Claire Bell - Looking Forward

I joined the blueprint100 team back in March 2019, after first running some drawing sessions, freelance, in the months previous. After getting a sense for The Stove and blueprint100, when I saw the Curatorial Team positions become open, I new it was exactly what I was looking for; a year long period of creative exploration, professional development and support within a small team of other creatives. I began without a predetermined outcome in mind, but open and committed to whatever the year would hold.

A big part of my experience, for me, has been the huge amount of varied learning experiences I have had; through getting involved with a great variety of events and activity. There was Nithraid, in which I assisted the running of workshops such as flag making, as well as making costumes for the procession, which I also took part in through the town centre. Other events I’ve contributed in both big and small ways, are: Drawing Queer, Behavin? Festival, Mental Health Week and our monthly ‘Open Studio’. Although brilliantly varied, this work was very different to previous experience I had had. I felt at times that my overall ‘journey’ lacked focus, however, I ultimately found such value in not thinking too much about ‘is this exactly what I want to be doing’ but just doing it anyway. I encountered so many interesting moments along the way and learned much more than I ever would have by staying with what I already knew.

A constant throughout this year has been the monthly Life Drawing sessions I have ran - continuing on from the sessions I co-facilitated, previous to joining the team. Leading the Life Drawing throughout this year has been brilliant to grow my facilitation skills and learn what it means to ‘hold’ a space. What has been important was the regularity of these sessions; being in the post for a year gave a solid and rich period of time which allowed for my own personal learning and self reflection.

Thinking about what has felt challenging this year, I think the nature of such an open opportunity with so much freedom and creative control has felt overwhelming at times. I underestimated the time it takes to settle in, get to know people and get a feel for where you want to take this opportunity for yourself. However, this has also taught me the value of having support systems to reach out to and of asking for help. This support from the people around me allowed this time of creative freedom to be so formative and genuinely educational in countless ways.

A particularly meaningful aspect of this year has been the opportunities to gain training in different areas of professional and personal development, including First Aid, Active Listening, Gender and Language, and Mental Health First Aid. The skills and knowledge The Stove has supported me in gaining has directly impacted on future study and work I hope to progress onto. I wouldn’t have known about most of these training programs if it wasn’t for being in the position I was, or without the support from The Stove to do them.

I have also learned skills in a new area for me, in Social Media Marketing. I decided to take on the running of the blueprint100 Instagram and Facebook pages, with support from Stove Communications Manager Kirsten McEwan. I learned so much more about communicating through digital media which has been so valuable to me for building my own online presence and self-promotion - something I think I’m not alone in avoiding as much as I possibly can!

My last project as part of blueprint100 feels a rather fitting end. ‘The Gap’ research project was devised by myself and fellow team member Jordan out of conversations we had about how difficult it can be to pursue creative career paths. The project title literally defines what we see as the gaps in continuity between jobs, commissions and opportunities; the gaps in knowledge and awareness of what is available; the gaps in support; and the gaps in personal ability to know what you want and how to achieve it. As a result of our research, we are in the process of setting up an online directory modelled on the idea of a ‘network of artists’ for Dumfries and Galloway’s creative organisations and individuals to connect with each other and the opportunities out there - which is launching soon!

I find it hard to summarise or neatly define what I have got out of blueprint100. I came in full of questions, with an open mind and ready for a challenge. Now, at the end, I feel I have a strong sense of “what’s next” - that wasn’t there before. This opportunity filled a ‘gap’ for me, and provided a great deal of self-discovery, experiential learning and support in many forms.


© 2020 Blueprint100 in affiliation with The Stove Network

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