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The value of dreaming

‘Dreamspace; The return to fabric and the things I haven’t made’.

Last week I was invited to run a workshop with a group of very welcoming and enthusiastic OCA students in an idyllic and remote part of Dorset. It was a pleasure to spend a day in creative discussion and to be able to encourage the diverse personalities evident through the range of work shown.
I always come back to the acknowledgement of an individuals personality as a way of driving artwork. Personalities are unique and so being true to oneself when drawing, photographing or making is an essential ingredient in producing original outcomes. Personal voice in artwork is best discovered retrospectively by reflecting on work made rather than by forward planning; Allowing space for spontaneous creating is the best way to initiate work which has the hallmarks of a persons true character (think of a child under the age of 7 – they are experts in this field). Much planning is necessary to meet deadlines and answer briefs but remember also to plan a moment of unplanned working. It may well be the most rewarding moment.
At the beginning of the Dorset workshop I wanted to give a presentation which set some challenges and pointers for conversation and so, while reflecting on my own practice, came up with the title ‘dreamspace; The return to fabric and the things I haven’t made’. Okay, I may have invented the word dreamspace but it really should be in the dictionary. I suggest the definition: ‘To allow the creative mind to wander ambitiously without boundaries’.
Following my training and early commissions using textiles, my work has developed into architectural installation made of a range of hard, non textile, materials. I am currently exploring ways of re-introducing the slow and methodical process of weaving which was a strong element of my early work. In the presentation I showed a series of proposals for commissions which I did not end up making and reflected on the value that these dreamspaces have. The integration of textiles in my work has often been as a metaphor or a structural suggestion for something made in another material. I argue that ideas which do not come to fruition are as valuable as those that do. The physicality of something made does not necessarily increase its significance as a piece of artwork.
The students in our discussion were exploring possible routes for thrown work and then rationalising which idea to take forward. We discussed this selection process and how best to acknowledge those ideas which have to be left behind – how to bring the dreamspace into the submission of work for assessment. It is important to demonstrate critical reflection which means revealing and presenting the selection rationale as an element of the work.
Perhaps one day I will have a retrospective exhibition titled ‘All The Things I Haven’t Made’ to acknowledge the value of ideas which remain intangible. Of course this is only credible in light of the fact that I have made a lot of ‘stuff’ and that stuff makes it possible to believe that the undeveloped ideas almost did exist. In our age of social media, web sites and blogs, all the things I have made are easily available via a quick Google search. And so this piece of writing cannot be taken by students to justify not making work but rather that the more you make, the more possibilities exist for other things you could make and the more potential there is to present those possibilities as liberating, exciting and relevant dreamspaces.

Posted by author: Neil Musson
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4 thoughts on “The value of dreaming

  • Thanks, Neil. It was an inspiring day and thank you for putting it all down in writing – it certainly needed a much wider audience than we have in the SW. I shall add it to my blog of the day.

  • I recently talked in my own regional OCA group about failed experiments and this caused some amusement which actually made me change my thinking when I reflected on this in my blog post and since. Of course – that’s the point of experiments anyway, to see what works and what doesn’t, so I now feel more positive and will carry on following my instinct to see where it goes.
    Neil, thanks for reminding me that I do have a Dreamspace and that those intangible ideas do, somehow, form a melting pot for ideas to occasionally take on promise.

  • Thanks so much for this post, Neil. I love the concept of the ‘dream space ‘ and your explanation of it. Those undeveloped ideas are sometimes the most exciting because they come from a place in our consciousness which is free from self, if you know what I mean. When they come they always surprise me and delight. I’m on the painting degree but I am always looking over my shoulder at textiles so it’s good to read the wider view. Patricia

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