Kate O'Neill

Sustainable Prospects: Reflection Weeks 5 & 6

“Apply yourself to the process of making good work”

Steve Macloed, Metro Imaging, 2017


Week 5 focused on the importance of building networks to support and progress our practice, while week 6 was a slightly slower week aimed at allowing presentation of provisional presentations that are due at the end of the module.

This period has coincided with a busier period at work and, along with that, I seem to have found myself deviating somewhat from the topic for various reasons. The overarching challenge for me remains the task of setting out and putting into place a method of working that will allow me to move my practice forward in the immediate future and hopefully also in the early stages after the MA is finished.

I know that might seem a bit premature, but the first year has already almost flown by and I feel there’s so much more progress to be made, there’s no time for messing around!

Steve Macloed and Kate O’Neill dispensed pearls of wisdom this week, about the importance of making local connections with other practitioners and of approaching these connections in the spirit of openness and mutual benefit. It’s not just about trying to milk people for all they’re worth, but rather about trying to foster genuine and nurturing connections that may also provide some kind of boost to your practice, almost as a happy bonus. For me, this all boils down to simply being nice! Maybe I’m being too naïve about this, but I can’t help thinking that it’s a lot easier to enjoy your work and develop lasting connections with like-minded people who you don’t feel are somehow trying to shaft you. 

So…be genuine, don’t shaft anyone, try and help people if you can, support those whose work you appreciate or are inspired by…just share a bit of love around!

I feel really strongly about this, mainly because artists are always struggling and yet often are able to connect with people that they may never even meet in ways that may be truly transformative for the person(s) in receipt of the work. I believe that if someone’s work touches you in that way you should support it, promote it, buy it…whatever! 

Anyway, one of the key messages that again popped up this week was the idea that alongside all the glad-handing you should never lose sight of the actual making of good work (hmmm, I may have said this before…). Increasingly, I’m understanding that this requires a commitment, and almost stubbornness, that is not subject to external validation or circumstances but has to be fired by an internal desire to create, to adhere to a personal imperative to produce, to be productive. I suppose if I learn nothing else during this MA, that would be a useful lesson in itself. The need to develop a process that sustains practice beyond the MA, when there isn’t an assignment deadline or a tutor chasing you down. There needs to be a plan, a strategy of some kind.

Recently I was fortunate to meet a group of creative and inspiring graduates who had created a magazine in reaction to limited job prospects post-graduation. They collaborated to create a platform to promote their own work and that of other creatives and thus gave birth to Bricoleur

Aside from being a pleasure to meet them, it was really heartening to hear how they’d approached the challenge of conceiving, funding and producing the magazine and having read the first issue, I was struck by how earnest their endeavour is and how it’s already a success, after just a single issue. The commitment to producing the work is the key…just make it! 

Then connect with people who might be interested…

And make the work about more than just yourself. Find a way to bring others with you if possible.