘time out’ I’ve fallen back in love with this gift of being an artist and rekindled an affinity for making in clay. It’s been worth every penny I invested in it and a great start to my new chapter. Perhaps reading this, it may inspire you to consider planning a sabbatical of your own and rewarding your years of creative hard work with something really meaningful.
First published in CERAMICS SOUTHERN AFRICA magazine issue 16/2019