I don’t want to be defined as being solely a Carer, I have finally, in the last year or so, allowed myself to admit to being, and, also allow myself to be, an artist. However, as I am both, combining the two it felt very appropriate to have my first solo art exhibition at the Dochas Centre in Lochgilphead.
I seem to have a history of not admitting, or allowing, myself to be things, as it was some time, years after my husband became ill, before I considered myself to be a ‘Carer’. My husband, Brian, has end stage renal failure and heart failure and needs haemodialysis, which we carry out at home, six days a week. As with all chronic health conditions there are associated related, & unrelated, illnesses & operations, and there have been times in the past eleven years when he has needed more ‘care’ than at others. Last year was a difficult one and I hit a rocky patch when B was ill, my father, who had bowel cancer, was in hospital in Glasgow, and I was trying to support my mum who was staying over there on her own, who is very deaf and has Parkinson’s disease. There were times when things got a ‘bit much’, I was able to go to the Dochas Centre, and they allowed me to talk, and to cry, in safety. Tea and sympathy, sometimes, is all one needs to carry on, more able to negotiate the bumps in life’s road. The Dochas Centre provide invaluable support to Carers in the Mid Argyll area.
Artmap Argyll is our local ‘Open Studios’ association, of which I am a member, they planned to hold a series of month long exhibitions at the Dochas Centre, which would promote the Centre, Artmap and the individual artist. I signed up to have an exhibition in April, way back last year, in a moment of bravery (or madness!).
In January and February, I was in a bit of a quandary, I knew that the exhibition was coming up, I knew I had decisions to make, but I felt totally unable to make a decision about anything, what to have for dinner never mind what to create for the exhibition or where to go with my business, or if I should even try to have a business. With anxiety levels going through the roof, I went on the Cambridgeshire weekend (which, incidentally, was funded by the Dochas Centre from the Creative Breaks scheme which is funded by the Scottish Government ‘as part of its commitment to the development of short breaks for the benefit of Carers and those they care for’). Followed by the stained glass panel making and these moments of creativity alongside inspiring and supportive women, really helped me to regain my mojo. So, after an increased dose of HRT, and an ego boost of a flurry of lampshade commissions, I gathered my wits, paints and fabrics about me, looked through my piles of picture references – both paper and electronic – and go ton with it. It became easier once I made the decision to have a sea theme to my show and that I would make lampshades as well as ‘flat stuff’. Once that decision was made, I had a peg to hang my hat on, I was off. I put the contents of the exhibition together in six weeks, 21 assorted sizes of flat work, 15 assorted sized lampshades and 12 small lanterns. Two weeks before the opening I thought up the name ‘Light up the Landscape’ which referenced all aspects of the work so then I could work up the poster, invitation and promote the exhibition. Nothing like cutting things fine!
A short tour of the exhibition ...
The Dochas Centre support me, and therefore my family, so I was thrilled to be able to donate over £300 as a portion of my sales. I also donated a painted and embroidered table lamp (worth £95) to the Centre to do with as they would, raffle for fundraising or whatever. I was delighted to learn that they have decided to keep it for the new Counselling room when the new extension has been built.
The exhibition was well received by everyone who visited. The preview night was far busier than I had hoped for. So busy in fact I forgot to take any photographs! The Centre said that the daily drop-in visitor levels were definitely up with people coming in to see what was there.
I was touched to learn that, as a result of visiting my exhibition, two or three new Carers have now made contact with the Dochas Centre, and therefore will now benefit from the amazing care that they can provide.